The first phase of the project on nine acres at the corner of 30th Avenue S. is a self-storage and parking building for residents of the 300 apartments to eventually be built on the site. The structure will also help mitigate noise from Interstate 275, while murals and projection art on the side facing the interstate will bring attention to the district.
The event was the culmination of years of work by city, neighborhood and business leaders to spark the renewal of an area with the potential of serving tens of thousands of residents in nearby communities who currently largely go elsewhere to shop, eat and play.
“We stand in a place that has incredible promise,” St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman told several dozen people assembled for the ceremony, noting the great views and wealth of developable land as some of its assets. “The potential here … I’ve always thought is better than anywhere else in the city. … It isn’t just the downtown anymore.”
Donald Phillips, head of the company leading the project, Tampa-based Phillips Development & Realty, thanked the city of St. Petersburg helping make it a reality.
“I have never received such a welcome and honest show of support,” he said.
In the past year a number of new businesses have started moving into the 1.5-mile stretch between 30th and 54th Avenues South comprising the district. However, the Phillips project is by far the largest in cost and scale.
Speaking to the Gabber after the ceremony, Phillips said his company was working closely with the city to create a complex in tune with the architectural theme of the district. The design harks back to the “atomic architecture” popular in the 1950s and 60s, he said.
When it’s finished in mid 2021, the complex it will also include retail space, a pool, a lazy river with a beach and volley ball courts, and two brand-name restaurants – one moderately priced, such as a brew pub or sports bar, the other more upscale like a steak and seafood house, he said.
The art on the storage building is being done by artists Jason Lashley of St. Petersburg and Michael Owen of Baltimore at a cost of $200,000 – half provided by the city and half by Phillips – and will be completed in about 12 months, he said.
While the city is not subsidizing his project, Phillips said it has targeted the Skyway Marina District for $1 million of infrastructure improvements, including a nearby traffic light on 30th Avenue and parking on 32nd Avenue.
St. Petersburg City Councilman Steve Kornell, District 5, who has been a driving force behind the area’s redevelopment and whose contribution was explicitly recognized by the mayor, said he was very excited about the area’s prospects. Once initial resistance to the urban renewal idea was overcome, he said, it became a strong partnership between the city and the community.
Now, he said, “we’re moving really fast.”
He said the hardest part will be creating jobs offering a living wage and that this will be the focus of the remaining two and a half years of his term.