Friday, April 22, 2016

Politics and Preservation

How much of this is preservation and how much is pure politics.

St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin

Daniel Ruth has an insightful article in the Tampa Bay Times When preservationists become obstructionists regarding the plight of the Pheil Hotel and the Central National Bank building in downtown St. Petersburg.

Ruth takes the City's Preservation watchdog group St. Pete Preservation to task for their recent filing of a lawsuit to block the demolition of these two buildings to make way for continued redevelopment of downtown.

I previously posted in Bay Post Internet Old VS New: The Battle over the Pheil Hotel.

It seems this preservation effort is starting to spiral out of control. The properties are privately owned, have been vacant for decades and are an eye sore along with a liability to downtown St. Pete.

As Ruth points out in his latest article, "The mission of Belmont's (Peter Belmont, who is vice president of St. Pete Preservation) St. Petersburg Preservation to defend the city's history is laudable. And there is certainly more than enough legitimate at-risk properties to keep him busy. Go forth and preserve to your heart's content."

Therefore, I would raise a legitimate question. Preservation or politics?

I am sure there is some genuine concern for the gradual erosion of "old time" St. Pete and the never-ending replacement of familiar structures with high-rise condos and craft breweries, but staking your preservationist claim here seems counterproductive.

A much better approach than tying up the redevelopment project in an expensive and risky set of legal actions would be to try to negotiate some conditions and requirements into the redevelopment plan that would protect the spirit of what is being lost.

If the objective here is to try to force the City into the fray through the threat of extended legal actions and delays, I am not sure that is going to work. The Kriseman administration has very little play in this discussion and full plate of problems to boot.

St. Pete Preservation has done a lot of good work. It would be a shame to see their image tarnished by a failure of poor leadership, common sense and good judgment.

A good friend of mine once told me, "Be very careful when you decide to go to court because you never know what a judge or jury is going to do, and if you lose you usually end up paying the legal bills."

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Contributor: Bob Gualtieri for Pinellas County Sheriff

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