Mayor Bill Foster quietly dissolves his 828 Alliance

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The 828 Alliance was formed by Mayor Bill Foster in the weeks before the Aug. 27 primary race for mayor and the pivotal vote on the future of the St. Pete Pier.

On Friday, Foster quietly disbanded the alliance, thanking members for their work, in an emailed letter.

The end to the month-old alliance comes a day after pro-Lens Council members criticized the group and its mission to chart a new course for redeveloping the Pier.

Council Member Leslie Curran, who helped shepherd the failed Lens project, called the alliance and a report it produced “unfortunate” and a “shame.”

The alliance has called for a new planning process that includes an RFP (request for proposal), instead of an RFQ (request for qualifications), so that the focus is on the best designs, instead of the designer’s credentials.

The report also stated that a refurbishment of the existing Pier could be an option for consideration.

The 828 Alliance – a broad-based coalition – handed its report to Foster on Aug. 28, the day after the Lens was rejected by voters and Foster advanced to the general election.

The report’s findings were discussed at Thursday’s council meeting. Although its task was to come up with a planning process the community will accept,  the alliance was not well received by pro-Lens Council members, who still seem to be smarting from their defeat at the polls.

On Friday, alliance co-chair Fred Whaley said he supports Foster’s decision to dissolve the alliance.

“I think that was the expectation all along,” said Whaley, who leads the Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg, a grassroots group that worked to “Stop the Lens” project.

Whaley said he expects that another committee might be formed to oversee the next steps in the process.

Asked whether the Downtown Waterfront Master Plan should be completed before a final decision is made on the Pier, Whaley said “I think everyone would like it to be a parallel process.”

Whaley said that the Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg will continue to be active. “We were against the Lens, but now we are for the waterfront and what is best for the community.”

He said that Concerned Citizens will not take a position on a specific project. He said the group is for a fair and deliberative process for the community.

Whaley said that he believes the Pier redevelopment plan was rejected by the public because key players put their personal agendas first and did not try to listen to the community. “The agenda of the Concerned Citizens is to gain knowledge and help the community make the right choice,” he said.