New group hoping to help improve St. Pete's Williams Park

Community events planned at park
Posted at 4:48 PM, Aug 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-02 20:57:38-04

Williams Park, in the heart of downtown St. Pete, is a sprawling area with plenty of shade trees. But over the years, it's become a hangout for the homeless.


That's why a viewer asked us a Good Question: "What's the city doing to address the problems at Williams Park?"

At Williams Park in St. Pete, you'll find a fountain, shade trees, and park benches. But you'll also find a lot of homeless people.

"There shouldn't be a place in your downtown that you feel like you can't go or that's unsafe," said Justin Bean, founder of the Williams Park Partnership.

Bean's office is just steps from the park. Instead of sitting back and complaining, he decided to do something about it. Last year, he and friend Sean King created the Williams Park Partnership, a joint effort of concerned local businesses, residents and the City of St. Petersburg. There's now also a nonprofit called Friends of Williams Park hoping to make a real change to the park's dynamic.

"I'd like to see a vibrant, place-making, urban park. Something where people are walking through, they're inviting friends to come and meet, they're having lunch or coffee, there's active events in the park," King said.

Community efforts are already helping. Earlier this year, PSTA moved its central bus hub away from Williams Park. The St. Petersburg Police Department's homeless outreach team is connecting more people with resources and shelters. The result is a 35 percent drop in calls for police service at the park. Now the Williams Park Partnership is hoping to keep a good thing going.

The Williams Park Partnership says the idea is pretty simple: To take the park's already great features, like the band shell, and actually use them in the purpose they're meant for, to draw people into the park.

"We just want to shine a new light on it. Our goal is to make it the premier outdoor venue in the area. We're going to do that through free concerts, food truck rallies, and a number of other activities that will happen on a consistent basis," Bean said.

The group hopes with time, their efforts will help develop culture and a sense of community in downtown St. Pete.

The first event is coming up 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22. It will be a free concert and food truck rally in Williams Park. The Williams Park Partnership plans to host events on the third Thursday of every month to follow. It's looking for businesses to help sponsor the events, volunteers, and hopes everyone in the community will get involved.

You can learn more through the Facebook page Friends of Williams Park.