Mayor and City Council:
Re: Downtown Waterfront Master Plan
In October, 2010, the St. Petersburg Downtown Neighborhood Association produced a Downtown Waterfront Vision Statement (attached) that had five main goals:
- Preservation and Enhancement
- Environmental Stewardship
- Pedestrian First
- Balanced Uses
- Downtown Connections
A main element of the Vision Statement called for “…a comprehensive Downtown Waterfront Master Plan by 2015 and such plan shall be significantly updated every 20 years.” We are very pleased that such a plan is in the last stages of adoption and largely meets the goals established in 2010. While we support the overall direction and most of the content of the Master Plan, we are opposed to the use of public lands for private, commercial purposes, most specifically the hotel suggested for the “Arts/Entertainment District”. The SPDNA endorses the Master Plan Guiding Principles listed below as they are consistent with the SPDNA Waterfront Vision Statement:
- Stewardship of the Waterfront Environment which emphasizes the ecology of the City and recognizes the need for climate adaption
- Enhancing the Experience of the Water, particularly in increasing and improving access to the water
- An Active Waterfront Parks System which will both preserve and enhance the character of our City, will diversify waterfront activities to meet our growing and changing community, and should better support large community gatherings
- Economically Vibrant Downtown Places along the Water which will extend the waterfront value into the neighborhoods and help realize St. Petersburg’s economic potential by leveraging assets like the deep water port, the Salt Creek marine industries, and the redevelopment of the Pier and related uplands.
- A Connected, Accessible Downtown and Waterfront, focusing on continuous linkages, service oriented parking/transit, and increased public access.
The SPDNA is supportive of the recommendations identified in the Bayboro/Salt Creek District: improving the streetscape and the water’s edge, expanding Poynter Park and USFSP, creating Port Discovery, and creating a pedestrian trail from Bayboro to Lassing Park.
Our 2010 document included this statement: “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.” AECOM’s recommendations for the Market Plaza and 4th Avenue Events Street, and the current upgrading of Al Lang Field, should result in greater public use, particularly if the field itself can be used for programming in addition to soccer.
While there are many positives in the recommendations for the South Basin District (e.g. Demens Landing improvements, high-speed ferry opportunities, the Bayshore Drive Promenade, etc.) we do not support the hotel concept put forward for the Cultural/Entertainment District nor the broader notion of private use of public land. It is recognized that the current use of the land adjacent to and surrounding the Dali Museum and the Mahaffey Theater – i.e. surface parking for a few hundred cars – is not the best use of scarce waterfront land. Other concepts such as a small conference center or another museum could be beneficial to the City and could help spur economic development. In any event, we recognize that 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.
In summary, the St. Petersburg Downtown Neighborhood Association endorses the overall direction of the Downtown Waterfront Master Plan put forward by AECOM; commends AECOM, City staff, and the citizens who participated in this process for a thorough and thoughtful direction for our waterfront; but recommends that further discussion take place around the Cultural/Entertainment District thoughts in order to resolve the issues raised.
St. Petersburg Downtown Neighborhood Association
March 15, 2015
Re: Preservation Ordinance
The St. Petersburg Downtown Neighborhood Association believes that the historic character of St. Petersburg is a contributor to our quality of life and is an attraction for visitors and business. Truly historic properties reflect positively on our past and complement an exciting time of growth and development in St. Pete. And as St. Petersburg has thrived under the current Historical Preservation Ordinance, we also believe that changes should be approached with a great deal of caution.
It is our sense that the proposals for change currently being considered have not had a thorough airing. Even though discussions have been ongoing for several years there continues to be a great deal of misinformation, misunderstanding and lack of knowledge among even the informed public against a background of public awareness and understanding of the implications of any changes.
We are aware of the differing views in the community regarding proposed changes to the Ordinance and other aspects of Historical Preservation — perhaps most notably St. Pete Preservation and the Chamber.
It is against this background that we suggest a preservation colloquium be held to promote improved understanding of the issue, open discussion among interested parties, and ideally recommendations that meet the various parties’ needs. Participants could include you (the Mayor and Council), appropriate City Staff, St. Petersburg Preservation, the Chamber, Neighborhood Associations ( we would be very interested in participating), Business Districts, leading architects, developers and of course, the general public. It would be our hope that through such discussion common ground could be found.
The issue of most concern to us is the possibility of changing the current requirement of approval by 2/3 of the property owners in a district to designate the district as historic. The potential infringement on property rights must be considered very carefully. We also suggest there has to be a thorough discussion regarding the following: the “Potentially Eligible for Designation” list, the value of which seems debatable; the whole issue of third-party designation; and how to make it possible for property owners to replace windows to meet current standards (e.g. impact resistant windows) without running afoul of preservation requirements.
The most desirable outcome of such a colloquium would be to find the proper balance between the value of selective preservation and the legitimate rights of property owners without impeding the continuing dynamic growth of our community.
Albert Scafati, President
St. Petersburg Downtown Neighborhood Association