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This is the fifth in a series about the Tropicana Field site by members of ASPEC – the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College.
There is little doubt and, surprisingly, very little disagreement from the perspective of the African-American community of South St. Petersburg (SSP), that the first Tropicana Field development did not go well, that promises and hopes were raised but never happened. Apologies are necessary, to be sure, but the best thing to do now is to do the right things this time, and do them in the right way. A major right thing to do is to ask, then listen carefully, and deeply, to what the people of SSP want and need and aspire to.
Here to think about, to ask about, to confirm are some thoughts on the matter.
What’s called for includes chances for a good or better job with good pay; a chance for training, growth, and advancement: the opportunity to start one’s own business, to train and employ others, to start a family on the way to wealth creation. We need new high-paying professional and technology jobs, and also training and jobs for those who are just starting or restarting or are in training, plus jobs that provide services in the community.
A better place to live and a better home to live in are also important, either at the new Trop or by moving up in SSP. All of St. Pete has a huge challenge, with over 40,000 families “rent burdened,” spending more than 30 percent of their income for housing. SSP has a disproportionate share of the rent burdened – more than 70 percent of its households are low income, with half of those being very low income, making the proper price/rental levels most important.
We’ll also need lots of market rate housing as jobs, pay, and businesses prosper. In addition to affordable rentals, we will also need options to own and invest in property. The many planned parks and open spaces presented in the developers’ plans will add to the quality of life.
Many, but not all, will want to live at the new Trop. Most would like the opportunity to work there, and all will want to shop, dine, entertain and exercise there. We need reconnected streets and quick, easy transit from SSP both to the new Trop and, with the Trop Hub, to jobs and activities across the Tampa Bay area. And we want easy access to the new Trop: the pedestrian bridge across I-175 is nowhere near enough. We would so welcome the reconnection that would come from the removal of I-175.
Although doing it right this time, with our input, is important, it is equally important to commemorate the people who helped build St. Pete. Children need to know, feel and experience their peoples’ culture, history and contributions. Not only would plaques, history trails, and street names be appreciated, but even more so would a major center for culture, performances, art, education, and food.
Dick Pierce has been a member of ASPEC, the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College, for seven years. He attended Tabor Academy and Williams College (Physics). After a thirty-year career with IBM in technical sales, marketing, management, new product introduction, forecasting, and finance, he worked another thirty with nonprofits in American Indian education, a charter school for returning dropouts, a youth home building program, a permaculture design guild, a citizen gardener program, and eight years helping in SSP.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer only. No endorsement of these opinions by ASPEC or Eckerd College is either expressed or implied.