A plan to create a mixed-use project at the site of the former St. Petersburg Police headquarters is expected to advance next week.
The St. Petersburg City Council is scheduled to vote Aug. 20 on a resolution, authorizing the city to execute a lease and development agreement with EDGE Central Development Partners
EDGE Central plans a 100,000-square-foot Class A office space, 22,000 square feet of retail space, 56 residential condos, 30 workforce rental apartments and a 600-space parking garage. The development will be organized around a new civic plaza, which will include a tribute monument to The Courageous 12, the 12 Black St. Petersburg police officers who sued the city to gain the full rights of their white counterparts.
A project the size of the one planned by EDGE Central is required to include public art, or pay into a fund the city can use to commission public art downtown, said Jay Miller, a principal in EDGE Central and president of J Square Developers. EDGE Central already planned to include public art in the plaza, which it hopes will become a central gathering spot for the community. So when Mayor Rick Kriseman contacted the developers a couple of weeks ago to ask if they would be interested in joining the city in creating public art to honor The Courageous 12, it didn’t take very long to say yes, Miller said.
“It seemed to us that this is the right location. Until the new police station opened last year, this was the site of the police station going back to the 1950s. This was the police station when The Courageous 12 started their crusade in the 1960s,” Miller said. “And in this day and age, with racial justice at the top of the social dialogue, it seemed to make a lot of sense to us.”
EDGE Central will contribute a minimum of $50,000 and up to $100,000 toward the monument. The city’s Public Arts Commission has pledged to dedicate $100,000 for this purpose, a news release from the city said.
EDGE Central will pay $6.4 million to buy the former police headquarters property, a discount from the fair market value of $7.66 million. The purchase price was discounted because of the overall positive impact the project is expected to have on the city, including much-needed office space, according to a staff report to the City Council. There hasn’t been a major new office development in St. Petersburg in several years.
The purchase price could be further reduced by up to $1 million, if EDGE Central decides to demolish the existing structures on the site.
The pandemic has extended the schedule for the development but it’s still moving forward, Miller said.
“We originally had planned to start demolition this year, in 2020. Now we’ve pushed that into 2021. We want to allow for some time for the uncertainty to start to lift and for people to start to feel comfortable again before we start an aggressive marketing program for the project,” Miller said. “Other than that, the components of the project have not changed. We are looking at a groundbreaking in 2021 and completing the project in 2023.”
‘We made history’
It’s too early to say what the tribute monument to The Courageous 12 might look like, Miller said.
“We haven’t even thought about the process we’ll undertake to select an artist, but I imagine that we’ll create a jury or panel and we’ll invite artists to submit ideas, giving them a couple of options for where they may install the piece,” Miller said.
He would like to have a local artist, but doesn’t want to exclude others.
“We want the best piece of art, but obviously we will favor local artists,” he said.
Miller, who grew up in St. Petersburg, was a child when The Courageous 12 filed a discrimination lawsuit in 1965 to gain the full rights and authority of their white counterparts and ultimately prevailed.
Miller said he would like to talk to Leon Jackson, the only surviving member of The Courageous 12. Jackson became the first Black officer assigned to an all-white neighborhood.
“We did something for ourselves. The by-product is, we made history,” Jackson said, when he heard about plans for the monument.
The Courageous 12 weren’t just courageous; they also were resilient, Kriseman said in the news release.
“It took several years before the U.S. Court of Appeals decided their case and afforded these men the rights they long deserved. The Courageous 12 made our police department and our entire city a better and fairer place, and it is an honor for me to help ensure they are properly honored and remembered for as long as the sun shines on our great city,” Kriseman said.
The Courageous 12 opened the door for all races to hold high-ranking positions throughout the St. Petersburg Police Department, as well as police departments around the country, said St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway.
“Thanks to their efforts, today we have an agency that reflects the diversity of our community. This monument will ensure that their sacrifices will never be forgotten,” Holloway said.