Friday, May 25, 2018
News Roundup

St. Petersburg City Council to select firm to create vision for downtown waterfront

ST. PETERSBURG — A dozen years ago, the city embarked on a months-long endeavor to get feedback from residents on what they wanted the community to look, feel and be like for the next generation.

That exercise, which came to be known as Vision 2020, laid the groundwork for reworking city land use regulations.

Later this year, the city will once again seek input, this time about the waterfront. The same planners will be tapped to lead this effort, too.

The City Council will be asked Thursday to authorize negotiations for a contract — worth up to $500,000 — with AECOM, a Los Angeles-based global consulting firm.

AECOM was one of 18 companies that responded to the city's bid request to develop a master plan for the waterfront.

Days ago, a selection committee ranked AECOM at the top of its list. Chicago-based Houseal Lavigne Associates and Virginia-based Ecology and Environment were ranked second and third, respectively.

"I'm real familiar with the community," said AECOM principal Pete Sechler, who worked on the Vision 2020 plan at the beginning of former Mayor Rick Baker's first term. "We're very pleased to be selected."

Sechler's team on the Vision 2020 team worked for a different company at the time.

If the council gives its approval, the mayor can start negotiating with AECOM. The final price of the contract, which requires council approval, will depend on the scope of the project.

Officials already have said they'd want the planners to incorporate the work of the Urban Land Institute, which issued a report about the waterfront this year.

At least one city council member has a problem with that.

Karl Nurse said there hasn't yet been a thorough public discussion about the ULI report. He said he doesn't want the planners to assume the ULI report is what residents actually want.

"I don't mind sending them the report, but at the very least there ought to be a cover letter or an attachment," Nurse said. "It would save time and angst to give folks a heads up before they get started. There are several elements in there that will get people fired up."

Nurse said he doesn't want this effort to mirror what happened with the pier.

In particular, he said, the ULI report talks of reconfiguring Al Lang Field, Dali Boulevard and some parts of the airport. A plan to point more people to Lassing Park may upset residents.

"We haven't had any discussion about many of these things," Nurse said.

Sechler said there will be plenty of opportunity for the community to weigh in on the ULI report.

"Our job is to explore those topics with the community," Sechler said. "My goal for the project is to have a plan that reflects the community's values about the waterfront and is sensitive to and respects the different activities that are happening from north to south."

The final plan is scheduled to be adopted by July 2015.

AECOM has been involved in other big projects in the Tampa Bay area. It helped shape Tampa's vision for its waterfront, and is conducting a feasibility study on the proposed downtown aquarium in Clearwater. It also has done master planning in England, downtown San Diego and San Francisco.

Sechler said discussions with St. Petersburg residents would happen over several months and include face-to-face meetings and social media outreach.

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