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This next move will determine the future of Joe’s Creek

Veronica Brezina



Joe's Creek today. Image: Pinellas County Government.

The Joe’s Creek Watershed area that stretches over 9,000 acres and houses dozens of industrial warehouses in unincorporated Pinellas County could be redeveloped into a mixed-use destination. 

The Lealman Community Redevelopment Area Advisory Committee unanimously voted Wednesday evening to approve $250,000 in CRA funding to select a developer, serving as a consultant, to study the best future uses for the area, which also includes portions of Kenneth City, Lealman, Pinellas Park and St. Petersburg.  

Although the CRA reached a consensus, the nine-member group debated on two different routes they can use in the consultant selection process: Issue a request for proposals (RFP) with the county, which entails going through a vetting process that may take at least six months, or hire a pre-approved consultant and can bypass the extensive process. 

“The concern is about going back to the same design firms for a project of this scope,” Lealman CRA Chair Jeremy Health said to the St. Pete Catalyst. “This is the most important thing for this area that’s going to happen in the next five to 10 years.” 

The Pinellas County Board of Commissioners will have the final say when they review the plans for the study next month. 

“Historically speaking, the county has been extremely protective and restrictive of development that’s taking place on industrial lands. It wasn’t until the Target Employment and Industrial Land Study [which evaluates other uses in certain areas] that the county has been willing to start looking at affordable housing, mixed-uses, retail – something other than industrial development,” Heath said. 

While there’s a county-wide emphasis on creating more affordable housing, he said, Lealman has a gap in its market-rate inventory. 

“This is an important distinction – Lealman already has a lot of affordable housing projects. Affordable developments are a huge need in Pinellas County, but it’s not an appropriate use of the Joe’s Creek industrial park,” Heath said, sharing his perspective. “Lealman has not had any new upper and middle-class housing developments in decades.” 

RELATED: Lealman affordable housing project moves forward

The median family income in Pinellas County is $89,400, according to public records. 

“I’d like to see market-rate and mixed-use space. What I mean by that is for us to be heavy on transit and walkability. We have the bus stop and eventually will have a bike path and the beautification and improvement of Joe’s Creek,” Heath said, describing how a reimagined Joe’s Creek Watershed area could house breweries, mom-and-pop businesses and an office park. 

“In Hillsborough County, they are very jobs heavy, but they are very housing poor, which is why there’s so much sprawl. People are living in Wesley Chapel or Riverview and commuting to Tampa,” Heath said. “You don’t want [more affordable housing] to come at the expense of having good-paying jobs.” 

The best-use study would likely be adopted in the 2024 budget year. The consultant would present the plan in late 2024 or early 2025. 

There is also an ongoing restoration and stormwater mitigation study for the stream running through Joe’s Creek, which continually floods during storms, Heath said. 

The restoration project of the Joe’s Creek area. Photo provided. 

Last year, the county received a $17.1 million grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) to aid in a transformative reimagining of the creek. Additionally, the county received $3.1 million from the American Recovery Plan Act and $360,000 from the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

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    steve sullivan

    June 30, 2023at4:32 pm

    This guy makes no sense. at the end of the day housing is brick and mortar infrastructure. He needs an education about what affordable means now adays when it comes to housing. I would say he is all about a class war. And, lealman will never become the highend expensive area he is looking for. Someone educate this man on mixed income development’s please

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