Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Charter school seeks vacant St. Pete Beach police building

The St. Pete Beach City Commission will consider whether to lease the vacant police headquarters to Academy by the Sea charter school.

Times (2002)

The St. Pete Beach City Commission will consider whether to lease the vacant police headquarters to Academy by the Sea charter school.

ST. PETE BEACH — Since St. Pete Beach shut down its police department in January, the former headquarters has sat vacant without any plan for use. But a proposal to turn it into a charter school has prompted city officials to start thinking about options.

A group of educators asked the City Commission on Tuesday to consider leasing the building at 200 76th Ave. for use as a Montessori-style charter school named Academy by the Sea. They hope to open in fall 2014 with grades four through eight. Commissioners responded, saying they would like to fill the educational void left in 2009, when the Pinellas school district closed Gulf Beaches Elementary. But they added that they need to explore all other options for the building first.

"The city, to this very moment, has not had a concerted discussion on what to do with the property," said Mayor Steve McFarlin. "I don't want (the school) going forward in anticipation of that property being available, and we haven't even decided what we're going to do with it yet."

The city closed the headquarters after contracting with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office for law enforcement services and disbanding its police department. City Manager Mike Bonfield said the city has been too busy with the transition to make any headway on plans for other uses.

Academy by the Sea will submit a charter application to the Pinellas County School Board in August, and organizers expect a response in October. Although it is not required for the school to secure a location before submitting the application, Luann Schecht, a member of the Academy by the Sea board, said a building could be a plus.

The former police headquarters has many appealing aspects, such as its location, security, proximity to the city recreation center, and rooms that already are divided, Schecht said. The school's board also has looked into leasing space from churches, commercial buildings and a former public school building, to no avail.

"The police station is ideal," said Schecht, a Tierra Verde resident.

She added that the academy's proposed lease agreement is beneficial to the city. St. Pete Beach would get a new public school, the city would receive rent, and students could use the recreation center for physical education and after-school activities.

There is no definitive timetable as to when the city will make a decision, but the school's proposal has sped the process, Bonfield said. The City Commission plans to discuss possibilities at its next meeting.

If the city does decide to lease the building, Academy by the Sea won't automatically get the bid. The time it would take to open the process to potential tenants and select one might be too long to meet the school's proposed timeline, McFarlin said.

"Once we get the word out, we might have 10 people apply for that property," he added.

The mayor and commissioners also discussed concerns that could arise if Academy by the Sea were to use the headquarters. Among them: student safety at a building so close to a major road and open water, meeting Pinellas Schools' facility requirements, congested traffic and potential costs to the city.

The city could also find a different use for the building, possibly even as a new city hall. Bonfield noted that the city's staff has shrunk significantly in recent years, and the police facility — smaller than the current city hall on Corey Avenue — might be more suitable. The city then could lease or sell the Corey Avenue building.

Members of the Academy by the Sea board also considered leasing the vacant Gulf Beaches Elementary School.

But board members and Bonfield say school district representatives have told them they have no intention of leasing the building.

"Their basic response was they don't have a plan and they don't have a plan to make a plan," Bonfield said.

McFarlin said he hopes the city can talk with district officials and urge them to lease the building to the academy.

District spokeswoman Melanie Marquez Parra said that, to her knowledge, there has been no definitive discussion about the future of the Gulf Beaches building. She added that once a charter school gets approval from the School Board, they can apply to lease a vacant facility.

"Eventually, we'd like to have K-12, and what a building that would be," academy board member Wendy Holmes Boring said, referring to the Gulf Beaches property.

"It's in great shape. It would be perfect for us."

Lauren Carroll can be reached at or (727) 893-8913.

Charter school seeks vacant St. Pete Beach police building 06/15/13 [Last modified: Friday, June 14, 2013 1:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays beat Orioles, but tough stretch looms that could change their plans (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Even with their losing streak extending to five the night before, Rays officials were continuing Tuesday on their same track in trade talks leading up to Monday's deadline seeking a proven reliever and a right-handed bat.

    Looking to buy.

    The Rays’ Tim Beckham celebrates with Mallex Smith after hitting a three-run homer in the second inning for a 5-0 lead.
  2. Diaz, Taddeo win easily in special Miami Senate primaries


    Two Miami state Senate candidates who raised and spent the most in their respective primaries — Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Democratic businesswoman Annette Taddeo — notched easy victories in a special election Tuesday night.

    Republican candidate Jose Felix Diaz is surrounded by supporters after he won the primary for Florida’s Senate District 40 race. Democrat Annette Taddeo, right, celebrates her victory with supporter Venus Lovely at BJ’s Restaurant in The Falls.
  3. In live debate, Kriseman and Baker ask St. Pete: Is the city better off?



    Mayoral candidates Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker made their best pitch to voters in front of a live television audience on Tuesday night. The candidates essentially asked this: Is the city better off now than it was four years ago?

    Incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker debate in front of a live television audience during the City of St. Petersburg Mayoral Debate at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg on Tuesday evening. The event was sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  4. Romano: It all comes down to sewage in this mayoral race

    Local Government

    Well, poop.

    Nothing else really matters, does it?

    Schools, economic development, public safety? Pfft. The Rays stadium, affordable housing, the pier? Ack. When it comes to the St. Petersburg mayoral election, sewage is the yin, the yang and the yuck.

    At Tuesday’s debate, incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman said responsibility lies on him regarding the sewage crisis.
  5. Shooting sends man to hospital in St. Pete


    ST. PETERSBURG — Police were investigating a shooting that occurred around 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday and sent a man to the hospital.