City and county challenges

Dear Editor:

The south St. Petersburg community over the past year and half has witnessed the closure of the Walgreens on MLK Street and 22nd Avenue South, the Manhattan Casino/Sylvia Restaurant complex on the 22nd Street Commercial Corridor and now the impending Walmart Supermarket Midtown store closure on March 3 at the Tangerine Shopping Center.

While Walgreens and Walmart store closures are a national trend of big box retailers nationwide, the closure of neighborhood retail stores in the south St. Petersburg community is a recurring economic paradigm where weak sales performances coupled with competition from on-line retail sales and the loss of neighborhood jobs has left low-income neighborhoods without essential services and products, especially access to healthy, affordable foods.

The challenges and opportunities for the City of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County are to aggressively seek out new innovative public/ private partnerships that will accelerate the redevelopment and revitalization of the commercial corridors throughout the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area (CRA).

This could be possible by the bundling of existing/new incentives, business friendly zoning, tax and building code cost reduction reforms and assembling of vacant land development parcels to make it attractive for the private sector development industry to make investments and create jobs.

The reform of the city’s residential LDR zoning codes by the city government staff must not create a cost burden on the building developer and affect their ability to produce affordable single and multi-family housing for existing and new resident homebuyers.

The city must aggressively move forward to create mixed use multifamily and commercial/retail neighborhood zoning codes that will increase density along the commercial corridors and make use of Pinellas County’s land acquisition fund to assembly land parcels large enough to stimulate affordable mixed income multifamily development.

The city must also increase the Small Business Enterprise percentage goals for city contract procurements within all city agencies, especially for Minority & Women Owned Enterprises that often hire local residents for jobs created by city contract awards.

Increasing the disposal income of the resident populations through job creation and new business opportunities can strengthen and change the community economic paradigm and sustainability within the CRA neighborhoods. Attracting new retail and commercial stores that can provide essential goods, services and jobs will require a mixed income population to support sales and increase of police and security safety to protect retail/commercial stores from losses due to pilfering.

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