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Revitalization of Downtown St. Petersburg

News & Politics

By Rheese Wiltshire

Edited by Savvas Savvinidis

“When did that get there?”

“Is that place new?”

“What are they building there?”

These are just a few of many questions that both residents and tourists ask when they walk the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

The revitalization of downtown St. Petersburg has been underway for close to 20 years now. The single biggest change is livable real estate: approximately 3,000 apartments have been built since 1997.

Before the renovations, downtown St. Pete was a quiet location where senior citizens were the majority of its residents. Many considered St. Pete as a retirement community. According to the 1980 census, the average age in St. Petersburg was 73. In 1990 it was 63; in 2000 it was 53; and in 2010, it was 50. While there are still a lot of seniors living in St. Pete, a much younger crowd has been introduced.

Due to the older crowd, there wasn’t much of a night scene or even close to as many restaurants, apartment complexes, or shops as there are now. A recent consensus estimates close to 300,000 people inhabit St. Petersburg, with a total MSA population of close to 3 million. Taking this into account, along with the 6 million tourists that circulate the city year-round, you get a sense of the overwhelming presence of people in or around St. Pete at any given time.

Back in 1996, renowned local architect Tim Clemmons, along with three of his close friends, bought a small lot on Fareham Place. With this lot, he designed 4 town homes. Clemmons and his friends moved into these town homes once they were completed in 1997. Nineteen years later, he still lives there as he continues to design different projects in the area.

Clemmons has helped design iconic downtown structures such as the St. Petersburg Arts Center, Signature apartments, and Z Grille restaurant. “It’s great to see the city taking advantage of the waterfront” said Clemmons, happy that people now have more opportunities to enjoy St. Pete. “USF St. Petersburg being located downtown has certainly helped reel in a younger crowd. Due to the them, we are designing more restaurants and shops downtown to help cater to the youth and to help revitalize the city.”

“We want to show residents and tourists that St. Pete has so much to offer, as it is a beautiful city with many appealing places to visit and experience. With that being said, we feel it is important to continue designing and building new, updated housing opportunities as well as restaurants, shops, and museums, as the city continues to grow and adapt,” he said.

The influx of people, along with major construction renovations on Beach Drive, have increased revenue, tourism, and the overall energy within the city. The new Dalí Museum was opened downtown in 2011. Major construction to renovate the Pier is currently in progress. The Tampa Bay Rays stationed their stadium in the heart of downtown, which brings tourists and teams from other towns who may not visit the city otherwise. This gives a real sense of St. Petersburg’s newfound influx of revenue.

St. Pete has been everything but stagnant in a world of constant evolution. In the past twenty years, the town has adapted and grown into a a place worth visiting. It’s interesting to think about what it will be like another 20 years from now as it continues to grow and prosper.

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