1. Opinion

A busier downtown not always Sunshine City

Student photography from the Midtown Journalism Summer Camp has become an annual exhibit at Studio@620.
Student photography from the Midtown Journalism Summer Camp has become an annual exhibit at Studio@620.
Published Sep. 23, 2013

Take a look skyward and one of the first things you notice are the cranes brushing broad strokes of development in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg.

There are at least a half dozen developments under construction.

These signs of growth offer opportunities for small businesses, restaurants and job seekers.

And though new apartments and other development are welcome additions of change and progress, it's not all rainbows and unicorns.

Some residents this month have taken to social media to post experiences with crime throughout downtown — from Beach Drive to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street. In most instances, the victims were approached by a group of young teens.

Are these mere isolated incidents or signs of a growing trend?

A quick call to Mike Puetz, St. Petersburg police spokesman, suggests: "These are probably factual incidents but I'm not seeing an ongoing pattern."

Talk to Olga Bof, founder and president of Keep Saint Petersburg Local, one of the crime victims, and you'll get a similar sentiment. She's a strong believer in the city's potential — from bay to beach.

So Bof and her team are planning a host of events "to celebrate the good" about the Sunshine City.

She recently published a "Member Directory & Guide to St. Petersburg" that suggests "do what the locals do, go where the locals go." The directories are available at shops and restaurants throughout downtown.

When asked about the encounter, she quipped that she has lived in much larger cities, including Miami and London, but it was "in beautiful St. Pete where I was mugged."

But she isn't deterred. Last week, KSPL hosted a candidates forum at Nova 535. On Oct. 5 KSPL will help kick off the Don't Stop St. Petersburg Music & Arts Festival in the 600 block of Central Avenue. The event - which is the former Antiwarpt Festival - features more than 60 bands, eight venues and Art Walk and a vendor's market.

For Halloween, KSPL will host Dark Arts: Creep St. Pete Local on Oct. 26 at Fire Station No. 3 at 2701 Fifth Ave. S.

Bof and company are already making plans for 2014, and if social media is any indication, a host of followers are happy she's here.

• • •

Few would argue that since opening its doors nearly 10 years ago, the Studio@620 has been a game-changer in the arts community. The arts space at 620 First Ave. S has been a driving force in engaging the community with the arts via spoken word, music, dance and theater.

So it is only fitting that the venue is hosting a State of the Studio event at 6:30 p.m. Monday to discuss upcoming programming — including a new solar installation. For reservations and more information, call (727) 895-6620.

Sandra J. Gadsden can be reached at or at (727) 893-8874. Follow @StPeteSandi on Twitter.


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