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Catalyze 2023: Jay Miller, J Square Developers

Veronica Brezina



Jay Miller, president of J Square Developers. Photo provided.

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.

St. Pete native and prominent developer Jay Miller believes there are several key factors officials can initiate to help the city grow in a sustainable way. 

“Overall, people are attracted to the quality of life in St. Pete and how it’s a vacation destination, but we are experiencing some challenges as most cities are,” Miller said. “Affordable housing is the biggest one and how we create more equity. Our economy is largely based on tourism, and we are pushing for affordable housing; however, as we move forward, we need to balance the emphasis on our growth not only by having a great residential quality of living but also by providing different job opportunities allowing people to earn better salaries and remain in St. Pete.” 

As affordable housing and higher-paying jobs go hand-in-hand in establishing a healthy economy, Miller explained it’s difficult to make affordable housing feasible past a certain threshold without financial support from the local government. He also highlighted that the launch of the SunRunner, the first bus rapid transit line in the region, can spur transit-oriented development. 

“Developers need help from the community to reduce costs and the local government has done that, including for Orange Station by providing a certain amount of funding per unit so residents can afford it at lower rent or can be subsidized rent,” he said. 

Miller is on the development team spearheading the $80 million Orange Station at the Edge project that is well underway at 1302 Central Ave., the site of the old St. Petersburg Police headquarters. 

Out of the total 103 residences for Orange Station, 42 are workforce units and 61 are condos.

“St. Pete could require certain sized projects to have a specific number of affordable housing units, but that developer may then build their project in another city and then our city becomes less attractive so there has to be a balance,” he said, stating he has talked with the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce about the issues. 

He also spoke on the office component as St. Petersburg has a tight vacancy rate, pushing many businesses to venture outside of the city lines to secure space. 

“We need to continue to protect the coastline and provide lots of opportunities on the waterfront, which is our calling card, while promoting downtown for a mix of uses in how we can encourage development and more office space,” he said, noting how they should be built to withstand significant storm surges. “There’s great demand for residential that the value of land is pricing out other uses, including office. It’s a challenge and the city may need to consider subsidizing office space the same way it does for affordable housing. If we don’t, our city will become a bedroom community.” 

For example, Pinellas County approved providing the Orange Station developers $3 million to assist with infrastructure and development costs for 50,000 square feet of Class A office space within the footprint of the building. 

In addition to Orange Station, Miller is also known for bringing Trader Joe’s to St. Pete and is currently developing a retail space that niche grocer Whole Foods will occupy. 

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