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City council advances transit-based zoning changes

Mark Parker

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Local officials and community stakeholders discuss zoning changes around the Warehouse Arts District and 22nd Street South corridor at a June 21, 2022, workshop. Photo by Mark Parker.

An underutilized and historically industrial area’s stakeholders have long clamored for sweeping zoning changes to increase housing, employment and commercial opportunities in their corner of St. Petersburg.

Those plans are now moving forward. At its June 6 meeting, the city council unanimously approved zoning amendments and a target-employment center (TEC) overlay that will significantly impact the Warehouse Arts District and 22nd Street South corridor’s future.

However, opinions varied on ideal density and parking allowances. Councilmembers and city administrators have time to discuss minutiae further as they await county and state approval before a second public hearing in September.

“I think it’s one of the most exciting things that’s happening,” said Councilmember Lissett Hanewicz. “This is going to be a really cool area.”

Examples of what area stakeholders hope to accomplish with the zoning changes. Screengrab, city documents.

Plans to allow transit-oriented development (TOD) in typically industrial and residentially zoned areas coincided with those to launch the SunRunner nearly a decade ago. The overarching goal is to increase connectivity, livability and job opportunities in a city expected to continue seeing exponential growth.

Local officials commissioned the SunRunner Rising Development Study to discern how TOD around the service’s stations could spur revitalization and growth. City council members approved its recommendations first, much to the delight of area stakeholders.

Duncan McClellan, artist and owner of an eponymous gallery in the district, offered his “full support” for the zoning changes and employment overlay. “This will allow growth,” he said. “Allow us to continue what we’re doing and … the growth to take it to the next level.”

The TEC overlay encompasses roughly 58 acres south of 1st Avenue and west of I-275. City officials created it to meet county comprehensive plan requirements and implement TOD zoning changes that will eventually increase density around arterial roadways throughout St. Petersburg.

Derek Kilborn, urban planning manager, said the TEC would support creatives who live and work in the enclave while protecting industrial and manufacturing space. Stakeholders believe it will also spur new commercial activity.

A graphic showing the target center employment overlay area. Screengrab, city documents.

Kilborn said administrators historically classified an incubator space or craft beverage production facility as “light manufacturing” to circumvent regulations. They have since used stakeholder feedback to update definitions and explicitly allow new uses like an artist’s retreat.

To qualify, a building owner must dedicate 40% of its ground floor to target employment operations. Those include several light industrial, manufacturing and arts-related activities compatible with residential and commercial areas.

The overlay also allows retail, office, research, educational and multifamily developments. Kilborn noted those must occur “concurrently with or after” target employment uses.

“Once you do that … you essentially unlock the ability to now go beyond what is currently allowed in the zoning and start to incorporate these other … transit-oriented development-supportive uses,” he explained. “Your multifamily (housing), your restaurant and bar, retail, some commercial, recreation and performance arts venue opportunities.”

City officials applied downtown center parking regulations to the overlay. Developments within a quarter mile of the 22nd Street SunRunner station receive a 25% space reduction. Multifamily housing units encompassing less than 750 square feet have no parking requirement.

The city will waive parking standards to encourage adaptive reuse of current buildings. Liz Abernethy, planning and development director, said the owner of a 10,000-square-foot warehouse could convert half the space into a restaurant without providing parking spaces.

“This is transit-oriented development; it’s not car-oriented development,” said Councilmember Gina Driscoll. “I think the residents and people who have spoken up about eliminating parking minimums in this area altogether – they’ve got a point.”

A graphic showing the maximum allowable building heights. Screengrab, city documents.

The Pinellas Trail bisects the area, which Driscoll called St. Petersburg’s “next great neighborhood.” She asked if property owners could contribute to a pedestrian improvement fund rather than provide parking.

Abernethy said administrators could explore that option, which mirrors the housing bonus process. The plan currently allows a 1.5 base floor-area ratio of (FAR).

Kilborn explained that a FAR determines a building’s permissible square footage. For example, the 1.5 FAR would allow a 15,000-square-foot building on a lot encompassing 10,000 square feet. He said that standard is often preferred over height allowances as it provides design flexibility.

Developers can receive workforce housing and other bonuses to achieve a 5.0 FAR. Abernethy said they could also contribute to a fund and receive the increased density allowance. The maximum building height is eight stories.

Multiple stakeholders want to see a higher base FAR. Abernethy said the 1.5 starting allowance would encourage workforce housing construction and increase opportunities for people who lack a market-rate developer’s resources.

“We need a FAR that’s going to reflect our commitment to really making a difference in this neighborhood,” Driscoll said. “We have the votes to go to 2.0 … I think that’s just enough more that we’re going to help more people make the numbers work.”

Council members unanimously agreed to pass the overall package while continuing to discuss FAR and parking requirements. They will hold a second and final public hearing Sept. 5.

 

 

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Rbruce

    June 13, 2024at7:25 am

    Auto correct changed the word ledgers. Is not ” leaders”.

  2. Avatar

    Rbruce

    June 13, 2024at7:23 am

    What is the actual cost per person per trip? Must include all operating liabilities and capital investments? If Sunrunner is a great success, then open the leaders for public review. Why not?

  3. Avatar

    Kari

    June 12, 2024at4:17 pm

    The SunRunner is an incredible accomplishment and asset to St Petersburg.

    It’s value will continue to become more apparent as our population continues to increase.

    We’ll never have enough capacity on roadways or enough parking spaces, providing transit alternatives is more efficient for everyone including drivers. Data shows drive times are not increased with the addition of the SunRunner

  4. Avatar

    Steve D

    June 12, 2024at3:33 pm

    It continually humors me when people who no nothing about the SunRunner constantly talk authoritatively and negatively about it.

  5. Avatar

    Kadet

    June 12, 2024at12:48 pm

    Well, new people will start new businesses, whether that’s office jobs or bars, restaurants, etc. which provides more job opportunities and things to do. They also provide more tax revenue which is used for public services, parks, etc. Those all seem like good things to me.

    I was born and raised here, and I’m honestly a fan of the growth we’ve seen, since there’s overall more stuff to do and a sense that we’re becoming a “real city”, but maybe that’s just because I’m under 30.

  6. Avatar

    Rbruce

    June 12, 2024at10:59 am

    Anyone who thinks adding more buses will improve the economy is living in La La land same for increasing “creatives”. Do these artist realize that their rents will go up? Can these creatives name one customer that takes a bus to buy their art?

    What is the taxpayers’ cost per person ridership on the Sunrunner? Buses are never even half full. Traffic is worst because one lane is utilized about 10% of the day.

  7. Avatar

    Mike

    June 12, 2024at8:53 am

    Sun runner ruined the central avenue corridor and increased traffic congestion and now that disaster is the impetus to increase population density along that corridor.

    Do y’all have any more of that kool aid? Because I am sick of becoming furious at what’s happening in st Pete.

    Can anyone explain how the fervent requirement of “line goes up” helps the people of this town?

    Specifically and simply. How does more people help the people already here?

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