Developing a Florida City’s Reputation
St. Petersburg was recently named as one of the top 52 places in the world to visit in 2014 by The New York Times: “…St. Petersburg is anything but stationary. With a redeveloped waterfront, a stunning Dali Museum, and sophisticated restaurants in place, the downtown energy is now heading up historic Central Avenue…”
First adopted by the City Council in 1982, it is the most recent manifestation of the city’s policies that promote rapid development to accommodate an influx of people responding to a seemingly endlessly repeated message of “…the nation’s playground, a southern garden of perpetual well-being.” (Sitler, 2006) The city focused “…on economic development and organizing the city to provide the ideal conditions for consumer consumption and tourist recreation” since the area’s first railroad terminus was located in the city at the junction of 1st Ave South and 9th St. in 1888. (Salmond 2004)
“Intown’s” success contrasts sharply with the stubborn economic depression experienced by the residents living on the south side of St. Petersburg who have effectively been excluded from participating in or benefiting from, not only the current growth in the downtown area, but also from the economic growth of St. Petersburg.
In a belated attempt to address the social and economic problems of the south side of the city, following the approval of Pinellas County Board of Commissioners 2012 Workshop Session: The Economic Impact of Poverty, members of the County Commissioners and St. Petersburg City council began taking steps to authorize the Southside St. Petersburg CRA.
The longstanding economic malaise of the near south side of the city, coupled with the inability of other redevelopment initiatives to reverse their respective areas’ economic ill health, prompts concerns about the ability of the new Southside CRA to stimulate the desired economic changes for its current residents versus gentrification of the area. They also raise questions about the effectiveness of the underlying economic development policies and practices employed, as well as the goals, theories and assumptions on which they are based.
What, then, are the questions we should consider to evaluate the effectiveness of redevelopment, and, if and when we determine the ‘answers,’ what should we do to achieve it?
That will be the subject of subsequent posts.