A long vacant area of St. Petersburg’s Historic Uptown neighborhood will soon be more than empty fields and chain link fences.
St. Petersburg City Council today approved funds not to exceed $450,000 to convert the land beneath and surrounding Interstate 375 near Martin Luther King Jr. Street into a park and surface parking lot.
Current conditions under I-375
Council member Gina Driscoll, who brought the funding request forward to Council, called the project a win-win for the community. Driscoll came prepared with letters of support gathered from multiple neighborhoods associations, including Historic Uptown.
The park feature will include green space and amenities like drinking fountains and benches, as well as solar lighting. As with most parks in St. Petersburg, it will also be on-leash dog-friendly and include drinking fountain features for four-legged friends.
City staff emphasized the surface parking feature not just as a use in the area of the park that is height-limited by the interstate deck, but as a win for the business community. According to staff who conducted outreach to businesses along Martin Luther King Jr St., they heard from many businesses that the area needed more surface parking for local business customers, employees and general public parking. The proposed lot will have 47 spaces, nine for the public using the park (at no cost) and the remainder used for day-rate and monthly paid parking.
City staff characterized the park development as the rejuvenation of an underutilized downtown property with a cost-effective solution. Revitalization of the park will include a number of lighting aspects, allowing for safer, better lit connections for both sidewalks and bike paths.
Funds for the park feature of the project will be taken from the Weeki Wachee Fund, which distributes revenue received from the sale of city property in Weeki Wachee Springs. Funds for the parking feature would come from parking revenue funds. Weeki Wachee funds would not exceed $200,000 and parking revenue funds would not exceed $250,000. Any unused funds would return to their respective funding sources.
“This is a really great way to look at beautifying some of our urban spaces,” said Driscoll. She argued the project would serve as an example for ways to activate long-vacant public spaces and a boost to economic development.
Council Member Robert Blackmon agreed. “When I heard about the project, I thought it was a good idea, but the more I’ve driven by the area and thought about it, the more excited I am.
“I think this is going to be a huge deal,” Blackmon said. “The cost-benefit is through the roof on this. Politics is often a game of give and take, but I think this project is all give.”