St. Petersburg’s pioneering waterfront parks need to be kept from private development and enhanced for public use.
An Innovation District should be created to recognize and support the marine sciences, health care and education economy on the south end of downtown.
The city should consider supporting the creation of a downtown development corporation that is a public-private partnership to focus on Pier redevelopment, optimizing Al Lang Field and improving access to Bayshore Drive.
These recommendations highlighted a two-hour presentation Friday morning by the Urban Land Institute, as it wrapped up a week-long study of planning and land use in the waterfront district.
The team's assignment was to offer advice as the city moves ahead with its first-ever Downtown Waterfront Master Plan.
But the recommendations that emerged were far more comprehensive, with panelists urging the city to work regionally for public transit downtown, recognize the strengths of the entire downtown, and create public-private partnerships.
“The waterfront depends on the traditional downtown, and the traditional downtown depends on the waterfront,” said Richard Reinhard of the Urban Land Institute. “You don’t have the luxury of focusing on one over the other.”
Likewise, city leaders are being encouraged to recognize the economic powerhouse that the marine sciences institutions, medical complexes and University of South Florida-St Petersburg represent on the south side of downtown. The city’s downtown jobs are concentrated in this area.
The panel also encouraged the creation of a waterfront conservancy for promoting, protecting and enhancing the downtown waterfront and beaches.
The panel was invited to St. Petersburg, as the city launches its Downtown Waterfront Master Plan process. The group offered an intensive look at the city, its amenities and “how it can grow and prosper” into a world class community.
The panel offered the report in a Power Point presentation to a crowd at the Vinoy Hotel Friday morning. Its complete findings will be released next week.
More this morning:
Downtown real estate heats up: An upscale condominium development in downtown St. Petersburg that just won city approval already has pre-sold most of the roomy four-bedroom “homes” that are a short walk from Beach Drive.
On Thursday, the St. Petersburg City Council voted unanimously to approve plans for the Art Deco-style building on 4th Ave NE, a block west of Beach Drive.
Only four units are left in the 17-unit Rowland Place, though the developer has yet to break ground, said Claudia Emery, sales and marketing director for JMC Design & Development of St. Petersburg.
Why the rush to buy at Rowland Place?
“We are seeing homebuyers who are drawn to St. Petersburg’s downtown by its layout — the protected waterfront and all the shops and activities that are within walking distance,” Emery said.
She noted a trend by mid-career and older professionals to simplify lifestyles. Downtown St. Pete offers convenience and livability — without a lot of traffic — which is unusual in Florida. The remaining units have four bedrooms and range in price from $719,000 to $799,000.
Homelessness in Pinellas County: The St. Pete City Council received a report on Thursday looking at the number of homeless people in Pinellas County.
More than a third of the 6,593 homeless people counted in a January 2013 census were children. Adults accounted for 62 percent and children 38 percent. The counts are conducted every other year.
When the count was done in 2011, 5,887 homeless people were reported. But some observers say that the one-night census is not a precise reflection of trends.
Other statistics of note included:
• 20 percent of the homeless counted were veterans. The figure is consistent with numbers nationwide.
• Most of the homeless are male — at 69 percent.
• The vast majority of homeless people not in shelters reported having a serious and chronic disability. Most reported suffering from mental illness, along with other chronic conditions.