Sunday, May 31, 2015

Downtown Waterfront Plan - Parks or Development which is it?

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Coauthor of: So You Want Blog .

Almost no one is faulting the Downtown Waterfront Master Plan (DWMP) for its approach, level of effort or the care with which it was put together.

The committee, the public and the consultant did a good job. It just looks like the City staff may have hijacked the final report.

In fact, it is just the level of attention to detail that has allowed the public to become quickly aware of the large amount of proposed development included in the plan. 

In the Public Survey, respondents were asked to rate the benefits of the Downtown Waterfront.

Page 17 of the DWMP Report:
Make the City of St. Petersburg a more desirable place to live
Improve physical health and fitness
Preserves open space
Increases property values
Protect the historical attributes of the City and Downtown Water front
Attracts tourists to St. Petersburg
Improves metal health and reduces stress
Helps attract new residents and business to St. Petersburg
Increases environmental awareness
Increased opportunities for people of different cultures to interact

Nowhere in that list is any indication that significant commercial development is a benefit to the downtown waterfront.

The DWMP includes almost 60 areas designated as "Development Opportunity Sites".

Pier District
11 Development Opportunity Sites

South Basin District
 8-9 Development Opportunity Sites some quite large around the Mahaffey and Dali

Bayboro & Salt Creek District 
40 Development Opportunity Sites including 2 large new docks in the basin.

Although it is hard to get a true read, it seems that the "Development Opportunity Site" portion of the plan was not aggressively in play during the public input. If that statement is not true will someone please show me where the public had a chance to weigh in on the development opportunity site part of the plan?

The point is five years from now when a developer comes along and wants to develop a commercial asset, that may or may not be all that desirable, on waterfront property designated as a "Development Opportunity Site" it is going to be difficult to say no when the developer holds up the DWMP and says, "I am just doing what you said you wanted to do."

For now all or almost all of the "Development Opportunity Sites" should be removed the DWMP and renamed to their current actual use.

Nothing in that approach prevents a developer from requesting waterfront property for a development, but it does not provide a plan adopted by Ordinance to back up his request.

The DWMP was conceived to protect the waterfront not provide a path to exploit it.


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