By Christina Mendoza
The Gateway Area of Pinellas County is an economic engine for the County, a home to many, the 2nd largest employment district in the region, and when combined with Westshore across the bay, is the largest employment area in the Southeast after Atlanta.
But behind this beautiful stage brimming with economic potential also lies disconnected, and largely disinvested communities. It is vulnerable to sea level rise, faces competition for skilled workers, and lacks homes that are affordable to many, as well as the connections needed to access high-paying jobs and the amazing amenities Pinellas has to offer.
To help the Gateway reach its potential, we need to start showing this area of the County some love. We need to create a better environment for those who live here, those who work here, and those who visit here. Let’s make it easy and convenient for people to get around. Let’s make it safe and affordable for people to live here. Let’s make it enjoyable and memorable for people to spend time here. Through the Gateway Master Plan, this is exactly what Forward Pinellas and our partners have committed to strive to do over the next 10 years.
The Gateway Master Plan provides a vision and an action-oriented redevelopment strategy for the Gateway Area and is the result of a collaborative effort between local governments, FDOT, and Forward Pinellas. The Plan was completed in September 2020, and since then, Forward Pinellas, Pinellas County, and the Cities of Pinellas Park, Largo, and St. Petersburg have been busy moving forward with implementation efforts. These efforts kicked off with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) where they agreed to work toward the implementation of the Planning and Design Guiding Principles included in the Plan.
The MOU established the creation of a Gateway Partnership, which consists of members of the project Study Management Team, including staff from the four local government jurisdictions, FDOT, Pinellas County Economic Development, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority, and other partners. The purpose of the Partnership is to meet periodically throughout the year to coordinate and discuss implementation efforts. Forward Pinellas has also convened a Gateway Working Group, which consists of staff from each of the four jurisdictions and Pinellas County Economic Development. The intent of the Gateway Working Group is to provide a forum for discussion of potential redevelopment projects in the Gateway area, and to ensure that these projects align with the Master Plan vision.
“Congratulations to Forward Pinellas and their partners on winning the APA Award of Merit for the Gateway Master Plan. This dedicated team has set the standard in Florida for building relationships to create a community that is vibrant, connected, and equitable, while maintaining the beautiful character of its cities,” said Forward Pinellas Chair Darden Rice. “Forward Pinellas is a true asset to Pinellas County and our communities.”
The result of the extensive coordination and collaboration process used to develop the Gateway Master Plan is the creation of a truly integrated vision that represents the goals and priorities of each community and the area overall. Due to the unique level of collaboration, innovative planning process, and comprehensive vision, the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA)selected the Gateway Master Plan for the APA Florida Planning Award of Merit in the category of Best Practices. Forward Pinellas staff will be accepting the award at the APA Florida Planning Conference in September.
“As the St Petersburg Council Member that represents the Gateway area, I am very happy that the Gateway Master Plan has been recognized as an example for best practices by the American Planning Association! The Gateway area has incredible potential. As an economic hub in Pinellas, our priorities must include providing affordable homes, high-paying jobs, and beautiful amenities to residents and employees alike. With Forward Pinellas’ leadership, we can address these complex issues and opportunities in a collaborative manner with focus and intention,” said Council Member Brandi Gabbard.
Forward Pinellas worked with our partners to develop a performance dashboard that features a set of performance indicators that can be used to track progress toward implementation of the Gateway Master Plan. This dashboard will be featured on the Forward Pinellas website and includes indicators for each of the seven guiding principles of the Gateway Master Plan. The indicators provide a snapshot of key data points that we are tracking over time, such as the amount of development and redevelopment, the mix of land uses in the Gateway area, the connectivity of the transportation network, crash data, and housing and employment data. The dashboard will help determine where we’re reaching our goals and where we need to improve. It will help us answer questions like – are we keeping employers in the Gateway, do we have a good mix of employment and housing opportunities, are we developing in resilient areas, and are we improving safety and connectivity.
If you have any questions or comments on the project, please contact Christina Mendoza, Principal Planner with Forward Pinellas, who is leading the implementation effort for the agency. More information on the implementation efforts for the Gateway Master Plan can also be found on the project’s website, here: gatewaymasterplan.org