ST. PETERSBURG — U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor’s $10.5 million request for St. Petersburg projects in a Republican-controlled Congress is ambitious, but she and other local officials were speaking it into existence Monday.
Castor, D-St. Petersburg, held a news conference Monday announcing that she applied for federal funding for three major projects in St. Petersburg: A revamped Enoch Davis Center, 24 affordable townhomes on 22nd Street South and stormwater drainage improvements. She was flanked by Mayor Ken Welch, Pinellas County Commissioner Rene Flowers and City Council members Brandi Gabbard, John Muhammad, Lisset Hanewicz and Ed Montanari.
“I’m confident that this will happen,” she said. “Hopefully, depending on the Congress and the budget battles that lie before us, we’ll have good news by the fall.”
This is how the funding would break down: $1.5 million for the planning and construction of a new Enoch Davis Center; $4 million to help with the construction of 24 affordable townhomes in the Sankofa on the Deuces, known as 22nd Street South, and $5 million for storm drainage improvements in the Edgemoor neighborhood.
Castor’s predecessor, former U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, previously had secured a separate $200,000 in congressional funding for the Enoch Davis Center. The aging building would receive more technology, computers and workspaces to attract youngsters to create a “modern community hub” similar to the Lealman Exchange. Welch said the city also is considering adding housing for seniors on the site.
As for the stormwater improvements in north St. Petersburg, that funding would go toward a $7 million construction cost. The city also won $2.73 million in grants from the Southwest Florida Water Management District to pay for a proposed drainage conduit and street reconstruction.
“This is what progress looks like in St. Petersburg,” Welch said.
Progress on the Sankofa on the Deuces project has slowed down because of pricing and supply chain issues, Welch said. Any money from Castor’s request, added to funding from the federal infrastructure bill, would go a long way to move the project forward.
Veatrice Farrell of Community Foundation Tampa Bay thanked Castor for making southern St. Petersburg communities a priority.
“Too often — and looking back historically — that was not the case, because it’s felt like our community was being excluded or an afterthought,” she said. “Necessary improvements and official upgrades seemed to be approved for another part of town long before we would even be considered. But today is a critical turning point.”
Castor acknowledged that Republicans hold the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. She said she was “a little concerned,” but said, “Most of my GOP colleagues in the Tampa Bay area submitted community funding projects as well, and the appropriations processes is happening.”
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“I have a few years of experience now that — that combined with a passion of the St. Pete community to go and stand up and fight for these dollars,” she said. “St. Petersburg is looking good. We’re growing.”