St. Pete Innovation District
The Downtown Partnership has been a driving force in the creation and evolution of the St. Pete Innovation District — a natural evolution of the Partnership’s decades long involvement in the area downtown south of Interstate 175. Already a center for high-quality, high-wage jobs, the district has more economic potential by fostering collaboration and innovation and attracting investment. In 2016, the Partnership provided seed money alongside other investors (City of St. Petersburg, the Foundation for Healthy St. Petersburg, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and USF College of Marine Science) to enable the district’s creation and the hiring of an executive director. The district on Tampa Bay is bounded roughly by 5th Avenue South and 22nd Avenue South and stretches west to Martin Luther King Jr. Street.
Warehouse Arts District
The St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership has been involved with the Warehouse Arts District Association, a non-profit 501c3 organization, since its inception, as the SPDP leadership saw the uniquely suited potential, in one of the city’s most underutilized corners, for an arts renaissance and economic rebound. Originally, the district — just west of Tropicana Field — was called the Dome Industrial Park and was considered an ideal site to woo a large business. But as that plan floundered, artists were snapping up low rents and found friendly zoning for their own brand of manufacturing. What’s more, with the eventual Tropicana Field redevelopment on the horizon, the area will soon be closely linked to the city’s core. When artists began organizing, in October 2011, the Partnership was there providing key legal and strategic support. It was there in 2014, as the WADA Association purchased 3 acres of run-down warehouses in the heart of the district for renovation into dozens of affordable studios for artists in perpetuity. And in 2016, the Downtown Partnership contributed $40,000 to WADA’s fundraising for the ArtsXchange renovation.
Hoping to build on St. Petersburg’s growing attraction for tech start-up companies, the Downtown Partnership has a dedicated technology investment fund to help attract and support such businesses in the city. In exchange for investments, the Partnership receives shares of ownership. Any profits from such investments are then plowed back into the Technology Fund to expand the Partnership’s ability to invest in additional start-up companies located in the city.
When U.S. diplomatic rules began shifting in 2015 with Cuba, the Downtown Partnership joined Mayor Rick Kriseman in working to position the city and its businesses to take full advantage of the changing landscape with our closest foreign neighbor. Those efforts included two trips to Cuba (including attending the historic 2016 baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban National Team), work to secure local direct commercial flights from Tampa International Airport, and multiple opportunities to introduce Cuban officials and artists to our city. The most recent visit was in May 2017 by Cuba’s ambassador to the United States, Jose Ramon Cabanas.
The St. Petersburg Trolley System
After more than 20 years serving as downtown’s Transportation Management Organization and operating the city’s tourism-centric Looper Trolley, the Downtown Partnership in 2018 is expecting to launch an updated circulator service with its partners, the City of St. Petersburg and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, that will offer better service to tourists but also downtown’s growing number of residents and businesses and help make it possible to live car-free downtown. The Partnership and Looper Group also operate a robust charter trolley service, that adds to downtown’s usability and convenience during special events and for private parties.
Support for Marine Science
For decades, the Downtown Partnership has been a key partner to the marine science community, including helping to establish the University of South Florida College of Marine Science 50 years ago and to win a United States Geological Survey Laboratory. The latter project continues to pay dividends for the city and its economy. The USGS operation has grown from one to three laboratories and the Downtown Partnership’s role as the non-profit developer means low costs for the government agency as well as funds supporting graduate students at USF CMS.