A string of Downtown waterfront parks and related public facilities give identity to the City of St. Petersburg, announcing to all that it will attract residents and visitors alike through the beauty of its natural setting, rather than through industry or trade. Indeed, this was the very issue that the city’s founders debated in the early 20th Century, when the first parcels of land were acquired for the purpose of supplanting early industrial uses with the green of a park.
During the past century, change has come to these parks, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad, and the City’s attention to them has waxed and waned. Overall, though, the City has been a good steward of this great resource, and in recent years public use has been higher than ever. The gorgeous panorama presented by the waterfront lures numerous special events; has brought major investments in new residential buildings and cultural venues; and has nurtured a lively street life. Downtown’s public, commercial and residential realms are knit together at Beach Drive, which is lined with residential high-rises that are anchored by cafes and restaurants that offer outdoor seating to take advantage of the park and water views.
The Downtown Neighborhood Association believes that the City of St. Petersburg should be open to positive changes in the park system, while being careful to avoid injurious changes. To accomplish this, a clear vision for the future of the Downtown Waterfront is needed. While each individual park or facility is important, the overall vision must address the whole as a unified system, with the recognition that this whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.
PRESERVATION AND ENHANCEMENT: As the most significant collection of public spaces within the city, the downtown waterfront parks shall be continually improved, and where appropriate, expanded.
- The city shall develop a comprehensive Downtown Waterfront Master Plan by 2015 and such plan shall be significantly updated every 20 years.
- By 2025, downtown St. Petersburg shall be recognized nationally and internationally as a premier urban waterfront destination with the goal of doubling the number of annual visitors, both residents and tourists, to the waterfront parks.
- Proposed major changes to waterfront park properties, facilities and infrastructure shall require a public participatory process and when appropriate be ratified through referendum.
- No portion of the waterfront park property shall be sold or leased for private use without approval by the citizens of St. Petersburg through referendum, as provided in the City Charter.
ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP: The downtown waterfront shall be where St. Petersburg makes most manifest its commitment to the environment through best practices for building construction and operations, water conservation, appropriate landscaping, marina operations, and marine habitat restoration.
- All new buildings shall be LEED Platinum certified or better. Any major renovation of an existing city-owned building shall trigger an upgrade to LEED Silver or better; and all city- owned buildings shall be upgraded by 2020 at the latest.
- The use of renewable energy sources shall be encouraged within the waterfront park properties and by 2020 the use of fossil fuel energy sources within the waterfront park properties shall be 50 percent of 2010 levels.
- All new plumbing fixtures and irrigation systems shall comply with WaterSense specifications. By 2015, all existing city-owned plumbing fixtures and irrigation systems shall comply with WaterSense specifications.
- All landscaping shall be native or adapted and taken together shall express St. Petersburg’s unique ecology.
- The highest standards of marina management – including fuel, trash, and wastewater – shall be implemented.
- There shall be no additional loss to marine life ecosystems and efforts shall be undertaken to restore marine life.
- As existing seawalls deteriorate, they shall be replaced with natural shoreline where appropriate, or with new seawalls designed to support marine life and allow pedestrian access to water.
- The transportation system within the waterfront parks shall be designed to give clear priority to pedestrians.
- By 2020 a continuous pedestrian-only waterfront promenade at least 12 feet wide and using premium materials shall be constructed from 5th Avenue South to 5th Avenue North. The full or partial closure of Bayshore Drive to automobile traffic shall be considered as one alternative to achieve this goal.
- Wherever practical, designated bicycle lanes shall be installed on public streets within and adjacent to the waterfront parks. By 2020, a primary bike trail shall be completed, extending from Poynter Park to Vinoy Park, separate from automobile and pedestrian traffic.
- An inventory of parking spaces within the waterfront parks shall be conducted and the number of parking spaces shall be reduced by no less than 25 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2030.
BALANCED USES: The waterfront district shall be a balance of active and passive places such that both residents and visitors are frequently drawn to it for a variety of uses and activities.
- An analysis shall be undertaken to determine the amount of publicly accessible green space within the waterfront parks and this amount shall be increased by no less that 10 percent by 2020 and 20 percent by 2030. This can be achieved by either decreasing the current amount of impervious surfaces within the existing parks or adding to the park system.
- The waterfront district shall contain a diversity of active and passive elements including striking natural settings, recreational activities, artistic expressions, historic acknowledgements, community gathering places, and educational resources.
- The variety of places, facilities and activities shall promote frequent participation by all segments of the community and be a powerful magnet for both residents and visitors.
- The Pier and Pier Approach shall be improved in a way that celebrates St. Petersburg’s unique geography and history as a waterfront city such that it becomes the visual and functional focal point of the downtown waterfront.
- The new comprehensive downtown waterfront master plan shall include recommendations to significantly increase the public use of the Al Lang Field property, including the adjacent parking lot.
- A permanent home for the Saturday Morning Market shall be established within the waterfront park district.
DOWNTOWN CONNECTIONS: The waterfront parks shall be integrated with downtown both physically and visually through such means as pedestrian connections, view corridors, transit routes, and appropriate edges.
- From 5th Avenue South to 5th Avenue North, including alleys, all existing east-west view corridors shall be preserved as far west as 4th Street. View corridors that have been obstructed shall be reopened wherever possible.
- From 5th Avenue South to 5th Avenue North, all existing east-west pedestrian routes from downtown to the waterfront, including alleys, shall be preserved.
- Pedestrian routes that have been obstructed shall be re-established wherever possible.
- Extensive transit service that is attractive to both residents and visitors shall be implemented between the downtown core and the waterfront district in order to reduce the use of automobiles and improve the pedestrian character and quality of the waterfront experience.
- Various alternatives shall be explored to extend Beach Drive south in order to create a continuous waterfront boulevard from 5th Avenue North to 5th Avenue South.
- The quality and character of the downtown waterfront district south of Central Avenue shall be improved to match the quality and character north of Central Avenue. The city shall implement a combination of zoning regulations, public property improvements, and private sector incentives to achieve this goal.