The MLK Business District, running from 26th Avenue South to 34th Avenue North along the major tertiary thoroughfare of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street is home to a wide variety of local businesses and residents who want a future for everyone to thrive. For two members on our team, John Barkett, Owner and Broker, and Shaquille Lashley, Sales and Leasing Specialist, that means putting in the commitment now to ensure that there is opportunity in the future.
A Distinct Cultural and Business District
The St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership has released its 2022 Development Guide featuring our very own Shaquille Lashley and the MLK Business District. Shaq lives, works and loves this part of our city. He also understands the work that is needed for its future—for both continued growth as well as connecting the communities that border this major thoroughfare.
New Park Under I-375
Construction is nearing completion of the newest park in St. Pete, between 4th and 5th Avenues North along the east side of Dr. MLK Jr Street North, under the I-375 overpass. The initiative to build this park was led by John alongside City Council Chair Gina Driscoll, Parking & Transportation Director Evan Morey, Parks and Recreation Supervisor Mike Jeffries and other city officials.
The I-375 Park will serve as the first of many upcoming park projects that aim to connect St. Pete’s unique business and neighborhood districts, and improve the city’s walkability and year-round outdoor event potential by eliminating the bifurcation created when the interstate system was developed.
The park includes shaded gathering spaces, public parking, event space, public mural art, and dog-friendly green space. Most importantly, it will create a walkable thoroughfare connecting Downtown and Historic Uptown, becoming one of the northernmost points for St. Pete’s bike share and new scooter pilot program. The design has come to fruition after securing half a million dollars of funding from sources outside of the city’s budget. A large portion of that funding is also allocated towards the upcoming development of a 45 space shaded and lit parking lot in the center of the park that is protected from the sun and elements by I-375 overhead. The parking lot will be well lit and landscaped and can be flexed for indie markets, art shows, food truck rallies and other public events. It will also allow for visitors to Downtown St Petersburg arriving from interstate to park and utilize scooters or electric bikes parked nearby to access Central Avenue and beyond without bringing their vehicles into the downtown core. The next phase of the park project will bring public art into the mix with potential downlit murals under 375 as well as painted columns along MLK Street N and uplit murals on the north side of the 375 onramp along the south side of 5th Avenue S.
Read more about the new Uptown Park opening soon, St. Pete Catalyst.
MLK Street through St. Petersburg has primarily been a one-way artery and the MLK Business District is exploring the possibility to change that. Instead of three lanes quickly funneling traffic one-way southbound from the St. Anthony’s area of Uptown/Downtown in the north down to the south side of St. Pete.
This area is part of a downtown mobility study that is being conducted by Forward Pinellas and The City of St. Petersburg and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) by hosting a community outreach study, meetings and workshops for businesses and residents to get involved. You can read the mobility study here.
Part of the mobility study includes eventually reverting to two-way way traffic—which is critical to help local businesses gain additional visibility along this route. Two-way traffic creates friction which slows traffic down so drivers see the local businesses that are available to them. The MLK Business District is currently discussing this facet of the mobility study with its members and constituents; and will be raised for discussion and a formal motion at an upcoming meeting.
Read more about the importance of connecting the District, St. Pete Rising, article from Jan 2021.
Another important and timely initiative that Shaq is involved in that will affect the MLK District is Car-Free St. Pete’s idea to create a walking straza with a three-mile loop connecting downtown areas. Shaq said, “Getting involved in Car-Free St. Pete will help with creating out-of-the-box ideas to accommodate this kind of growth.” According to their website, “It would transform automobile dominated streets in downtown into a more comfortable environment for people to walk, stroll, play, and create community.” This project, along with the Under I-375 Park, are great examples as to how to bring the neighborhoods of St. Petersburg together.
John Barkett added, “This will help to foster a community that prides itself on continuing to be local and pedestrian friendly, especially as we increase in density here. It’s creating a grassroots movement to give people options besides their cars.”
Largest District in St. Pete
The MLK Business District is the largest geographic district in St. Petersburg, touching 13 neighborhoods along its path. It’s also incredibly diverse in terms of demographics, income, housing and businesses. The needs at the northern part of the district may vary drastically from the southern part, just a few miles away. This makes the district unique in the variety of businesses and customers that it attracts from the eateries, galleries, retailers and other local businesses that need support.
The Barkett Team, including John and Shaq, are involved in rebuilding the MLK Business District Association and encourage other businesses in the area to become active members.