Welcome to the Catalyst’s Community Voices platform. We’ve curated community leaders and thinkers from all parts of our great city to speak on issues that affect us all. Visit our Community Voices page for more details.
Many cities around the United States are facing a housing crisis. Furthermore, many of these cities face equity-related issues in the form of access to fresh food, reliable transportation and jobs. As a peninsular city a part of a larger peninsula, these issues are even more dire compared to other places. The incoming proposals of the Tropicana Field will have a multi-generational impact on what St. Petersburg will look like to our children, our children’s children and far beyond that.
It is time to think outside of the box, and time to look these issues right in the face. The redeveloped Tropicana Field site will be an extremely important economic driver for our city and, more importantly, our region. Those of all socioeconomic statuses should be able to have access to that site. That is why I am a strong supporter and advocate of the removal of both the I-375 and I-175 as well as reverting our one-way streets ( 4th Ave N, 5th Ave N, MLK Street, 4th Street ) to two-way streets and giving road diets to 16th Street as well as 9th Ave N in order to create a vibrant, safe, walkable downtown area where pedestrians, bicyclists and micro-mobility users alike feel safe.
As a resident of Historic Uptown, living proximate to St Anthony’s Hospital, there are many barriers that make pedestrians feel unsafe. The immediate area is car-centric with narrow sidewalks, narrow bike lanes, wide car lanes and few streetlights. Thus, it creates a high speed, high crash area with commuters rushing to merge onto the I-275 via 5th Ave N. The streets are lined with mechanic shops – and there is that concrete barrier, the I-375, that traverses between 4th and 5th Avenues North, marginalizing Historic Uptown from Downtown and the planned Sun Runner stop at 13th Street and 1st Avenue N. Removing this barrier in the form of a surface level boulevard will allow Historic Uptown to connect to Downtown, and gain access to the BRT and the Trop Site, while freeing up much needed developable land for affordable and workforce housing, transit opportunities and more efficient access to St. Anthony’s Hospital.
A few blocks south lies the same opportunity. The removal of the I-175 will integrate Campbell Park Neighborhood, as well as other South St. Pete neighborhoods into the Trop site. Similarly, turning I-175 into a surface level boulevard gives the City the opportunity to enhance and expand Campbell Park’s greenspace, give our underprivileged citizens access to affordable/workforce housing and direct access to the jobs that the Trop Site will offer.
Additionally, it will relinquish the emotional barrier that shunned Black people from downtown. Though removing these highways are a massive feat, cities around the United States have done it successfully, for example: Boston, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Portland and Seattle. The amount of redevelopment and increase in tax revenue the City will receive will greatly outweigh the cost of removal.
Another project that will address equity for St. Peterburg is rezoning the CSX corridor that runs from the Trop site to IMIX, as what Joe Furst is proposing for 22nd Street S to connect the Grand Central District to the Deuces and Warehouse Arts District. The CSX tracks traverse 16th Street, and lead north up to 22nd Avenue, finally leading into the Times facility at 34th Street and 13th Avenue N.
The converted Atlanta Beltline welcomes walking, biking, jogging and skateboarding, and there are even e-scooters available for use. Though on a smaller scale, we have this same opportunity in St. Petersburg. We are in desperate need of affordable/workforce housing, fresh foods, more open space and access to transit and jobs without the need for a car. This opportunity addresses all of these needs. It will connect North Kenwood, St. Pete Heights, Lake Euclid, Woodlawn, Woodlawn Oaks, Euclid-St Paul’s, Historic Uptown, Methodist Town, and Historic Kenwood to the Trop site.
What we need is meaningful development that all can access. I strongly encourage the City to rezone this corridor to IMIX once they come to an agreement with CSX in court.
The future is bright in St. Peterburg, and it must shine on all.
Shaquille Lashley is a realtor and real estate consultant with Barkett Realty.