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Innovation District Trolley Tours: Exposing the High-Tech Side of St. Petersburg

Posted on Dec 26, 2018

Jennifer Arnold, M.D., medical director for the Center for Medical Simulation and Innovative Education, during a St. Petersburg Innovation District trolley tour stop at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital
Jennifer Arnold, M.D., medical director for the Center for Medical Simulation and Innovative Education, talked to attendees about the simulation center during a recent Innovation District trolley tour.

Many trolleys circle downtown St. Petersburg these days, but there’s one trolley that’s building high-tech collaborations and partnerships that will impact the city’s future.

The St. Pete Innovation District’s quarterly trolley tour is a free three-hour experience for Innovation District and community leaders to get a taste of the numerous high-technology programs in St. Petersburg.

“Within five blocks, we have the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and the largest concentration of marine scientists in the southeast, St. Petersburg’s Innovation District,” says Alison Barlow, executive director of the district. “We focus on bringing these organizations together with the community to learn from each other and address key issues. One way we do this is with trolley tours.

“The trolley tour concept came from seeing food tours in other cities, where you stop and get a little taste of various restaurants. One of the goals for the Innovation District is to let members get to know about each other, so we adapted the food tour concept using trolley tours to give people a chance to ‘get a taste’ of the best of what the Innovation District has to offer.”

Typically, the tours consist of four stops. The district is broken into several clusters, life science and health, education, marine science, and arts and entrepreneurship. Each tour focuses on the various clusters and can host about 20 participants. Half of the participants are from Innovation District organizations and the others are from the Tampa Bay community at large.

Each tour stop is about 20 minutes. The goal is to show participants something they don’t know about the district. “When we first tried the trolley tour a little over a year ago, we didn’t know how it would work,” Barlow says. “But the concept took off and it has created a real buzz in the community.”

The new Johns Hopkins All Children’s Research and Education Building is the newest stop on the tour. Last month’s trolley tour included a visit to the Center for Medical Simulation and Innovative Education and a reception at The Peabody restaurant. The simulation center made a real impression on tour participants.

Barlow says one of the surprise benefits of the trolley tours has been new collaborations formed by those who met on the trolley and decided to work together on a project.

If you would like to take a Trolley Tour of the Innovation District, contact the Innovation District at for a schedule of upcoming tours.

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