Sections of the popular Pinellas Trail that travel under the I-275 overpass with pockets of unused vacant land could be turned into vibrant green spaces.
John Barkett, broker and owner of Barkett Realty in St. Petersburg, alongside Apogee Real Estate Partners, wants to transform the underutilized spaces along the trail into a must-visit destination filled with dog parks, murals and shipping containers for local vendors.
“The trail is an amazing asset. We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface,” Barkett said.
Barkett is also the managing partner of Apogee Real Estate Partners along with John Stadler who was also pivotal in the development of ICON Central as well as the entitlement of the Mill Creek site.
Barkett has been a longtime proponent of trying to activate the areas along the trail. He worked with the City of St. Petersburg to convert 2.2 acres into park space under I-375 between 4th Avenue North and 5th Avenue North just east of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street.
The envisioned project dubbed Trails Crossing would be a 501(c)(3), which would be spearheaded through a public-private partnership that would involve the city.
Apogee contracted Baker Barrios to do a preliminary placemaking study for the scenario of taking advantage of four blocks of land stretching under Interstate I-275.
The concept is to remove the fences and dirt lots onto a park that connects all the districts.
“It would safely funnel pedestrian traffic across in a shaded area along 1st Avenue North, Central Avenue and 1st Avenue South to the Pinellas Trail, allowing safe multimodal access to the Trop site and the Warehouse Arts District,” Barkett said.
The four blocks that would be included:
Block 1: 1st Avenue North to Central Avenue
Block 2: Central Avenue to 1st Avenue South
Block 3: 1st Avenue South to 2nd Avenue South
Block 4: 2nd Avenue South to 3rd Avenue South
“You have all this cool activity in the Warehouse Arts District and then you have this gap and then you get into the Edge District. It’s this divide that this project is going to connect it all,” Barkett said.
Barkett said he has been communicating with the team responsible for creating the Under-i project in Orlando. The Under-i, currently under development, will be a 9.75-acre urban park beneath the Interstate I-4 bridge in downtown Orlando. It allows the city to offer amenities in the space under the overpass – a very similar approach Barkett is taking.
“This is a multi-generational project the public is going to benefit from for decades,” he said, noting how it could play a major role in the redevelopment of the 86-acre Trop site and that it would provide more walls for the SHINE Festival artists to create murals.
Barkett also has a vested interest in the trail’s future as he is working with Mill Creek Residential, which is planning to build a 20-story, mixed-use tower at 201 17th St. South, which would be located next to the Pinellas Trail.
“We truly believe in having retail on the Pinellas Trail. This site can really prove how special the trail can be if we activate it. It’s the only section of the Pinellas Trail that isn’t owned by the county, city or CSX,” Barkett said, adding how 15,000 square feet of retail has been purchased pre-construction.
Several existing businesses located near the trail, such as The Factory, are also taking full advantage of the accessibility.
“The old warehouses were used in the ’30s by a train line to unload oranges and we have repurposed it,” co-owner Kara Behar said. “Today, most of our businesses use to trail to get to work.”
Behar is also involved in creating the Winter Market, an event in the Warehouse Arts District where vendors along the trail set up tents to sell during the holiday pop-up marketplace event.
The businesses participating include The ArtsXchange (515 22nd St. South), Morean Arts Center for Clay (420 22nd St. South), The Historic Manhattan Casino (642 22nd St. South) and the 22 South Food Hall.
In all, 150 vendors will participate in the event Dec. 11.