Back in 2016, one of the very first articles on our website was called Moving to St Petersburg, FL? Here’s 15 Reasons Why You’ll Be Thankful That You Did. We received a lot of good feedback and I figured it was time to do a more updated version so here we are! Let’s get into it.
If you grew up in a different part of the country, you probably have a few preconceived notions about Florida. I definitely did, although I’m originally from Minnesota, I had visited Florida a few times when I was growing up. One of my first memories was a river boat tour in Ft. Lauderdale seeing the long stretch of mansions, the type of insane wealth that I had never seen before. I had visited my brother in St. Pete, he originally lived here in 2005 when it was a slowly developing city. I remember getting served a draft beer downtown at a bar for the first time at the age of 16 and feeling like a boss. Don’t worry things have changed quite a bit since then.
Those experiences were the two extremes that I based my opinion on until I ended up stationed up in the panhandle at my last duty station in the Air Force. I learned that the panhandle is affectionately referred to as Lower Alabama by many. The beaches are world class and it’s not really developed which is the charm of it. For many this is an amazing place to vacation but the lack of infrastructure didn’t make it a great place for me to live personally.
In 2013 I finished my 4 year enlistment and had the option of getting paid to move back home to Minnesota or picking literally anywhere else within the same driving distance or less. Knowing what I know now, I believe divine intervention brought me to an awesome city before it was a really great place to live.
If you’re reading this you may also be experiencing divine intervention. I figured I’d write this for you just in case you’re living in another part of the country, maybe feeling indifferent about your current situation, maybe you’ve been thinking about how nice a change of pace would be, maybe just wondering if a pandemic would be better if you had a house with a pool in Florida instead. If you typed in “Best City To Move To In Florida” and this came up then you better believe this was divine intervention.
With that said we are about to explore The Top 11 Reasons St. Pete Is The Best City To Move To In Florida.
I mentioned I lived in the Panhandle before and you’d be surprised how cold it actually gets there during the winter. In Miami you have to invest in those ultra thin shirts that are both breathable and make you look fabulous. There’s just no winning on either of those extremes.
St. Pete is pretty much Goldilocks porridge in city form, not too hot, not too cold, just right baby. We have a beautiful short lived winter 4-6 months out of the year and then a humid hot and rainy season. It seems as if our location is also somewhat protected from direct hits from major hurricanes. I unfortunately don’t currently have any wood near me to knock on but let me go take care of that and I’ll be right back. In addition to the weather, Tampa Bay has an international airport and a cruise port as well. It’s an hour flight from Tampa to Atlanta so connecting anywhere whether it be for work or fun is easy.
10. Downtown St. Pete
I’ve always valued a solid walkable area. You know what’s awesome? Patio seating for bars and restaurants on a sidewalk. You know what else I love? Not having to get in my car to go everywhere. You probably also have a preconceived notion of what a Downtown is.
Some downtown areas have a ton of infrastructure but no soul. Some are just overly crowded with traffic and people. Thankfully ours is a bit more low key. There are some long term residents here that think that it may lose its charm since it’s becoming developed at an unprecedented rate. We’re at a bit of a pivotal point in St. Pete history so no one really knows what’s going to happen.
When I first moved here in 2013 I would bike down Central Avenue Downtown and see the vast amount of vacant or underutilized space in a city that had an amazing amount of potential, especially for a walkable area right on the waterfront. At one point I had wondered if I moved to the wrong city because there wasn’t a whole lot going on.
The city started growing exponentially and now it’s a lot more vibrant. Artistic murals and palm trees are the atmosphere, the social vibe consists of mostly transplants from elsewhere who are friendly and open to meeting new people, it’s a good mix of people of all ages. The sidewalks are a bit more filled out since I originally moved here. Many of those previously vacant or underutilized buildings have now turned into cafes, coffeeshops, art galleries, breweries, bars and restaurants, fitness studios. We even have a dog bar in the Grand Central District right outside of Downtown.
9. Grand Central District
I figured while we’re on the topic of districts we would talk about what’s quickly becoming Downtown Jr. What’s interesting about this area is how a lot of the commercial real estate was repurposed into something that made the city more fun. Warehouses and auto mechanic garages were turned into breweries and restaurants which allowed for bigger, more open space type establishments.
One of the first neighborhoods you’ll probably hear about when you look up St. Pete is Historic Kenwood. This borders the north end of Grand Central. Historic Kenwood has the highest concentration of 1920’s Craftsman style bungalows in the entire state of Florida. It’s a neighborhood known for its friendliness and inclusivity. Homes are typically on the smaller side here but it is going to be one of the best neighborhoods to consider if a small and charming home is your goal.
The extension of The Grand Central District on the southern border is the Warehouse Arts District. This area is a mix of industrial and residential. Sometimes referred to as South Kenwood, this area is booming with artists studios, breweries, gyms, coffee shops, bike shops and more. Grand Central and Warehouse Arts blend into each other and are basically one in the same. Here is an article with some more information on Grand Central if you’re curious.
One thing I love about this area is an art event that happens every month – The Second Saturday Artwalk where dozens of art galleries and studios open their doors to the public. You can see art demonstrations like live painting, glass blowing and pottery and some galleries like Duncan McClellan also have live music.
There is a massive amount of artists that participate and you’ll see everything from amateur to world class artwork. These pieces of art run anywhere from a few dollars to tens of thousands. You can also jump on the free trolley to jump around to different galleries! Here’s a video I made of one of the events last year.
While we’re on the topic of artists, let’s talk about the abundance of public artwork that seems to energize our city. There are hundreds of murals throughout our city, many of the more prominent ones located both Downtown and in The Grand Central District. I found this quote about murals that I feel illustrates their importance in our city, according to crpbayarea.org “ Murals create a tangible sense of place, destination, resulting in increased foot traffic while adding color, vibrancy, and character to urban environment.”
They go on to say Murals are examples of the controversial “broken windows” theory in reverse – enhancing public safety by creating a feeling that a location is cared for, which in turn makes crimes of opportunity – such as vandalism, illegal dumping, drug use, and robbery – less likely.”
This is extremely relevant today. As I’m writing this article cities across the nation are experiencing massive rioting, businesses are getting broken into, robbed and set on fire. In St. Pete we of course had demonstrations but they were all peaceful while just across the bridge in Tampa there’s chaos.
Isn’t it interesting how much of an effect artwork can have on the general attitude of the city? People see this amazing art and it seems to provide a sense of belonging in our awesome city.
7. It’s A New Age Melting Pot
The United States was originally referred to as “The Melting Pot” to describe the wide variety of types of people we have living here. Yes we have our issues but this sort of diversity is what makes The United States a great place in my opinion. I lived in Europe for two years and met people from different cultures which made me reflect on how our American society is set up. We are admired for our ingenuity when it comes to advancement of technology, music, movies and TV shows. All this innovation couldn’t be possible if we all had similar backgrounds in my opinion.
I’ve noticed that St. Pete is it’s own new age melting pot. The majority of people you meet are transplants from other parts of the US and the world. That alone is a great way to start a conversation. St. Pete seems to embrace diversity and is an accepting city regardless of your race, sexual orientation, gender or whatever.
There also seems to be a growing population of young entrepreneurs that live here. Places like New York, California and Miami have a high cost of living which is difficult to maintain when you’re getting a company off the ground. This part of Florida is beautiful and the dynamics of our city allows for us to network and meet new people. I think that’s a winning combination for entrepreneurship.
I go back to Europe periodically and have my fun but I’m always so surprised when I get back at how friendly Americans are after experiencing the contrast in other cultures. I’ve never been the patriotic type however I’m thankful that I was able to see this contrast to fully appreciate my lifestyle here.
6. Walkability & Bikeability
This is the request we receive the most often. People are sick of having to get in their cars to go everywhere. Living in a walkable area allows you to have a different type of lifestyle. Yes it is great to have the convenience to walk to get your groceries or go out to eat but I think more than that it helps to make you part of a local community.
What’s the best way to make friends as an adult? I think a good part of it is frequenting the same places and making friends with the people that you see on a regular basis. This could be the people that work at these local establishments or other regular customers.
I don’t live in an area walkable to Downtown however I’m able to bike downtown which I’m equally happy with. Downtown has a ton of variety spread over a couple of miles so biking is ideal. This is also true during the summer when it’s really hot out! It’s nice to get a little breeze when the sun is beating down on you. We have The Pinellas Trail and a ton of bike lanes which helps make biking around easy and safe.
We have some pretty great history here that’s apparent in the styles of both residential and commercial architecture. The simple fact that we have brick lined streets and massive banyan trees that are hundreds of years old really gives this area a sense of wonderment.
Did you know that in 1914 the first commercial airline flight ever flew from St. Pete to Tampa? A short flight however what a massive accomplishment that changed our world. We also have architectural ruins from the Spanish-American war and even some history that dates back to the Civil War.
4. Massive Amount Of Development
Some places in Florida especially near the beach tend to stay more or less the same for years or even decades. There is something to be said about the charm of having an area stay the same instead of being overly developed. This is especially true if you visit these places growing up with your family and come back to revisit the nostalgia.
That’s not exactly what I value in a place to live though and I know most other Millennials and the generations coming up now are searching for. From my experience I think that people want somewhere that can provide a variety of new experiences every day.
Let me explain the types of experiences that have opened up since about 2015 when this city started to develop more rapidly.
Local businesses are different because they are typically the owner’s passion project. When done right, a passion project can be a rewarding experience for both the owner and his or her customer base.
One of the biggest catalysts in this city becoming a fun place to live was the advent of the brewery scene. Multiple high quality breweries opened up starting with 3 Daughters, Cycle Brewing, Cage Brewing and Green Bench. This allowed for people to come out and have fun and enjoy a beer in big open spaces. A place that is acceptable for families to relax a bit and bring their kids to have fun too. You wouldn’t take your kids to a bar but breweries are a whole different atmosphere.
There’s been dozens of local restaurants that have opened up. All passion projects instead of corporate owned chains. People from all different cultures live in St. Pete and this reflects in our food scene.
There is a continuous flow of residential development on a commercial scale that promotes walkability. Apartments, condos and townhomes have been built to allow people to experience our downtown area just by walking out the front door. In a country that is mostly dependent on getting in a car to go anywhere – this is a breath of fresh air.
There are locals who are opposed to the massive amount of development here so I think it’s important to address those concerns as well. A lot of our city has historical value. That’s kind of what makes a city like St. Pete retain it’s charm. Some locals are afraid that the development will go too far and historical buildings will be demolished to make way for new condos.
Luckily there’s a historical society called Preserve The Burg that makes a concerted effort to help maintain the charm of our city. I’m optimistic and think that we can see our city develop in a positive manner while still retaining the historic charm of the area. You see this type of juxtaposition in cities across Europe and it seems to really work well.
Downtown St. Pete isn’t necessarily considered affordable for many however we still have a solid amount of up and coming neighborhoods that will appreciate over time. Pinellas County is a peninsula and most of the land is already built on. Judging by the massive amount of commercial and residential development here currently, I think it’s safe to say that land values will only continue to go up over time as this area continues to become a more desirable place to live.
Compared to the rest of the United States we’re almost on par with average cost of housing, actually a little bit less than average. This area is an above average place to live with a cost of living for housing that is reasonable. If you have the ability to work remotely from a higher cost of living area, St. Pete might be the perfect place for you.
2. New Districts
I previously mentioned the new districts that have popped up since 2013 when I first moved here. Downtown used to be mainly the only place to go for entertainment however areas with commercial space have developed to accommodate new local businesses. Now a couple other areas have developed – The EDGE District and Grand Central/Warehouse Arts being the most prominent. There are also new areas that will continue to pop up and grow as some of these local businesses get priced out of Downtown. This could be great news for you if you’re looking to open up your own shop somewhere.
One area that is developing rapidly is the section of MLK between about 5th and 30th Ave N. For the longest time this street had a solid amount of underutilized commercial space but now it’s home to some quaint restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, tattoo parlors and neighborhood bars. MLK runs parallel to 4th street which is our main commercial corridor for groceries, restaurants, retail and more. The development of 4th street started pushing west and now this area is finally coming into its own. 16th Street is the next commercial corridor and will eventually develop further as well.
My favorite neighborhood hangout is the Uptown area. A building which was once a run down laundromat has been converted to a commercial space that’s home to a yoga studio, coffeeshop and general store. Right next to that building an apartment garage was built out into a fun little restaurant called The Bier Boutique. This is all sitting right next to a pleasant area called Round Lake Park. Located on 7th Ave N, this is a great place to find some serenity just outside our busy downtown.
Another area that has a massive amount of potential in my opinion is what’s currently referred to as Commerce Park. This area located just south of the Warehouse Arts District has a large amount of buildable land and also a historic main street designation. What’s interesting about this area is that the plans to redevelop were originally proposed in 2007 after the city secured a federal grant. The city did not use the grant for 12 years and it expired – This article on StPeteRising.com does a great job of outlining the current plans for this project. According to this article “The hope is that economic development will create jobs and prosperity that ripple into the surrounding neighborhoods.”
This article wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention our amazing beaches. They’ve been voted best in the nation many times over so I think that speaks for itself. I believe we have roughly 25 miles of beaches and every beach city offers something a little bit different. Whether you’re looking for spring break central or something more relaxing we have it all. There’s also a beach on Ft. Desoto that allows dogs to run around off leash!
What are you waiting for? Moving to a new city is probably just what you need to spice your life up a bit. One thing I love about my job is meeting people who are excited to move here and putting on my tourist guide hat to show visitors my favorite spots. If you plan a trip here let me know and we’ll meet for a walk or a drink or maybe some volleyball!