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Summit to help define healthy growth for St. Pete

Veronica Brezina



The St. Pete Pier and downtown. Photo by Veronica Brezina.

The city once thought of as a quiet waterfront destination is bustling with heavy traffic and luxury high-rises – drawing questions from lifelong residents wanting to know where the city will draw the line while balancing needed sustainable growth. 

That is the theme of this year’s St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership’s Development Summit, taking place Tuesday (Feb. 28), from 3-5 p.m. at the Palladium Theater. 

“We need to be conscientious about St. Pete as it grows in profound record-breaking ways,” said Jason Mathis, CEO of the Downtown Partnership.

City data shows that building officials issued 36,800 permits in fiscal year 2022, which brought in $9.3 million in revenue and equates to $1.3 billion in construction value, a new record. 

“People who are excited and those concerned about development will enjoy the event – we all share that same emotion in wanting to see St. Pete thrive, welcome new people and still have this sense of protection. We are trying to thread that needle and encourage smart, healthy development,” Mathis continued. 

The overarching goal of the event is to bring urban designers, officials, business leaders and residents together under one roof to identify solutions for the city that is surging with new activity and an increasing population.  

Urban consultant Dan Biederman will be the keynote speaker. Biederman, who started his career in the 1980s, is known for transforming Manhattan’s Bryant Park into a popular and safer destination. 

With the assistance of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Biederman led one of the largest efforts in the nation to apply private management backed by private funding to a public park. 

Mathis said he met Biederman a year ago while on a trip to New York City. Mathis, working as the executive director of the Salt Lake City Downtown Alliance at the time, said he was intrigued and awed by how Biederman enhanced NYC’s public spaces, helping redefine the narrative for certain parts of the city. 

“As an organization, we’ve been thinking about Williams Park and its rebuilt bandshell. We have ideas about how we can advance our downtown similar to what Biederman did in Manhattan,” Mathis said. 

The Partnership’s lineup of other speakers for its second annual event include: 

  • St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch

  • Gwendolyn Reese, president of the African American Heritage Association of St. Petersburg

  • Manny Leto, executive director of Preserve the ‘Burg

  • Dex Fabian, founder of I Love the Burg

  • Sarah Lindemuth, 2023 Development Guide author and research director of Meshsem Inc.

  • Monica Kile, a local historian and former executive director of Preserve the ‘Burg

  • Paul Wilborn, executive director of the Palladium Theater  

As of Monday, 250 people had registered to attend the free summit.

Mathis shared that Kile and the Partnership are launching a new 30-minute video documentary on St. Pete regarding how it’s blossomed into a “cool city” and its welcoming culture. 

Mathis said he is also working with Reese on rolling out a program to talk with groups, churches and residents about the structural racism study completed last year, to help people gain a better understanding of what it’s like living as a Black individual in St. Petersburg. 

The Partnership is planning to release its 2023 Development Guide during Tuesday’s event. The 48-page document includes data regarding St. Pete’s development challenges and barriers such as limited housing associated with income levels. 

Tuesday’s event is free and open the public. Click here to register:

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  1. Avatar

    Rita Sewell

    February 27, 2023at5:49 pm

    Please add the Mirror Lake Historic District to the list of places needing care and conservation.

  2. Avatar

    William Stover

    February 27, 2023at6:08 pm

    Better late than never, I guess. St Petersburg has been ruined with the reduced traffic lanes and increased density. Who in their right mind would allow a condo on a parking lot, as is being built next to 200 Central? How can weekend festivals be allowed to turn up the volume and bass so that the sound penetrates the numerous downtown dwellings? Why do the police not police the cars and motorcycles with open mufflers accelerating down Bayshore? St Petersburg has become a zoo. Common sense could return St Pete to a vibrant, livable city.

  3. Avatar

    Shirley Hayes

    February 27, 2023at8:02 pm

    I have been here since 1953. I would love to leave to live in a smaller city. There are too many people and too many high rises. How do we safely evacuate for the next Hurricane?? Can our sewer system handle the growth??The high rises need to stop. There needs to be a stopping point. Where is the industry? ‘Regular’ people are leaving, people that work at the mall, in the stores, cooks, waiters and waitresses. We cannot hire teachers and nurses because they cannot afford to live here.There needs to be a stopping point for this growth.

  4. Avatar

    Shar Menlo

    February 27, 2023at8:07 pm

    Just returned from a long week in St.Petersburg. Left in 2020 after having lived there since 1952. I didn’t recognize my hometown. Traffic horrible. Lots of empty buildings west of 34th Street North. Visited new pier & was greeted by the belongings of homeless people stashed behind benches near St Petersburg History Museum. Shocked to see a guard at the Museum of American Arts and Crafts Cafe entrance I assume to keep out homeless. Witnessed a belligerent homeless man picking a fight with the cashier at Starbucks as he tried to steal a wrapped bake good. All not good memories. I have no novel solutions and hope this upcoming symposium will address these concerns.

  5. Avatar

    Mike Connelly

    February 27, 2023at8:15 pm

    St Petersburg has been Lauderdaled. Been nice to know you.

  6. Avatar

    Jon Drossos

    February 27, 2023at8:49 pm

    Bring back the green benches!

  7. Avatar

    Judith Bowman

    February 27, 2023at9:40 pm

    Good plan. I can’t be at meeting but suggest we end The Grand Prix which adds pollution and commotion!!!!

  8. Avatar


    February 28, 2023at9:59 am

    Empty lip service. The line must go up. Everything else is secondary.

    Just 2 years ago this was a pedestrian town. Remember that? Now every single street within walking distance of downtown is bumper to bumper traffic. No one does anything about it.

    Its not possible to cater to everyone simultaneously and the commons pays that price.

    Humans dont even deserve a place as nice as st Petersburg once was… And we will prove it. Again.

    Oh and lets throw in broken progressive policies to reinforce the futuristic dystopia just so we can all sleep at night in a prison of out own construction.

    Cant wait!

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