Emily is confident that there is an opportunity for thoughtful development by inviting offers from other developers that would include plans to preserve the historical integrity of the building through adaptive reuse. She does not want the demolition the leave the city with vacant lots and believes that historical buildings are what give St. Pete its unique attraction. The site is for sale and there are no approved plans for redevelopment. In order to circumvent the process the city granted an exemption to its own ordinance to allow for the demolition to proceed.
Keith Rupp of Tucker Hall contrastingly spoke in favor of the total demolition and rebuilding of the site of the 400 Block Building. He believes that if redevelopment is not permitted, the existing ground leases, which currently cost $700,000 per year, will remain in effect until Oct. 31, 2058. The owners have found no market for the existing building in 10 years, and four expert studies conclude it is not feasible to renovate or restore the current structure which lost its historic value during the extensive demolitions and renovations since 1959. He claimed that, “The studies conclude that any attempt to renovate or reuse the existing building would fail and that the value of the block is at least $4.5M more without the structure.”
Either the owners are allowed to remove this structure and sell the block to a developer, or the existing ground lease will remain in effect, and the building will remain vacant and unusable for 42 more years. The real estate trust/owners would give the property owners, the Pheil family, 70% and pay them $10m for removal of the building.
Many members of the meeting chimed in by saying they do not believe the lot will stay vacant for long. There also seemed to be a consensus that no organization will be able to make a case that it makes sense to do something with this property because it is such an old building, but it’s not a historic building anymore. Jim King believes that you can’t make a profit from a building with structural problems and dangerous asbestos, and that it would cost more to reconstruct the old buildings. Rupp told the group that if the St. Pete Chamber takes this position of demolition and rebuilding, they “won’t be alone, the Downtown Partnership, Downtown Neighborhood Association, Dan Roof, Mayor Krisemen, and the Tampa Bay Times are also in support of this demolition.”
President of the Chamber, Chris Steinocher, told the group his perspective from a tour of the site that all of its grand historical significance was demolished in 1959. It used to be a theater with grand sky domes and now that that is gone, it’s an unremarkably old building on the outside and holds no significant historical features preserving the look of St. Pete. Chair Ryan Griffin concluded by saying, “A working building is better than vacant building.”
Motion made that the Chamber supports that the St. Petersburg Development Review Commission grants a demolition exemption for the 400 Block Building on Central Ave on Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016. MOTION APPROVED
Historical Ordinance PED List
St. Pete Chamber Advocacy Manager, Travis Norton and Emily Elywn stated that the city has recently expanded the potentially eligible list from 50 properties to over 100 properties. Last year, the Chamber took a position that the PED list should phased out, not expanded. The owners of properties have until Mar 8th 3:00pm to talk about why their property should not be on the PED list.
This is concerning because no other Florida cities have a PED list, and it comes through local ordinances. President Chris Steinocher does not believe the city has put together a package of incentives and has not evaluated what historical preservation looks like in our city. The PED list should be a positive list, not looked as a penalty.
Task Force Updates
Legislative Task Force
Barclay Harless told the Public Policy Council that there are two weeks left in the session (Ends March 11th). The proposed FL House and Senate budgets does not include the $75k local funding request for the Chamber’s Big Data Collaboration. In good news he told the group that the proposed FL House and Senate budgets include $300k for the St. Petersburg Warehouse Arts District.
Barclay Harless will meet with Travis Norton for a post-session debrief before scheduling a post-session legislative Task Force meeting. The Public Policy Council is also reminded that the Legislative Reception is scheduled for Wednesday, March 16th at the Palladium.
Brad Miller commented on Williams Park going surprisingly well. He said there are issue complaints for riders having to walk multiple blocks, thus the city has been working to add stops. Fortunately, 500 PSTA riders in Pinellas Park have requested UBER to their bus stop using the pilot program.
There is also talk about diagonal parking getting reduced by roughly 8 parking spaces on 4th Ave. N, and possible solutions for this. He stated that THEA’s Gandy Toll Road is moving forward and reminded us that Darryl LeClair will present on the Gondola system at the March 22nd Transportation Task Force.
Diversity and Inclusiveness
Nick Kouris and Ronnell Montgomery provided an update on the focus group study conducted by Tom Plummer on February 10th at Florida Print Solutions. He handed out an Executive Summary to the Public Policy Council that highlights who participated, responses by participants, summary of findings, and recommendations and next steps.
Diversity and Inclusiveness Task Force will meet in March to vet the Executive Summary to create a finalized report to the Chamber.
Leroy Sullivan stated that the summary of findings is nothing new. However, the Chamber needs to put resources behind women and minority owned business outreach. Simply talking about it won’t accomplish anything.
Dr. Kevin Gordon said that the Education Task Force meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 29th at 8:00 am. He unfortunately told us that each of the “Failure Factory” schools in St. Petersburg received ‘F’ grades once again. He will be meeting with JWB and community partners to discuss a collective impact strategy.
He expressed that there is a disconnect between the Pinellas Education Foundation and what is going in the South St. Petersburg schools.
Meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 10th at 8:00 am to receive an update from city staff.
Sustainability Task Force
Daryle Hamel mentioned the full transition of subcommittee into working groups, internship program, solar amendments review, and subcommittee that includes professional consultants that will work with the Chamber pro bono to make the chamber become an example for sustainability.
Baseball Forever was launched on Saturday, February 27th at Ferg’s. The Baseball Forever Committee includes the Chamber and SPYP members. The Chamber’s role will be to identify corporate partners and help identify sites. Former City Administrator, Rick Mussett has been hired by the city to lead the BFC efforts.
The next BFC is on Thursday, March 3rd.