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Downtown St. Pete continues to grow, rebound from pandemic

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Posted at 5:13 AM, Apr 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-23 08:42:42-04

The heart of downtown St. Pete, its bars and restaurants, like most areas were hit hard by the pandemic.

Now, many are re-inventing themselves and rebounding.

City Councilwoman Gina Driscoll says the city is committed to making sure these businesses not only survive, by succeed.

"Some of our businesses, we've allowed them to expand their outdoor seating at the restaurants so that we have more safe options. And that has been really popular. In fact, I'd love to see something like that become permanent," says Driscoll.

Supporting local is a big initiative in St. Petersburg, especially downtown. From the pier to various initiatives, there's plenty of ways to make sure your dollars help out locals. You can try LocalShops1, Shop St.Petersburg, and Keep St. Pete Local.

You can also find tons of new high-rises going up downtown. Right now, crews are working on a 250-foot tall tower that's going up near Second Avenue and 3rd Street.

It's just one of many plans to bring housing to downtown.

Councilwoman Driscoll says, "It's important for us to really look forward, as we see more high rises going up, that we have smart development. And that means making sure that we have different types of housing at different price points so that a CEO has an easy way to find a place to live. And also, you know, a server at a restaurant or one of the nurses that are at hospitals. So it's a really great balancing act that can be achieved through thoughtful zoning."

Like many other major cities in Florida, housing is an issue.

"Across the nation, we see a trend toward more mixed-use development, mixed-income development, and then also transit-oriented development. With the Sunrunner coming to St. Pete, the bus rapid transit system, we see that there are more applications for developments that are along that route. So that tells us something and tells us we're moving in the right direction, you know, but we also want to take a look at smaller scale density, making room for townhouses, duplexes, that sort of infill development. Many people call it missing middle housing because it's not a high rise, but it's not a single-family home. And, you know, we just want to make sure that the regulations that we have in place, encourage builders to create more housing that's affordable for everyone. And, you know, just ensure that our rules match our values," explains Driscoll.

Speaking of the Sunrunner, that project is still ongoing and in the works. This is the Bus Rapid Transit project and will connect downtown to the beaches.

Travel time from downtown to the water will be around 35 minutes.

"The construction is underway right now for the transit stops. So the little stations that will be along first avenues north and south. And if you drive down the street right now, you'll see that they are under construction, which will give everyone a safe, protected way to get on and off that bus," explains Driscoll.

That project hopes to be complete next year.