Whether recent transplants or longtime residents, those seeking a better understanding of St. Petersburg’s inner workings can soon receive an expert-led, intimate tour of the city.
The St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and Leadership St. Pete Alumni Association are hosting their second Inside St. Pete event Dec. 1. Mayor Ken Welch and Christian Hardigree, regional chancellor of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, will help kick off the full-day tour at the waterfront campus.
Participants will then take a trolley to various local institutions, hearing from business executives and city officials at each stop. Chamber president Chris Steinocher said each attendee will become an “insider” by the end of the day. “If somebody was saying, ‘Hey, St. Pete’s got a heart, but I really want to understand,’ then this is the type of program they would go through,” Steinocher said. “You can really understand what makes us tick.”
The Chamber facilitated the first Inside St. Pete event in May. Steinocher said the organization received the highest scores possible on a post-tour survey.
The upcoming event will feature some of the same presentations – like a morning overview of city history with Rui Farias, executive director of the St. Petersburg Museum of History. However, Steinocher said program organizers have also made some tour tweaks.
Those include a longer stay at the Maritime and Defense Technology Hub. Participants will dive deeper into organizations encompassing the surrounding Innovation District, including Albert Whitted Airport and Port St. Petersburg.
Another new aspect is a tour of the 22nd Street South corridor, known as the Deuces. Veatrice Farrell, director of digital inclusion for Community Foundation Tampa Bay, will discuss the area’s cultural significance and highlight its burgeoning renaissance.
“We learned a lot from the previous (tour) in the spring,” Steinocher said. “We were scored on a one-to-five scale – and we got all fives on this. So, we made sure to keep a lot of things that people loved.”
Attendees will again hear a presentation on key city issues. Panelists include Jay Miller, president of J Square Developer; Brad Miller, CEO of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority; Liz Abernethy, the city’s director of planning and development services; Jason Mathis, CEO of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership; and Brandi Gabbard, city council chairperson.
Participants will also stop at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays president Brian Auld and Gwendolyn Reese, local historian and consultant, will discuss the $6.5 redevelopment of Tropicana Field and the surrounding Historic Gas Plant District.
Steinocher said another highlight includes a tour of the Imagine Museum and an accompanying panel on the importance of art in St. Petersburg. He noted that the event’s food and beverage vendors are all locally grown businesses, and organizers included ample time for participants to network.
“Anyone who comes on this trip with us will instantly find about 40 more friends along the way,” Steinocher added. “It’s a cool experience that I’m hoping allows everybody to understand why we’re crazy, madly in love with St. Pete. It’s because of the people who are going to be on this tour.”
Steinocher wondered if local leaders would want to host a second Inside St. Pete event this year. Those fears were unfounded.
He explained that panelists take pride in facilitating the tour. Steinocher said the event provides an opportunity to highlight their civic impacts.
He said presenters have as much fun as those along for the ride and want to ensure attendees “hear the full story” and have an “express lane to leadership.” Steinocher said their involvement also underscores the city’s community focus.
Steinocher believes that aspect differentiates St. Pete from other municipalities. “We’re asking people to spend the day with us, and when you come out of that, you’ll really understand who and what has made this place so special,” he added.
“It’s not necessarily about city building as much as it is community building.”
For more information and to register for Inside St. Pete, visit the website here.