ST. PETERSBURG — Veatrice Farrell made it clear that the 22nd Street South corridor has not always been vacant land and that projects ripe for redevelopment surrounded her and the 100 others gathered Tuesday at the Historic Manhattan Casino Event Hall.
Prior to integration, there was Mercy hospital, a funeral home and 100 businesses along the corridor. She invited luncheon attendees to visit the African American Heritage Trail markers and read two books on 22nd Street and the neighborhood.
“I don’t want people to leave here thinking there has not been any action in this corridor. We have just built up over the last 10 years to this,” said Farrell, executive director of The Deuces Live, the organization working to revitalize the historic corridor and promote the community’s deep cultural roots. “So please don’t leave thinking that things were not here. It’s just exploded, like now.”
Community leaders gathered Tuesday to hear the latest on the planned renaissance of the city’s former center of Black culture and entertainment. Among them was St. Petersburg’s first Black mayor, Ken Welch.
There are about 13 identified construction and redevelopment projects going on in the corridor, and on Tuesday the leaders behind five of them talked about their endeavors and took questions. The luncheon was sponsored by the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership.
Rev. J.C. Pritchett, president and executive director of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, is building a two-story community purpose building. Terri Lipsey Scott, executive director of The Woodson African American Museum of Florida, is raising money for a $27 million new home for the museum, which would be the first African American heritage museum built for that purpose in Florida. Mark Aeling, owner of MGA Sculpture Studio, redeveloped a six-warehouse, five-acre site that anchors the Warehouse Arts District.
Jamison Carnegie is a co-project manager of Sankofa on the Deuces, a three-part project with 24 affordable townhomes, commercial space and a development fund for other projects, inspired by Durham, North Carolina’s Black Wall Street. And Joe Furst, founder and managing principal of Place Projects, is developing a mixed-use, transit-oriented development around the SunRunner Bus Rapid Transit stop at 1st Avenue South and 22nd Street.
“I would suggest that what happens in this neighborhood is just as important, or more important, than what we have even in downtown because this is where the growth is happening,” said Jason Mathis, the partnership’s CEO, before introducing Farrell. “This is where the excitement is, the enthusiasm, and that will be learned about today.”
Duncan McClellan wants his glass art gallery to be included in proposed zoning changes “so we’re not going to get swallowed” by surrounding larger developments.
“We want to be able to grow our business,” he said.
Furst said he’s in a unique situation because he owns all of the vacant properties, and no one has been at risk of displacement. His focus is from 1st Avenue South to 6th Avenue South between 21st and 23rd streets.
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He welcomed everyone to attend the St. Petersburg City Council meeting on April 21. The City Council will vote to accept a study of the SunRunner project and the land development regulations needed.