U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor has submitted requests for $10.5 million in federal appropriations that could help uplift South St. Petersburg neighborhoods, mitigate flooding, increase affordable housing and connect residents to vital resources.
Mayor Ken Welch, County Commissioner Renee Flowers and City Councilmembers Brandi Gabbard, Ed Montanari, Lisset Hanewicz and John Muhammad joined Castor Monday at the Enoch Davis Center. If approved, the Community Project Funding requests would provide $1.5 million to upgrade what Welch called “a vital but dated” community facility on the city’s south side.
The Sankofa on the Deuces project – which will provide affordable housing, commercial space and a business incubator on nearby 22nd Street South – would receive $5 million. Castor also included $4 million for stormwater drainage improvements in flood-prone areas of northeast St. Petersburg.
Castor noted that immediately after becoming the city’s congresswoman for the second time in January, Welch and community leaders relayed their intention for everyone to benefit from recent growth.
“So, we got right to work looking for opportunities through the community funding initiative to help target some of the projects that need that little extra boost,” Castor added. “And one of them is right here at the Enoch Davis Center.”
While she called Monday’s announcement “one of the most critical milestones” in the funding process, Castor, a Democrat, will not know if the requests gain congressional approval until this fall.
She was initially concerned about the Community Project program’s fate when Republicans took control of Congress. However, the initiative remains, and Castor said her GOP colleagues throughout the region and beyond have also submitted requests.
“I’m very confident that this will happen,” Castor said. “Hopefully, we’ll have some other good news this summer. I have a few years of experience now that I can combine with the passion of the St. Pete community to go and fight and stand up for these dollars.”
Welch said the federal appropriations would also support renovations to the historic Manhattan Casino, located across the street from the Sankofa project, and the James Weldon Johnson Community Library abutting the Enoch Davis Center.
The goal is to transform Enoch Davis, named after a prominent local civil rights activist, into a “state-of-the-art” modern community hub that would increase opportunities for residents. He said the facility would provide “technology and tools to excel in our competitive 21st-century economy” and support neighborhood health and safety.
“And our work is not done,” Welch added. “We look forward to working with Congresswoman Castor and all and all of our partners and stakeholders to develop innovative and impactful approaches to building inclusive progress in every part of St. Petersburg.”
Castor chaired the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, and the American Council on Renewable Energy recently named her its 2023 Renewable Energy Champion. The $5 million request for the stormwater improvements stems from a Department of Homeland Security pre-disaster mitigation initiative.
Helping mitigate increasingly common flooding could prevent property damage and save lives. Castor said that appropriation “goes right to the heart of what we have to do” to protect the city.
She also noted that the Sankofa project would provide 24 affordable townhomes and small business opportunities to a once-thriving area bifurcated by the interstates. That made the “transformational” mixed-use development eligible for the $4 million request through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s economic development funding.
“These are a few of the community project funding initiatives inspired by Mayor Welch, this community, the council, neighborhood leaders, faith leaders and small business owners who understand that the future of St. Petersburg is bright,” Castor said. “But in order to get there, we have to work together to make sure that everyone benefits; everyone has that pathway to opportunity.”