A happening place

In its day, 22nd Street was a magnet. Segregation guaranteed it would be a destination because the people who worked, shopped and played up and down the street -- including a solid middle class of professionals -- had few other choices. Now they do.

The city bus passes through several times daily, bearing the same No. 7 as the old city coach that served the neighborhood a generation ago. These days, the bus is almost empty. It seldom stops to pick anyone up or let anyone off as it meanders toward Tyrone Square Mall 6 miles northwest.

The street, unlike The Deuces of old, is not the place to be.

Segregation -- in closing off opportunity elsewhere -- had created the conditions for The Deuces' success: a place of, by and for black people. A place to call their own in a larger world that kept pushing them down and away.

The very things that St. Petersburg's Midtown architects want to create once existed on the segregated 22nd Street S. Integration, for all its undeniable good, shifted the center of gravity away from places like The Deuces toward white-majority shopping centers and entertainment venues. Without that critical mass, 22nd Street was bound to die.

Revivalists of 22nd Street know they will have to re-create it as a place to go. The idea now is to boost 22nd Street, perhaps as a renewed Midtown artery.