SPC’s Midtown Campus

Maria Scruggs

Dear Editor,

I am certain that Dr. Bill Law, Deveron Gibbons, Kevin Gordon, Tonjua Williams, Lema Construction and a host of others have breathed a sigh of relief after the successful ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Douglas L. Jamerson Jr. SPC Midtown campus.  However, while the emotional, physical and financial realities of getting the building built is behind them, the reality for the community is that the real work has just begun!

In the late 1990s, redevelopment of Jordan Park and the 22nd Street Corridor discussions began with their residents and the surrounding neighborhood associations. The $27 million dollar Hope VI project was being hailed as the catalyst for that redevelopment. While that effort didn’t manifest the hopes and dreams of residents and employees, like myself who served as the Hope VI Director for Support Services, here we find ourselves some 18 years later with projects that have been developed in spite of the missed opportunities that resulted under Hope VI.

It is my hope that as a result of the many redevelopment initiatives that have fallen short or simply failed to make any substantive changes, that residents and business owners within the south St. Petersburg CRA will not allow history to repeat itself by allowing the powers to be to lose sight of the vision to create opportunities aimed directly at improving the socio-economic status of the residents and businesses located within the CRA boundaries.

I pray that the days of the backdoor and side door deals of individuals who have little to no interest in seeing the people or the businesses in Midtown’s   socio-economic status improve is something that happened in the past and we gain a sense of determination that it will not happen no more, no more, no more!

In May of this year, the St. Petersburg City Council adopted the south St. Petersburg  Community Redevelopment Plan, which is a comprehensive plan aimed at reducing  poverty in the designated redevelopment area that  is boarded between 30th Avenue South   to Second Avenue North, I 275  to  the north, 49th Street to  the west and 4th Street to  the east.  This plan has the potential to do what Hope VI should have done!

However, if city staff and the Community Advisory Committee does not acknowledge that the current formatting of the CRA Plan doesn’t allow for the level of long term accountability/sustainability, we simply will see history repeat itself.

In a two part series entitled “Laying the foundation for planning, Why God Calls Us to Plan,” authors Dr. Howard W. Olsen, and his wife Dr. Nancy Olsen layout a biblical framework for strategic planning. They lay out the primary components of a strategic plan that includes:

• Mission/core purpose;

• Goals (Specific methods for getting to where you are going)

• Core Values/Beliefs;

• Vision (5-10 years where are we going)

• Strategic Objectives (intermediate objectives or milestones you need to accomplish to get where you are going)

• Scorecard/Evaluation (measure and manages your strategic plan)

• Action Steps (usually in increments of 30, 60, 90 day specific actions

The CRA must be viewed as a strategic road map for reducing poverty. Inasmuch it should have the following core components that are consistent with those outlined by the Olsens, and any other consultants who assist organizations with mapping their strategic direction.

• The CRA redevelopment plan must be formatted with specific goals, objectives and measurable outcomes, which are related directly toward the overarching goal of reducing poverty. The plan must be void of any one individual’s interpretation of what outcomes will reduce poverty and which ones won’t. The members of the community advisory committee who have staggered terms must develop an implementation plan that stands on its own merit regardless of who comes and goes as a part of this long-term planning process.

• The CRA redevelopment plan must include a mapping of the human, physical and financial assets that already exist within this community, and once identified determine how those assets should be supported to achieve specific objectives prior to going out with an RFP that will result in someone else coming into the community and doing something for us at the risk of duplicating something that is already existing within the community.

During SPC’s ribbon cutting ceremony, Gibbons made reference to SPC’s earlier plans to build a state-of-the-art childcare facility, however, through their planning process questioned the practicality of that when there were already two childcare facilities in place: Happy Worker’s Learning Center Inc. and Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church within close proximity of the Midtown campus.

(The comment brought tears to my eyes. Historically the African-American community has had to suffer through all of the half-hearted ideas and plans that others have had for us, with one of the casualties being our businesses have close.)

• Lastly the CRA plan must include a partnership with one of our educational institutions with the capacity to develop an evaluation component to the redevelopment plan that clearly evaluates the plan’s effectiveness in reducing poverty within the CRA boundaries.

It is my hope that for once and for all the powers to be in Pinellas County can convincingly demonstrate that BLACK LIVES DO MATTER, as evidenced in their actions and not via sheer rhetoric!

~ Maria Scruggs

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