Speaking Up to Make a Better City

June 11, 2021

The Edge District is booming. This district, spanning the corridor along Central and the 1st Avenues and between MLK & 16th Streets, is home to both historic buildings and new developments. Recently, the city approved two projects for large new developments in the Edge. PTB, working with the Edge District Business Association, was successful in improving the design of both of these projects, including the reuse of a historic building that was originally proposed for demolition.The city is starting a process to revise its Comprehensive Plan and development regulations. Our experience with these two projects point to the need for better regulations. We will be calling on you to speak up to remind city decision makers the new rules need to keep St. Petersburg special.

The project proposed for 900 Central Ave. is the present location of the 1918 St. Petersburg Hotel building, one of the Edge District’s oldest and most prominent historic resources. Today, the three-story building is home to a variety of businesses including Anytime Fitness. The property was sold in 2019. Last year an application was submitted to redevelop the property, including the demolition of the historic hotel building. City staff was prepared to recommend development approval when PTB and the Edge District Business Association joined forces to say the historic hotel building should be saved. After a landmark application was submitted and a series of conversations were held, the property owner  agreed to retain the historic hotel building. Click here to read a St. Pete Rising blog story about the development. (link to: https://stpeterising.com/home/2021/5/27/13-story-mixed-use-building-planned-for-st-petes-edge-district-moves-forward)

Belpointe is a large development proposed for the parcel between 1st Ave. N. and Baum Ave. and just west of MLK St. Baum Ave. is located between 1st Ave. N. and Central Ave. and is named for early developer Jacob Baum. As originally submitted, the development plans treated the Baum Ave. side of the project as the “lifeless” backside of the development. A key component of the Edge District redevelopment plan is to activate Baum Ave. as an active pedestrian-oriented corridor. PTB again teamed with the Edged District Business Association and began a series of discussions with the developer. The outcome, a redesign of the Baum Ave. side of the development consistent with the plan for Baum to be an attractive pedestrian corridor with shopping opportunities.

Even with the changes in design, both developments will be large projects that will change the look of the area. The lessons are that our input matters and that city staff feels constrained in its ability to say no to out of place development. While we can make a difference, these projects are not ideal – we need better development criteria and policies. The city is just starting a process to review and revise those policies. We will be offering more information about the process in our e-newsletter and we hope you will join us in speaking up for rules to keep St. Petersburg special.

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Historic postcard, watercolor painting of Mirror Lake, St. Petersburg, FL
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Historic Bay Gables House
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It’s not every day that you see a 100-year-old mansion being driven down the street. But that’s exactly what downtown residents encountered in the early morning hours this past Sunday as the Historic Bay Gables home at 136 4th Avenue NE was loaded onto a massive flatbed truck, destined to make history in a new neighborhood ten blocks away.