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Community favors increasing transit development

Mark Parker

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Local officials and stakeholders discuss zoning changes around two St. Petersburg urban corridors Wednesday evening. Photos by Mark Parker.

St. Petersburg residents living around two urban corridors hope zoning changes will increase housing, community amenities, density and height limitations; they don’t want more gas stations.

That was the overarching sentiment at the first SunRunner Urban Station Design Charette (problem-solving meeting) Wednesday evening. City officials held the event at St. Petersburg College Midtown Campus to gather community feedback on potential zoning.

Local stakeholders are finally seeing progress on a transit-oriented development (TOD) initiative around the region’s first bus rapid transit service after years of discussion, planning and advocating from business and community leaders. Jason Mathis, president of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, said the goal is maximizing the SunRunner’s benefits while maintaining neighborhood character.

“The key here is threading the needle between maximizing density for transit-oriented development along the SunRunner corridor while preserving the sense of place and community benefits that St. Petersburg neighborhoods are famous for,” Mathis said. “And balancing those two competing values is not easy.”

Attendees favored (green dots) housing and performance venues in industrially zoned areas. Most did not support adding gas stations (red dots).

It’s impossible to make everyone happy, he said, but he believes the charettes and upcoming county and city government meetings will help officials discern the best path forward. However, Mathis noted the near-unanimous support for increased development along the 22nd Street South corridor, known as the Deuces.

The informal meeting focused on four urban stations along Central Avenue west of downtown at 22nd Street and 32nd Street North and South. Planning agency Kimley-Horn’s SunRunner Rising Development Study recommended allowing eight to 12-story buildings along those corridors.

Charette attendees overwhelmingly favored increasing density throughout those areas. Many want to see the TOD initiative extend further south along the Deuces, and one resident indicated that he would like to see 20-story buildings around the intersecting Pinellas Trail and adjacent Interstate 275.

“I don’t think, in the Deuces, you should do development just for the sake of development,” Mathis said. “But the development that responds to the needs of the Warehouse Arts District and Deuces Corridor is really called for, and I think that neighborhood is hungry for that.”

A map showing the meeting’s focus areas. Screengrab.

Gina Marie Foti, owner of Gina’s Warehouse, ardently agreed. She also lives in the Warehouse Arts District and is a longtime proponent of increasing density and height allowances while converting area zoning from industrial to industrial mixed-use.

Foti said city officials must utilize mass transit to support growth and sustainability in one of the few areas that feature vacant and drastically underutilized properties. “Every owner is on board for having this – and has been for years,” she said.

Foti explained that the Warehouse Arts District is a community of owner-operators. She added that TOD changes would allow local “pioneers” to thrive alongside counterparts in St. Pete’s other booming districts.

“For this to be a thriving live-work-play area, it needs to be a mixed-use environment,” Foti said. “Residential, commercial and industrial zoning for a dynamic district.”

That has been Joe Furst’s goal since early 2019 when he bought over seven acres of perpetually underutilized land between 3rd and 5th Avenues South along the 22nd Street corridor. The property is primarily vacant and adjacent to 3 Daughters Brewing and the Morean Center for Clay.

Furst, founder of Miami-based Place Projects, was searching for opportunities in St. Pete when he discovered the action plan created by Deuces Live – the nonprofit organization created to revitalize the culturally significant area – and the Warehouse Arts District Association. He found it compelling. He decided to join local stakeholders in the push to increase connectivity, livability and green space in the industrially zoned area.

Attendees place stickers and notes highlighting where they would like to see increased height allowances. Most preferred seven or more stories, while some called for 20-story buildings.

Furst paused his industrial mixed-use rezoning initiative, I-Mix, while Kimley-Horn completed the TOD study and disseminated its findings. Many aspects overlap, and he noted the importance of attending the charette after spending the past three and a half years trying to build a community consensus.

“To finally have a moment with the community at large to think about and talk about how we want to see that (Deuces) corridor and surrounding area revitalized was a very exciting moment,” Furst added. “I definitely would like to have more in-depth meetings that deal with specificities to ensure that the existing character and context there is preserved while still allowing for mixed-use high-density commercial development to take place.

“But I think it’s also good to see the broad brush strokes of support for the types of things we’ve been talking about for the last several years.”

Liz Abernethy, director of planning and development services for the city, called the turnout “great.” She said officials would incorporate feedback into draft regulations before conducting additional outreach.

The SPC Midtown Campus will host another SunRunner Urban Station Design Charrette June 28. For more information, and to submit public comments regarding proposed transit-oriented development, visit the website here.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Torrie Jasuwan

    June 23, 2023at9:09 am

    Would be great to see this zoning all along 22nd Street.

  2. Avatar

    Lisa Clary

    June 22, 2023at6:27 pm

    Finally! Great to see this happening for this area!

  3. Avatar

    Rick P

    June 22, 2023at3:54 pm

    Yes!! I totally agree

  4. Avatar

    Kurt Palermo

    June 22, 2023at3:52 pm

    Long Overdue!

  5. Avatar

    Irene McClellan

    June 22, 2023at3:50 pm

    I’m so happy to see this in the works. We’ve been advocates of mixed zoning for years and look forward to a live-work-play area that would be beneficial to all.

  6. Avatar

    Duncan McClellan

    June 22, 2023at3:43 pm

    Yes,this what we have needed for a long time!

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