More than a 200 residents and business owners turned out Tuesday night to St. Petersburg College to kick off the process to revitalize 34th Street South from 30th Avenue to 54th Avenue South.
"This is probably the biggest turnout of any groups of associations to talk about a corridor plan," Mayor Bill Foster said Tuesday night. "What this tells me is that it's long overdue."
Council chair Karl Nurse said the revitalization plans needs create businesses that will allow residents south of Central to spend their money in the neighborhood they live in.
"I moved to the south side about 22 years ago. I remember the first thing I realized, 'it’s hard to spend money here,' " Nurse said. "Can you buy a pair of socks, a shirt, groceries? Can you go to a decent restaurant? Those are the challenges."
A presentation of 34th Street plan design concepts will be on Aug. 13 and a final draft is due on Oct. 15. Following the final draft, there will be two public meetings, Nov. 12 at the Planning and Visioning Commission and Dec. 19 at City Council.
Gary Jones, with the city's economic development department, said should council approve of the plan in December, implementation could begin in early 2014.
Jones said the plan has three key cogs.
"Improve the retail experience, create more redevelopment opportunities and increase the profits of businesses," Jones said.
The goal of Tuesday night's forum was to energize the community and have residents talk to their neighbors about getting involved in turning around 34th Street. The city also had surveys for the residents to fill out, which can also be found online.
Once completed, you can email the survey to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Judy Ellis, president of the Lakewood Estates Neighborhood Association said she'd like to see more "people space" in any revitalization plan with less concrete and parking lots dominating the landscape.
"I keep harping back to the cities I’ve been in," Ellis said. "The emphasis on people and less emphasis on the four-wheeled monsters we are addicted to. ... We need to open it up and make it more people friendly.
"We have a lot of thriving, good businesses here and we can make them thrive more and bring in other businesses," Ellis added.
A steering committee comprised of business owners, property owners and neighborhood leaders will take the results of the survey to help formulate a plan in the coming months. The plan will target economic development, transportation, streetscape, land use/zoning and marketing.
"I love this area and I know there are so many people here that feel the same way," said Tom Ando, president of the Broadwater Neighborhood Association. "The key to this area is the access."
Foster and city officials touted the successful process of the Central Avenue revitalization plan as a model for the 34th Street South Corridor plan going forward.
"The idea of a Central Avenue Plan is to join downtown and Tampa Bay to Boca Ciega Bay," Foster said. "As we were working on that plan, (council member Steve Kornell) said 'mayor we need to do the same me for 34th Street South and we need to vision and start bringing in the community.'"
Foster said the community is ripe for development
"The demographics for development along 34th Street South are incredible," Foster said. "Property values and expendable income (are great) and yet it's still very hard to break that (Southside) barrier.
"It’s you that will make all the difference in the world," Foster added. "I’m excited, though probably not as excited as you are. You all will be very instrumental in the implementation of (this) plan."