St. Pete’s Development Boom, and What It Means for Local Businesses

Posted On 03/30/2021 by St. Pete Chamber Member

New developments on the horizon bring new opportunities for small-business owners and the St. Pete community alike. As the St. Pete road map evolves, bridging the gap between the local districts and neighborhoods becomes increasingly important. To create a workable and liveable city that can adapt over time, it boils down to establishing a balance. Whether it’s restoring a historic building to avoid demolition or creating a communal park space for all to enjoy, it is the responsibility of developers to create spaces that uplift the community and stay true to the future vision of the city.

Barkett Realty, a boutique real estate agency based in the Historic Uptown section of the MLK Business District, guides us through the upcoming St. Pete developments and exciting future for small businesses:

Curating Districts

St. Pete’s growth begins inside the local districts as the community comes together to adapt and innovate new commercial and residential spaces. The EDGE District, an area Barkett Realty worked to curate, is an area built on the practice of listening to local residents and bringing their vision for the area into reality. John Barkett, Broker/Owner of Barkett Realty, worked with local operators to curate spaces that provided their businesses with the opportunity to grow. Rather than a collection of leasing agreements, John views the development of the EDGE district as an ongoing partnership, where business concepts and physical real estate can evolve and grow as the district’s needs change. It was the work within this district that inspired John to expand his vision for St. Pete and work to bring other districts throughout the city to life.

As a current board member of the MLK Business District, John is constantly working to revitalize the area and support local businesses along the full MLK Jr. St. corridor. The vision for this district in particular, began with making it a destination for locals and visitors alike, which inspired John to lay down roots by purchasing his first building on the block at 553 9th. St N and opening his business there. Subsequently he purchased and renovated a 100 year old building—the current Barkett Realty office at 615 9th. St. N, a former bar and boarding house that has been converted to a state-of-the-art collaborative office with beautiful courtyard/garden space and four renovated loft apartments above.  The renovation won an Adaptive Reuse award in 2019 from Preserve the Burg.  The former office space to the south has since been converted to retail use and houses local businesses including SunState Yoga and Lash Addict.  The district was home to many historic buildings that lent themselves to renovation and adaptive reuse, and are now home to some local St. Pete favorites.

“It’s up to us as business owners and residents of St. Pete to ensure that districts like the MLK Business District, the EDGE District, Grand Central, and others continue to blossom,” said Barkett. “With the Trop site redevelopment to look forward to, connecting these bifurcated districts is absolutely critical to keep St. Pete special.”

Creating a Unified St. Pete

The MLK district and many other unique St. Pete districts are disconnected from downtown by the highway system including I-375 to the North, I-275 to the West and I-175 to the South. With the goal to ultimately transform the St. Pete road map, Barkett Realty is working to take underutilized land under the highway system throughout the city and connect the local districts with outdoor shaded space that is more like a cultural park than the current underutilized surface parking or fenced off areas.

The first project of its kind, led by John Barkett, involves converting the empty land below I-375 into a park. Barkett is working closely with City Council Vice-Chair Gina Driscoll, Transportation Director Evan Morey, Parks and Recreation Supervisor Mike Jeffries, and other city officials to bring this project to life.

“The ask for this park came directly from the public, and the city is happy to listen and make the most of their existing long-term land leases with the Florida Department of Transportation in a way that strengthens the community,” said John Barkett, “We live in a very rare community where voices are heard and you can truly make lasting change that can positively impact your local community for generations to come. That’s just one of the reasons why I love St. Petersburg.”

The plan for the park includes shaded gathering spaces, public parking, outdoor event space, and dog-friendly green space. Most importantly, it will create a walkable thoroughfare connecting Downtown and the Historic Uptown section of the MLK District and become a northern point for St. Pete’s bike share and new scooter share services.

The MLK park project under I-375 is just the beginning of an ongoing effort by Barkett to create a unified St. Pete. Connecting the bifurcated districts is an incredibly important aspect of our city’s growth and sustainability. The new outdoor gathering spaces and walking trails we can expect to see will help create walkability and foot traffic to aid in the success of local businesses and community events. Connecting neighborhoods around the city will also provide locals with a sense of community, as they enjoy easy access to the downtown area and the historic St. Pete landmarks left behind by past residents.

With local growth comes opportunity, and commercial development is not slowing down as the trend of remote work continues to grow. Large companies recognize the desire for young working talent to want to live, work and play all inside the city center. It is the connection of the bifurcated districts that provides investors the opportunity to implement new projects and developments at a local level.

Keeping it Local

With new developments, come new business. In the case of St. Pete, where shopping local is deeply rooted in our culture, small businesses will flourish with the rise of new commercial spaces and leasing opportunities. Barkett Realty works with developers and operators to ensure they find a tenant and space that suits their respective needs and vision. The passion to grow and evolve as a community is what makes St. Pete a special place to live. It’s the main reason connecting the city is so important.

Bridging the gaps throughout the city between districts, provides walkable and accessible areas for St. Pete locals to enjoy. As our thoroughfares and neighborhoods continue to grow, it’s the city’s sense of community that will keep us together. St. Pete’s growth isn’t just about new construction or luxury condos—it’s about listening to the community, growing consciously, and protecting the city’s culture and history along the way. Adaptive reuse, the process of taking an old building and reusing it for a purpose other than it was designed, is the perfect way to renovate vintage local spaces and breathe new life into the buildings we already have inside of our communities. Preserving the local charm of our St. Pete neighborhoods and districts are what maintain the city’s sense of place

On the Horizon

The future of St. Pete, and its constantly evolving road map, will provide our communities and local businesses with a sense of connection and pride. Barkett Realty is excited to be a part of this growth and provide the city with new opportunities to thrive. Here are the upcoming Barkett Realty Projects to keep a lookout for:

  • A new park feature under I-375 in the MLK Business District
  • An extension of the Pinellas Trail with Trails Crossing, a combination of outdoor park space and pedestrian/bike trails with art components designed as a cultural park.
  • Programming retail straddling the Pinellas Trail in a new park-like setting that is at the epicenter of the city’s most vibrant and budding districts.

Whether its new commercial buildings, hybrid park spaces, or renovated historical architecture, St. Pete’s local community and culture are what truly define the character of the city. The opportunities for residents and small business owners alike will thrive, as new developments shape the future of St. Petersburg.

To learn more about Barkett Realty and their upcoming projects, please visit https://www.barkettrealty.com/