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Entertainment mecca might be just what Treasure Island needs; in St. Pete, good kids get their due

A proposed $15 million redevelopment project on Sunshine Beach in Treasure Island may be a game changer for a city whose population and housing units have been on the decline in recent years.

Ironically, redevelopment has been the culprit.

"Population is declining because of redevelopment," said Lynn Rosetti, city planner. She explained that development rules have gotten stricter, meaning fewer units per acre.

Treasure Island's population was 7,450 in the 2000 census; initial numbers from the 2010 census put that figure at 6,705.

Rosetti says that since 2005 she has seen a decline in the number of housing units.

The proposed entertainment development on the north end of Treasure Island at John's Pass would add a beachfront restaurant, bar and cabana resort on the gulf. It would also add a sprawling complex to the tax rolls.

The plan also calls for the redevelopment of Gators, east of Gulf Boulevard.

Despite opposition from some residents, new businesses could offer some relief to taxpayers.

If approved by the Planning and Zoning Board, the entertainment complex could be the shot in the arm to get John's Pass off life support.

Architect Jack Bodziak represents Rice Family Holdings, the property owner, and Dr. Robert A. Baker, the controlling partner who will provide $15 million for a new holding company overseeing the redevelopment. Baker, a dentist from Kalamazoo, Mich., also owns property in Indian Rocks Beach, Ocala and Orlando.

While it's still unclear if the project will be approved, a survey last year concluded that the proposed redevelopment is exactly what residents said they wanted.

In addition, the visioning and comprehensive plan calls for development in the north end of the city, which is where the controversy is, Rosetti says.

But all hope is not lost, and as residents and the developer begin talks, let's hope they can reach an agreement that benefits the entire region.

• • •

Meanwhile, back on the mainland, the city of St. Petersburg and a local volunteer group are working on different efforts to have a positive impact on the lives of the youth in the community.

The city is looking to put a spotlight on the countless outstanding young people who are making strides in school.

The new program, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster's Youth Showcase of Achievement Awards, recognizes middle and high school students who excel in 10 categories that range from academics to overcoming adversity.

"We want to recognize special kids that have achieved greatness in the academics,'' Foster said. "Our challenged kids get a lot of attention, and I want to really emphasize good kids doing great things."

Nomination forms are available at stpete.org/teenawards, at city recreation centers and public libraries, or by calling (727) 892-5060. The deadline is April 22, and submissions must include the application form, a written nomination (up to 1,000 words), any backup documentation and a $10 application fee.

Pinellas County middle and high school students (from public, private or home schools) are eligible.

An awards presentation will be held from 7 to 9:30 p.m. May 17 at the Mahaffey Theater. For information, visit stpete.org/teenawards.

In addition, three of the nation's largest African-American fraternities — Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi and Omega Psi Phi — have partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters and are asking its members to step up and become mentors to the 7,453 boys across the nation who have said they want a Big Brother.

In the Tampa Bay area, there are more than 200 boys waiting to be matched with a Big Brother.

To find out more about Big Brothers Big Sisters in your community and how you can begin to affect the life of a child, visit bbbspc.org or call (727) 518-8860.

Sandra J. Gadsden is an assistant metro editor, community news. She can be reached at sgadsden@sptimes.com or at (727) 893-8874.

Entertainment mecca might be just what Treasure Island needs; in St. Pete, good kids get their due 03/26/11 [Last modified: Saturday, March 26, 2011 4:31am]

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