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Saturday, Oct 25, 2014

Hill: Recalling the wonders of St. Pete

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Published:   |   Updated: April 27, 2014 at 12:09 AM

Someone asked me the other day whether I preferred the old or the new St. Pete. I replied that I love both.

But I have to admit that when I go downtown now it’s as if I’ve tripped down the rabbit hole into Wonderland like Alice or somehow — without the tornado — ended up like Dorothy in Oz.

I keep hearing myself say to people who are relative newcomers and are either crowing or complaining about something, “When I was a kid ...” Or, “Just a few years ago ...”

It’s hard for a lot of people to realize that there have been several “new” St. Petersburgs, even since the Florida Suncoast Dome, now Tropicana Field, opened in 1990.

The high-rise condominiums — except the Bayfront Tower — are relative newcomers to downtown, as is the new Dali Museum and the revamped Mahaffey Center.

And while the downtown core was spiffing up, the cultural and economic enrichment of areas west of the core are a more recent development.

It was hard enough for someone who remembered covering the beginnings of the renovation of the Vinoy Hotel in the late 1980s — not to mention vivid recollections dating back to the 1950s of the vacant and empty and vandalized Don CeSar — to adjust to the old new St. Petersburg, not to mention the new new St. Pete.

As Tribune reporter Josh Boatwright explained in a story last week, the most recent boom that began last year is only intensifying.

New high-rise and mid-rise apartments are planned.

Bill Edwards, who manages the Mahaffey and is the owner of BayWalk/Sundial, which will open soon, recently purchased vacant property near the Sundial that is large enough for another impressive development. Edwards is mum on his plans for the land.

All I ask of all these developers, as basically a lifelong resident of this wacky and wonderful city, is Be Kind. There’s a flavor here. An ambiance.

Please help preserve it.

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I worry that the wonders of St. Pete will get lost in one of these booms.

If you’re looking for a new excuse to visit downtown today, the St. Petersburg Museum of History is hosting its inaugural opening of a craft beer café this weekend.

Hops and Props Craft Beer Café opens at noon today, featuring 24 craft beers and food. Breweries include Green Bench Brewing Co., 3 Daughters Brewing, St. Pete Brewing Company, Cigar City Brewing, Rapp Brewing Company and Big Storm Brewing Company. There will be live music from 2 to 6 p.m., and $5 drafts. Complimentary appetizers also will be served.

The café will be open Tuesdays through Sundays, noon until midnight.

For information about Hops and Props, call (727) 803-6806. Or visit www.Hops props.com.

The museum is on the approach to the Pier at 335 Second Ave. NE.

On May 8, the Museum will host Happy Hour with the Historian featuring author and historian Jon Wilson and his most recent book, “The Golden Era of St. Petersburg.”

Both of these events are part of the effort by the museum to broaden its appeal to the community.

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