St. Petersburg (Fla.) Downtown Partnership Inc.
Organization's Own Description:
St. Petersburg Progress, Inc. was formed in 1962 as a private, non-profit organization whose purposes were to stimulate business growth and redevelopment in downtown St. Petersburg. Retail businesses were moving to Central Plaza and later to Tyrone Mall. Webb's City was floundering. The Interstate highway system was encouraging suburban sprawl. Downtown had thrived as a popular destination for seasonal visitors, but less and less so through the 1950s and into the 60s. Downtown needed new energy and direction, and St. Petersburg Progress was formed to help provide it.
The organization enlisted a supporting membership of all the leading businesses having an interest in downtown's future - banks, utilities, the newspaper, professional firms, and remaining retailers. It was the typical “power structure” that many cities organized during that era to work for civic betterment and business growth.
They worked through committees for many years, without professional staff. Some of the major projects of the early years were: removing the abandoned railroad tracks along First Ave. S. that stood as a “Chinese Wall” dividing the downtown area; pushing for the two Interstate feeders (I-275 and I-375) as direct links into downtown; pushing to locate a regional USF campus in downtown; helping to assemble land for the campus site; endowing an academic Chair in the College of Marine Science; and beginning to form a strategy that would eventually attract a Major League baseball franchise to downtown.
By the early 1980s it was clear that there needed to be a more aggressive downtown redevelopment plan and organization. St. Petersburg Progress and the City of St. Petersburg formed and jointly funded a public / private partnership, the St. Petersburg Downtown Improvement Corp. DICO would retain full-time professional staff, lead an effort to produce a strategic plan for rebuilding downtown, actively promote and market the plan, and help make redevelopment happen. Some of the projects of this era included the Pier Park proposal - an ambitious plan to expand the Pier waterfront area to include a retail / entertainment “festival market place,” a botanical garden and a cluster of museums (it failed to pass a city-wide referendum); a number of new office towers (City Center, Florida Federal, Bank of Florida); the inaugural running of the Grand Prix; USF St. Petersburg growth; the determined push to build a stadium that would attract Major League Baseball.
Having succeeded in getting things underway, the DICO partnership was discontinued in the mid-1980s, and St. Petersburg Progress continued as a professionally staffed organization, still dedicated to making redevelopment happen. From the mid-1980s through the 1990s some of the main priorities and projects were: Baseball - build the stadium and get a team!; Renovate and expand the Vinoy; Expand USF St. Petersburg into a four-year institution, and expand the campus; assist in developing a world class marine research center around the USF College of Marine Science; develop and expand USGS presence in St. Petersburg; initiate a transportation project and the Looper trolley system; Bay Plaza - a visionary and ambitious “master developer” concept for reviving retail and entertainment in downtown; promote downtown's cultural amenities, including the formation of the Florida International Museum; develop a vision and plan for the residential sector to blossom.
The name was changed from St. Petersburg Progress, Inc. to St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership in 1997.
Downtown St. Petersburg has now become one of the most vibrant, diverse, prosperous and liveable of any in the US. More recent developments include BayWalk, an entertainment / shopping destination (currently being retooled); the third phase of USGS expansion; Progress Energy Center for the Arts, including the renovated Mahaffey Theater and new Salvador Dali Museum; hundreds of residential condominiums; more office and commercial buildings; the prestigious SRI International at St. Petersburg; St. Petersburg College downtown campus; additional restaurants and arts institutions; an expanded and growing Looper trolley system; major hospital expansions and a new All Childrens Hospital.
The St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership is proud of its history in helping accomplish great things for St. Petersburg. read more