In case you haven’t noticed, three signature gateway signs leading into the Skyway Marina District are in place in lower 34th Street South, clearly designating the area as a distinct sector with a unique vibe.
The signs are among several new developments in the 1.5-mile stretch between 30th and 54th streets south, which the city of St. Petersburg is targeting for new restaurants, hotels and retailers. Earlier this month by an upscale marketing firm that aims to hire more than 250 new employees in the next few years moved in – a major coup for the fledgling district.
“We’ve just had a lot of momentum in the last six months,” Keri Melshenker, executive director of the Skyway Marina District, said Monday, June 27.
City council approved a comprehensive redevelopment plan in 2014, seeking to draw new investors to the area by promoting its central location, proximity to the water, large tracts of developable land, and thousands of well-off homeowners with few places to shop, eat or recreate nearby.
The new gateway signs, in yellow, blue, silver and beige, aim to project a modern contemporary marina feel and are the first step toward creating a unique brand and a “sense of place” for the area, Melshenker said.
The signs cost $150,000 each and were built by Thomas Sign and Awning Co. of Clearwater. They were officially unveiled May 25 and are landscaped with Bismarck palms that will remain furled until the trees have had a chance to root, said Melshenker.
Also helping create the new sense of place is a redesign of the landscaping on the 34th Street South median, she said. Work is underway to replenish the soil in anticipation of planting new palms and Florida-friendly plants, which should be done by the end of the summer.
The district has also begun working with Duke Energy on a plan to install sidewalk lighting to make the area more inviting for pedestrians. The goal is to install two white “mini-bell” lights between each of the existing tall “cobra head” lights. “It brings the sky down and creates a cozier feel on the road,” Melshenker said. Installation could start as early as the fall.
In other district developments:
– Kobie Marketing, which employs about 200 in its downtown St. Petersburg headquarters, expanded into the former Florida Power and Light building at 3201 34th Street S. in anticipation of hiring some 250 new employees over several years. It joins electronics manufacturer Jabil Circuit, with more than 350 employees, and human resources company Ceridian, with more than 1,000.
“It’s huge,” Melshenker said of Kobie’s move to the district. “The Ceridian campus is pretty much full at this point.”
– The district also has hired Wannemacher Jensen architects of St. Petersburg to develop art-and-design guidelines for the district. These will determine the “look” – colors, landscaping, textures, and so forth — that new businesses should select to fit in with the overall feel of the district.
– The Pet Supermarket chain plans to open a store in the Marina Village retail mall in mid October with 20 employees.
– The old Publix in Marina Village was completely demolished and construction of the new store is well under way.
– A 5-mile community bike ride co-sponsored with the non-profit ShiftStPete is scheduled Saturday, July 16 to highlight some of the district’s nature trails, neighborhoods and businesses. Participants will gather at 9 a.m. at Maximo Marina at 4801 37th St. S. More information is available at facebook.com/events/759154824224534/
So far, Melshenker said, there is nothing new on the city’s effort to entice to the district a major multi-use development with $1 million in incentives and a full-service restaurant with $50,000.