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Catalyze 2023: Councilmember Gina Driscoll

Mark Parker



We’re asking thought leaders, business people and creatives to talk about 2023 and give us catalyzing ideas for making St. Pete a better place to live. What should our city look like? What are their hopes, their plans, their problem-solving ideas? This is Catalyze 2023.

Serving as St. Petersburg City Council’s chairperson kept Gina Driscoll busy throughout 2022; she led meetings, assigned committee members and welcomed four new colleagues and a mayor to City Hall.

While she called heading the council a fantastic experience, “even on the tough days,” Driscoll looks forward to focusing more of her attention on causes and projects she feels passionate about in 2023. Those include expanding the Innovation District’s Maritime and Defense Technology Hub, helping to create and attract high-paying jobs in the city and promoting literacy.

Driscoll also eagerly awaits seeing results from what she said was this year’s most significant accomplishment – the recently established rental assistance program for city employees. St. Petersburg’s lowest-paid workers, whose residency within city limits is an employment requirement, will now receive a $500 monthly stipend to mitigate cost increases.

“It’s one way the city has developed new tools in the toolbox for housing affordability,” said Driscoll, who spearheaded the initiative. “We’re seeing a lot of people signing up for it so far. It’s a great way to set an example for the private sector to follow.”

She hopes to secure additional funding to include more city employees in the future, and noted that an organization has already reached out for information in consideration of a similar program. Driscoll believes the program could “set a new trend.”

As the city’s District 6 representative, which encompasses downtown St. Petersburg, Driscoll often reflects on the construction cranes dotting the skyline and wonders how the preponderance of residential towers might affect economic development.

She explained that condominiums take much-needed space for businesses growing within or relocating to the city. Driscoll said she proposed creating the new Economic and Workforce Development Committee, which will launch next year, to help address the issue.

“So that we can focus on that job creation that’s an essential part of success in a growing city like ours,” she added. “We have to be smart about developing the land that we do have. That means attainable housing for people at all income levels, and it means creating jobs that pay the bills.”

One of the best examples of what she hopes to accomplish, said Driscoll, is the Maritime and Defense Technology Hub. The waterfront facility is home to over a dozen tenants who work closely with local partners and create jobs while growing their businesses.

Driscoll said city officials offer the support needed to achieve that goal and are also making progress on an expansion initiative. She noted that “big projects take time” but said initial support and interest from state and federal government entities provide optimism.

“So, one of my big goals for 2023 is to focus on getting a solid plan in place to build a second Hub,” Driscoll stated. “And really expand on the success we’re seeing at the current Hub.

“It’s exciting because we are so uniquely positioned to be a worldwide leader in marine science, and the success of the Hub is a great indicator of what that leadership could look like.”

Driscoll, who called herself one of marine science’s biggest cheerleaders, staunchly believes St. Petersburg and the surrounding region could use its industry expertise to become something similar to North Carolina’s Research Triangle. Encompassing the Cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, the Triangle is home to three major research universities and numerous high-tech companies.

The last initiative Driscoll plans to focus on in the new year is something she believes is foundational to addressing several other pertinent issues – literacy.

She expressed that to successfully create jobs, support small businesses and increase housing affordability, St. Petersburg first needs to become a city of readers. She said many people take that skill for granted, but a lack of literacy will always limit outcomes for children and adults.

Driscoll also stressed the importance of highlighting locals who have risen above adversity to find success in their hometown. She said Pat Mack, a Hub tenant who recently received the city’s Honored Veteran Award, is one example.

“You have to find what’s working and run like hell with it,” she added.






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  1. Avatar

    Carl Hebinck

    December 30, 2022at11:53 am

    Ms Driscoll: Congratulations on your exciting ideas for the coming year. In particular may I address one of them “attainable housing for people at all income levels,”
    If we use the free land of the backyards in So. St. Pete to build affordable ADU housing on we can provide very affordable housing, without added infrastructure costs, supplemental income for home owners qualifying for an ADU, and free land–reducing the cost significantly of new home cost. [Land is about 30% of new house cost]. And workforce peope will be able to live near where they work and no longer need rental assistance.

    9,617 more lots were created in CR1, CR2 and CR4 areas to build affordable ADU’s on. We propose to set up a Workshop in this area to make Structural Insulated Panels [SIPs] for building these ADU’s. These advanced technology panels are stronger, more energy-efficient and quicker to assemble. [see youtube video: The Future of Residential Housing. 8:47 min.] The ADU houses are finished out conventionally looking like any house–but they ACT differently because of their high energy-efficiency.
    Such a workshop could produce panels for as many as 10 small houses a day [with a 4 person crew] and provide the panels at 1/3rd the cost of purchasing them. It would provide good jobs, a chance of employment for graduating youth from PTEC and have a significant positive impact on global warming. It has been stated by City council that St. Pete needs 1,000 affordable units a year for the net 10 years. This workshop would be the catalyst for meeting this challenge that conventional builders have not stepped up to. It can be set up for the cost of just one 1109 sq. ft. new house at current new construction rates. It would be a credit to the City and demonstrate how a City can use advanced technology to solve one of it’s greatest concerns, Affordable Housing.
    I welcome the opportunity to meet with your and your team to provide details and justification for the low priced ADU housing we can provide–ADU housing costing less than $100 per sq. ft.–finished.
    Respectfully, Carl Hebinck, Veteran, nonprofit Volunteer and hopeful partner with the City to address this critical and challenging need.

  2. Ernest Mahaffey

    Ernest Mahaffey

    January 6, 2023at1:57 pm

    Ms. Driscoll,

    I want to add my support to what you’re doing to provide rental assistance for workers in St. Petersburg. Costs of living and salaries get out of alignment from time to time and sometimes assistance an appropriate short term solution. I hope the City’s example is followed by other employers.

    I’m a supporter, too, of Eckerd College which trains a substantial number of marine scientists who stay in St. Pete thanks to the Maritime and Technology hubs you have supported.

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