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Woodson museum moves to Commerce Park in St. Pete’s latest Midtown plan

The proposal to build warehouses on Commerce Park along 22nd Street S fell apart. Now the city wants to move the African American museum there.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman center, held a news conference at the Manhattan Casino on Tuesday where he announced a new vision for the 22nd Street S corridor called Deuces Rising. The plan includes building a new Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum at Commerce Park. CIty Council member Darden Rice, is to the mayor's left and Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin is on the right. [SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times]
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman center, held a news conference at the Manhattan Casino on Tuesday where he announced a new vision for the 22nd Street S corridor called Deuces Rising. The plan includes building a new Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum at Commerce Park. CIty Council member Darden Rice, is to the mayor's left and Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin is on the right. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Dec. 10, 2019
Updated Dec. 11, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — From the ashes of one failed vision rose the promise of a new plan for Commerce Park.

Mayor Rick Kriseman announced Tuesday that the long-awaited proposal to build warehouses and bring industrial jobs to the 22nd Street S parcel is dead.

Instead, the mayor said the city will move the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum to the 13-acre site between Sixth and Eighth Avenues S. The museum needs a new home and 22nd Street S once served as main street for St. Petersburg’s black community, back when 22nd was known as the Deuces.

RELATED: Where does St. Pete’s Carter G. Woodson Museum belong? It’s up for debate.

The mayor also laid out a new vision to redevelop this section of Midtown, where the city has long struggled to attract amenities, businesses and other economic development to serve black residents. There is no timeline set to relocate the museum, however.

The city will once again accept bids to revitalize Tangerine Plaza, which has lost a Walmart Neighborhood Market and a Sweetbay Supermarket in the past six years. The plaza hasn’t had a grocery tenant since 2017, contributing to a food desert in that part of the city.

It’s all part of Kriseman’s newly christened Deuces Rising Vision for the area stretching along 22nd Street S from Commerce Park at the northern end to Tangerine Plaza at 18th Avenue S at the southern end. The plan includes building parks, adding parking, restaurants and community services and building multi-family homes along Midtown’s historic spine.

“We are hitting the reset button," Kriseman said at a news conference at the Historic Manhattan Casino across from Commerce Park. "And we are breathing life into the entire 22nd Street corridor region.”

A sign once seen at the corner of Seventh Avenue S and 22nd Street S in St. Petersburg at Commerce Park, where another development deal fell apart. The city's new plan is to move the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum there. [CHRIS URSO | Times]

The collapse of the warehouse plan was the latest setback for Commerce Park. The parcel was assembled in 2007 with funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to alleviate the blight and create jobs. The property sat empty through the Great Recession, and in 2015 Kriseman’s administration sought bids to redevelop the land. But failure after failure led federal officials to pull back the $2.2 million it gave the city to assemble the land.

Commerce Park’s latest suitor to fail was marine warehouse company EMP Industries. But that failure frees up the city to relocate the Woodson museum to a 5-acre parcel that museum officials covet along 22nd Street S. The mayor said the city would contribute $1 million for the museum’s redevelopment, but Woodson officials must raise millions more to make the project a reality.

Moving the Woodson Museum to Commerce Park was a 180-degree pivot from the stance Kriseman and Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin took last month, after architects unveiled striking images reimagining a new museum at its current Ninth Avenue S location. Tomalin told council members at a Nov. 7 committee meeting that Commerce Park wasn’t a good fit for the museum, and the mayor wanted to reserve it for projects that would bring jobs to the area.

But now with no redevelopment deal in place, Tomalin said, “there’s no possibility more feasible than this.”

Woodson Museum Executive Director Terri Lipsey Scott, who lobbied City Council hard to relocate it to Commerce Park, said she didn’t know beforehand what the mayor was announcing. She stood next to the mayor’s lectern, clapped and wiped her eyes as Kriseman said the city would relocate the museum there.

“My heart is filled with gratitude," she said afterward. "The city heard our plea, they heard our cry, and they have responded fabulously. It has been our desire to be on this corridor, the most historic African American street in the city of St. Petersburg. And to now have the history reside on this corridor means everything to us.”

Kriseman also said the city has received a proposal from a group known as One Community that pitched building workforce housing at Commerce Park and street-level commercial development on 22nd Street S. But the law requires the city give other groups the opportunity to submit proposals before it can make a decision.

RELATED: Chasing a Midtown supermarket, St. Pete mayors missed signs of trouble

Tangerine Plaza was the last bit of news from the mayor on Tuesday. He said city staff will issue a request for proposals to bring mixed-use development to the plaza, including housing and a grocery store.

It’ll be the second time the city has sought bids for that land since the Walmart grocery store closed in 2017. The city last year solicited ideas for the property, but declined to act on any of them.

The Walmart Neighborhood Market in Midtown's Tangerine Plaza closed in 2017 and has sat empty since. The city announced Tuesday it is again trying to lure a grocer to the location. [LAVENDRICK SMITH | Times]

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