ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Tahisia Scantling and Rev. Watson L. Haynes have fond memories of growing up around 22nd St. in St. Pete.
The succulent ribs and unmistakable sauce of Geech's barbecue. A beloved crab shack. And the jazz club, at the time, they weren't old enough to enter.
“Us kids would look at the adults dressed up going into the Manhattan Casino and always saying that, ‘When I grow old, when I get old enough, I’m going to go there,'" remembered Haynes.
They're memories of a neighborhood in South St. Pete nicknamed The Deuces. In terms of culture and vibrancy, it's a neighborhood that once rivaled Memphis' Beale Street and Sweet Auburn in Atlanta.
But the historically Black neighborhood has changed since those days.
“I was born and raised in this community, so I know how 22nd St. was with over 100 Black businesses on that corridor. Over 100 Black businesses. Now, there are less than 11," said Haynes.
All around, however, are signs that the neighborhood is poised for a comeback.
As ABC Action News reported in Feb. 2020, neighborhood leaders have partnered with the City of St. Pete to revitalize The Deuces.
Tuesday night, community members like Haynes and Scantling will unveil a key part of that effort: the plan for a 2.8-acre lot of land.
Utilizing a public-private partnership, Haynes said developers would build a facility that would include condos and space for 58 businesses, restaurants, or offices. He says the space will also be conducive for smaller start-ups, in addition to traditionally-sized businesses.
“This is an exciting time, a big big project, and we want everyone to know they’re welcome," said Scantling, the owner of Right Turn Realty, one of the private partners in the project.
Honoring the neighborhood’s roots, they say the development would make great lengths to recruit many entrepreneurs who are minorities while incubating new ones. Scantling said the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation has agreed to provide guidance and resources to those ventures.
“We’re talking about jobs. We’re talking about long-term jobs. We’re talking about prosperity. We’re talking about the ability of people to have a business there," added Haynes.
He hopes the project will receive St. Pete City Council’s blessing by Oct. 21.
According to a news release, during the meeting, participants "will be able to provide feedback on external and internal designs" and "network with local businesses interested in leasing space."