District & Corridor Development: Formalizing the district

The Grow Smarter Strategy specifically outlined the necessity of formalizing the St. Pete Innovation District in the Strategy report. The Innovation District has been formalized (1.1), its boundaries have been designated (1.2), and it has been branded with its own marketing platforms and website (1.2).  

ACTION 1.1: Formalize the development of a Downtown St. Petersburg Innovation District. 

Initially proposed in the 2013 ULI Advisory Services Panel Report “Forging Connections for a Vibrant Downtown Waterfront,” the establishment and branding of an Innovation District not only captures opportunities provided by the world-class collections of assets in the port area, but is also consistent with current industry analysis on how to optimize the impact of clustered innovation and technology assets. The boundaries of the Innovation District will need to be formalized, but it is generally considered to consist of the businesses, institutions, and research centers surrounding Bayboro Harbor and the Port of St. Petersburg. While there is certainly the possibility that the District could one day extend beyond the downtown, its genesis and initial development will likely be where the supportive assets are clustered.

1.1.2: Designate and brand the Innovation District.

A first step towards district creation would be to determine the zone’s boundaries and identify key stakeholders. A brand, marketing platform, and website should be created to position the district as a global hub for marine and life sciences. The campaign should incorporate existing assets and institutions as well as outcomes from processes like the Downtown Waterfront Master Plan and potential enhancements to Al Lang Stadium and other facilities.

1.1.3: Develop a Special Area Plan for the Innovation District.

The ongoing Downtown Waterfront Master Plan process incorporates areas that encompass the potential Innovation District. While economic development is not among the Guiding Principles directing waterfront growth, Market Street feels that a Special Area Plan for an Innovation District would not only support the overall ambitions of the Waterfront Plan, but enhance the attractiveness of the waterfront by enhancing its destination appeal for some of the top talent in the world. The Innovation District Special Area Plan should incorporate multiple scenarios to facilitate district development. Importantly, the Innovation District Special Area Plan should be coordinated with the Waterfront Master Plan, the recently developed master plan for the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg (USFSP) campus and other district institutions, organizations, companies, and facilities, including the recently announced All Children’s Hospital research building. The Innovation District plan should also determine whether an extension of the statutory lease limits at the Port of St. Petersburg should be pursued again through a public campaign and vote. This may enable the successful recruitment of research vessels to the Port to support marine science cluster development. The plan should also consider the potential to leverage the decommissioned Albert Whitted Wastewater Treatment Plant for District development.

What is the Innovation District?

Located just south of downtown, the Innovation District is a cluster of higher education, marine science, healthcare, business incubation, and media institutions. The City of St. Petersburg and the Board of the St. Pete Innovation District has been working in partnership to encourage the growth and development of the district. To further this effort, the board created four specific committees to focus on business development, real estate, placemaking and branding, and research collaboration and innovation. In June of 2017, the first executive director of the Innovation District, Alison Barlow, was hired to help recruit and facilitate the district, whose members range from USF St. Petersburg, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, Poynter Institute to SRI International and USF College of Marine Science, among many other organizations.

Vibrant startups, educational institutions, and world-renowned museums, within the Innovation District, businesses from various innovative target sectors flourish. Anchoring the district is the St. Petersburg Ocean Team – the premier consortium of marine science, oceanographic, and environmental research agencies and institutions in the Southeastern United States.


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