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St. Pete City Council approves $450,000 for I-375 park and surface parking

Megan Holmes

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A long vacant area of St. Petersburg’s Historic Uptown neighborhood will soon be more than empty fields and chain link fences.

St. Petersburg City Council today approved funds not to exceed $450,000 to convert the land beneath and surrounding Interstate 375 near Martin Luther King Jr. Street into a park and surface parking lot.

Current conditions under I-375

Council member Gina Driscoll, who brought the funding request forward to Council, called the project a win-win for the community. Driscoll came prepared with letters of support gathered from multiple neighborhoods associations, including Historic Uptown.

The park feature will include green space and amenities like drinking fountains and benches, as well as solar lighting. As with most parks in St. Petersburg, it will also be on-leash dog-friendly and include drinking fountain features for four-legged friends.

City staff emphasized the surface parking feature not just as a use in the area of the park that is height-limited by the interstate deck, but as a win for the business community. According to staff who conducted outreach to businesses along Martin Luther King Jr St., they heard from many businesses that the area needed more surface parking for local business customers, employees and general public parking. The proposed lot will have 47 spaces, nine for the public using the park (at no cost) and the remainder used for day-rate and monthly paid parking.

City staff characterized the park development as the rejuvenation of an underutilized downtown property with a cost-effective solution. Revitalization of the park will include a number of lighting aspects, allowing for safer, better lit connections for both sidewalks and bike paths.

current conditions

Funds for the park feature of the project will be taken from the Weeki Wachee Fund, which distributes revenue received from the sale of city property in Weeki Wachee Springs. Funds for the parking feature would come from parking revenue funds. Weeki Wachee funds would not exceed $200,000 and parking revenue funds would not exceed $250,000. Any unused funds would return to their respective funding sources.

“This is a really great way to look at beautifying some of our urban spaces,” said Driscoll. She argued the project would serve as an example for ways to activate long-vacant public spaces and a boost to economic development.

Council Member Robert Blackmon agreed. “When I heard about the project, I thought it was a good idea, but the more I’ve driven by the area and thought about it, the more excited I am.

“I think this is going to be a huge deal,” Blackmon said. “The cost-benefit is through the roof on this. Politics is often a game of give and take, but I think this project is all give.”

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6 Comments
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6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Brad Banks

    February 27, 2020at5:42 pm

    Yet more improvements north of Central! What is Gina Driscoll doing for those of us south-central? We have homeless people sleeping in the city right away for five years or more we have people living in their vans right on the street we have strip clubs located right beside residential areas we have homeless people urinating and defecating literally in our yards…. The list goes on and on. Why doesn’t she do something about all of the vacant run-down buildings along the west side of fourth Street south? There’s so much that could be done south of central around the Bartlett Park area But all the money goes north of Central.

    • Avatar

      S. Rose Smith-Hayes

      February 29, 2020at9:56 pm

      I agree with Brad Banks, the City does not do what is really needed. Clean up the homeless situation. Do more for the Bartlett Park area, clean it up, people live there.

  2. Avatar

    Corbin Supak

    February 27, 2020at6:19 pm

    This is “socialism” for driving, to those who normally fear that concept. Non-drivers pay this via the city’s funds, for the benefit of drivers only.

  3. Avatar

    Park Lover

    February 27, 2020at8:58 pm

    Well, I’m a “driver” and a homeowner/taxpayer in the city of St. Pete. I can walk to this park within 5 minutes of my house! THANK YOU ST. PETERSBURG!!! This is much appreciated and will be a GREAT use of the space!!! We now have to walk to Crescent Lake for a park and area for our dogs. I have no idea what Corbin Supak is talking about.

  4. Avatar

    Ryan Todd

    February 28, 2020at7:50 am

    Politicians and business “win”.
    Our community and our climate lose.
    Community support for this project has been misrepresented from the beginning.

  5. Avatar

    William Heyen

    February 29, 2020at2:30 pm

    Now we need a dog park in the north end of the city. Please?

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