Elements of Urbanism: St. Petersburg

December 17, 2008 18 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

A photo tour of downtown St. Petersburg: Florida's “Sunshine City”. Ron Barton was the Director of Economic Development for the City of St. Petersburg before joining the JEDC in 2005.

Tale of the Tape:

St. Petersburg Population 2007: 246,407 (City); 2,723,949 (Tampa Metro) - (incorporated in 1892)

Jacksonville Pop. 2007: 805,605 (City); 1,300,823 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); St. Petersburg (96,738)

Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2000-2007)

St. Petersburg (Tampa): +13.69%
Jacksonville: +15.86%

County Population (2007 estimate)

Pinellas County: 917,437
Duval County: 837,964

Urban Area Population (2000 census)

St. Petersburg (Tampa): 2,062,339 (ranked 19 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 882,295 (ranked 43 nationwide)


Urban Area Population Density (2000 census)

St. Petersburg (Tampa): 2,570.6
Jacksonville: 2,149.2


City Population Growth from 2000 to 2007

St. Petersburg: -1,825
Jacksonville: +69,988


Convention Center Exhibition Space:

St. Petersburg: Pinellas County is the largest county in Florida without a convention center.
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1986) - 78,500 square feet


Tallest Building:

St. Petersburg: Bank of America Tower - 386 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet


Downtown-Based Fortune 500 companies:

St. Petersburg: Jabil Circuit (219)
Jacksonville: CSX (261), Fidelity National Financial (435), Fidelity National Information Services (481)


Urban infill obstacles:

St. Petersburg: A large number of surface parking lots limit the walkability of downtown.
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off Downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.


Downtown Nightlife:

St. Petersburg: Downtown contains several popular pockets of nightlife.  These include Beach Drive, Baywalk, Jannus Landing and Central Avenue.
Jacksonville: East Bay Street, located between Main Street and Liberty Street.  This four block stretch is home to four bars and clubs.


Common Downtown Albatross:

Too many surface parking lots


Who's Downtown is more walkable?

St. Petersburg: 91 out of 100, according to walkscore.com
Jacksonville: 88 out of 100, according to walkscore.com



Downtown Waterfront

Downtown St. Petersburg's waterfront is dominated by public park space, the largest public marina in the Southeast, and a number of museums and cultural attractions.

The downtown waterfront is anchored by the St. Petersburg Pier.  The pyramid shaped structure is a popular location for fishing, boat rentals, festivals, shopping and dining.

The inverted pyramid pier that stands today has become a landmark in itself. Owned by the City of St. Petersburg, The Pier opened its doors in January 1973. Today it continues its legacy as a centerpiece of St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront with five stories of shopping, dining and adventure. Visitors can find 16 specialty shops, galleries and boutiques, four sit-down waterfront restaurants, the Dockside Eatery food court, The Pier Aquarium, as well as a variety of outdoor water and land adventures to enjoy.The Pier still holds community dances, has an observation deck for viewing the stars, and visitors still fish and feed the pelicans – just like in the early days of the Municipal Pier. The Pier is open 365 days a year, rain or shine, and holds over 300 events annually.




Beach Drive

Facing a string of linear waterfront parks, Beach Drive is home to a large collection of condominium towers with restaurants, galleries and retailers at street level.


Bay Walk Entertainment Complex

BayWalk is an open-air entertainment complex and a prominent landmark in downtown.  Designed by Sembler, the developer of Jacksonville's Riverside Square, BayWalk contains an IMAX Muvico theatre, along with several restaurants and retailers.  According to a recent Bay News 9 report, the plaza is currently struggling to fight its reputation of being a hangout for teenagers.


The Urban Downtown Core




Unique St. Petersburg

- Ron Barton was the Director of Economic Development for the City of St. Petersburg before joining the JEDC in 2005.

- St. Petersburg is the fourth largest city in Florida and largest city that is not a county seat.

- St. Petersburg boasts the largest dedicated public waterfront park system of any city in North America.

- The city was co-founded by John C. Williams, formerly of Detroit, Michigan, who purchased the land in 1876, and by Peter Demens, who was instrumental in bringing the terminus of a railroad there in 1888.  It was named after Saint Petersburg, Russia, where Peter Demens had spent half of his youth.  A local legend says that John C. Williams and Peter Demens flipped a coin to see who would have the honor of naming the city.  Needless to say, Demens won.

- Downtown St. Petersburg has 15,700 residents (8,400 units) and 28,000 employees.

- Downtown is the home of the largest public marina in the Southeast.


St. Petersburg's downtown Publix was constructed on the former site of a Dew Cadillac dealership.  Although the retail center features surface parking, it is designed in a manner that does not take away from the area's walkability.







Central Avenue

Central Avenue is the home of Downtown's largest concentration of specialty shops and restaurants.


Grand Central District

Just west of downtown and I-275, this area straddling Central Avenue was once the premier shopping district in the city.  The area fell into decline with the rise of suburbanism in the 1970s.  Today, the district has establishing itself as one of the cultural centers of St. Petersburg with a large number of non-chain dining and retail options available.  Grand Central also struggles with a disproportionate number of social services agencies and shelters.  The district was voted St. Petersburg's Neighborhood of the Year in 2007.




USF Saint Petersburg

The University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USFSP), commonly known as USF St. Pete, is an autonomous campus in the University of South Florida system. Opened in 1965 as a satellite campus of the University of South Florida, the USFSP gained accreditation as a separate entity starting in the 2006-2007 school year. In 2006, USF St. Petersburg was accredited as a separate entity from the University of South Florida.  In that same year, the University of South Florida St. Petersburg opened its new student dormitory, Residence Hall One, to house future and returning students.  With 3,400 students, USF St. Petersburg is the only public university in Pinellas County.

Article by Ennis Davis