We Are St. Pete: City on the move

On Friday, April 26, Innovare Apartments held a grand opening ceremony in the Innovation District of St. Petersburg.

50 affordable apartments provide healing, stability 

ST. PETERSBURG — For Walter Sloan, an injury at work led to a series of losses: his job, his home, and, for a time, his future.

As the first new resident at downtown St. Petersburg’s Innovare Apartments, having a stable home he can afford has opened the door to hope.

“I went from having a normal life, working, doing my thing, on a Tuesday to a Wednesday. I had an event happen that literally turned my world upside down, and I lost everything that I had,” Sloan said at a grand opening event for Innovare.

“Your hard work, your dedication and your love for humanity — this is the result right here, and I am so happy that I moved into this place, so happy. You’re changing lives one person at a time — that’s what you’re doing. You have no idea the impact you’re having on the individuals that you’re helping.”

Sloan is among 75 individuals and families experiencing the healing power of a stable home at Innovare, the latest affordable development project supported by local partners in the Advantage Pinellas Housing Compact.

On Friday, Sloan and other residents joined elected officials and faith leaders from Pinellas County and the City of St. Petersburg to celebrate the grand opening of the new downtown apartments, centrally located in the city’s Innovation District.

The complex also doubles as the new headquarters for Volunteers of America Florida, which developed Innovare to help struggling people get back on their feet through personal healing and stable housing.

‘These 50 apartments represent more than just bricks and mortar; they represent the fulfillment of dreams for the families who will soon call them home.’

Innovare’s 50 apartments, located at 850 Fifth Ave. S, provides stable homes for individuals and families earning 60 percent or less of the Area’s Median Income (AMI), including many transitioning from homelessness.

“Some of the individuals and families here are longtime residents who call Pinellas their hometown. They’ve been in the workforce, but their paycheck just hasn’t been enough, or they’ve fallen on hard times,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice. “We are proud to support projects like Innovare because they support our whole community – they make sure Pinellas is a hometown where everyone can thrive.”

The $18-million project is supported by $1 million from the county’s Penny for Pinellas fund for land acquisition, $3.5 million from the City of St. Petersburg American Rescue Plan Act funds and other local funds, as well as a mix of other state and federal support.

The Pinellas County Housing Finance Authority will serve as the county’s trustee for a land trust agreement to ensure the apartments remain permanently affordable.

“In Pinellas County, we’ve formed a coalition of cities and government agencies who have a shared mission to support quality homes that all our hardworking residents can afford. We need more homes like this and more organizations like Volunteers of America Florida that have a passion and a heart for people,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Rene Flowers. “But for the grace of God goes any one of us that something could happen that would put us in the position that some of the residents here at Innovare found themselves in. We have to be each other’s brother and sister.”

Under the countywide Advantage Pinellas Housing Compact, local governments have partnered with private developers and nonprofits to help thousands of individuals and families find quality homes they can afford. The compact’s local governments work together to promote consistent policies and programs and support projects that create more housing choices.

“In a time when housing challenges loom large, both locally and nationally, the significance of today cannot be overstated,” said Mayor Ken Welch. “The Innovare Apartments are a beacon of hope, a testament to our collective commitment to providing truly affordable housing options for the members of our city. These 50 apartments represent more than just bricks and mortar; they represent the fulfillment of dreams for the families who will soon call them home.”

Innovare’s grand opening follows two projects that started construction this spring that will add more than 126 affordable and workforce homes to St. Petersburg. Innovare is already at 100 percent occupancy with fully furnished apartment units run by a competent, compassionate, courteous friendly professional staff.

Learn more at www.homesforpinellas.org.

60 workforce homes for school employees and essential workers break ground

ST. PETERSBURG — Across the street from Lakewood Elementary School, where employees have struggled to afford a home in their neighborhood, 60 new apartments started construction on April 23. The apartments will be priced specifically for school employees and other essential workers.

Bayou Court Apartments, 4201 6th St. S, is the latest affordable development to break ground due to a countywide partnership focused on making sure Pinellas remains affordable to longtime residents.

Developer Gravel Road Partners will prioritize school and government employees who work in the local community when the apartments open, which is expected in 2025.

All the apartments will have two bedrooms and two baths and rent for rates that are affordable for moderate to low-wage workers, with 39 units for those making 120 percent of the area’s median income (AMI), nine for those making 80 percent of AMI and 12 for those making 50 percent or less of AMI.

While this area of South St. Petersburg is undergoing a boom in multifamily construction, most new market-rate apartments are not affordable to people earning at or below average income levels.

A recent study by the Tampa Bay Partnership showed that the average household in the region spends almost 43 percent of its income on housing, well above the “affordability” rule that housing should be no more than 30 percent of a budget.

The $17-million Bayou Court development project was made possible through support from Pinellas County’s Penny for Pinellas fund with $2.8 million and $2.74 million from the City of St. Petersburg.

“As a result of the impending housing crisis, Pinellas County sought to forge relationships with developers to create affordable units like Bayou Court,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Rene Flowers. “The future is made great when the County and surrounding municipalities combine their resources to work towards a common solution: safe, clean, and affordable housing for our residents.”

Mayor Ken Welch said that Housing Opportunities for All is a critical pillar of his administration, and Bayou Court is another win for affordable housing in St. Pete.

“Together, we’re building a stronger, more inclusive St. Pete.”

The county and cities partnering in the Advantage Pinellas Housing Compact are celebrating hundreds of new affordable homes that are under construction or opening this spring. The countywide partnership has helped thousands of individuals and families find a quality home they can afford in recent years. Local governments in the compact work together to promote consistent policies and programs and support projects that create more housing choices.

Learn more at www.HomesforPinellas.org. 

City of St. Petersburg launches $1 million innovative equity project initiative

ST. PETERSBURG — At the April 16 annual Budget Open House, the City of St. Petersburg launched the Innovative Equity Project, a new initiative designed to foster community empowerment and participation in resource allocation within the city.

“St. Pete’s Innovative Equity Project is a creative and participatory way to involve our constituents in the annual budget process,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch. “We are excited to invite the community to help us prioritize the use of dollars from the general fund that will improve the quality of life for St. Pete residents.”

With a dedicated budget of up to $1 million, multiple city departments have collaborated, fine-tuned, and pitched proposals ranging from major home repairs and utility assistance to youth crime prevention and lifesaving educational programs for the St. Petersburg community.

All five projects prioritize innovation, inclusivity, and equity — aligning with the mayor’s Pillars for Progress and Governing Principles. Now, it’s up to the community to decide which project will come to fruition. St. Pete residents are encouraged to review the projects and cast their vote!

The deadline to vote is June 12.

Project options:

  1. Project 1: Cover St. Pete, A Roof Replacement Program: Introducing Cover St. Pete, A Roof Replacement Program. This initiative will provide relief to St. Pete homeowners burdened by aging roofs.
  2. Project 2: Forward Together, A Youth Crime Prevention Program: Introducing Forward Together, A Youth Crime Prevention Program. This initiative addresses the foundational causes of youth involvement in crime.
  3. Project 3: Swim Smart & Library Lockers: Introducing Swim Smart, Free Swim Lessons for Every Child in St. Pete (elementary school ages). This partnership between Pinellas County Schools, St. Pete Parks and Recreation and the community will enhance safety and confidence among St. Pete elementary school children by equipping them with essential water safety skills and creating equitable access to swim lessons. In addition to free swim lessons, this project also includes the installation of outdoor remote lockers for libraries.
  4. Project 4: Dream Big Day, A MLK Day of Service: Introducing the citywide Day of Service. This initiative is dedicated to the enduring legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in St. Petersburg and enhancing residents’ quality of life through volunteering and essential support.
  5. Project 5: Water Assistance for St. Petersburg Homeowners (WASH): Introducing the Water Assistance for St. Petersburg Homeowners (WASH) program. This initiative will provide support to homeowners in managing their utility bills.

How to vote

  1. Vote Online from April 16 through June 12 by visiting org/InnovativeEquity to learn more about the projects and cast your vote.
  2. Vote In-Person: Pop-up displays will be located at the following locations from April 19 until June 12. Paper voting options will be available:
  • Enoch D. Davis Center, 1111 18th Ave. S
  • W. Cate Recreation Center, 5801 22nd Ave. N
  • Sunshine Senior Center, 330 5th St. N
  • Willis S. Johns Recreation Center, 6635 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N

More information about the Innovative Equity Project can be found at stpete.org/InnovativeEquity. 

Grants now available for local arts & culture-focused non-profits

ST. PETERSBURG — The City of St. Petersburg’s Arts and Culture Grant application period is underway. The program provides three levels of funding opportunities for eligible non-profit, arts-focused organizations. Funding levels range from $7,500 to $22,500, based on the organization’s size and budget. Applications will be accepted until June 13 at 5 p.m.

“Every local arts and culture organization should have the opportunity to thrive in our ‘City of the Arts,’” said Celeste Davis, director of Arts, Culture and Tourism for the City of St. Petersburg. “With St. Pete being an arts destination, it is important for the city to invest in non-profits whose efforts improve our quality of life and enhance our community.”


Applicants must fulfill the following criteria:

  • Be registered with the Florida Secretary of State as a non-profit organization
  • Be a tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization whose primary mission is arts or culture programming
  • Be in existence and provide services to the residents of the city for at least one year
  • Provide more than 50 percent of its programming and attendance within St. Pete
  • Have no outstanding debts to the City of St Petersburg
  • The organization must present arts/cultural programming, performances, or exhibitions primarily for the benefit of St. Pete residents and its visitors on an ongoing basis for at least a year prior
  • Have at least one fully paid staff member and operations in excess of $100,000 for the most recently completed fiscal year at the time of the application

Grant funding levels

  • Level 1: Organizations with budgets of $100,000 to $149,999 are eligible to receive up to $7,500 or a maximum of 10 percent of the most completed fiscal year’s operating budget.
  • Level 2: Organizations with budgets of $150,000 to $499,999 are eligible to receive up to $15,000.
  • Level 3: Organizations with budgets of $500,000 or more are eligible to receive up to $22,500.

Grant-funded activities cannot begin before Oct. 1 or extend beyond Sept. 30, 2025.

How to apply

More information and the application can be found at www.stpete.org/artsgrants.

City of St. Pete appoints new LGBTQ+ liaison

ST. PETERSBURG — The City of St. Petersburg announces the appointment of Eric Vaughan as the city’s new LGBTQ+ Liaison. Vaughan succeeds Jim Nixon, who has served in the role for seven years.

His experience includes serving as LGBTQ+ Liaison for the Department of Education in New York City and joining the Welch administration as a communications and community engagement coordinator last May.

“Eric Vaughan brings strong connections within the LGBTQ+ community, both locally and nationally, to the city’s LGBTQ+ Liaison role,” said Mayor Ken Welch. “I am confident that he will build on Jim Nixon’s efforts to foster an environment of acceptance and support across St. Petersburg. Together, we reaffirm our commitment to creating a city where everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, can thrive.”

Eric Vaughan’s commitment to the community is evident in his extensive involvement with local organizations. He has held various roles at Big Brother Big Sisters of Pinellas County, USF St. Petersburg, and Community Tampa Bay. Additionally, he has volunteered on the boards of several organizations, including Barbershop Club, The Studio@620, and The Modern Griot Corporation.

Additionally, he is a graduate of Leadership St. Pete 2022 and serves on LSP’s planning committee. During his time at NYC’s Department of Education, Vaughan held the title of associate director of LGBTQ programs and policy before returning to St. Petersburg.

Nixon will continue to serve as the city’s director of the St. Pete Service Center.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

scroll to top