Plans for 34th Street S in St. Pete unveiled to happy crowd

ST. PETERSBURG — A plan to revitalize the southernmost blocks of 34th Street S was unveiled to an enthusiastic crowd of about 200 people on Tuesday night.

It had been germinating for about nine months, with neighboring residents and businesses coming together to devise a way to create a district with the type of dining, shopping, recreation and jobs they say demographics and water access warrant.

The crowd filled an auditorium at the St. Petersburg College Allstate Center on Tuesday night to hear the plan a steering committee developed for the 1.5-mile stretch of 34th Street between 30th and 54th avenues S and surrounding neighborhoods.

They learned a name has been chosen for the designated area — the Skyway Marina District — with plans calling for attracting restaurants, new retailers and multistory development, along with improving transportation, sidewalks and landscaping.

As at previous meetings, the crowd cheered frequently. But the three council members who attended the meeting — Karl Nurse, Steve Kornell and Wengay Newton — reminded them that more work is ahead.

"We're not going to make this magic overnight," Nurse said.

Neighborhood leaders tout the area's waterfront location, easy access to the highway and beaches.

"We have some amazing assets other people don't have," said Kornell, who began meeting with neighborhood leaders about their hopes for the area a few years ago.

In recent months, the area has received good news. Maximo Marina is planning a multimillion-dollar makeover. The Brixmor Property Group, which manages Bay Pointe Plaza, anchored by Publix, has said it is "exploring potential opportunities" for the site.

Still, large swaths of land remain undeveloped. Tufts of grass sprout on property owned by Home Depot, the Skyway Mall is underdeveloped and Value Fair Market, an indoor shopping bazaar in a former Kmart, recently lost its lease.

The new Skyway Marina District plan will emphasize working to retain and nurture businesses and offering incentives to attract new ones. Restaurants will be encouraged to provide outdoor dining areas and there is the idea to recruit marine-related development. Elements such as transportation, with a trolley service, wider sidewalks for pedestrians and cyclists, also are planned.

Gary Jones, a senior planner in the city's economic development department, laid out the vision of a district defined with banners, bus stops, trash bins and newspaper racks that would be both utilitarian and attractive.

Implementation of some parts of the plan will require taxpayer dollars, with funding coming from the city's general revenue fund and the Florida Department of Transportation, Jones has said.

The plan must be adopted by the City Council, which could happen early next year. Kornell, Newton and Nurse pledged their support.

"It's exciting to get the journey started," Nurse said.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at wmoore@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2283.

Plans for 34th Street S in St. Pete unveiled to happy crowd 10/15/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 11:31pm]

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