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St. Pete begins to reimagine 34th Street

Margie Manning

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Neighborhood residents and businesses used markers and sticky notes to describe what they like and dislike about 34th Street North.

A 1.5 mile stretch of 34th Street in St. Petersburg could take on a new persona, as neighborhood businesses and residents begin to envision what the corridor will look like years from now.

The process to develop a 34th Street North and Central Town Center Improvement Plan got underway Wednesday night, when about 100 people turned out at Suncoast Hospice for the first in a series of meetings to provide input to city planners. Armed with markers and sticky notes, they jotted down their perceptions about the area now, and their ideas about what it could become.

St. Petersburg City Council member Amy Foster

The plan, which will be developed over the course of the next 11 months, will improve the aesthetics, enhance the identity, and encourage investment and increased opportunities for businesses in the area, according to the city’s website.

“I think for a long time 34th Street has been known for fast food restaurants and challenges with prostitution and drugs. We’ve been working hard to clean up the area, bring in new investment,” said St. Petersburg City Council member Amy Foster, citing apartment projects near 3rd Avenue North by south Florida developer Altis Cardinal as an example of some of the upgrades. “Now it’s time to reimagine how do we best serve the neighborhoods that are connected by 34th Street.”

The project takes in about 91 acres, spanning from 22nd Avenue North to 3rd Avenue South, and from 31St Street to 37th Street, said Jared Schneider, a transportation and urban planning professional at Kimley-Horn, a consulting firm working with the city on the project.

Between 37,500 and 40,500 cars drive on that stretch of 34th Street daily, and the plan could include other transportation options along with ideas to make the corridor more walkable. The current land use is primarily commercial, with some industrial uses.

Jared Schneider, transportation and urban planning professional at Kimley-Horn

“What’s your vision for this?” Schneider asked the group. “Ultimately what we’re trying to identify are projects or strategies to look at one year or five years or 10 years down the road.”

There’s been a lot of focus on developing downtown St. Pete and the areas near downtown. With progress continuing to push west, it’s important to have an identity that knits the area together, Foster said.

“What people outside of downtown have said for a long time is that there’s way more to St. Pete than downtown. They feel like it’s long overdue that they’re getting some attention,” Foster said. “34th Street is not going to be downtown. We don’t even want it to be Central Avenue. But do we want to have it branded much like the Skyway Marina District, and attract certain targeted industries to the area that serve the neighborhoods, and not just focus on what’s there now.”

She declined to say what she would like to see. “I’m looking forward to residents’ input.”

Funding for improvements could come from sources such as public-private partnerships, the Florida Department of Transportation and private developers, she said.

The city and Kimley-Horn plan to develop initial recommendations by May or June, including meetings with developers and neighborhood presidents, Schneider said.  A draft proposal should be ready by September or October, and after taking additional comments, he expects a final plan in November or December.

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