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Nearly 80 hear options for St. Petersburg's deep-water port

It is one of the city's oldest economic ventures. It is also one of its least successful.

Hoping to change that, city officials took advice on future options for St. Petersburg's struggling deep-water port at a community forum Tuesday.

The event drew nearly 80 people to the 80-year-old port.

City officials began by introducing several options, including facilities for mega yachts, small cruise vessels, marine education, entertainment or retail and a fish market.

Some residents said they were eager for the port to become a more welcoming facility, with restaurants and entertainment venues.

"This area belongs to the citizens; we should make it accessible to the citizens," said former council member Virginia Littrell, who advocated for a multiuse site that would include dock slips for mega yachts and ferry boats.

Others urged city officials to seek professional advice.

"Clearly we need to build for the future and think ahead," said architect Fred Russell. "Let's keep it flexible. Who knows what will happen 20 years from now?"

The city wants to update the port's 1999 master plan and turn the facility into a profitable venture. A draft of the revised master plan should be completed by May, when it will be submitted to the City Council for approval or further direction, port manager Walt Miller said.

In recent years, the port had been targeted as a cruise ship site, but that plan has been tabled because of financial concerns.

The port, the smallest of Florida's 14, has been somewhat of a burden on the city in recent years.

It earned less than $130,000 in 2007. The city had to cover the rest of its $658,000 total operating costs that year.

Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or csilva@sptimes.com.

Nearly 80 hear options for St. Petersburg's deep-water port 03/22/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 24, 2008 1:54pm]
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