More than just gathering data, we're trying to capture elements that make each community distinctive.
Quality of Life
Rendering: New Dali Museum in St. Petersburg
» Museums: In addition to the Dali Museum, top-tier institutions include the Florida Holocaust Museum, the third-largest of its kind in the U.S., and the Museum of Fine Arts. Glass artist Dale Chihuly also plans an exhibition facility downtown. In addition, St. Petersburg is home to the Florida International Museum, which hosts major traveling exhibits, the Great Explorations children’s museum, St. Petersburg Museum of History and the Carter G. Woodson Museum, dedicated to the history of the local African-American population. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium offers educational programs and rehabilitates dolphins and other sea animals.
Works of art by Joseph Goodhue Chandler at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg
» Arts: St. Petersburg and Clearwater share a number of performing arts venues, including Ruth Eckerd Hall, the Mahaffey Theater and the Palladium, a renovated former church that hosts smaller performances. The city is home to the Florida Orchestra and the American Stage professional theater group. There is an extremely lively local arts scene, with numerous galleries, studios and crafts stores along with a non-profit community arts organization, the Morean Arts Center.
The Tampa Bay Rays have been playing in St. Petersburg for 11 years. [Photo: Lori Ballard]
» Sports: The Tampa Bay Rays play at Tropicana Field in downtown St. Petersburg. Clearwater hosts the Philadelphia Phillies for spring training and a Phillies farm team, the Threshers, during the baseball season.
» Parks: St. Petersburg has more than 2,300 acres of park land scattered among 137 sites. Most notable: The 245-acre Boyd Hill Nature Preserve is just minutes from downtown. In addition, the city is the southern terminus for the Pinellas Trail, said to be the longest urban trail in the country, which runs north for some 35-plus miles through downtown Clearwater up to Tarpon Springs. The beaches of Fort DeSoto Park consistently rate as the best in the state. St. Petersburg is noted for its acres of public parkland along the water downtown. Clearwater lays claim to Caladesi Island State Park, one of the few completely natural islands along Florida’s Gulf Coast; Coachman Park, home of the annual Clearwater Jazz Holiday; and Sand Key Park, a 95-acre a barrier island.
The Pinellas Trail
» Crime: Pinellas County’s crime rate of 5,123 crimes per 100,000 population place it seventh among Florida’s counties. Crime increased by nearly 4% from 2007 to 2008, with the increases concentrated in burglaries, larcenies and robberies. Murder, rape, auto theft and assault all declined. Violent crimes as a group fell by 5.4%.
» Education: St. Petersburg College, formerly a junior college, was the first in the state to be allowed to give four-year degrees and under now-retired President Carl Kuttler has been a leader in innovative programs and collaborative efforts with other schools. Eckerd College is a private, liberal arts school with about 1,800 students from 45 states and 35 countries. The school, located on the waterfront, also conducts degree programs for adult learners and continuing education for retired professionals. The University of South Florida — separately accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools— has a 4,000-student campus near downtown St. Petersburg. It recently opened a new science building and central courtyard. Stetson University’s well-regarded law school is in nearby Gulfport.
Pinellas County, the state’s seventh-largest K-12 district, is well-regarded for its International Baccalaureate program, the state’s oldest, and for its magnet program, which includes the Center for Advanced Technologies. Overall, the district’s schools are “B” rated, and the district has improved its graduation rates in recent years from significantly below the state average to slightly above it. Among the district’s high schools, eight of 17 earned D’s, and one earned an F last year under the state’s grading formula. The schools spend more on administration than almost every other large district in Florida. Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker started a program pairing each school in the city with a local business, which helped the school with resources and programming.
» Public Health: Among the statistically significant trends identified as getting worse by the Florida Department of Health are the death rate from unintentional injuries; the rate of infectious syphilis; hospitalization and death rates from diabetes; and the hospitalization rate from asthma. Among the trends identified as improving are coronary- and stroke-related hospitalizations and death rates; the incidence and death rate from colorectal cancer; the death rate from breast cancer and prostate cancer; the death rate from HIV/AIDS; and the incidence of domestic violence.
» Government: Both St. Petersburg and Clearwater governments were cited for a number of innovative practices by Florida TaxWatch in 2008.
St. Petersburg’s Neighborhood Team has helped more than 2,500 poor and elderly homeowners bring their houses up to code, for example. Clearwater has a similar program and was cited by TaxWatch for a floodplain restoration program.
» Taxes: Pinellas County ranks 29th in Florida in county taxes levied per capita. Median real estate taxes paid are $1,623 (compared with $2,113 in Hillsborough, $2,076 in Orange and $2,748 in Miami-Dade). The median value of an owner-occupied home is $201,300.