The city of St. Petersburg went all out last week to convince members of the business community that a 1.5-mile stretch of 34th Street South has the potential for being a happening place.
About 150 realtors, developers, bankers, retailers and neighborhood leaders showed up for an invitation-only event Wednesday, June 24, at Ceridian’s offices at 3201 34th St. S.
The visitors heard pitches on the benefits of turning 34th Street South from a road used to travel elsewhere into a destination in itself. They enjoyed tasty appetizers and wine donated by local businesses and after the speeches took in the views from atop the Ceridian building or went on a tour of nearby vacant lots, luxury residential projects and colleges.
“I am absolutely convinced the Skyway Marina District is the next big thing,” St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman told the assembly, noting the stunning views, proximity to the water and the large tracts of developable land, among other assets. “Now all it needs is you.”
Among those also extolling the district’s virtues were top officials of Ceridian, which employs more than 1,000 in the building formerly occupied by Florida Power and Light; electronics manufacturer Jabil Circuits, which is in the process of moving 365 IT workers into newly leased space in the building; and St. Petersburg College, which wants to train workers for the new employers.
Thousands of residents of surrounding communities, many of them quite wealthy, have to leave the area for their shopping, dining and recreation needs. The city is pushing for new jobs, restaurants, stores, hotel rooms, living space and offices, and promoting multi-use and vertical development in the district, which lies between 30th Avenue to the north and 54th Avenue to the south.
The city council approved a comprehensive development plan in 2014 and allocated $750,000 for three iconic gateway signs and new landscaping to be installed by the end of this year. It is also offering $1 million in incentives to the first multi-use development and $50,000 to the first qualifying sit-down restaurant.
Speaking after the conference, Walter Donnelly of the Alliance for Bayway Communities said he couldn’t understand why this kind of development had not already taken place. His group represents 47 nearby neighborhood associations with approximately 8,670 full-time and seasonal residents.
“We share the vision of what it can be here and we scratch our heads of why it isn’t that way,” he said.
Steve Toner, associate broker for Coldwell Banker Commercial/Saunders Real Estate in Lakeland, said he had brought clients to look at the district and received positive feedback.
“I see a lot of opportunities here,” he said. “It will definitely happen. There are too many good aspects for it not to happen – as long as the economy keeps going.”
In a related development, the owner of the Bay Point Plaza mall at 5001-5295 34th St. S has made public plans to tear down the Publix supermarket and build a larger one next year.
To see an artist’s rendition of what a multi-use vertical development in the Skyway Marina District might look like visit youtube.com/watch?v=D2h43Rq_vRc