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St. Pete City Council unanimously approves downtown waterfront master plan

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete City Council unanimously approved a revised downtown waterfront master plan. Following a short presentation addressing earlier concerns with the plan Thursday, council members each agreed the plan had been revised to alleviate concerns expressed by the public.

The approved plan does not include a downtown convention center or hotel. The downtown waterfront master plan seemed to be moving along without much contention until word of a private hotel and convention center near the Mahaffey Theater prompted members of the public to revolt.

City staff responded to concerns by removing references to the hotel and conference center from the plan.

Staff also responded to concerns brought up by the St. Petersburg Yacht Club regarding encroachment of their property and potential hazards created by additional boat slips and other changes to the South Basin. Some slips were removed from drawings in the plan to address those issues.

The city also added language to address issues brought up by City Council. The plan now includes language making it clear that any future utility infrastructure be buried when possible, but turned into some form of public art when it can’t be put under ground.

The plan also adds additional emphasis on public green space throughout the downtown waterfront area.

The plan drew broad public support. A handful of residents representing various organizations spoke in favor of moving the plan forward.

“I think we’ve got a great framework for our waterfront,” said Phil Graham.

No one spoke against the plan, but any continued concerns about it were addressed by several speakers and City Council members who all pointed out the plan is a conceptual document.

“This is the start of the conversation, not the end of it,” said Joni James with the St. Pete Downtown Partnership.

The plan includes page after page of conceptual drawings showing what a revitalized downtown waterfront could look like. It’s set to serve as a guide for future councils and staffers when making changes to the city’s robust waterfront.

The plan also includes an emphasis on the Pier uplands. Supporters of Pier Park, the design approved by City Council to replace the inverted pyramid, lauded the plan for complementing the eventual new Pier.

“There was a lot of commentary on how to make the Pier work,” said Justin Bean, a young professional who has spoken in favor of Pier Park. “The uplands is a key to that.”

Even though he voted to approve the plan, Wengay Newton did issue some cautionary remarks, including concerns over a potential space reserved for a restaurant near the Pier. Newton also made clear he does not support demolishing the Pier.

“I don’t want my name in no way tied to the demolition of the historic Pier,” Newton said.

Per changes to the city’s charter approved by voters, Council was required to approve a downtown waterfront master plan by July 1.

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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