ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Keep the Deuces alive.
That's the heart and mission of Deuces Live Main Street.
South St. Petersburg's 22nd Street South was once a vibrant community with more than 100 Black-owned businesses.
Fast forward to today, and many organizations are working together to bring life back to the Deuces. The hope: a vibrant community.
"So, what you will see now, there are a lot of plans in place now that the funding is available, the construction will be coming soon, you will see the the continued revitalization of the corridor. I like to say continued revitalization of the corridor because there have been businesses here that have started. This particular business behind me [the former Manhattan Casino] though, when the owner bought the building, she said everyone told her she was crazy. And now, of course, thinks that she's the smartest person in the room. We have a lot of people who have been spending years working on the corridor. And now that and we're excited to see development," says Veatrice Farrell, the Executive Director of Deuces Live Main Street.
Deuces Live is a non-profit organization that's involved in this process. It's been going on for years but you're starting to see their vision happen.
Farrell says, "One of the things that's important about the Deuces corridor is a significant amount of the development is done by people who are from the community, people who used to live here, people who used to have businesses here."
"We are working on two pavilion parks, one on ninth Avenue and 22nd Street and the other one on Fifth Avenue and 22nd Street. So the plans are there, the money is there. It's just not built yet. But again, we this there, the spirit of this corridor has never been extinguished," explains Farrell.
Reverend Watson Haynes, CEO of the Pinellas County Urban League, is heavily involved in this initiative.
"The Sankofa vision started a couple of years ago with some of us in the community who got together and said, we need to do something on 22nd Street. And we took a couple of trips to Durham, North Carolina now to see those projects. And we came back and decided to build some condos, that will be purchased, to do about 28,000 square feet of retail space and create some co-working space," explains Rev. Haynes.
Rev. Haynes tells us that the poverty rate in the community has dropped significantly since these projects started.
"So we know that people are ready, they're ready for the right opportunities. And we know that as economics have it. The people that can support these kinds of projects will be people who are financially in position to do it. 22nd Street used to have 100, over 100 Black businesses in 22nd Street. Right now you can count but what about ten. And so we're bringing that Renaissance back reaching out to former families that lived here and moved here and left here and saying come back to 22nd Street and be a part of that community," says Rev. Haynes.
Horace Construction, an African American contractor who grew up in the area, is partnering in this project.
Right now, they'll have 26 condos. They will have a mix of 3-bedrooms, 2-bedrooms and 1-bed condos. These will be for sale, not rented, and then 28,000 square feet of retail commercial space.
"Well, right now we have families. When I look at the work that we're doing with families looking for housing, there are about 3,000 families on section 8 right now, section 8 people who can basically afford to own a house is just that they have not been given the opportunities, there's no housing here. And so we're going to create that market by addressing the need for those people who can afford housing, to buy housing, to buy condos and to enthuse capital in this area," explains Rev. Haynes.
Rev. Haynes tells us they are working with more than 100 businesses right now to bring them into the area.
Rev. Haynes says, "It's on the track, it's running. The mayor is behind it, city council is behind it, we've done all the due diligence as a community to to garner support that we need, the financing is there for the eight to $10 million projects in initial stages. We're working with some small businesses. So this is not a pipe dream. This is a reality it's going to happen. And we're just excited about it."
In the next 90 days, the group hopes to break ground on the future of the Deuces.