St. Pete Edge District and Chamber of Commerce get city funding listen12/19/13 Janelle Irwin
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The St. Pete Area Chamber of Commerce and a growing entertainment district near downtown was awarded a piece of city funding being divvied up for various economic development and community revitalization projects. As part of a new budget, city council used $180,000 from its reserves, freeing up that amount from the general fund. But after a morning filled with bickering about how to spend the money, board members voted unanimously to decide what to do with the remaining $124,000 later.
“That $180,000 all I’ve been hearing is, ‘oh boy, we’re going to allocate that and spend it today and I think that’s just wrong.”
Despite hesitation to spend money just because it’s there, St. Pete City Council member Jim Kennedy was one of five to vote in favor of allocating $26,000 to the Edge District which lies between downtown and the Grand Central district. South St. Pete council member Steve Kornell was one of two members to vote against the allocation because he says it pits neighborhoods against one another.
“The Sweetbay on 62nd Ave. South, I’m going to request what the city’s plan is on that because I have not heard that even discussed and it’s sitting there boarded up, blighting the neighborhood and pushing rapidly a neighborhood towards becoming the priority neighborhood because it will have all the poverty and all the problems that go with that if we don’t do something.”
The funding will help the growing entertainment district obtain Main Street designation through the state that would provide both manpower and additional funding to preserve the area. Kornell had asked for $60,000 for projects in the Skyway Marina district he represents. A motion by Charlie Gerdes for half that amount failed. An earlier motion to provide funding for three areas -a South St. Pete corridor, the Edge District and West Central Village in Northwest St. Pete was broken up into two separate motions.
“So, these were the three groups or organizations that were active, engaged, energized and doing things to the point where I think several of us thought we need to show our good faith on the other side and say, ‘since you’re active, since you’re engaged, since you’re working, we’re going to help you.’”
Council member Jim Kennedy voted in favor of funding the Edge District, but against a $30,000 appropriation to the Skyway/Marina District until the board can workshop a plan.
“I have a hard time allocating any money without understanding what the plan is and how it’s going to be spent and what return on investment we anticipate.”
Outgoing city council member Leslie Curran also voted against blindly funding improvements to the South St. Pete area, but in favor of the Edge District money. Her reasoning – volunteers there have a plan and are just one step away from their goal.
“We did just sign a lease – they did – on an office not because they decided they wanted an office, but there’s a specific way that Florida Main Street's requests that you have an office and where it’s located. So, they did that. That was all done in anticipation of this. So, this is not money for a feel good, let them get going, they’ll get more volunteers and build up. This is right there ready to go if they just had that additional $26,000.”
St. Pete City Council also approved handing over $30,000 to the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce to help pay for a study. Retired St. Pete resident Paul Carder is with the chamber.
“We want to set the stage for the development for a comprehensive, integrated, economic development/business attraction strategy.”
Activists with the People’s Budget Review attended the meeting hoping to make sure the $180,000 was used for reducing poverty in the city’s challenged Midtown area and on investments in neighborhoods. However, supporters of that group were not able to speak at the meeting.