Updated 11 months ago
St. Petersburg skyline [Photo: Dan Gaye]
|A Community Portrait of St. Petersburg/Clearwater
» Who Lives Here?
In the past 15 years, St. Petersburg, Florida’s fourth-largest city, has blossomed from a city struggling with its historical identity as a haven for middle-class retirees into a diverse, livable community with a vibrant downtown and arts scene.
A century-old decision by the city to buy up the downtown bayfront created a civic asset that’s proved invaluable in attracting residential and commercial development downtown, including condo towers and a shopping center with a Publix. Under former Mayor Rick Baker, the city welcomed downtown development and also moved aggressively and notably to redevelop the largely minority Midtown district and a former industrial district on the edge of downtown.
Hard economic times have stalled momentum behind a number of residential projects, and like every urban area St. Petersburg has struggled with problems such as homelessness. A downtown retail development called BayWalk is struggling, and the Grand Bohemian upscale hotel/condo project is on hold. City leaders are also wrestling with the issue of how to keep the Tampa Bay Rays, who want a new stadium, in the city.
St. Petersburg has been able to sustain its momentum, however, with private projects like a new $35-million home for the Dali Museum and a new $400-million All Children’s Hospital. The city’s core — including the signature historic Renaissance Vinoy Resort on the waterfront — remains healthy: Sales at Ovation, downtown’s most upscale condo high-rise, are strong. The University of South Florida’s campus in downtown St. Petersburg has added dorm and classroom space as it grows enrollment toward a 10,000-student goal. The restaurant scene is still lively, and concerts, festivals and other activities, including an annual Grand Prix racing event, are scheduled around the waterfront and elsewhere downtown on all but a few weekends during the year.
Fodor’s Travel Publications named Clearwater Beach one of the East Coast’s “7 Best Family Beaches.” [Photo: City of Clearwater]
Clearwater, the Pinellas County seat, is a suburban town of malls, neighborhoods and beaches. Statistics show Clearwater residents are slightly older and have a slightly higher median income than their counterparts in St. Petersburg.
The city’s largest company, computer reseller Tech Data, is the state’s biggest publicly traded company, employing some 2,500 locally and 8,000 internationally. Like St. Petersburg, Clearwater has invested in brownfields redevelopment projects and also streetscaping its small downtown, which is home to — and is dominated by — the spiritual headquarters of the Church of Scientology and its more than 1,400 uniformed employees. The church is the largest property owner downtown, and individual Scientologists own many local businesses. Scientology’s relationship with the city has improved, but some residents are still uneasy. Meanwhile, development at Clearwater Beach has slowed, but at least four big condo projects are still in various stages, along with the 250-room Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa set to open early this year. The resort is located along the Beach Walk revitalization project, a $30-million landscaped promenade meant to spur redevelopment of the southern portion of the beach.
Who lives here?
The view from St. Petersburg’s most upscale downtown high-rise, Ovation
» St. Petersburg
White, non-Hispanic: 67%
Grand Prix races are held each spring in downtown St. Petersburg.
» Demographic Makeup
» Growth: With almost all of Pinellas County built out — St. Petersburg is the largest of 24 incorporated municipalities in the county — population between 2000-08 actually declined about 3,000.
» Age Distribution: Although the city’s median age is slightly higher than the national average, St. Petersburg has long evolved past its retirement-haven reputation: 56% of the city’s population is under 44.
» Stability: About 85% of the city’s residents were in the same residence a year earlier, and 96% were living somewhere in Pinellas County a year earlier.
» Foreign-born: Less than one in 10 residents of the city were born outside the U.S.
» Families in Poverty: 13%
» Education: Nearly 90% of the city’s population graduated from high school; 27% of residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
» Median Household Income: $43,305
» Income: Nearly eight in 10 residents receive earnings from work; 17% have retirement income other than Social Security; 31% receive Social Security payments.
Rooms at the new All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg include entertainment systems at each bedside and space for parents to stay overnight.
Downtown Clearwater and the Memorial Causeway link to Clearwater Beach
White, non-Hispanic: 74%
» Demographic Makeup
» Population Growth: Clearwater, like St. Petersburg, lost residents between 2005 and 2008.
» Median Age: 44
» Stability: Nearly nine out of 10
city residents were in the same
residence a year earlier, and 96%
were living somewhere in
Pinellas County a year earlier.
» Foreign-born: 15%
» Families in Poverty: 10%
» Education: Nearly 90% of the city’s population graduated from high school; 26% of residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
» Median Income: $45,175
» Income: Some 73% of residents received earnings from work; 18% have retirement income other than Social Security; 36% receive Social Security payments.
Clearwater’s $30-million Beach Walk revitalization project includes a winding, landscaped promenade.
Bob Dutkowsky heads the state’s biggest publicly traded company, Clearwater-based Tech Data.
» Economic Engines
» Financial Services: This sector employs more than 20,000 professionals at firms that include Raymond James, the brokerage firm and bank, and Fidelity Information Services, a provider of software and information services to the banking and real estate industries. Mutual funds firm Franklin Templeton and Ceridian Benefits Services, an employee benefits administrator, also are headquartered in St. Petersburg.
» Manufacturing: St. Petersburg’s biggest manufacturer, Jabil Circuit, designs and builds electronic circuit boards worldwide. Draper Labs, an offshoot of MIT that develops microchips for military and medical technology, has opened a facility in St. Petersburg that will employ at least 65. The county’s roster of manufacturers includes Raytheon and Honeywell, which both do defense-related engineering and manufacturing. The Clearwater area also boasts a number of medical device manufacturing firms; as a whole, Pinellas County ranks second in the state in manufacturing employment and third in the number of manufacturing firms.
» Marine Science and Research: The University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science has become a national powerhouse in marine research and technology. In 2007, the school spun off 40 faculty members from its Center for Ocean Technology into a local partnership with Silicon Valley research firm SRI. In the 1990s, research at the center generated a firm, Ocean Optics, which later sold for $50 million.
» Healthcare: Bayfront Medical Center, just blocks from the water in downtown St. Petersburg, is a non-profit teaching hospital and a level-two trauma center. Adjacent to Bayfront is All Children’s Hospital, which is opening a $400-million state-of-the-art facility early this year. The 259-bed hospital is the only specialty licensed children’s facility on the state’s west coast and features neonatal and pediatric intensive care units. The hospital landed government funding to strengthen its heliport to accommodate military helicopters — a feature that FEMA found missing in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. BayCare Health System, a network of 10 hospitals in the region, includes Morton Plant Hospital and Mease Countryside Hospital in Clearwater and St. Anthony’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.
» Transportation Infrastructure: Road transportation infrastructure is good throughout the county south of Clearwater, particularly for north-south travel. Commuting times don’t rank among the top 15 in Florida. The St. Petersburg-Clearwater airport lives in the shadow of the much larger Tampa International but has attracted several discount airlines and charter service providers. It’s unclear how a small general aviation airport, Albert Whitted, located in downtown St. Petersburg, may evolve in the transportation picture. St. Petersburg has a number of good public and private marinas; the city’s port, however, is a non-entity.
|Largest Employers||Local employees|
|Fidelity Information Services||4,000|
|Home Shopping Network||4,000|
|Raymond James Financial||2,600|
|Tech Data Corp.||2,500|
|Agora Marketing Solutions||1,800|
|Western Reserve Life Assurance||1,500|
|Franklin Templeton Investments||1,200|
|Other notable firms include Sembler Co., a shopping center developer; Danka, a copier firm; insurer Mercury Group; and surgical equipment maker Bausch and Lomb.|
The mayor’s office in St. Petersburg — under a strong mayor system — is non-partisan. Voters recently elected former City Councilman Bill Foster as mayor. The city has frequently butted heads with the county commission over various issues, including the city’s moves to annex a number of unincorporated areas.
In the 2008 election, Barack Obama carried Pinellas County, considered to be the birthplace of the Republican Party in Florida, over John McCain 53% to 45%. As the county has grown less popular for Midwestern retirees, voter registration trends have shifted, and in 2008 registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans for the first time since the mid-1980s.
» Ed Armstrong: Powerful real estate lawyer. Partner at Johnson, Pope, Bokor, Ruppel & Burns law firm. Adviser to local political leaders.
» Lee Arnold: CEO and chairman of the board, Colliers Arnold
» Rick Baker: Term-limited out of office as mayor but a mover in statewide GOP circles; heads the state’s Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida; leading contender to take over as president of St. Petersburg College after Carl Kuttler’s retirement.
» Peter Betzer: Retired as dean of Graduate College of Marine Science, Betzer remains well-connected politically and active in economic development circles.
» Roy Binger: The president of SunTrust for St. Petersburg serves on numerous boards.
» Alan Bomstein: The Clearwater native is the founder of Creative Contractors and involved in numerous civic causes.
» Gary Carnes: CEO of newly expanded All Children’s Hospital
» Mike Cheezem: CEO of JMC Communities, developer of several high-profile condos in both Clearwater and downtown St. Petersburg, where he’s built two high-rises, Ovation and Florencia
» George Cretekos: The Clearwater city councilman has worked closely with U.S. Rep. Bill Young as far back as 1971.
» Goliath Davis: Former police chief and deputy mayor under former Mayor Rick Baker, Davis wields influence in the city’s African-American community and has been an instrumental player in Baker’s plans to revitalize St. Petersburg’s Midtown area.
» Vincent Dolan: President and CEO of Progress Energy Florida
» Holly Duncan: President of Morton Plant Mease Foundation
» Robert Dutkowsky: CEO of computer distributor Tech Data, the biggest Florida-based public company, for the past three years
» Ray Ferrara: President and CEO of Provise Management Group
» Bill Foster: Newly elected St. Petersburg mayor
» Frank Hibbard: Clearwater mayor
» William Hough: The retired founder of investment firm William R. Hough & Co., which he sold to RBC Dain Rauscher in 2004, is a generous and devoted community benefactor.
» Tom James/Paul Reilly: CEO of Raymond James Financial since 1970, James will become executive chairman when he hands off the CEO job to Reilly in May.
» Larry Langebrake: Director of SRI International’s marine technology program
» Darryl LeClair: CEO, president and chairman of developer Echelon International Corp., a real estate and financial services company, LeClair is active in numerous civic causes.
» D.T. Minich: Executive director of Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater
» Judy Mitchell: President of Peter Brown Construction
» Larry Morgan: Owns Honda, Toyota, Suzuki and Mitsubishi dealerships, a construction company and a company that makes mailboxes and signs. Former tire industry executive who started with one Clearwater store and grew his business to 600 stores in 25-plus states.
» Irwin Novack: CEO of Kane’s Furniture; minority investor in Tampa Bay Lightning NHL hockey team
» Grady Pridgen: Founder of Grady Pridgen Inc.
» Steve Raymund: Former CEO of Tech Data, the state’s biggest public company, Raymund has retired but remains the company’s biggest individual shareholder. He is still active in civic affairs.
» Darryl Rouson: Past president of the St. Petersburg NAACP, Rouson is an attorney and state representative.
» Karen Seel: Chairs the Pinellas County Commission
» Mel Sembler: Founder and chairman of retail developer Sembler Co.; former U.S. ambassador to Italy and Australia. Son Gregg, his wife, Liz, and son Brent, and his wife, Debbie, are all active in the business, political and philanthropic communities.
» Craig Sher: Executive chairman of shopping center development and management firm Sembler Co.
» Matt Silverman: President of the Tampa Bay Rays, Silverman is one of the youngest team presidents in the history of Major League Baseball.
» Gus Stavros: Businessman, philanthropist, Florida Board of Governors member; founder of the Gus Stavros Institute, dedicated to educating students about the free enterprise system.
» David Stone: President and CEO of Liberty Bank
» Margaret Sullivan: Interim regional chancellor for USF-St. Petersburg’s campus, is a national leader in higher-ed administration.
» Paul Tash: Chairman, CEO and editor of the St. Petersburg Times
» Glenn Waters: President of Morton Plant
» U.S. Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young: Former chairman and now ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, Young steers massive sums of federal spending toward the Bay area and is perhaps the single most influential person in Tampa Bay.
Gus Stavros [Photo: Michael Heape]
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.
StrengthS & Weaknesses
» Biggest strengths
» Clearwater — World-class beaches; Phillies spring training facilities; Minor League baseball team, Clearwater Threshers; the city’s key business leaders have a long track record of working together for 20-plus years.
» Biggest needs
» Clearwater — City officials are working hard to redevelop downtown, which is surrounded mostly by lower middle-class neighborhoods, except for Harbor Oaks to the south; Scientology’s presence has deterred private-sector development downtown since mid-1970s; no first-run movie theater complex in the city.
» View from a Competitor
Florida Trend asked an economic development professional in a market that competes with Clearwater/St. Petersburg to assess the city’s strengths and weaknesses:
» Weaknesses: Many community leaders across the bay from Tampa have a lingering identity crisis. This is also true for many business and government leaders. If St. Petersburg/Clearwater is to be a breakaway region, it needs to exploit its proximity to Tampa, viewing those living and working across the bay as fellow inhabitants, thriving in one of the most powerful economic regions in America. The area has the opportunity to position itself as a place that honors tradition and invites innovation when it comes to its urban infrastructure, its leisure and lifestyle amenities, its neighborhoods and its civic architecture. Confidently reaching across the bay means that St. Petersburg/Clearwater is ready to reach for a better future, successfully completing and complementing the entire Tampa Bay region.
Why I Live Here
Katie Everlove-Stone with daughter Ellie Stone
I was born and raised in St. Petersburg and continue to live here now. The thing I love most about St. Pete is the fantastic open spaces. Fort DeSoto and the park on Beach Drive in downtown are my favorites. St. Pete also has a ton of outdoor events, like the Saturday morning market, the Mainsail Art Festival and RibFest.
— Katie Everlove-Stone