Following the success of the Grand Central District, the city of St. Petersburg is now focusing on beautifying and attracting new business to the 1.5-mile, down-on-its-luck thoroughfare bordered by communities such as Broadwater, Maximo Moorings and Pinellas Point whose disposable income is 20 percent higher than the city average.
Linda Bowler, hired in May to manage the Skyway Marina District team, says five different committees are hard at work on various aspects of the project, which seeks to create new facilities where residents and an estimated 500,000 annual visitors can shop, eat, work, live, enjoy green spaces and recreate. Existing businesses and resident volunteers are also pitching in to make things happen, she said.
The city of St. Petersburg has some tantalizing carrots for those who might bring in new hotels, offices, restaurants, apartments and retail stores: $50,000 in incentives to the first qualifying sit-down eatery and up to $1 million to the first mixed-use redevelopment project. It wants developers to re-imagine existing sites like the 11-acre former Kmart property and the 13-acre Skyway Mall as well as build upward to maximize the spectacular water views available above the busy roadway.
The more visible changes in the district began with a monthly car show held throughout the fall and winter to draw people to the area. More recently, the old Kmart building began sporting a new look when its out-of-state owners spiffed up the vacant behemoth with a new coat of paint and a large sign identifying it as “Broadwater Plaza.”
At least one new business has set up shop as a result of the district’s marketing campaign, Bowen said.
Dr. David Sherberg opened Bayway Dental at 5008 34th St. S after discovering a dearth of dentists nearby.
In other developments, officials recently selected the final design for the three “gateway” signs to the district, which are expected to be installed in the final quarter of the year at a cost of $500,000 approved by the city council, Bowler said. The large cement structures echo the look of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and its signature cables. Another $250,000 has been allocated this year for landscaping.
On May 2, the Ceridian human capital-management company is hosting a race and family festival to raise funds for art for public areas; more than 200 runners have already signed up. And on June 17 the district is hosting some 500 people, including bankers, developers, construction companies, realtors, restaurateurs, lawyers and the like, to a three-hour presentation on its offerings at which Mayor Rick Kriseman will be a principal booster.
“The possibilities are endless,” said Bowler. “We just have to see who is going to have some vision.”