Gas Plant District: Mixed-Use Development Essential for Transformative Success
By: Jessica Icerman - Stearns, Weaver, Miller
Chair | Housing, Land Use & Development (HLUD) Committee
St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce
No question—we all want the Gas Plant District redevelopment to be a success in equity. The Rays/Hines Proposal includes various methods of ensuring equity throughout the redevelopment construction and resultant development. While many focus on the Proposal’s inclusion of affordable housing, this post will highlight the benefits to equity by creating a mixed-use development.
Some may ask: why not just have all the land within the Gas Plant District be dedicated to affordable housing? This is a good question but overlooks the benefits of a mixed-use and mixed-income development for all of the City’s residents.
A mixed-use development is a type of development pattern that places multiple uses within a compact area. Neighborhoods that include residential, commercial, office, and civic spaces in close proximity or shared buildings (think retail on the first floor with residential above) are examples of mixed-use developments. Mixed-use developments are different from “traditional” zoning methods that separate each use.
Mixed-use developments provide an enormous amount of benefits to communities—from economic benefits to social and health benefits. The benefits include:
- Mixed-use developments support residents who do not have reliable transportation by placing their homes in close proximity to jobs, schools, goods, and services. Most everyday needs can be accessed by walking, biking, or scooting within a mixed-use development.
- Small businesses within a mixed-use development have a “built-in” clientele and can more easily build a following and expand.
- Social cohesion and inclusion are increased by greater interaction among community members with differing incomes. Mixed-use developments that include housing for mixed-income individuals and families create a sense of community and supports diversity as opposed to a segregated area focused on only one segment of the population.
- Environmental benefits for mixed-use developments include fewer use of vehicles, more efficient use of infrastructure, and including large interconnected open spaces. Transit programs are also more successful in areas that are central, compact, and provide opportunities to meet various needs of the individual (e. mixed-use developments).
- Walkable communities with nearby goods and services encourage walking and biking, thereby increasing the physical activity of the residents and visitors to the area.
- Mixed-use developments provide economic benefits to both the City (and by extension the taxpayers) and the residents. The efficient use of infrastructure and services, such as police and fire, make mixed-use developments less expensive for the City to serve. Mixed-use developments also provide for upward mobility opportunities for lower-wealth individuals by placing affordable housing near jobs, schools, and services.
The data is clear: Development of the Gas Plant District as a mixed-use community will better serve the residents of St. Petersburg. The Rays/Hines Proposal is a mixed-use and mixed-income development. The Proposal incorporates best planning practices and enormous opportunity for growth in community equity.
This blog post is based on research and articles published by the American Planning Association, including: Benefits of Compact, Mixed Use Development, a collection; Supporting Active Living Through Mixed-Use Developments, by Johamary Pena, AICP and Sagar Shah, PhD and AICP, March 28, 2022; Getting Trip Generation Right: Eliminating the Bias Against Mixed Use Development, PAS Memo, May/June 2013.
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Ways YOU can show support and take action:
- Apply to speak during open forum at a City Council meeting
- Send a letter of support to City Council – firstname.lastname@example.org (Administrative Officer)
- And/or your District City Council Member
- CC, if you choose: Rafaela Amador Fink, Tampa Bay Rays (email@example.com), and Chris Steinocher, St. Pete Chamber of Commerce (firstname.lastname@example.org)