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City Council moves $20 million ask for Pier uplands development

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete City Council unanimously approved on first reading Mayor Rick Kriseman’s plan to spend $20 million on developing the Pier uplands in anticipation of Pier Park.

The funding allocation would provide for plans at the entryway to the proposed new municipal Pier including a pedestrian art promenade, an art bridge, open air market, an ornate entry and two restaurants.

The funding would be paid for through tax revenues downtown. Though the measure passed unanimously on first reading council members placed that vote cautiously.

Council member Karl Nurse voiced concerns about language referencing an additional $31 million.

“I’m not prepared to commit to that at this point,” Nurse said asking that the reference to additional funds be removed.

And City Council member Steve Kornell echoed those concerns.

“It was clearly stated to me when the downtown waterfront master plan came up that this is not a funding document,” Kornell said, also noting that there are numerous other city projects that need funding including sewage improvements thrown into the limelight after the city dumped millions of gallons of sewage into Clam Bayou during a rain phenomenon.

City staff clarified the $51 million figure included total costs in the downtown waterfront master plan and that the proposed ask does not exceed $20 million.

“There’s no intention to spend any other money,” said St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, who popped in to defend the measure.

The new Pier project was originally allocated $50 million for a new Pier while the latest $20 million ask for the Pier approach component of the downtown waterfront master plan occurred more recently.

The vote comes as tension surrounding Pier demolition boils as heavy machinery continues to topple the inverted pyramid.

The city is planning a celebration honoring the Pier’s past and looking forward to its future Friday. Opponents to demolition are planning a counter protest to that event, which begins at 5 p.m.

Council and the city could be facing continued issues with the Pier process as a petition drive continues to loom in the background. Organizers of that effort hope it can be completed and ultimately put to voters with the intention of potentially thwarting Pier development by requiring a voter referendum for construction on downtown waterfront.

The $20 million question will now move to second reading.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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