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Catalyze 2023: Councilmember Copley Gerdes – St Pete Catalyst




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We’re asking thought leaders, business people and creatives to talk about 2023 and give us catalyzing ideas for making St. Pete a better place to live. What should our city look like? What are their hopes, their plans, their problem solving-ideas? This is Catalyze 2023.
As a representative of St. Petersburg’s District 1, which encompasses the city’s west side, Councilmember Copley Gerdes would like to see 2023 bring more growth and opportunities to the area.
During recent one-on-one talks with city administrators, Gerdes said, he expressed his desire to create a unified West Central Avenue business group. He said it would focus on smaller organizations in the area and provide much-needed and deserved assistance.
Gerdes relayed his excitement for the recently approved West Central Avenue redevelopment plan. That corridor is a critical connector for St. Petersburg and links residents and visitors to downtown, the beaches and commercial districts. However, he would like to increase communication, “eyeball to eyeball,” among the area’s stakeholders and city officials.
“Make sure our west businesses are getting the support they need like they would in downtown or the Edge District and places like that,” added Gerdes. “Just share best practices … and get feedback on what’s happening, what the landscape looks like and what they are hearing and feeling.
“That’s really powerful to bring back to the dais.”
Gerdes also expressed his anticipation to address the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina, a key downtown asset that has fallen into disrepair. He said city officials must move that project forward with a sense of urgency, and he hopes to make progress before winter turns to spring.
He expects city administration to provide an update regarding their request for proposals (RFP) selection early next year. At the last formal discussion in May, council members voted 5-3 to hear more details on a potential renovation and operation agreement with Tennessee-based Safe Harbor Development.
At that meeting, City Administrator Rob Gerdes – the councilmember’s uncle – said his team was finalizing a proforma for the city to complete the redevelopment and that he would bring that to the council as soon as possible. Councilmember Gerdes said he prefers to go with the administration’s selection. “If we don’t – no matter what, we have to move forward,” he added. “We owe it to our waterfront, we owe it to our slip holders and we owe it to our residents to have a beautiful marina. And we’re behind on that right now.”
Looking back at his first year in office, Gerdes said the council tackled some important issues – like dedicating 76% of American Rescue Plan Act funding to housing – and handled various challenges “very well.”
He believes city leadership continues to learn and improve and credited the people they serve for showing up in a way “that makes me really proud to be a part of St. Petersburg.”
Gerdes said he looks forward to a selection from “four really good” Tropicana Field/Historic Gas Plant District Redevelopment proposals and smaller projects like infrastructure improvements and new developments along the 22nd Street South corridor.
He also listed the Trails Crossing initiative, which would transform blighted areas underneath I-275 into vibrant spaces that connect disjoined neighborhoods, as one of the “cool little steps that I think continue to make our city an awesome place.”
Gerdes hopes to be the best councilman, small business owner, husband, dad, brother and friend possible in 2023. After a challenging year that followed a pandemic, his wife’s recovery from cancer and his election, he believes a year of experience on the dais will help him blend those roles.
“I’m excited to have a year to where I feel like we’ve got a little bit of a running start in the Gerdes household,” he said. “So, I’m excited to jump into that.”
City council “moves the needle every day,” Gerdes stated. He elaborated that often results from the little things – helping people with permit information or understanding an ordinance – rather than public votes on Thursdays.
It could also be just picking up the phone and lending an ear to constituents, and Gerdes said those are the things he tells his wife and kids about during family evenings.
“So, at the end of the day, it’s all worth it,” he added. “And I’m just super blessed to be able to do it.”
 
 
Robyn Marcus
December 23, 2022at8:55 pm
Keep St Petersburg charm alive! And your enthusiasm for building and expanding, we are very cultural City and if we lose the capacity to house our own residence we will lose that place we call home!
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