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I-Mix: A proposed rezoning initiative for industrial 22nd Street South

Mark Parker

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An aerial view of the site that Joe Furst hopes to transform from vacant industrial land to a mixed-use development. The Morean Center for Clay, located in the old train depot, is at the top. Photo provided.

A developer and several community supporters continue advocating for an industrial mixed-use rezoning initiative, I-Mix, that could transform perpetually vacant land along the 22nd Street corridor in St. Petersburg into a thriving, walkable neighborhood.

During the early 1900s, railroads helped fuel growth in the burgeoning city. A wide swath of land surrounding the long-discarded. tracks, sandwiched between the Grand Central and Warehouse Arts Districts, and leading up to the Deuces Live Corridor, remains classified for industrial use only. Many surrounding lots are vacant or underutilized, even as city stakeholders bemoan the lack of available space to keep up with growth and demand.

Brian Horne, vice president of marketing and sales for 3 Daughters Brewing, said he sees reminders of the area’s history in the company’s parking lot every day.

“They’re (railroad tracks) covered up in some spots, and they’re open in some spots,” said Horne. “But yeah, there was actually a railway that went all the way through here.”

When establishing 3 Daughters, Horne said the owners sought an industrial-zoned location that allowed brewing and distributing large amounts of beer. The original plan was to utilize the site’s expansive building for brewing with a little tasting room on the side, almost as an afterthought. Horne added that at one point, the facility featured a makeshift indoor basketball court.

“We had no idea it would grow into Florida’s largest tasting room eight years later,” he said.

As 3 Daughters has grown, the area around the brewer remains vacant or underutilized. The few industrial zoned businesses are not conducive to walkability and connectivity with the surrounding districts and the nearby Pinellas Trail. Joe Furst, founder of Miami-based developer Place Projects, hopes to change that.

When Furst began looking for opportunities in St. Pete, he happened upon the Deuces Live and Warehouse Arts District’s recently created action plan and found it compelling. The plan calls for increased walkability, livability and green space along the corridor. Furst said he believed in the vision and acquired property in the area.

Furst bought just over seven acres of underutilized land between 3rd and 5th Avenues, along 22nd Street, in early 2019. The lots are adjacent to 3 Daughters Brewing and the Morean Center for Clay. Furst said his lots are primarily vacant, sans one tow yard, in a place that should serve as the connective tissue between districts.

“Especially when you consider the mass transit stop with the station stop at 22nd Street,” he said. “This stretch of the corridor is essential for the long-term growth and vitality of the districts I just mentioned.”

To ensure cohesiveness, Furst utilized the same planning firm employed by the Deuces and Warehouse Arts Districts. He then began to promote the zoning framework that fits into the general vision for the area and would allow the underutilized portion of St. Petersburg to flourish.

I-Mix allows for industrial operations while creating opportunities for much-needed housing and retail. While Furst advocated for the changes, St. Pete commenced its 2050 plan, which also considers adjusting zoning regulations. Around the same time, Forward Pinellas also began its planning recommendations for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line along 1st Avenue South. Forward Pinellas and PSTA are evaluating land use and zoning options related to the nearby BRT station, expected to launch later this summer.

Furst said he stopped taking the lead on zoning issues to let the two public processes unfold.

Joe Furst, founder of Miami-based developer Place Projects, is spearheading the I-Mix zoning initiative.

“The reason why it’s a very critical time for 22nd Street is we’re on the verge of the final recommendations coming from the planning committee,” he said. “The station area recommendations will set the tone for the eventual new planning and zoning regulations.”

Veatrice Farrell, executive director of The Deuces Live, commended Furst for using the same consultants and ensuring his plans aligned with those of the Deuces and Warehouse Arts District. She called it an expansion of what the organizations previously hoped to accomplish.

“Right now, there’s no connectivity; because there’s a bunch of vacant space,” said Farrell. “People don’t say, ‘let me go to the tow company to buy something.’

“With what he’s presented to us, I don’t know if we could have asked for a better potential partner than one that says, ‘Hey, what did you plan for your neighborhood? I’m buying property adjacent to it, and I’ll just expand what you did.’”

Horne said 3 Daughters also supports changing the area’s makeup. He said new housing units within walking distance of the brewery would do nothing but help business. While the brewer currently uses one of Furst’s lots for overflow parking, he said, residents are now used to using the Pinellas Trail, electric scooters, Uber or just walking to overcome parking concerns.

Furst said he presented the benefits of I-Mix to city officials through a series of meetings over the last few months. He called support for the changes tremendous, and he expects the city council to hear the Forward Pinellas and PSTA recommendations “in the next month or so.”

“We’re very excited that the time has come – after a lot of patience and working though not just my own private sector engagement, but also the public engagement – that these topics are being discussed in the public forum,” said Furst. “And hopefully, they’ll be making their way into legislation.”

The goal for his land, said Furst, is a multifaceted set of projects that include commercial, retail and housing developments. He envisions significantly dense housing, allowing for mixed-income opportunities. The current zoning, he said, prohibits any density, vibrancy or connectivity.

Overall, Furst hopes to create a public space that supports artists, makers, and urban manufacturers through thoughtful and responsible community development. He believes his previous work in St. Petersburg and throughout the state demonstrates his desire to work closely with existing community partners to achieve common goals.

“Everybody that is focused on the corridor understands the challenges with the existing zoning,” said Furst. “That’s why there’s broad support for these initiatives.”

For more information on the I-Mix project, visit the website here.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    rose hayes

    March 18, 2022at7:21 pm

    Right now we, need housing and industry that creates jobs for ‘regular’ people. Make that work

  2. Avatar

    Ryan Todd

    March 19, 2022at5:14 pm

    The city would be well-served by adopting a form-based code. Euclidean zoning and the separation of uses is frankly incompatible with our city’s walkable grid and undermines the goals of the comprehensive plan. A form-based code would help solve the challenges we are experiencing with growth while preserving our character.

  3. Avatar

    Charlie Guy

    March 20, 2022at5:13 am

    As the co-founder of the Southside Greenway BikesNBuses “sustainable multimodal transportation project,” we wish to thank Joe Furst for both his vision and his commitment to the City. Working with THE Deuces Live as their “multimodal transportation” partner, we believe that his 22 I-MIX plan will greatly enhance former Mayor Kriseman’s efforts developed with assistence of Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative for our City to provide
    • Citizens’ needs for avenues of equal access to multimodal transportation and affordable housing.
    • Sustainable action across the city must be tied to racial and socioeconomic equity with via access to education and employment opportunities.
    Based upon Mayor Welch’s replies to & the public feedback from the Catalyst’s My Mayor Series BikesNBuses Conversation on Transportation (9/30/21), will believe 22 I-MIX greatly enhance our Pinellas Peninsular Sustainable Multimodal Transportation Community Partnership plan utilizing an existing regional asset assemblage approach to maximizing our group’s efforts to compete successfully for new competitive 2022 Biden era currently funded transportation Federal grants. Charlie Guy

  4. Avatar

    Ken Baxendell

    March 21, 2022at10:29 am

    Did the people of our Local Community, City, County, State and Federal Government solve the Homelessness, joblessness and under educated community situations yet?

    Seems like focusing on recreational and special interests are like putting the “Cart before the horse.

    1) Work first play second, solve these three problems then go play.

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