The Waterfront Task Force spoke about the future of the city’s waterfront by focusing on three primary areas of interest: renovations to Al Lang field, uses for the city’s port, and the new Pier Park. Of those in attendance, an agreement was reached for the Chamber to pursue an active role within negotiations so as to effectively communicate the vision of the business community within the development of the waterfront district.
Al Lang Field
Discussion began with a story from Fox 13 which detailed plans to upgrade Al Lang Field. The vision put forward would seek to raise $70 million for upgrades which would meet requirements for a Major League Soccer team. While this initiative is still in the early stages it was noted the improvements would align with the City Waterfront Master Plan and would create a smooth transition from the downtown parks to the Dali. Concerns were raised regarding public pushback for the plan and if it would be seen as an appropriate use of space, however it was noted that the current Master Plan details the future of the space to include a multi-use stadium with a plaza that provides open views to the waterfront. Additional concerns were raised regarding the timing of the proposal given the current status of the Rays. The proposal would be subject to a public referendum which would determine the length of lease available for the parcel of land. More details will be available as the project moves forward.
Discussion of aesthetics and the utility of the plaza became a point of interest. A proposal, which is currently within broader conversations, was presented which described a transformation of the current parking lot to a plaza which would be optimum for the presentation of the Saturday Morning Market thus making it “the most unusual weekly event in the United States.” The location would seek to optimize the experience of patrons while still being an inviting atmosphere the other six days of the week. By providing this space it would elevate the caliber of the Saturday Morning Market from “being an incredibly good circus to the status of Cirque du Soleil of community experiences.” The key to this transformation would be the structural and design elements which would facilitate the end user experience.
When looking at the City Port it was noted that redevelopments would facilitate expanded access for yachts which are increasingly making port within our city. Additionally, these developments would be of significant benefit to the USF College of Marine Science with regard to its research vessels. It was noted that all major players within the area were in agreement for actions to be taken, and that these actions had begun, however they stalled. Little was known as to the cause of this stall and interest was vocalized for investigation of its causes and potential solutions. Discussion shifted and was placed on the long term ramifications of increased usage of the port. This led to concerns for ease of access and city infrastructure along 1st Street as it has been noted that following this year’s Grand Prix the street will be repaved and accessibility for bicyclists will be improved.
Considering how the development of the Port is aligned with the Master Plan it was noted that in order to effectively move the project forward it would be necessary to convey the vision to the broader public and thus gain their buy in. This could be achieved through the creation of a visual plan which would provide a foundation for further discussion.
The final discussion of the meeting focused on developments taking place with the Pier initiative. A core element being the recognition that Saint Petersburg is its own destination because of its focus on catering to the surrounding community. By creating spaces that the locals frequent and find cool the tourists will certainly find their way there. The purpose of the pier is being built for the people of the city and is a broader reflection of how the community is developing. Recognizing that the space will be a public park and will require city funding consideration is being given to offset the cost of development by having corporate sponsorship to highlight art installations and educational spaces. Furthermore, three restaurants will be built along the pier which will act as sources of revenue generation. The buildings for these establishments will be built using city funds and enterprises will have access to a 10 year lease within the space. To increase accessibility, plans for a trolley are underway which will transport visitors to the pier head.
To take part in discussions regarding design elements and programming a public forum is scheduled to take place within the USFSP Student Center Ballroom on Tuesday March 15th from 7pm to 9pm.