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Planning is critical as Central Avenue grows westward

Barclay Harless

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Grand Central Brewhouse, 2340 Central Ave. Photo provided.

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Downtown is growing west. A case in point is the Grand Central District, where new restaurants, shops and bars seem to open every week.

As Central Avenue development moves west, it’s important that we keep our character, plan for sufficient parking, and blend condos and apartments with shops, restaurants, offices and other uses.

The timing for talking about how to manage this growth is now. The City is working on a master plan for the District, which can be expected to impact streetscapes, transportation, design and development, and it’s important for businesses and residents to let their opinions be known.

First, a couple of facts for background. The Grand Central District’s north-south boundaries are 1st Avenue N and 1st Avenue S, while it runs east to west from 16th Street to 31st Street. The district has more than 450 locally owned and operated businesses, many of them independently owned.  

The growth to the west ties to several factors. Visitors and locals no longer think only of the downtown core for things to do, and now think about going to Grand Central spots like Grand Central Brewhouse, Trophy Fish, Bandit Coffee, Tombolo Books, Good Intentions and Black Crow Coffee.

In turn, developers and owners start to think about redeveloping properties to create cool new spots like Lost and Found, one of the hottest bars in town.

As cities grow, new areas become centers of gravity for business and live-work-play. Just look at Tampa, which has an abundance of activity centers like downtown, Hyde Park, the University of South Florida area and Westshore. And in St. Petersburg, we have other rapidly evolving areas like the Edge District, Tyrone and Carillon.

Several things to consider as the Grand Central District evolves:

  • Housing prices in the adjacent Kenwood neighborhood have skyrocketed, and new housing in the area tend to be in the $700,000-$800,000 range. I predict this area will become more like the Old Northeast for the city. This is good news for retailers and businesses, with more disposable income in the area. But as the district grows, it’s important that we find ways to create a range of housing options, such as smaller apartments that workers in the district can afford.
  • The Grand Central District has the potential to bring quality jobs to the city, as technology and other forward-thinking companies look for places where their employees can love coming to work. As reported in the Catalyst, VentureBeat recently named St. Petersburg as one of the best areas for technology workers outside Silicon Valley, Boston and New York. In talking about the Tampa Bay area in the same vein as places like Seattle and Portland, the report shows that St. Petersburg can compete for good jobs.

It will be exciting to see what the City and planning partner WSP recommend for the Grand Central District as the master plan evolves. Learn more about the plan by visiting the City website and offer ideas to City staff, the City Council and the Mayor’s office. The Plan will only be effective if it reflects what businesspeople, residents and visitors think about what the District should become.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

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    S. Rose Smith-Hayes

    June 23, 2023at7:33 pm

    At the rate home ownership prices and rental prices are growing, restaurants may become self serve.
    $700,000 for ‘a place in the ‘air’, you do not own any land and if the building collapses or implodes or is blown, what do you own???Oh well, not my loss.
    The Central Ave Brewhouse is a beautiful building.

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