St. Petersburg City Council members Jeff Danner and Herb Polson acted responsibly Thursday to revive the discussion over the future of the failing BayWalk retail complex. Their actions bought another week to find a different solution to guaranteeing customers' access to the complex — or to persuade another council member to vote to vacate the sidewalk where crowds of teens and protesters once gathered.
Since the City Council's tie vote last week killed the request by BayWalk's owners to vacate the sidewalk, the fallout has been severe and predictable. One downtown restaurant closed and cited BayWalk's demise as the reason. Some of BayWalk's few remaining tenants said they cannot hang on any longer. The operators of the city's only movie complex sounded ready to close, and prospective new tenants indicated they will not sign leases.
Danner on Thursday pushed for more talks among the city, BayWalk owners and others to find another option besides vacating the sidewalk. It's hard to imagine what that might be, but talking about options is far better than seeing BayWalk boarded up. Polson then reasonably moved to reconsider the sidewalk vacation, so the issue remains alive.
Unfortunately, the two other council members who voted last week with Danner and Polson to kill the sidewalk vacation still don't get it. Wengay Newton remains confused about free speech concerns, when Second Avenue N and the sidewalk across the street from BayWalk would remain public. Leslie Curran read a long list of other downtown businesses that have closed and complained the city did not help them. If BayWalk closes because of the city's inaction, exactly how does that help other downtown businesses —including Curran's art gallery?
Last week, the City Council deadlocked over the BayWalk sidewalk vacation and doomed the complex to failure. This week, Danner and Polson were willing to give the situation another look. Maybe next week, the council will get it right.