By staff writer

June 2019

Development and transformation are necessary to any region undergoing the population and business growth that Tampa Bay is experiencing. Nowhere is this more evident than what was once the sleepy beach town of St. Petersburg, which Mayor Rick Kriseman describes as, “A city of opportunity, where the sun shines on all who come to live, work and play. Our population was once just a retirement community, but that has changed dramatically over the years.”

The development of St. Petersburg is a prime example of the type of change that can happen when various entities work together to create change. In fact, the very essence of the St. Pete that residents have come to know is based on a foundation of collaboration, thanks to efforts by groups like the Tampa Downtown Partnership that laid the groundwork for economic drivers like the St. Pete Innovation District. Invest: Tampa Bay spoke with Alison Barlow, Executive Director of the Innovation District, who expressed just how important collaboration has been to the development of St. Pete. “Forty years ago, St. Pete benefited from some forward-thinking people who laid the groundwork for the Innovation District. They developed the Downtown Partnership and assembled the land that would eventually become the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Others turned to solving childhood illness. They set out to find a research partner, and brought Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital to the area. As all of these people kept attracting these innovative companies and individuals and putting them next to each other, it resulted in some incredible outcomes. We are now living the benefit of all this collaboration and innovation.”

Mayor Kriseman has been perhaps the biggest advocate for the development of St. Pete through collaboration and unity, spearheading multiple initiatives to help reach the untapped potential of the area. One of his largest endeavours started in 2014, just months after taking office: the development of a new pier for the city of St. Petersburg. This $87 million undertaking will include a restaurant, a pavilion, a wet classroom and discovery center. “We like to think of ourselves as an arts and culture hub. Our new pier will include an entirely new pier district when it opens toward the end of next year,” Mayor Kriseman told Invest: Tampa Bay. Major construction on the pier should be completed toward the end of 2019 with the hope of opening to the public in 2020. The ultimate goal for the 3,065-foot pier is to be its own district within St. Pete and to act as a hub of cultural and economic activity for residents and visitors alike.

Transformation and development have become commonplace for residents in the Tampa Bay region, and the change underway in St. Petersburg is a testament to the area’s positive growth. Spearheaded by the construction of the St. Pete Pier, the city is looking to continue its positive trend, both economically and socially, into the future. “Over the last decade as the foundational elements were built, St. Pete evolved into one of the most diverse and vibrant downtown areas in the state of Florida,” noted Commissioner of Pinellas County Ken Welch. “The influx of residents, especially younger residents, has reversed the demographic trend of St. Pete being the place where people come to solely retire.”

To learn more about our interviewees, visit their websites:

Mayor Rick Kriseman: http://www.stpete.org/mayor_s_office/mayor_s_biography.php

Alison Barlow, St. Pete Innovation District: https://stpeteinnovationdistrict.com/the-district/

Commissioner Ken Welch: http://www.pinellascounty.org/commission/KTWelch.htm