St. Petersburg Archives - Page 3 of 33 - SaintPetersBlog

City of St. Petersburg chooses Capitol Alliance Group as new lobbyist

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has chosen the Capitol Alliance Group of Tallahassee to be the city’s lobbyist in the state capitol.

Although Kriseman has made the choice, details of the contract have not been ironed out, spokesman Ben Kirby said.

Capitol Alliance will replace the city’s current lobbyist, Peebles and Smith, also based in Tallahassee, in the upcoming Legislative Session. St. Petersburg’s contract will Peebles expired Sept. 30. The contract was worth $50,000 last year.

Capitol Alliance has a wide range of clients across the state, including the city of Key West and Leon County. Other clients include the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida, the PGA Tour, and Tesla Motors. The Capitol Alliance Group’s team includes Dr. Jeff Sharkey and Taylor Patrick Biehl.

Capitol Alliance was one of six firms that submitted proposals for the contract. The others were Peebles; Ballard Partners; Ron Boo, P.A.; Dean, Mead, Egerton, Bloodwork, Capouano & Bozarth of Tallahassee; and Southern Strategy Group of Tampa Bay.

It is unclear when the contract will be final. The 2017 Legislative Session convenes March 7.

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Station House announces major renovation, rooftop terrace for St. Pete location

A popular St. Petersburg restaurant and meeting space is planning ambitious changes to its downtown location in the new year.

Station House announced Tuesday a series of extensive revitalizations to its mixed-use structure for 2017. Among the upgrades include the addition of a rooftop garden terrace, and what is being described as a “multi-experience restaurant concept.”

Station House, a five-story, mixed-use building of nearly 32,000 square feet, is located at 260 1st Ave. S in St. Petersburg,

Although exact details have not yet been made public, the design includes a new garden terrace with a shaded pergola trellis system, incorporating green space, foliage, and vines to invoke a New York City-style rooftop for intimate parties and dining.

Entry to the restaurant will move to the front of the building off 1st Ave. South, which will improve traffic flow and allow a greater street-level presence. Plans also include a mural, as well as other features to the entry, streetscape, and landscaping.

“It’s again time for Station House to recruit talented designers and partners from the best cities all over the world and introduce them to St Pete,” says Station House proprietor Steve Gianfilippo. “That’s my purpose, to continue to raise the bar in the way so many of us are doing in St. Pete at all levels, but as always with a few tricks up our sleeves.”

Gianfilippo promises the redesign will elevate Station House as both an entertainment and culinary venue, and is expected to attract new talent for improved diversity in downtown St. Petersburg.

As a meeting and business place, Station House will also offer mentoring and a series of workshops in 2017, as well as a Virtual Reality Gaming facility in the co-work space — a concept which Gianfilippo says is “much like those of Silicon Valley.”

Also, there will be a new men’s locker room installed with shower, and a complete makeover of the Green Richman Arcade, currently branded as the Station House Arcade.

Restaurant renovations are slated to start the first week in January, and Station House will continue to provide catering and event hosting during construction.

Completion of the project is planned for Spring or Summer 2017.

Updates on the remodel, workspace, memberships and office suites are at www.stationhousestpete.com.

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Competitive bicyclist breaks bones after ‘vicious’ dog attack, blames owner

An 83-year-old bicyclist sustained multiple broken bones last year after an unleashed dog chased him down and pulled him off his bike in South Pasadena.

Charles Kleim is now suing the dog’s owner.

On Oct. 14, 2015, Kleim — an accountant who was training as a competitive cyclist — was riding his bicycle through his neighborhood. While passing a home on South Shore Drive, Kleim faced what he called a “vicious” dog, which took off after the bike.

Ultimately, the animal, owned by David Bricketto, 21, grabbed Kleim and pulled him off.

Although the dog managed to pull Kleim down, it did not physically bite him, explaining why records show no dog-bite citation was issued.

Bricketto called 911. By the time police arrived, he had secured the dog.

Kleim was transported to Bayfront Medical in St. Petersburg, where he was treated for a broken collarbone and femur along with lacerations and abrasions. Medical bills totaled $38,000.

Kleim’s attorney, Peter Sartes, told Baylawsuits that Bricketto was in the process of moving out of his late grandmother’s home, and was loading boxes in his car at the time of the attack.

As the dog’s owner, Kleim is suing Bricketto for strict liability and negligence.

The complaint says Bricketto must have known about his dog’s aggressive tendencies. Therefore, he should have had the dog restrained and put up warning signs.

Kleim seeks $120,000 for medical and incidental expenses, as well as for damages for loss of income, impairment of earning ability, and costs for suing.

A competitive cyclist, Kleim placed third in his age group at a bike race in Charlotte County March 20.

Kleim lives on South Shore Drive near the scene of the accident.

 

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St. Pete City Council raises eyebrows at $14M in Pier ‘enhancements’

St. Petersburg council members had mixed reactions Thursday to a progress report on the new Pier.

They generally liked proposed “enhancements,” including family friendly recreation facilities. But the $14 million price tag for those enhancements was another issue.

So far, the city has earmarked about $12.5 million for the Pier approach and about $33.6 million for the Pier itself. Pinellas County had agreed to kick in about $20 million, bringing the price tag to $66 million. If all the enhancements were financed, the total cost could reach about $80 million.

“I feel fairly certain I will not support a $14 million figure,” council member Steve Kornell said.

Kornell noted that adding $14 million to the price tag would increase the overall cost between about 20 percent to 30 percent. He, like other council members, questioned spending that money on the Pier when there are other needs in the city.

 “As a council member, there’s an entire city to look at,” Kornell said. “We have other needs in our city.”

They were also concerned about the costs to maintain and operate the Pier. Council member Jim Kennedy noted that one problem with the old Pier was the approximately $1.5 million the city had to spend each year to keep it running. He wondered if city staff had estimated the annual subsidy the city would have to make for the new Pier — a much larger space with more activities.

“That subsidy could be a whole lot more,” Kennedy said. “I want to have an understanding of that before moving forward.”

No figure was forthcoming on Thursday.

Staff members and designers said some of the proposed enhancements came from comments the council had made during previous updates. Others came from comments St. Petersburg residents raised during public presentations.

Among the proposed enhancements are a kayak rental site with a boathouse and launch, playground equipment and an upgraded splash pad.

The current proposal would have 12 jets of water that children could run through. The project would improve the splash pad to 36 jets, which could include music and lights.

An estimated cost for the upgraded splash pad is about $300,000.

“We can have a splash pad or we can have a signature water feature,” Mayor Rick Kriseman said.

If done right, Kriseman said he suspected adults would also want to run through the fountains as they spurted water.

Kriseman told council members that the $14 million price tag was the outside amount for the enhancements. It’s likely, he said, they would not cost that much, but it is safer to have the money earmarked and not need it than to need the money and not have it available.

Kriseman proposed taking the $14 million from the tax increment financing, or TIF, money derived from the city’s downtown community redevelopment area. That’s tax money that is collected in that area that is set aside to be used only in that section of the city.

Council member Karl Nurse said he was concerned that some of the downtown TIF money should be spent on fixing sewer pipes in that area rather than on the new Pier.

But Kriseman said fixing those pipes would not help solve St. Petersburg’s real sewer problem, which is a lack of capacity. Fixing that, he said, requires work on the Albert Whitted and Southwest sewer plants. Both of those are outside the downtown CRA so the funds could not be used there.

Amy Foster was also concerned about having to use TIF money not just for the enhancements but also to make up future costs of the Pier.

“I know you have numbers you’re not showing yet,” Foster said about the price of possible subsidies to keep the Pier District operating.

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Baseball Santa has been benched in St. Pete

For almost two decades, the holiday light fest at Straub Park celebrated baseball as well as the season with a display showing Santa Claus playing baseball.

But last year, baseball Santa was sent to the dugout. And he’s not back this year. It appears that, at least for the future, Santa has been benched.

City officials say baseball Santa’s disappearance has no hidden message about the future of the Rays in St. Pete.

“Oh, no, no, for heaven’s sake, it’s Christmas,” St. Petersburg recreation supervisor Polly Brannon said. “I’m a huge baseball fan myself. There was no hidden message.”

Baseball Santa’s absence, she said, has everything to do with novelty. And a bit to do with his price tag.

Baseball Santa had first been put on display around the time the Rays moved to St. Pete. That was 1998. Over the years, Brannon said, the novelty wore off.  Eventgoers got tired of the same old displays.

That meant baseball Santa and other displays, such as bells and a bear in a box, were also mothballed to make way for new displays like a filigree tree, toy soldiers and a new Santa sleigh. Baseball Santa was also a large display, she said, and carried a price tag to match. City officials thought they could get more displays for the same price and, in that way, expand the light show.

And the city was right, Brannon said. No one complained that baseball Santa had disappeared. Instead, festival goers were happy to see new displays. That doomed baseball Santa to permanent benching.

“He didn’t come back because we got compliments on changing (the displays),” Brannon said.

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James Museum to be one of few in south devoted to Western art

When the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art opens in about a year, it will help cement St. Petersburg’s place as a destination for art lovers from around the world.

The prospect has caused a buzz in the art world and Thursday morning, Emily Kapes, art collection curator at Raymond James Financial, gave a short preview of what’s coming to local art lovers. The event was sponsored by the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance.

Tom and Mary James, the donors whom the museum will be named after, began collecting art while they were dating in the 1960s, Kapes said. The collection at first concentrated on modern art but as the Jameses traveled out west to go skiing, they became more and more familiar with and enamored of modern Western art.

Now they have about 3,000 works of art that’s housed in office space at Raymond James Financial in the Carillon area of Pinellas County. The bulk of that — about 1,800 pieces — is Western art. The “gallery,” which comprises all walls of the office space, is open to the public for tours.

“They’ve never sold a piece in over 50 years of collecting,” Kapes said. “We have it all.”

It’s that collection that will be the basis of the James Museum, which will be located on two floors at 100 Central Ave. in downtown St. Petersburg. Between 400 and 500 pieces of art are expected to be transferred from Carillon to St. Pete. Also coming will be a collection of Native American jewelry.

The new museum will be about 130,000 square feet and will not only have gallery space but also a sculpture court, classroom space, a theater, café, museum store and rental space for weddings and other events.

When complete, Kapes said, the James Museum will be one of only a few art museums in the south that’s devoted to Western Art. The nearest is in Georgia.

“We’re excited to bring Western art to Florida,” Kapes said.

The new museum was not the only good news for art lovers at Thursday’s get together. The other good news — the art that will be left at the Raymond James Financial Center will remain on display to the public, even after the museum opens.

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St. Pete takes first steps to comprehensive plan to handle climate change, rising seas

About a year ago, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman signed an executive order establishing an office of sustainability.

Now, a group of experts from New Orleans, Miami, Boston and Tampa Bay have come together in partnership with St. Petersburg officials to set strategies that can be used in developing a comprehensive plan to answer the problems presented by climate change and rising seas.

The two-day conference, spearheaded by the Urban Land Institute of Tampa Bay, did not limit itself to the effect of storms, droughts and other emergencies on real property. Members of the group also considered the impact of climate emergencies on people and businesses. They also considered the disparate impact on some members of society who are older, poorer or who, for other reasons, are less able to cope with problems caused by the climate.

The real challenge, they said, is to raise climate change to an issue that’s in the front of peoples’ minds.

Among the strategies they recommend St. Pete consider in coming up with a plan:

Communicate with and educate residents about the need for such a plan. This should include people from all areas of the city.

Communicate with and educate businesses about the need for a plan and the wisdom of preparing to survive climate emergencies and to recover afterwards.

Think regionally and create partnerships with all stakeholders. This could include other governments, businesses, schools, homeowners’ associations, among other groups.

Demonstrate what’s possible with city projects: Consider, for example, including resiliency as a part of the redesign of Tropicana Field.

Be sure to budget for resiliency.

“There have been some really good takeaways,” St. Petersburg Council member Darden Rice said.

She added that resiliency in the face of sea rise and climate change is “not just an esoteric greenie subject about how to build neat buildings.”

Rice said she was especially struck by the need to include resiliency as a part of the city budget. And, she said, the issue of resiliency for all St. Petersburg residents is extremely important.

“It’s hard to be resilient when you’re broke,” Rice said.

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St. Petersburg plans major overhaul to city marina

City officials are looking for residents to provide ideas for updating the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina.

They’re holding a public session from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Sunshine Center, 330 Fifth St. N.

“We’re taking the first baby step,” project manager Rick Hermann said. “We’re at the very beginning of this.”

The docks at the marina were built in the 1960s and 1970s and are starting to show their age, Hermann said. Also, the demand for docks has changed to meet changes in boat styles. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, he said, people had smaller boats. Nowadays, the boats are larger and wider so larger docks are needed to accommodate them.

The city is creating a new master marina plan to upgrade worn out infrastructure and to meet boatowners’ needs and interests. The actual implementation of that plan will take years and likely be done in phases.

The master plan is expected to include replacement of the Central and South Yacht Basin docks. And other upgrades, such as the inclusion of Wi-Fi, snack bars, public showers and restrooms are also likely to be included in the master plan.

That’s what Tuesday’s meeting is about, to give residents an opportunity to learn about current conditions at the Marina and hear an overview of the regional market. Residents will also be able to offer suggestions and ideas on improvements to boating conditions and efficiency at the Marina, in keeping with the city’s Downtown Waterfront Master Plan.

This will be the first of three meetings on updates to the Marina master plan. Two other community meetings are planned. The dates will be announced.

St Pete Municipal Marina Map

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On House floor, Gus Bilirakis honors Tuskegee Airman from Pinellas

Congressman Gus Bilirakis took to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday to honor the life and service of Tuskegee Airman Willie Rogers from Pinellas County.

Rogers, the oldest remaining Tuskegee Airman from the original 100th Fighter Squadron, died in November.

Bilirakis, a Tarpon Springs Republican, represents Florida’s 12th Congressional District, which includes parts of northern Pinellas County.

Bilirakis’s full remarks:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor the life and service of an American hero from St. Petersburg, Florida: Tuskegee Airman Willie Rogers. Willie was the oldest remaining Tuskegee Airman from the original legendary 100th Fighter Squadron, the first African-American military aviators in the history of the U.S. Armed Forces.

“He was a part of history, and I’m deeply saddened to hear he died recently at the incredible age of 101.

“Willie truly represented the Greatest Generation: humble, hardworking, and dedicated to his country and his family. He fought the Axis powers, and protected our freedom and way of life, despite the disgraceful way the Tuskegee Airmen were treated.

“We would not be the nation we are today without those who served. I would like to sincerely thank Willie for his honorable service and his unwavering love of country.”

 

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Cross-Bay Ferry, St. Pete bike share off to strong start

If the first month is any indication, both of St. Pete’s experiments in novel ways to get around will be a success.

According to figures provided to the St. Petersburg Council on Thursday, a total of 7,491 passengers rode the Cross-Bay Ferry during November. And riders have taken 1,378 trips using St. Pete’s bike share program.

Both programs are a way to relieve traffic congestion for residents while also providing another attractor for tourists.

The bike-share program, run by Coast Bikes, provides 100 rental bikes at 10 hubs around the city. The bikes can be rented by the hour or regulars can buy monthly memberships.

City figures indicate that, in November, the bikes were used for an average of 46 trips a day with the average trip being 2.5 miles long. The bikes traveled a total of about 3,500 miles last month.

The most popular hub is proving to be at the Vinoy – 18 percent of the trips originated there and 21 percent ended there.

The Cross-Bay ferry, which takes passengers from St. Petersburg to Tampa, is a six-month pilot project designed to meet several goals. One is to provide commuters with an easy alternative to driving across congested bridges on the way to work in downtown Tampa. It’s also seen as a way to entice tourists from Tampa to spend the day in St. Pete and vice versa.

St. Petersburg Council member Jim Kennedy said he was pleased to see the Cross-Bay ferry was off to a good start. Now the city must figure out a way to continue and build on that momentum after the pilot portion of the project has concluded. Kennedy said he does not see the ferry ever becoming independent and self-sustaining without outside help.

“We have real challenges, even with the great numbers,” Kennedy said. The challenge is “to take it from the pilot project and make it transportation.”

Kenendy said that he thinks one key to have people see the ferry as a true form of transportation is to have a minimum of four of them so they can make more frequent trips.

The city, he said, needs to figure out how to get more boats and to come up with a reasonable expectation of how successful the ferry can be in the future.

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