A partnership effort launched recently to transform transportation and development in Pinellas County’s economic center, the Gateway/Mid-County Area.
The Gateway Master Plan is a collaborative effort led by Forward Pinellas, the countywide land use and transportation planning agency, along with funding partners Pinellas County, the cities of St. Petersburg, Largo, Pinellas Park, and the Florida Department of Transportation.
Over the next 18 months, the study team will explore issues such as regional transportation connections, improving local road networks to relieve highway congestion, accommodating all modes of transportation including bicycles and pedestrians, transit center feasibility and associated transit-oriented development, industrial redevelopment, affordable housing and resiliency.
In terms that matter to residents’ daily lives, the master plan is about creating a livable area that continues to attract ample jobs and includes multiple options get to work and other destinations safely and conveniently.
The $1 million partnership between these local governments, Forward Pinellas and FDOT ensures that this won’t be a plan that sits on a shelf. It also coincides with the construction of the Gateway Expressway toll road, Tampa Bay Next interstate modernization projects and the Regional Transit Feasibility Plan, all of which have possible impacts on the Gateway area.
"A master plan is a holistic approach to an area-wide plan," said Whit Blanton, executive director of Forward Pinellas. "It is a physical plan. We look at the big picture as well as at the street level and parcels. But it’s also a policy plan that focuses on what we need to invest, whose responsibility that investment is, and how we can implement the recommendations of the plan."
The Gateway/Mid-County area is defined generally for the purposes of this study as the area bounded by Belleair Road to the north, Starkey Road to the west, Gandy Boulevard/70th Avenue to the south, and Tampa Bay to the east. It is home to many of the county’s businesses, including the Carillon Business Park, Bay Vista and Icot Center, as well as possible sites for industrial redevelopment.
According to Pinellas County Economic Development’s comprehensive workforce assessment, only 8 percent of employees who work in the general Gateway area live within a 10-minute drive, making it an essential area for transportation improvements and connections for future regional transit.
“The Gateway/Mid-County area of Pinellas is a key employment center that is crucial to both our local and regional economic development efforts,” shared Mike Meidel, director of Pinellas County Economic Development. “Partnership and collaboration will allow the Steering Committee to balance land use and transportation needs to develop a working plan to spur sustainable development, investment and job creation in Pinellas.”
Economic development is an important consideration at the local level for cities, as well.
“For the city of Largo, we committed to participate in the Gateway Master Plan partnership because it will identify opportunities to revitalize areas that may be falling below their potential,” said Carol Stricklin, Largo’s Community Development director. “This process will help us plan for incentivizing redevelopment in the future to foster economic development.”
The benefits of having a comprehensive master plan were clear to the government partners that signed on to the effort, as well as the FDOT, which matched the local government contributions to the study.