Pockets of city define its differences
By LENNIE BENNETT
© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 1, 2001
This is your story.
You live in St. Petersburg, a peninsula of about 60 square miles. You are one of 248,232 men, women and children, according to the 2000 census. You are probably white and help account for 71.4 percent of the population; 22.4 percent of you are black; 2.7 percent are Asian. You are slightly more likely to be female -- 52.3 percent -- than male.
You are not getting any younger: Your median age is 39.3. Ten years ago it was 38.6.
You are not being joined by a lot of new residents. Since the 1990 census, growth in St. Petersburg has been 4 percent, meaning the city has grown by less than 10,000. This ranks St. Petersburg 176 out of 243 American cities in percentage of growth. That's slower growth than Tampa, Clearwater and Jacksonville, but ahead of Miami.
Your average home cost is between $90,000 and $110,000, according to the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.
Your taxes support, among other things, 102 city parks on 2,400 acres, a main library and five branches, police and fire departments with a combined force of more than 800 sworn personnel, and the largest recycled water system in the United States.
This is who you are and where you live in the broadest sense.
But you would probably define yourself in more specific ways. And you would probably describe your community more specifically, too. In dozens of interviews conducted by Neighborhood Times, most of you talked about your community geographically. You consider yourself a northsider, southsider or westsider. You might go further and say you live in Campbell Park or Old Northeast or Azalea.
The demarcations are not just physical. They are often emotional and psychological boundaries as well. They are lines that bind and divide.
The north side, especially the northeast, has traditionally been the seat of political power in St. Petersburg. Most of city's mayors have come from that area, and the perception in the south and west is that the biggest piece of the economic pie gets cut there. Its core area is connected by streets, sidewalks and parks that give it a small-town feeling. Northsiders often have a sense of self-containment that others view as exclusionary.
The south side is the most racially diverse part of St. Petersburg and has probably engendered more tension and tolerance than any other part of the city. There are really two south sides, one of lower-income neighborhoods that struggle for economic parity and respect from the larger community and the affluent residential pockets that sometimes try to distance themselves from their poorer neighbors. Many residents are both proud and defensive about their choice to live there. It has some of the city's most beautiful parks and residential waterfront land and some of the county's newest schools, but it struggles with its image as the most troubled and economically depressed part of town.
Westsiders as a group are probably the most disaffected with city government. Even though the western part of the city contains the largest retail business in St. Petersburg, as well as numerous middle- and upper-income neighborhoods, westsiders feel they rarely get their due from downtown. The Pinellas Trail notwithstanding, the west side is crisscrossed with major roads that inhibit the kind of pedestrian and bicyclist traffic that give much of the south and north sides a neighborly feel. It was no coincidence that Rick Baker chose a westside restaurant for his primary election night party during the mayoral campaign, an inclusive gesture from a downtown insider.
But these are the broadest of generalities, so sweeping that they can mask as much as they reveal. Real life occurs in a community -- a neighborhood. St. Petersburg has more than 100 of them. Today, we look at life at that level. Nine neighborhoods from St. Petersburg's three main geographic areas are profiled, chosen because they have characteristics that make them unique, as well as those that mirror the generalities of their areas.
You live in one of these neighborhoods, or in one nearby. You may be a resident of the larger city, but most of you have found your common ground closer to home.
Communities of St. Petersburg