Sunday, July 3, 2016

St. Pete Preservation cashes in on downtown preservation

It would seem that St. Pete Preservation has put a very real approach and price tag on dealing with preservation issues in St. Petersburg.


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

It was announced recently that The City of St. Petersburg, First State Investments and St. Pete Preservation, the City's Historical watchdog had reached an "Agreement" regarding the demolition of the Phiel Hotel.

St. Pete Preservation had made a big issue of preserving the old hotel turned bank building in downtown St. Pete and ultimately filed a lawsuit to block the demolition.


In my Post Old VS New: The Battle over the Pheil Hotel I felt the battle to preserve the city's heritage would continue, but this is one where it is much more practical to let the downtown core continue to build out while the opportunity is there.

St. Pete Preservation, the City and First States Investments have reached an interesting and perhaps precedent setting agreement.

See more here:



From the St. Petersburg Preservation web site The Settlement: 
While continuing in its efforts to build public support, SPP was seeing the options to save the buildings dwindle. City council denied a request to stay the demolition permit, the city's preservation commission recommended to city council not to grant landmark status to the buildings and the newspaper editorials continued to criticize SPP and call for demolition and block redevelopment. SPP entered into separate negotiations with Mayor Kriseman and with First States, one of the block owners. These negotiations culminated on June 16 in a settlement being reached. SPP agreed to end further efforts to save the buildings and to dismiss its legal action challenging the demolition permit. The agreement with Mayor Kriseman, among other things, called for him to seek city council approval of amending the city code so the demolition permit exemption used in the 400 block case could no longer be used to advance demolition of other historic buildings; to further city landmark designation efforts, and to begin efforts to create a downtown heritage walking trail. The settlement with First States included, among other things, a $100,000 donation to SPP, documentation of the historic buildings, reuse of the historic bank clock, and creation of an exhibit on the history of the bank and hotel buildings.

A statement on the articles St. Preservation web site "Settlement" caught my eye. "First States Investments has pledged to work with St. Petersburg Preservation and will donate $100,000 to the group's cause."

If you GOOGLE First States Investments you get pages of LLCs and subsidiaries, it looks like these people don't want you to have any easy trail to follow.

A little more digging turned up a First States Investors 3300LLC v. Pheil Not sure if this is the First Sates Investors who "donated" the $100,000 to St. Pete Preservation or not.

To me, this whole deal smells like a dead rat.

It would appear that St. Pete Preservation has put a very real approach and price tag on dealing with preservation issues in St. Petersburg.

All it seems to take is few vague meaningless commitments and the right amount of money, and the issue of preservation will go away.

Sounds like a cross between blackmail and a bribe.

It would be interesting to know how much influence the Mayor or his dream team had to do with this "Settlement," and who suggested the $100,000 pay off. (Donation)

Up to this point, St. Pete Preservations' integrity was pretty much above reproach. If the folks at St. Pete Preservation felt they had no chance in the lawsuit, then why not just agree to walk away and not even consider what looks like a payoff.

This sets a dangerous precedent when a City advisory group can leverage their position for financial gain.  A couple of more big hits like this one, and St. Pete Preservation could have the resources to become a major player in St. Pete's redevelopment.

The folks at St. Pete Preservation should do some deep soul-searching and seriously consider sending the check back or telling those nice folks at First State Investments to keep their money.

Mayor Kriseman and his administration should have put the brakes on this unless of course it was their idea to grease the skids at St. Pete Preservation.

Historic preservation is not about extracting "donations" for developer friendly decisions. I am also sure that this type of history is not what all those who work hard to preserve St. Pete's history had in mind.

E-mail Doc at mail to: dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to Like or share on Facebook.

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