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Revitalizing historic African American community in St. Petersburg

Posted at 4:45 PM, Nov 30, 2016

22nd Avenue South in St. Petersburg is better known as The Deuces, a historic part of the city that kept a 1960s African American community together.

The Deuces Live, Inc. describes on their weir website who they are: "Who are we? What do we do?

In 1962, one could step out the door, cross the street and get a shoe shine at Cozy Inn, have lunch at The Shag, and later, get a haircut at Oscar Kleckley's. You could visit your attorney and buy groceries at Barco's store; Dr. Ayer could examine you. If it was too late for that, funeral arrangements could be made at the Arch-Royal."

However, in time the area lost its spark. You can ask someone like Gloria Campbell, who has kept her business on the 22nd Street Corridor for the past two decades about the change.

"Segregation and the interstate basically killed this area," she said.

Campbell watched as I-275 became an invisible dividing wall from new businesses coming into St. Petersburg and the historic Black community.

"The interstate really routed people around our community," said Campbell.

Over the past five years, she and others in The Deuces have fought to revitalize the area. The 22nd Street South Corridor is now seeing change; new businesses, updated sidewalks and infrastructure as well as new murals that show the African American heritage.

The city of St. Petersburg has been able to help put money through South St. Pete's Community Redevelopment Area.

And, with that, The Deuces is working with the new businesses known as the Warehouse Arts District to unite the dividing communities.

The plan will be to encourage support by doing events, like on the weekends, together.

On Wednesday, there will be a project kickoff event from 6pm to 8 pm at the Morean Center for Clay. 

Campbell tells us this is only the beginning, and the next step will be to try and bring new storefronts to vacant lots.

To learn more, click here.