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Welch adds to his administration

On Friday, Mayor Ken Welch announced the promotion of three City of St. Petersburg employees to new positions. Rob Gerdes, former neighborhood affairs administrator, will now serve as assistant city administrator. Welch originally announced this move during his inauguration Thursday as a means to address the affordable housing crisis. Replacing Gerdes as neighborhood affairs administrator is James Corbett. Corbett is the former director of code compliance, a position also once held by Gerdes. Welch also appointed Joe Zeoli as interim city development administrator. Zeoli has served the city for nearly 35 years, most recently as managing director of administration and finance. Prior to this latest staffing announcement, Welch named Stephanie Owens as his deputy mayor and chief of policy, Tom Greene as interim city administrator, Janelle Irwin Taylor as communication director and Doyle Walsh as his senior adviser.

St. Petersburg Opera Company cancels Saturday’s events due to Covid

The St. Petersburg Opera Company announced it has canceled Saturday’s “Gallery Songs” program along with its participation in the Saturday ArtWalk. In a statement posted to social media, the company said the decision was made due to “the rapid spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant in our community and considering our health concerns about large crowds with our performing and unmasked artists … ” The company said it will also institute new safety measures that align with CDC guidelines moving forward.

USF installs reverse vending machines to increase recycling

The University of South Florida has partnered with Coca-Cola to increase recycling efforts through reverse vending machines (RVM). Funded by Coca-Cola, the six machines accept plastic bottles and aluminum cans. The company is donating five cents to the USF Feed-A-Bull Food Pantry for every can or bottle the six machines receive, up to $5,000 a year. Coca-Cola maintains the machines, although they accept empty cans and bottles from any brand. No cleaning is required, but the RVM returns materials that do not meet recycling criteria, such as glass. The RVM crushes and sorts the recyclables before Coca-Cola’s subcontractor, Atlas, collects them. Each machine’s capacity is about 900 crushed containers. Coca-Cola installed four machines on the Tampa campus and two on the St. Petersburg campus.

Rowdies announce open tryouts

For anyone who thinks they have what it takes to play professional soccer, the Tampa Bay Rowdies recently announced the team is holding open tryouts. The Rowdies are hosting the tryouts on Feb. 13 at the Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch. The cost to try out for the team is $125, and prospective players must be at least 16 years old. For more information, visit here.

Mayor-elect Welch announces senior administration members

St. Petersburg Mayor-elect Ken Welch announced several key members of his administration Wednesday. Stephanie Owens, Welch’s transition director and campaign manager, will serve as deputy mayor and chief of policy. Owens has over 20 years of public policy experience, including as an appointee of former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. In addition to senior positions in the White House and Department of Health and Human Services, Owens has also worked with the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Commerce. Janelle Irwin Taylor will serve as director of communications, and Tom Greene was named the interim city administrator. Greene is the current assistant city administrator, a position he has held under Mayor Rick Kriseman since 2018. Irwin Taylor is the senior editor for Florida Politics and previously worked with the Tampa Bay Business Journal and WMNF Community Radio. Doyle Walsh will serve as Welch’s senior adviser. Walsh previously served as an aide to County Commissioner Janet Long.

Electric bicycles banned from St. Pete Beach

A new ordinance now prohibits electric bicycles from operating on St. Pete Beach, and regular bicycles could be banned next. St. Pete Beach city commissioners recently passed the “Micromobility Ordinance” banning motorized bicycles, scooters and hoverboards from both the beach and city sidewalks. The ordinance was in response to resident and visitor safety. In 2020, the Beach Stewardship Committee recommended that no bicycles of any type should be allowed on the beach. The commission will address that recommendation in February.

Zillow projects Tampa Bay will be the top housing market in 2022

Zillow has named Tampa Bay the top hottest housing market in the nation going into 2022, according to Zillow's annual analysis on the top 10 housing markets. Jacksonville followed close behind at the No. 2 spot. The other top cities that Tampa surpassed include Nashville, Tennesse; Austin, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia and others. Tampa claimed the top spot for Zillow's list of hottest housing markets due to the strong forecasted home value growth, a thriving job market, relatively scarce and fast-moving inventory and demographics that indicate a good number of potential buyers, according to Zillow. The markets expected to have the least amount of activity in 2022 are New York, Milwaukee, San Francisco, Chicago, and San Jose – each characterized by relatively fewer new jobs and less favorable demographic trends than other large markets. 

Vinik sells minority stake in Lightning to Arctos Sports Partners

Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik announced Tuesday that Arctos Sports Partners has made a minority investment into Vinik Sports Group. The National Hockey League’s Board of Governors approved the transaction in December. The minority sale takes effect immediately, and Vinik will retain control of the team and VSG as the majority owner. In a press release, Vinik said there would be no noticeable change in the day-to-day operations of the Lightning or VSG. Dallas-based Arctos is a private equity firm that provides customized liquidity and passive growth capital solutions to sports franchises. Details of the transaction remain private.

Welch tests positive for Covid, Inauguration ceremony canceled

Mayor-elect Ken Welch tested positive for Covid Monday, causing him to cancel his inauguration plans. In a press release, Welch said he is following CDC guidelines and isolating at home for the next five days. As a result, his swearing-in ceremony on the steps of City Hall will no longer take place. Instead, Welch said he would be sworn in virtually on Thursday, Jan. 6, and provide a short speech. Welch said he would continue to conduct city business virtually after his inauguration and will announce several senior members of his administration in the coming days. The press release stated that Welch was vaccinated and received a booster in November. Welch postponed his post-inauguration celebrations last week due to the surge in Covid cases stemming from the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Dali joins the Museum for All program for SNAP recipients

The Dalí Museum has joined Museums for All, a signature access program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) that allows those receiving food assistance (SNAP) benefits to visit the museum for minimal fee of $3 per person, up to four people. The museum is also offering complimentary parking, when available, for those patrons. Visitors should present their SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card at the museum ticket desk.

Arts Alliance’s MUSE Awards to return Feb. 4

The St. Petersburg Arts Alliance will present its 2022 MUSE Awards Friday, Feb. 4 at the Morean Center For Clay. Honoring artists and art supporters, the event did not take place in 2021. The six winners will be announced in increments Tuesday and Wednesday, with event tickets going on sale Tuesday. Details are here.

St. Pete real estate firm buys Kentucky apartments in a $230M deal

St. Petersburg-based Stoneweg US has purchased two apartment complexes in Louisville, Kentucky through a $230 million deal. Stoneweg bought Middletown Landing and Mallard Crossing. The purchase was the largest deal to date for Stoneweg, according to a news release. “We’re fortunate to acquire two high-quality assets that significantly bolster our overall unit count and allow us to extend our reach in a market that we’ve been so successful in,” Ryan Reyes, chief investment officer for Stoneweg US, said in a news release. “Middletown Landing and Mallard Crossing at St. Matthews represents a giant step forward in our growth strategy and this move is indicative of our capabilities to source and close quality deals on a large scale." 

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