Longtime residents savor new growth
Gateway attracts new industry and shopping centers, sprawling apartment complexes and development plans.
By WAVENEY ANN MOORE
© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 1, 2001
[Times photo: Bill Serne]
Molly Sanger, the neighborhood association president, tends to her plants and bushes. On our street, were pretty much our own community, she says. The majority of them have been here many years and thats really great.
In recent years, the Gateway area has become known for its thriving business climate and sprawling apartment complexes.
For Molly Sanger, though, Gateway has been home for much longer. She loves her street, where neighbors have become as close as the ones she left behind in Cleveland 27 years ago.
"On our street, we're pretty much our own community," Mrs. Sanger said. "The majority of them have been here many years and that's really great. One of the biggest problems Florida has, in general, is that everybody is from somewhere else."
As defined by the Gateway Neighborhood and Crimewatch Association, of which Mrs. Sanger is president, the community lies between 80th and 83rd avenues N, between Seventh and Ninth streets N and 83rd and 94th avenues N between Fourth and Dr. M.L. King (Ninth) St. N. It also encompasses a small area behind Gateway Mall, Sixth Street and 83rd Avenue to Fourth Streeet N.
In the past decade, the adjacent business area has become a magnet for new office parks and companies such as Lockheed Martin, Jabil Circuit, Franklin Templeton, Allstate and Raymond James Financial. Development is likely to continue as the area leapfrogs north. Last year, the city offered to sell its sod farm, on 28th Street N between 94th and 102nd avenues, to expand its economic base and bring in more jobs.
Residents like Mrs. Sanger especially appreciate Gateway's spanking new shopping complex, with its Target, Publix and other establishments.
"We try to support our community," she said.
The shopping center is a place where she and her husband, Chuck, always run into someone they know.
"I don't know if it's because we've been down here so long," she said.
It simply could be that the Sangers are outgoing. Or perhaps it's Mrs. Sanger's role as neighborhood leader. Still, Mrs. Sanger bemoans the fact that people in her community turn out for meetings only when they think the neighborhood is being threatened.
"We're just having a hard time getting people to come to the meetings. Unless there is a major problem going on, they will come to the meeting and once the problem is solved, you don't see them again," she said.
"So many people are afraid to get to know their neighbors, because they don't want to get involved. . . . I think it is not just down here."
Craig Patrick, who has lived in St. Petersburg for only three years and ran for the City Council seat that represents the far-north neighborhood, thinks St. Petersburg is a step ahead of many areas when it comes to a sense of community.
"St. Petersburg has a very strong neighborhood cohesion," said Patrick, who campaigned door to door in many neighborhoods and has lived in a number of other cities.
Target, Publix and other stores draw nearby residents to the new Gateway shopping center. Sanger says she and her husband, Chuck, often run into neighbors there.
"People know their neighborhood and their neighbors, and they are truly interested in the welfare of their neighbors. The neighborhood associations have been very successful in working together."
John Bryan, who defeated Patrick in the March 27 City Council race, said St. Petersburg as a whole is gaining a sense of community.
"I think that we are on our way. I would argue that maybe 10 years ago, it was a pretty torn community, with many false starts and hopes," Bryan said. "And I think that the city itself now is coming alive and that the central downtown success is making the community feel like a community again."
Mrs. Sanger would not dream of living elsewhere.
"When I think of the beach communities, I think of tourists. I think they have a hard way to go. They have so many people who are not there all the time," she said.
Pinellas Park, Mrs. Sanger said, has "really come a long way."
But St. Petersburg's Gateway is home.
"To us, it is the ideal place," she said. "We are close to everything. We are close to shopping, churches, schools, the interstate -- and we were noticing (home) values are really going up."
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