Why don’t we talk about St Pete more?

Tampa Bay’s secondary city has a lot to show for itself, with no plans of slowing down.

When you glance at the skyline of St. Pete, the first thing you’ll notice is that nearly all of the towers are residential in nature contrary to the Bay’s primary city in Tampa who’s focus is more corporate. The city of 300,000 sits about 20 miles Southwest of Tampa. Currently, eight of the nine tallest buildings are housing with all of the proposed towers containing residential as well. This creates an active buzz Downtown that punches way above it’s weight compared to cities of similar size. This also leads to streets that are lined with shops, restaurants and services that are active upwards of 18 hours per day. The mix of community feel with big city energy is what attracts many to the city.

Other Downtown attractions include St Pete Pier, which is one of my favorite urban spaces, multiple museums, parks, and countless shopping, dining, and nightlife opportunities in a mix of classic 1900s era to modern storefronts.

This map created by St Pete Rising, illustrates the amount of construction activity right now stretching from the heart of Downtown, down the spine of Central Ave. Some notable developments include towers 40+ stories, to low-rise mixed use activity hubs.

https://stpeterising.com/development-map

The big blights in Downtown currently are the two Freeway stubs of I-175 and I-375 as well as the massive sea of parking surrounding the Ray’s stadium.

Efforts are underway to remove I-175 and restore the original grid system which would provide a huge opportunity to stich together the Black community that was essentially severed from Downtown.

https://stpetecatalyst.com/mobility-study-possible-lane-reductions-and-or-removal-of-i-175/

While I-375 serves more of a purpose in the eyes of many, it too is being considered for removal.

Together, these two freeways serve very little purpose other than getting people directly in and out of Downtown quickly. They also take up acres and acres of valuable land that could be used for housing and greenspace, and disrupt the otherwise perfect grid system.

The Rays have been aiming to replace their aging stadium for decades now. Outside of the eyesore sit over 50 acres wasted on surface parking in one of the most up and coming Downtowns. Threats of moving to Tampa, Montreal or elsewhere have not led to much progress but there are several proposals to repurpose the space into an urban destination.

The latest proposals sees the 86 dead acres transform into a thriving extension of Downtown with a focus on equity, sustainability and affordable housing.

The urban evolution of what’s called the Grand Central District stretches from the heart of Downtown Westward toward the Gulf along Central Ave. From Downtown to roughly 34th Street, Central Ave is lined with repurposed historical Main Street buildings that are now shops, breweries, food halls and more. There’s also been an increase of dense housing which have transformed this once sleepy stretch into an amazing walkable mix that feels like it stretches on forever.
The area is also served by the brand new SunRunner BRT system which runs primarily in dedicated lanes along with the Central Ave trolley.

One of the most unique things about St. Pete is the impressive grid and alley system. The grid encompasses over 50 square miles of the city which is rare for the Sun Belt. Many of the residential streets aren’t cluttered with driveways or garages.

The nature of development in St Pete is also sprawl proof due to being surrounded by water. This has led to special attention to zoning and infill especially along Transit and major corridors.

While there is still a ways to go as far in allowing multifamily uses within single family zones, ADUs are extremely prevalent throughout the city and significant infill has taken place along the aforementioned Central Ave.

They have also made great strides in reducing parking requirements, minimum dwelling and lot size standards, as well as increasing the areas ADUs are allowed.

There is also an abundant supply of missing middle housing when compared to cities of similar size in the South. This has led to some relatively affordable options remaining through the recent surge in prices. According to Zillow, there are nearly 300 properties within the city limits under $250,000 and nearly 200 when a second bedroom is added. This number drops to 29 when adding a third bedroom. Raleigh, which has very little in the way of missing middle housing or grid system sees just 30 units for under $250,000.

As with every city, there are a fair share of challenges. St Pete is very segregated, is seeing immense displacement in the historically Black neighborhoods and has seen affordability decrease with the influx of new residents.

https://bestneighborhood.org/race-in-st-pete-beach-fl/

While St Pete has the great grid system, land use is extremely poor along the main stroads.

There are also more people who use bikes to get around than most cities even without much bike infrastructure. Repurposing many of the underused commercial corridors and overbuilt roads will be key to maintaining affordability. It will not only increase housing stock but also reduce car dependency and traffic with the addition of more mixed use nodes.

Opinions and insights are my own and are not representative of my employer or any organization. Any ideas displayed on this site are purely that – just ideas to help improve the future of the built environment and begin discussions.

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