TREASURE ISLAND — Plotting the course for the city's future is an important task to be taken on by residents and business owners alike, city officials say.
The third and final open workshop on setting a vision for development will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Community Center at 1 Park Place and 106th Avenue.
The results of the three sessions, as well as a questionnaire mailed to residents, will be compiled by St. Petersburg College's Collaborative Labs for use by the City Commission in its planning for infrastructure improvements, special projects, and changes to the city's zoning and land-use codes.
During the two previous sessions, the committee members and attendees focused on identifying what they viewed as the "best" of Treasure Island, as well as what they hoped the city would be like decades into the future.
What participants appeared to like best about today's city included the elimination of tolls on the bridge connecting to the mainland, the variety of hotels and restaurants, the restoration of and expansion plans for the Treasure Island Yacht Club, the Beach Trolley service, and, of course, the beach.
The groups also gave high marks to the Beach Stewardship Committee's efforts to plant sea oats, preserve the dunes and protect seabirds.
Other positive aspects of the present city included the city-run police and fire departments, and the city's reputation for hospitality to visitors.
Discussion centered on setting strategic priorities for economic development, environmental preservation and land use.
Among the priorities cited as important for the city's future were a "vibrant downtown" with fine dining, shopping and luxury residences, family-friendly neighborhoods, parks and recreational facilities, and an eco-friendly community.
"Treasure Island is the best beach around and has more potential than any other city around us," resident, architect and developer Hani Matta said at the first session in October. "If we improve the downtown and make it modern and provide functions that will gather everybody, that will bring all age groups here."
Suggestions for future development ranged from creating a mixed-use downtown area with a vibrant nightlife, to upscale shopping, waterfront dining, resort-class hotels, a dinner theater, water taxis, expanded bike trails and a waterfront promenade.
Other ideas included turning the clock tower area into a pedestrian mall, redevelopment of the city's northern sector, moving City Hall to allow redevelopment of its waterfront site, and financing some projects with municipal bonds.
New businesses should get tax incentives and the city should "judiciously" increase building heights and densities in select areas to encourage new development and redevelopment, participants suggested.
"I want people to understand that the group is not calling for higher buildings all over the city. It would just be in certain spots and residents would have a chance to vote on it," Mary Maloof, former mayor and chairman of the Vision Steering Committee.
The last time the city asked residents to envision the city's future was in 1998. At that time, residents favored maintaining a small-town atmosphere, the need for better traffic controls, beautification and upscale restaurants.
This time, although most residents still favor a "family-friendly" atmosphere, they appear to be more open to upscale redevelopment, including increased building heights for hotels along Gulf Boulevard that would revitalize the city's tourist industry.