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St. Petersburg residents eager to get approval for new district along 34th Street S

ST. PETERSBURG — For months, people who live, work and play along the southern half of 34th Street worked together on a master plan to boost economic development in the area.

They'd been told their work would be taken to city leaders for final approval in December. But that hasn't happened yet, and residents recently learned it won't be presented until springtime.

They are dismayed, along with the City Council member who represents the area, renamed the Skyway Marina District.

"We're just getting started," a frustrated Steve Kornell told the Tampa Bay Times this week. "If you have all these people and get everyone excited then tell them nothing's going to happen for a while … that's a good way to kill the enthusiasm."

Kornell, normally one of the more diplomatic voices on the council, plans to bring the issue up at today's council meeting. He has asked city staffers to present the same report they made for residents in October. The meeting drew more than 200 residents.

"I'm tired of having to drive north to spend my money," said Jodi Davis, who is on the steering committee that developed the plan. "We are taxpayers, too. I think it's important to consider there are areas of the city that are not getting their economic needs met."

The new plan for the district, a 1.5-mile stretch of 34th Street between 30th and 54th avenues S and surrounding neighborhoods, envisions multistory development, more restaurants, improved transportation and upgrades to infrastructure like sidewalks and landscaping.

Kornell said people don't realize how diverse the area already is. It's home to a marina, waterfront homes, the state's oldest community theater and commercial corridors. But many businesses have left.

Residents there say they are tired of the negative stereotypes and lack of attention.

Broadwater Civic Association president Tom Ando said he remembers a time when the area was thriving. The decline was slow, and progress became stagnant after the Great Recession.

"I feel like there's a lot of resources have been devoted to downtown and Midtown and certain areas," Davis said. "We've waited in line."

Davis said she got a message in December from city staffer Gary Jones, who has worked with the neighborhoods on the plan, saying it was going to be delayed.

Jones said the goal now is to present the plan to the development review commission in spring for a recommendation and then take it to the City Council.

"In this case we were ambitious with our deadlines," Jones said Wednesday. "Typically a plan can take a year."

Davis said she is trying to remain optimistic, but she and other neighborhood leaders don't want momentum to slow.

They feel good about today's presentation though.

"Once the rest of the council sees the plan and what ideas we have, I'm expecting their minds to open up to it," Ando said. "Hopefully they'll be impressed with it as much as I was."

Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@tampabay.com, (727) 893-8643 or @cornandpotatoes on Twitter.

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On the Web

For more information about the proposed Skyway Marina District, visit www.stpete.org/34

St. Petersburg residents eager to get approval for new district along 34th Street S 01/08/14 [Last modified: Thursday, January 9, 2014 12:18am]

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