Gentrification – the systemic replacement of one neighborhood with a more upscale, wealthier one – was one of the buzzwords in the latest Suncoast Tiger Bay virtual webinar, “The Socio-Cultural Impacts of Development in St. Pete.”
The pros and cons of development, and how they can be tweaked, were the main topics of discussion. St. Petersburg, the panelists agreed, is facing hurdles both financial and moral as the skyline rises and development shifts into overdrive.
“In addition to sustainability in terms of the environment, we might think of sustainability in terms of communities, and communities with all income levels,” suggested Bruce Nissen, a retired college professor who co-chairs the policy working group for the city’s proposed Community Benefits Agreement. “In other words, avoiding gentrification and the problems of gentrification.
“Personally, I can’t see any real longterm solution to the conundrum between growing, expanding, developing – becoming the cool, go-to place that everybody wants to live in, which is what St. Pete has become – and gentrification.”
Nissen’s co-chair, attorney Tamara Felton-Howard, talked about the city’s struggle with building and maintaining affordable housing.
“I definitely think we need to have a concerted plan and effort to try to ensure that we have affordable housing in the city of St. Petersburg,” she said. “It’s a real problem. I don’t think anybody could have imagined that prices would skyrocket as much as they have. It’s just astronomical.”
Her 30-year-old son, Felton-Howard offered, is currently having trouble finding something he can afford.
“Most of the people that I know that are buying homes are going across to Riverview, or Ruskin, or Manatee,” she said. “So what does that do to our city when we have longtime residents who want to be here, but who can’t even afford to live here?”
Jonathan Graham, President of Horus Construction Services, Inc. and City Development Administrator Alan DeLisle discussed the proposed Community Development Agreement (CBA), which would mandate that the city legally ensures that development brings some benefit to the surrounding community – particularly how it would apply to the proposed redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site.
“We don’t want to kill or diminish the development that we have, the growth that we have, or the job creation that we’ve all worked so hard to create,” said DeLisle. “But at the same time, I do think that the system needs to be fairer, and needs to consider community benefits more than perhaps what has been done in the past.
“And now, we’ve got this great equity conversation going on in our community, and we couldn’t think of a better time to do it.”
The video recording of the webinar will be posted here soon.