Plans for new Woodson African American Museum in the Deuces move forward
Published by St. Pete Rising Urban Development News on February 25, 2021
After a year of planning, St. Petersburg City Council unanimously voted earlier this month to approve $700,000 in funding for the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, including a new location on 22nd Street and an impressive, Jazz-inspired design.
The soon-to-be-constructed 29,000 square foot building, designed by renowned Black-owned New York City-based Huff + Gooden Architects and local firm Wannemacher Jensen Architects, will feature two permanent collection galleries, a traveling exhibit gallery, a sculpture garden, outdoor covered event space, and a 500-seat event forum. In addition, there will be a book and gift shop, catering kitchen, and administrative offices on site.
“This is not a stagnant museum with merely a collection of items and artifacts of history,” noted Jason Jensen, Principal at Wannemacher Jensen Architects. “This is an events-oriented museum, events that are outside and easier to access for a community that didn't always have access to museums.”
“We want to create a sense of place at the street to bring people into the street and to provide all of these outdoor spaces along the street edge,” Jensen added. “The building literally lifts up and invites entry.”
Mario Gooden, Founder and Principal at Huff + Gooden, could not travel from New York due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, but addressed City Council via video message
Preliminary renderings of the new Carter G. Woodson museum feature an abundant of outdoor space for events.
A preliminary rendering of the museum’s lobby.
“The design is suggestive of the ways Black people have moved through space and negotiated the boundaries and barriers of the social, political, and economic landscapes to form new ways of living and new ways of being free,” Gooden explained. “Like Jazz music, which is often referred to as America’s classical music, the design for the new museum with its visibility along the Deuces exemplifies the ways in which African American history and culture are indeed American history and culture.”
The February 4th vote of approval is an important step forward for Mayor Rick Kriseman’s “Deuces Rising” initiative, which allocated $1 million and a one-acre parcel of land to the beloved museum in 2019. City Council initially approved $200,000 and later an additional $100,000 last year to kick-off the project with site surveying and geotechnical testing. The latest vote fulfilled the remaining committed funds.
The new museum will front 22nd Street South in the Deuces, just blocks from the existing museum.
"I am incredibly excited about the prospect of a new Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum on the Deuces, said Mayor Kriseman. “What has been proposed is a place that will bring people together to learn of the countless contributions of our African American brothers and sisters, as well as their unique, and often painful journey in the Sunshine City. We have a lot to learn, and this museum will help."
In total, the upgrades are expected to cost $18-20 million and will be largely funded through donations, grants, and fundraising.
Located directly across from the Historic Manhattan Casino, the new site is just a few blocks away from the museum’s current location in the historically Black Deuces neighborhood of St. Pete.
The museum will feature two permanent collection galleries and a traveling exhibit gallery.
The Deuces, a nickname for 22nd Street South, was once a bustling Main Street for St. Pete’s African American community. At its peak in the 1960s before the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the street featured hundreds of local businesses, professional offices, and entertainment venues for the Black community, more than 75% of which were Black-owned.
In August, the City approved plans that would transform the Historic Manhattan Casino into a community hub for art, music, culture, food, and business.
“We are so excited for the opportunity to engage and present to our community a first-class African American museum to add to the other extraordinary museums we celebrate in this community,” emphasized Terri Lipsey Scott, Executive Director of the museum.
The original Woodson African American Museum is located at 2240 9th Avenue South and is expected to remain open while fundraising and grant writing for the new museum progresses.
A preliminary site plan of the new Carter G. Woodson African American Museum.