The Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg has leased a property at 2333 34th Street South, an approximately 23,250 square-foot vacant retail space on the south end of the Lakeview Shopping Center in St. Petersburg. The location will serve as a Social Change Center for at least a 10-year period until 2028. It will create much-needed meeting space for organizations across the County working toward health equity. The Foundation offices will occupy the back portion of the Center. Foundation trustees envisioned and approved a newly-formed mission, including the Social Change Center concept, in 2017. Following an extensive search for a location, a lease agreement was reached on the Lakeview property in early June 2018.
The new mission, to end differences in health due to social or structural disadvantages to improve population health, requires multiple-sector approaches from the faith, nonprofit, government and corporate sectors. The Social Change Center will fuel community-led, multi-sector interventions for improvements in health equity for southern Pinellas County. There is no process, place or the necessary data to improve health equity, and the Social Change Center will provide these and other resources.
Construction is scheduled to start in November, in a design-build led by Wannemacher Jensen. A full restoration of the facility, including new systems and extensive interior and exterior refurbishment, will be undertaken. The space has been vacant for several years and is located in the Community Redevelopment Area in South St. Petersburg. The facility is in the heart of the service area for the Foundation, which is a place-based funder for south Pinellas County.
The Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg launched in 2015 and has been fueling projects and grants since that time with over $17 million spent and/or obligated on 108 projects. The Foundation has been listening to the community in various ways over the past three years, including cataloguing grant applications and conversations with grant seekers, through organized community listening sessions, surveys and multiple other research investments. Community input guided the Foundation’s mission of health equity and the dedication of resources to create a space where innovation and ideas to solve social problems could be addressed.
“The Social Change Center will support our community in their pursuit of innovative solution to the social determinants of health,” said Jonathan M. Ellen, M.D., President and CEO and physician-in-chief of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and Board Chair of the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg. “As a society, we understand the need to fund innovation in the fields of business, medicine and technology, but often fail to invest in solutions to health disparities and inequality. This Center will be a community resource custom designed to empower residents to envision and build a healthier and more equitable South Pinellas County.”
“The Center will be a gathering place to listen, learn, work, heal, and create with like-minded people who have a vision for addressing health equity in our community,” shared St. Pete native and the Foundation’s board vice-chair, Dr. Katurah Jenkins-Hall. “It will not just be an office and convening place, but a welcoming space that we hope will be utilized by community nonprofits and residents.”
Background and Rationale
Business and technology sectors have long understood the value of bringing smart, creative people together with resources to innovate new products, services and business models. A few legendary examples stand out: Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park, Bell Labs, and Lockheed Martin’s Skunkworks. On a more modest scale, local business incubators around the country support the creation of new enterprises that contribute to economic growth and business ownership. Research and development budgets in the public and private sectors are often the keys to innovation in the future.
“Nothing happens without investment, and the time is ripe to provide resources to fuel the community’s wisdom about social change,” said Randall H. Russell, President and CEO of the Foundation. “Persistent intractable social problems like poverty and discrimination will not disappear without concerted, dedicated and focused efforts. The Social Change Center will amplify the wisdom and innovative spirit that resides in the community, particularly among those who are often not given a voice. People are our greatest asset and the single most important driver of social change, but they need support to cultivate and curate their wisdom into solutions.”
The Foundation has committed to investing locally and developing and using local vendors and suppliers. The activities and events at the center will bring many hundreds of people to the neighborhood each year and create a new hub for civic engagement and community empowerment.
“We are extremely excited to establish a space that will also serve as an economic driver and catalyst in South St. Petersburg,” Russell added.
There are very few supported social-change focused centers in the nation. South Pinellas County’s Social Change Center will be a pioneering example of a space dedicated to social change in a specific geographic area. The public, particularly the surrounding neighborhoods, will be invited to help shape and design the resources and programs of the Center, to name it and to embrace it as a truly community-centered asset.
Addressing the Social Determinants of Health Disparities
Fundamental to any strategy of improving health at the population level is close attention to the underlying social determinants of health. Such things as education, housing, and environmental factors like clean air and water, along with income, social support and health behaviors like smoking and exercise. Research from the University of Wisconsin, based on national county health data ranking, reveals that 40 percent of the variations in health outcomes can be attributed to social and economic factors—that’s twice as high as the impact of clinical care.
People are keenly aware of where their communities fail to support healthy outcomes or pose actual barriers to health and well-being. Some of these barriers are structural and systemic in nature, often resulting from generations of racial discrimination and deeply ingrained practices in zoning and banking that discourage investment in communities of color. The Social Change Center will offer an opportunity to incubate grassroots solutions to removing barriers to health equity by bringing together motivated people, supplementing their wisdom and experience with data and other resources, and giving them the space to tackle problems long believed to be intractible.
Listening Sessions and Community Input
The Foundation will listen to shape the design, programming and potentially the name of the Center. The listening will begin with residents of the surrounding neighborhood. All sectors of the community—business, government, faith and nonprofit—will be consulted on how they can best be engaged in Center activities and programs. Beginning July 1, 2018, several communications channels will be available for all members of the public to reach out to the Foundation with questions, suggestions and ideas:
Via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Via voicemail at 727.440.7982
Via comment submitted to the Foundation’s Social Change Center webpage at healthystpete.foundation/socialchangecenter
About the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg
The Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg is a private foundation formed in 2013 following the sale of the nonprofit Bayfront Health St. Petersburg. It is the steward of almost $180 million in assets to support health equity in Pinellas County. The Foundation inspires and empowers people, ideas, information exchange, organizations and relationships to end differences in health due to social or structural disadvantages and improve population health.