Urban Advisor

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Saint Petersburg, Florida, United States

34th Street South Continued...

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Ok, back to 34th Street South in St. Pete...

So one of the things that is sure to come out of the 34th Street redevelopment is streetscaping - wider/decorative sidewalks, seating, light fixtures, pavement designs, etc.

I spent a family vacation in Orlando this past week - specifically Lake Buena Vista and Kissimmee. While there, I saw what should NOT be done with 34th Street. Take a trip down US 192 in Kissimmee, better known as Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, and you will see. What may have been a neat-looking installation of brightly colored light posts, mile markers and bus shelters, now looks tacky and dated in my opinion. The same could be said, dare I say, for the stretch of Central Avenue right here in St. Petersburg between MLK and 16th Street in the formerly Dome District, now called EDGE district. The bright colored sidewalks and light fixtures are more appropriate for the beach community or some cheesy tourist district than an established (or establishing) urban district in a major city.

When approaching things like streetscaping - which is the main thing the municipality can do in terms of direct impact on the built environment in the 34th Street South district - planners and involved residents should look to turn 34th Street South into a "complete" street. Complete streets address all modes of transportation - private vehicles, bicycles, public transportation and pedestrians. There is landscaping, shade and seating.

To do this, I recommend the following

Consider the road diet

This may be the most "radical" thought. However, 34th Street South operates far below capacity, and may continue to do so, even with the redevelopment of properties along the stretch. Removing a lane of vehicular traffic would not create any bottlenecks or significantly impact congestion at all, in my opinion.

Replace a vehicular lane with a buffered bicycle lane

Adding a buffered bicycle lane adds an amenity not found anywhere else in the city. It is also an opportunity for additional landscaping beyond the medians, and adds an additional buffer between vehicles and pedestrians

Widen sidewalks and add seating in various locations

Although alone they may not increase pedestrian activity, they certainly make walking a more pleasant experience. Combined with the bicycle lane, pedestrians should feel good about walking the district. Also, seating should be added at various locations. This can be in the form of free-standing benches as well as seating built into retaining walls near intersections.


Of course landscaping, lighting, paving, bus shelters, way finding and seating should be built around a theme for the district. My only recommendation is to choose a timeless theme and use timeless decorative features that will not look outdated in 10 years. A tropical look with lush landscaping as the main feature supported by lighting, paving and seating I think will fit well in this area surrounded by waterfront neighborhoods to the west, and wooded neighborhoods to the east. It will also be a nice, distinctive contrast to the harder-surfaced areas of 34th Street to the north.

I may expound on these ideas more within this post. There are lots of good resources on Complete Streets. As planning moves forward, I highly recommend these be consulted.

But more to come on 34th Street South about potential funding mechanisms and other regulatory ideas.

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Shared Parking for Industrial Businesses

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Before we continue with 34th Street, I wanted to put this idea out there...

Pinellas County leaders are concerned about increasing employment opportunities for its residents. One way leaders see to prevent this is to prevent (where possible) underutilized, vacant or abandoned industrial and commercial properties from being redeveloped into residential uses, usually multifamily developments. Also we have the Dome Industrial District the city of St. Pete is building up. One issue is the need to increase the density of jobs while limiting the footprint of developments. One way to do this could be the construction shared parking facilities for industrial buildings. Instead of each having their own surface lot, one parking garage could be built to serve multiple buildings. In the case of the Dome Industrial Park, a garage could be built along 22nd Street, with ground floor retail fronting 22nd Street of course, and a circulator to transport employees and visitors to the various businesses in the park. In central Pinellas, garages could be strategically built in various locations, also as mixed-use facilities with ground-floor retail, and circulators could transport employees and visitors to the businesses. Shared parking could also be allowed in office parks such as Carillon and Gateway Centre as a means to increase the amount of employment in these locations. Municipalities could build the garages, and businesses could pay to reserve spaces in the garages. Additional parking fees would also cover operational costs for the circulators. Ultimately, shared parking facilities would open up additional land for (re)development, and create the greater employment density that city and county leaders desire, and that would make the city and county more desirable to businesses and residents.

I am sure this has been done or suggested before, but I cannot find any record of it. At any rate, I think this would work well for both the city of St. Pete and Pinellas County.

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34th Street South Redevelopment Revisited

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So, before I get started, this will likely be a multi-post discussion.

Ok. With that said, let's get started. As some of you may know, the City of St. Petersburg has started an effort to create a redevelopment plan for 34th Street South. This is quite exciting, and long overdue. The stretch the city is looking at runs from 30th Avenue South to the Skyway Bridge. This stretch has great potential, but has some challenges. Here are my thoughts:


The biggest obstacle to redevelopment, I believe is traffic, or should we say the lack thereof...
34th Street South is under capacity as a 6-lane major arterial. This is mainly due to three parallel routes within 10 blocks. I-275 runs right next to it, and serves as the main north-south route through the area. Also, to the east and west are 31st Street and 37th Street - 2-lane alternatives that also run the stretch of the area. These three all siphon potential traffic away from 34th Street South, as opposed to 34th Street North where 31st and 37th Streets do not run all the way through, and I-275 runs further to the east.

Residents want more retail. While the area has good demographics in terms of disposable income, retailers look at the stretch and likely do not see the traffic numbers they want to see to strongly consider the corridor.

This brings me to the second biggest obstacle - perception. Anything with "South" in the address has a negative perception. However, the neighborhoods surrounding this stretch of 34th Street South are solidly middle class, and in some cases upper class. They are also very racially and ethnically diverse area. They are also very stable - these are destination neighborhoods that families look to move into and stay. It is actually demographically comparable to the favored 4th Street North corridor that has seen much redevelopment over the last 10 years.

So what can be done to improve the area? How can the stretch draw traffic and change perception?

Let's start with the exciting stuff:

Target large empty/underutilized tracts for specific redevelopment

There are three properties that I think are key to the redevelopment of 34th Street south: the old Econolodge site (cleared years ago and was once slated to become a Home Depot), the old Kmart property (currently serving as a flea market of sorts), and the old Maximo Mall site (currently a haphazard mix of uses from flea market to storage space). Rather than let the market totally decide, there should be a vision for what these properties can become, and city leaders should work with property owners to make this vision a reality. Here is what I think should be done with each of them:

Econolodge site 

While I would love to see it become part of a large major mixed-use development described in an earlier post, I think this would be a great site to redevelop as multi-family. Apartments are hot right now, and there has been no new product in southern St. Pete. This would be a great site for 300 units of market rate or mixed-income units, with two or three retail spaces fronting 34th Street to serve the apartment dwellers as well as the students and employees at St. Pete College and Ceridian. A Kawa Coffee and a sandwich shop would do well. New multi-family, particularly market rate, would help prove the desirability of the area. There are some local developers that would probably be interested in doing this, such as The 908 Development Group or The Wilson Group.

Kmart Site 

The old Kmart currently serves as a flea market space. While this serves a purpose, offering cheap space to small businesses, this is under-utilizing that site. This would be a great site to attract another employer to the stretch, to bring in another 200 to 300 workers to the area - a call center for one large employer would be a great economic booster, bringing much-needed jobs to the area, and providing more daytime customers to area restaurants. It could also be used as incubator space for small businesses, including another location for CoCreative. The strip at the corner of 34th Street and 38th Avenue should be leveled, and the outparcel marketed for a single-use restaurant or retail building.

Maximo Mall site

This is another old shopping center that has essentially taken anything that will fill the space and pay the rent - part flea market, storage space and other low-traffic uses. This site I see as the perfect location for a "restaurant row" development similar to Orlando's Sand Lake Road. Now of course, it would not be nearly as upscale, but this would be the space to cluster the restaurants the neighborhood wants. I can see 3 to 5 larger restaurant pads at the rear of the site, with a strip directly along 34th Street with outdoor seating. Parking would be in the center of the site. The focus should be to draw familiar faces that people generally drive to Tyrone or Pinellas Park for, like Applebee's, Chilli's, Golden Coral (which would "clean up", as the say) and something simi-upscale like Bonefish Grill for the large pads, and maybe restaurants like 5 Guys, Moe's, Little Greek, Jersey Mike's or Chipotle  fronting 34th Street.

Stay tuned...

In the continuation, I'll discuss some of the easier things that can be done, like landscaping, lighting and sidewalk improvements as well as some ideas on how to financially incentivize redevelopment in the area. I'll also go back and add some photos to this post. Just wanted to get the ideas out there.

Thanks for reading!

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