There is no one right answer for improving the future of St. Petersburg's most challenging neighborhoods and business districts. Transformation requires seeding public and private investments and growing them over time. St. Petersburg City Council member Karl Nurse grasps that and so do his council colleagues, who have approved a series of modest public investments with diverse strategies with the common goal of economic growth.
Overall, the council's three public investments totaling $164,000 are not wildly ambitious. The largest one — $74,000 — will pay for a pilot project with the Pinellas County Urban League to help low-income parents get better-paying jobs or work training over the next several months. That's a switch from an initial plan to provide planning and grant-writing support for a bigger poverty-fighting plan. Council member Jim Kennedy was right to express concern that the city not lose the broader focus, but so too was council member Steve Kornell who pushed for a quicker response. Struggling families need help now, and Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin promised the administration would not lose focus on the long-term strategy.
The City Council also voted to spend $50,000 to establish and pay for improvements to the Skyway Marina District, where commercial properties faded further with the recession. The 1.5-mile area, which runs along 34th Street S between 30th and 54th Avenues S, is the city's southern entrance. Neighborhood leaders have coalesced around a plan that seeks to take advantage of the nearby water, attract more businesses, improve transportation and add landscaping.
Finally, city leaders committed $30,000 toward a $120,000 Chamber of Commerce study aimed at creating a formal economic development plan for the city.
All these government actions signal confidence and should help encourage private investors, ideally those who are motivated by more than just altruism. Nurse also has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars quietly buying and rehabilitating blighted real estate in the Midtown neighborhood and has faced the broader forces at play there, including a lack of employment for potential home buyers. His private investment is a welcome one, and he appears to be appropriately separating those interests from his role as a council member.
None of the efforts the city embraced last week will bring economic change overnight. But the efforts by Mayor Rick Kriseman and the City Council to mix immediate action with a broader, more detailed look at how to help all of the city's neighborhoods is a step in the right direction.