The St. Petersburg Downtown Neighborhood Association traces its roots to a smaller neighborhood group called the Mirror Lake Neighborhood Association, which had formed in 1993 to address issues in the area around the former St. Petersburg High School, which had been converted to condominiums. Eventually, the boundaries of that association expanded to include the area from Central Avenue to 5th Street North, between 4th Street and ML King Street. But, by 1999 the association had become largely inactive until a group of previous Mirror Lake board members, community leaders and neighboring neighborhood association representatives took charge to revamp the organization.
On May 12, 1999, the new association held its organizational meeting. Those attending voted to name it the North Downtown (“NoDo”) Neighborhood Association, with new boundaries extending from Tampa Bay to ML King Street, and from Central Avenue to 5th Street. At this time, the Mirror Lake group disbanded and turned over its treasury (small!) to help NoDo get going.
First Leaders and Past Presidents
The first president of NoDo was Tim Clemmons, an architect who at one time had been president of the Crescent Lake Neighborhood Association. The treasurer was Tim Baker, who had once served as president of the Old Northeast Neighborhood Association. Secretary was Jim Brennan. A couple of dozen people became members.
Tim Clemmons served in the office through 2001. In 2002, Tim Baker, an original board member of NoDo, became president. He served as NoDo president and then DNA president for seven years. In 2009, Marilyn Olsen became president, and soon the organization began a major new effort pushing the city to adopt a master plan for the Downtown Waterfront.
Outreach Beginnings and the Rise of St. Pete Development
NoDo published its first newsletter in June, 1999. There were stories about the organizational meeting, about the adoption by the City Council of a new parking plan for Downtown, and about the progress of Baywalk, the proposed new shopping center that was then under discussion. The story noted that representatives of Baywalk would attend the next NoDo meeting to discuss their plans with neighborhood residents. There was also an article about NoDo’s first social event, an upcoming group outing to watch a Devil Rays game.
The Baywalk meeting was emblematic of what NoDo did during its first few years of existence. This was when a building boom in Downtown St. Pete was just getting under way, and NoDo made sure to keep its members and others in the neighborhood informed of every new proposal that came along. The NoDo board or the members of its Planning Committee often met with developers to review proposed projects. NoDo representatives also appeared frequently at City Hall to comment on these projects, at meetings of the City Council or of the several boards that ruled on proposed projects. Social events were also a regular part of NoDo from the beginning, the most popular being a series of chili cook offs that were held at the Sunshine Center.
A Look At the Last Fifteen Years
In May of 2000, NoDo adopted the Vision Statement that applies today and determines they will serve as an organization that spoke for residents, and serves as a strong, reputable and informative resource.
In 2003, the leadership of the University Park Neighborhood Association proposed to NoDo that the two groups merge. UP covered the south half of Downtown, from the water to ML King Street, and from Central to 5th Avenue South. That became a reality in January, 2004, when the Downtown Neighborhood Association was created. The board of the former NoDo took over as the new board of DNA, and UP turned overs its treasury (again, quite small) to the new group.
In 2005, the top headline in the DNA News heralded what would become a major effort for the association for about two years. The headline said: Development Rules Soon to Change. The story noted that the land development regulations and zoning rules that had governed new construction in Downtown had not changed for some 20 years, and that the City was soon to adopt new ones. Of course, when dealing with City Hall, “soon” could mean years. In fact, the push for new development rules went back to at least 2001, when the city held a series of “Vision 20/20″ meetings to get a sense of how people thought the city, especially Downtown, should look in the future. NoDo representatives had taken part in those meetings, and had continued to follow the effort on new rules. But in 2005, City Hall was ready to move forward. NoDo was an influential aspect of this development and community advancement.
In 2010, Ms. Olsen the President at the time, formed a new committee to come up with a proposal for a vision statement that would detail in broad terms how DNA thought the waterfront and its park should develop (or not develop) in the future. While such a vision statement would be useful for the association itself, the ultimate goal was to push the city to adopt such a statement, and to use that statement to create an actual master plan.
After a number of meetings, the DNA membership did adopt a Waterfront Vision Statement. And then the push began to get the city to do the same.
Fortuitously, at this time a Charter Review Commission had been set up by the city to propose charter amendments that would be voted on by the public in November, 2011. Ms. Olsen proposed to this committee, headed by former City Council member Virginia Littrell, that it consider a charter amendment requiring the city to adopt a Waterfront Master Plan. In the end, the commission agreed with the DNA proposal. And so, in November, did the city’s voters. Thus, the City Charter now requires the city by 2015 to adopt and maintain a master plan for the Downtown Waterfront.
Meanwhile, under Ms. Olsen, DNA again expanded its boundaries to their present state: from 5th Avenue North to 5th Avenue South between the waterfront and ML King Street, and between 1st Avenues north and south out to 18th Street. That extension was requested by residents at the new 1010 Central Avenue, who otherwise were not part of any neighborhood association.
Also new under Ms. Olsen’s presidency were the Urban Porch Parties, a continuing series of social gatherings that have proved to be the most popular events ever sponsored by the association.
In Recent Years
In 2013, Gary Grooms took over as the fourth president in the association’s history and served through 2014. During his term, Gary introduced the Tour of Homes which brought over 125 people to 6 selected condominium homes to view their unique style, revitalized the Urban Porch Parties, and expanded the board to incorporate some new, talented and eager residents.
The Annual General Meeting was held on January 8th, 2015 where Al Scafati was appointed as the new President for 2015.
In 2016, spearheaded by Gina Discoll, the Clean Waterways Project was launched.
Learn about the new officers and board of directors.