An outdoor performing arts venue could soon be coming to the Dome Industrial Park (DIP) in St. Petersburg.
Property owners Robert and Cherie Beaman have brought forward a private application to propose changes to city land use guidelines. The applicants are ultimately seeking a special exception to permit an outdoor performing arts venue in the Warehouse Arts District.
Pending the proposed changes to the City of St. Petersburg Comprehensive Plan, which defines permitted land uses for the Dome Industrial Park, and given approval from St. Petersburg City Council, the two parcels located at 415 20th Street S. could be transformed into a nonprofit glass art space and a for profit open air performing arts center. Currently, both parcels are considered underutilized, the smaller parcel holds a metal building (vacant since 2012) and the larger is an approximately 1.8 acre empty lot (vacant since 1991).
The applicants seek to pass a text amendment to the Comprehensive Plan that allows outdoor performing arts venues under special exception. It reads, “Recognized as a commercial recreation use, an outdoor performing arts venue shall be allowed as a primary use with no acreage limitation.”
While the size of the outdoor performing arts center has not been specified, records indicate that it will be larger than 500 seats and of “a scale and quality which does not currently exist in St. Petersburg or Pinellas County.” Kevin T. Beck, a lawyer representing the Beamans told the Development Review Commission that they seek to build a venue with a fixed stage, surrounded by a wall and sound blocking materials like bamboo.
This privately funded project would drive visitors and economic opportunity to the area, while increasing the visibility of the Warehouse Arts District (located within DIP).
The location would also avoid a number of problems faced by other outdoor performing arts venues like Vinoy Park or Al Lang Stadium. At the center of the Dome Industrial Park, the venue would be three full blocks from the nearest residentially zoned property, reducing residential noise concerns. The applicants also addressed parking concerns, and proactively negotiated a parking agreement with the Tampa Bay Rays to lease the organization’s parking lots during events.
According to the application submitted to the city, the project is consistent with the goals of the City of St. Petersburg Comprehensive Plan, as well as other equitable development efforts in the area, including the Dome Industrial Park (DIP) Community Redevelopment Plan, St. Pete Vision 2020, and the Warehouse Arts District/Deuces Live Joint Project Plan.
A brief history of the Dome Industrial Park
Take the trolley around the Warehouse Arts District on the Second Saturday of any given month and you’ll find yourself in the heart of the Dome Industrial Park. A vibrant, emerging cluster of working artists, galleries and industrial shops are tucked away in what was once the center of St. Pete’s railroad and manufacturing district.
The Dome Industrial Park developed alongside the growth of the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad. As with cities throughout the country, industrial and manufacturing businesses sprung up along railroad lines. The abundance of jobs brought African American workers to St. Petersburg to finish the Orange Belt Railroad. Many of these workers settled in St. Petersburg, in what became known as the Gas Plant neighborhood, a tight knit African American community adjacent to The Deuces – the “main street” of black-owned businesses.
The 1970s brought the extension of I-275 and with it the devastation of the Gas Plant neighborhood, the Deuces and the Dome Industrial Park, bisected and isolated from one another by the construction of the highway.
In 1978, the City of St. Petersburg declared the Gas Plant District a “blighted” area, calling for its revitalization. In 1980, the entire neighborhood was not revitalized, but razed to make way for what is now the site of Tropicana Field.
For more than a decade, the City of St. Petersburg has formally considered the Dome Industrial Park a “slum or blighted area … the rehabilitation, conservation, or redevelopment, or a combination thereof of said area is necessary in the interest of the public health, safety, morals and welfare of the residents of the City.”
Multiple efforts are in place to spur the economic revitalization and development of the area, including the creation of the Deuces Live historic district and the Warehouse Arts District, both within the Dome Industrial Park. The Performing Arts Project is the latest of such revitalization efforts.
According to the Development Review Commission report, “allowing for an open air or outdoor performing arts venue in the IT zoning district provides an interim economic use to under performing industrial parcels without permanently removing them from the City’s supply of industrial zoned land, allowing them to remain available for industrial uses in the future.”
So far, the Comprehensive Plan change was unanimously approved by the Community Planning and Preservation Commission and the Development Review Commission. The proposal’s next stop is St. Petersburg City Council.