– By Gypsy C. Gallardo
Most everyone knows that the area located south of Central Avenue is home to a lion’s share of St. Petersburg’s black voters, but too few people understand the distinctions between the areas sometimes called “Midtown” and “Childs Park,” and how they differ from the newly created “CRA” or from South St. Petersburg as a whole.
The misunderstanding is perpetuated by the media’s frequent conflation of the term “Midtown” with the ethnic group called “black” or “African American.” Here are some crib notes that clarify.
South St. Petersburg as a whole occupies about 25 square miles, south of Central Avenue. Midtown is a tad more than one fifth of that territory (5.5 square miles) and Childs Park is smaller (about 1.5 to 2 square miles, depending).
The still-new CRA, which is short for Community Redevelopment Area, roughly encompasses Midtown and Childs Park combined (7.4 square miles). Its formal name is “the South St. Petersburg CRA.”
The white-bordered area of this map highlights the CRA. Midtown is the portion of the CRA that is situated east of 34th Street, while the Childs Park portion of the CRA jets west of 34th Street. For a more precise picture of the CRA’s boundaries, click here.
Most (79%) of the city’s black population lives in South St. Petersburg; and nearly half (47%) of the black populace resides within the CRA (which again, is roughly Midtown and Childs Park together).
But only about 57% of South St. Petersburg’s population is black; some 35,000 non-black people live there!
Midtown proper is home to only about 38% or so of the city’s black residents, though it is the densest concentration (per square mile) of African Americans in the city.
|South St. Pete
|North St. Pete
|All of St. Pete
|% City’s Black Population
The term “Midtown” is still fairly new as a geographic reference. As far as I can recall, it came about at around the turn of the century, and rose in profile under the administration of former Mayor Rick Baker who used it prolifically in city documents and spoken references. I asked community historian Gwen Reese about this. Her recollection is the same.
The media uses the term more often than residents of the area actually do. The City of St. Petersburg still incorporates the reference into some reports, but invokes it less and less as the CRA gains traction as the geographic focus of redevelopment actions.
Some African Americans dislike the term (some even vehemently so). Others are indifferent to it. Over the years, it has penetrated the parlance of the community and can be heard here and there, often in forums that have to do with community advancement.
The original definition of “Midtown” can be found in the Midtown Strategic Planning Initiative report, published in April 2002: “Midtown is a community located in a 5.51 square mile area just south of Downtown St. Petersburg, between 2nd Avenue North and 30th Avenue South to the north and south, and 4th Street and 34th Street to the east and west.”