Deuces Rising: Plans approved for revitalization project along South St. Pete's 22nd Ave.

St. Petersburg city leaders took another step this week toward helping revitalize a historically Black neighborhood, approving a lease for city-owned land to build a major mixed-use development in the Deuces corridor.

A group of nonprofits and church leaders wanted to do something for the community, by the community, so they teamed up to form the Sankofa Vision Group and dreamed up a way to bring back a thriving Black neighborhood, unveiling the first designs to St. Pete City Council Thursday.

Reverend Watson Haynes, president and CEO of the Pinellas County Urban League, is one of dozens of people looking to help the neighborhood along 22nd Street South bounce back as part of the Deuces Rising project with the city.

"What makes it special is that years ago there were 100 Black-owned businesses on The Deuces. Right now, there are about six," said Haynes.

The Pinellas County Urban League, 2020 Plan, One Community, Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation, other local nonprofits and business leaders make up the Sankofa Vision Group. The group presented a plan to build 58 spaces for retail, office, and co-working on 22nd Street South at 7th Avenue and Fairfield Avenue.                                         

"Affordable homes, we’re building townhouses. So we’re not building apartment rental units. People would buy these townhomes. They would invest in these townhomes," said Haynes.

St. Petersburg City Council approved leasing 2.8 acres of land for the project. Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin said during the council meeting that the move is an example of the city going from equity talk to equity walk.

"It’s our latest opportunity and we believe one of our most important to demonstrate our intent of equitable development with purposeful action," said Tomalin on Thursday.

Now that land is secured, the Sankofa group can move forward.

"We hired an African American architect to design the project, and now we have engaged Horus Construction, that’s an African American-owned construction company that’s been building everywhere else in Florida and the United States but not here," said Haynes.

Haynes said they are also getting more feedback from people who live in the Deuces to turn the empty lot and a concept into a thriving reality.

"Now we have the opportunity to not only revitalize the community but to bring people with income in the community so that we can build the community," said Haynes.

The Sankofa group plans to sit down with the architects on what needs to happen next to break ground on the project, Haynes said.