Municipal services

Move municipal services to Tangerine Plaza • St Pete Catalyst

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In 2021, St. Peter’s will pick the leaders who will shape St. Petersburg’s leadership for the 2020s – and the entire century. We face many critical issues as a city, including thoughtful redevelopment, affordability, and equity. It’s not enough to say we care – we need leaders who are open to new, innovative and unexpected solutions to the long-standing challenges we face.

But as the administration rushes to buy an inheritance at any cost, we run the risk of making expensive and reckless commitments. Nowhere is this more true than with our Municipal Service Center, the downtown home of many of our public servants. The building has been in disrepair for years and needs millions of dollars in upgrades. It is not a suitable seat for our dedicated public servants and breaks the cohesion of our flourishing central avenue.

However, rather than addressing this issue in a timely manner, the administration is now moving on to the next mayor with a generous deal for an identical downtown replacement. The current building – and the land it sits on – will be sold for just $ 12.5 million, several million below market value, which will go directly to the developer (along with millions more) for construction. ‘a new property a few blocks away. a way.

In an age when remote working for most public servants is and should be here to stay, it doesn’t just defy common sense – it challenges a better and fairer solution. This solution jumps out at us: a move to Tangerine Plaza.

Located in the heart of our Midtown community, Tangerine Plaza is a large shopping center already owned by the city, representing almost 50,000 usable square feet. For years, the administration has tried unsuccessfully to lure a grocery store to serve as the primary tenant, while spending hundreds of thousands of dollars maintaining a property that no one uses.

My proposal is simple. As the governments of Tampa, Miami and Washington, DC have done, we can relocate many of our public servants to a renovated, existing property. For St. Pete, it can be Tangerine Plaza.

Much of the space in our current municipal building is unused or unusable for our purposes. And since many city workers can continue to work remotely for all or part of the week, we can stage them in a property with a much smaller footprint than a downtown office building.

The numbers are logical and it will save our taxpaying citizens a fortune. We will be able to sell the existing Municipal Service Center at fair market value without having to pay several millions for a brand new replacement.

I further propose to take a portion of the proceeds from this sale and place them in a community development trust specifically dedicated to small businesses in underserved communities, including and especially Midtown.

To support our historically underserved communities, we will create a resource pool to fund new local minority-owned businesses in Midtown. In addition, we will bring a new pool of consumers in the form of municipal workers and municipal clients into the community, stimulating the development of these businesses. We will stop paying to keep a large empty commercial space and trigger the return of grocery stores to the Midtown food desert via a free market solution, rather than costly and inefficient subsidies.

In an age when property values ​​are at an all time high and affordability is at an all time high, we cannot have perfectly good properties in our vibrant neighborhoods that sit empty and unused at public expense. The choice between supporting our communities or encouraging business growth is wrong: we can achieve both if we direct resources where they will be most useful. Tangerine Plaza will only be the start, and that is why it will be my first priority as Mayor of St. Petersburg.

Robert Blackmon has been a member of St. Petersburg City Council since November 2019. Last month he announced his candidacy for mayor, in the race to succeed Rick Kriseman, whose term is limited and will step down in January 2022 after eight years..

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