Pinellas County school leaders seek bids to develop historic Tomlinson building into staff housing

The historic Tomlinson Building in St. Petersburg's Mirror Lake district currently serves as a storage facility. Previously, it was an adult education center and now, Pinellas County school officials want to turn it into staff housing.

The district on Tuesday issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the project. According to the RFP, the goal is to address the workforce housing shortage for teachers and other PCS workers.

"Pinellas County is a highly desirable place to live and work with very few areas to develop housing. In order to attract the best teachers to our community, we must be proactive in providing housing choices that are attainable and appealing," PCS Superintendent Kevin Hendrick said in a news release. "This project sets out to innovatively and collaboratively address housing for our teachers and other district employees. I look forward to working with the successful bidder to create something truly special for our employees and our community."

The lack of affordable housing in Pinellas County has led to widespread talks among business leaders as they try to hang onto their workforce. The latest move from PCS underscores how the climate is affecting teachers and other district staff, coming as teachers struggle to afford the increased overall cost of living.

Exterior shot of the historic Tomlinson building in downtown St. Petersburg.

Exterior shot of the historic Tomlinson building in downtown St. Petersburg.

"What are we doing since we can't substantially help our teachers and educators attract educators to this area?," asked a 29-year veteran teacher at a school board meeting on Sept. 13. "What are we going to do? Think about it. If you can't give us a decent raise, what are you going to do? Think."

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The Tomlinson site is 1.7 acres, and made up of 10 parcels. Seven of them are land that can be developed. The building is three stories, built in 1924 and totaling just under 41,000 square feet. The RFP states the building should be preserved, with the guiding principle being for developers to provide the maximum number of housing units at the lowest rent possible.

The district is looking for proposals for public-private partnerships. There's a site visit and walk-through planned on November 18 for interested bidders. Proposals are due February 1.