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StPete2050, a ‘gift to the future,’ opens with a packed house

Margie Manning

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About 300 people attended the kickoff of StPete2050 at the James Museum.

About 300 people used markers, maps, labels and their imaginations to begin creating a vision for what St. Petersburg will be like 30 years from now.

Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin

The packed house at the James Museum Thursday night was the inaugural public meeting, and the start of a year-long process, for StPete2050, a citywide conversation about the future of St. Petersburg.

“This is a generational opportunity,” Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin said. “It’s your opportunity to chart our city’s course, to think about things like sustainability, health and wellness, energy, mobility, housing, education, equity, diversity, our community’s character, what will make sure we will always be a values-driven city, and our economy. It’s all up for discussion.”

The city followed a similar process two decades ago, when it created Vision 2020, said Liz Abernethy, planning and development services director.

Liz Abernethy

There have been a lot of changes since 2020, including about an 8 percent gain in population, an increase in household income, a drop in the poverty rate, and new home construction citywide, including double the number of homes downtown. There also are challenges that weren’t top of mind 20 years ago, such as attainable housing, sustainability and resiliency, aging infrastructure and community health.

Unlike Vision 2020, there are no designated steering committee leaders for the current planning process, Tomalin said. “Each of you are steering. Each of you have your hands on the wheel.”

At last night’s meeting there were 30 tables with 10 chairs each. Groups at each table were encouraged to talk about what they saw as the city’s strengths and opportunities, and to use the markers, labels and maps at each table to document their conversations.

Two more kickoff meetings are planned — Nov. 9 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Center for Health Equity. 2333 34th Street S., and Nov. 20 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the J.W. Cate Recreation Center at 5801 22nd Ave. N. There’s also an online survey at stpete2050.com.

Everyone is encouraged to participate and all the feedback will be documented in the 2050 plan, Abernethy said.

“This is our chance to give a gift to the future, to our children and their children, to people we may never meet, and we should take it seriously. We should be bold and we should think big. People did it for us . We should do it for those to come,” Tomalin said.

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