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‘From stupor to stupendous’: Forbes chronicles St. Pete’s whirlwind changes

Bill DeYoung

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Sunset view from the "new" St. Pete Pier. Photo: Bill DeYoung

A story published this week in Forbes describes St. Petersburg in terms of “before” and “after,” underscoring what has become a mantra in the city: Things are changing awfully quickly.

According to writer Chadd Scott, “Anyone who lived in St. Pete ‘before’ shares similar stories of downtown emptying out after the 9-to-5ers went home, a lack of restaurants and hotels, nothing to see, nothing to do, nowhere to go and a general torpor blanketing the area.”

It all started to change, Scott writes, in the early 2000s, when the demographics shifted, and young people started moving into the downtown area:

“At the same time, more restaurants, bars, hotels, art galleries and boutiques were filling in spaces throughout downtown, along with new residential towers, creating a cityscape that over time has transformed St. Petersburg from stupor to stupendous.”

Scott also makes the claim that arts and culture — particularly in the form of the Dali Museum, which opened in its present location in 2011 and has become “one of the highest rated museum attractions globally” — were key factors in the explosive growth of recent years.

Through conversations with Dali director Hank Hine, James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art owner Tom James and director Laura Hine, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater director Steve Hayes and others, the article lays out a roadmap of the unprecedented changes in the makeup of St. Pete and its citizenry.

The writer also asks a question that’s been, more and more, making the rounds in the city: Can this explosion go too far?

“A similar amount of vision will need to be exercised to ensure St. Pete stays in the sweet spot it has found,” Scott writes, “avoiding the runaway growth turning other mid-sized Southern cities such as Austin, Texas, or Nashville, Tenn., from ‘place to be’ to ‘place to leave.’”

“… Skyrocketing real estate prices can drive out the residents who sparked the turn. Overburdened city utilities, sprawl, traffic, a lack of affordable housing for service industry employees – these are the bugaboos of becoming one of America’s most desirable places to live and visit.”

Read the full story here.

Chadd Scott is the co-host of Welcome to Florida with Craig Pittman, the weekly podcast carried by the Catalyst.

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    Bill Herrmann

    June 11, 2021at3:13 pm

    Fortune’s objective analysis of our situation is insightful. Thank you for having the fortitude to publish it.

    Many of us have spoken about St Petersburg’s “brand”. A product’s ‘brand’ is how individuals in the marketplace view us. Our brand is made up of more than the Dali, the MFA and other attractions. It is the overwhelming compatibility of the architecture of our old and new buildings. It is how we are, for the most part, controlling density.

    The actions by those who have spoken out against some developments is reaffirmed by this article. The article also reinforces the need for a charter amendment to require compatibility of all future projects.

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