Q: What happened Thursday?
A: The St. Petersburg City Council approved a 21-month extension and some revisions to the city's 8-year-old agreement with the Bay Plaza Cos. to redevelop some of the oldest sections of downtown. Company officials said they needed the extra time and the changes to attract new money and tenants for the stalled project.
Q: What does the extension mean?
A: Instead of declaring the project dead, City Council gave Bay Plaza a chance to restart it. The new plan is divided into four parts. First, Bay Plaza gets six months to remake the overall redevelopment plan. Then the city gets three months to review the plan and suggest changes. Bay Plaza then gets six more months to attract prospective tenants for the project and secure long-term financing for it. If they succeed, the company then gets six more months to draw detailed construction plans and get under way. If they fail to reach any of their interim goals, the project dies.
Q: Bay Plaza Cos. already owns land at the project site, so why does it want to continue its relationship with the city?
A: The advantage is money, in several ways, as part of earlier agreements. First, the city will give Bay Plaza a section of First Avenue N. In other words, the company received about 70,000 square feet of ground free in an area where it has also paid more than $60 a square foot to other owners. Second, the city has promised to lease 164 parking spaces for $420,000 a year after the company builds them in the next construction phase. Third, the city has promised to build a giant 2,400-space parking garage in the last construction phase if the company reaches a predetermined level of occupancy in the current construction phase.
Q: What happens now?
A: Mayor David Fischer today will begin compiling a list of people representing an array of groups interested in the future of downtown. The list will be presented for City Council approval as early as Thursday. This is the group that Bay Plaza has said it will consult regularly during its 21-month overhaul of its redevelopment plans.
Q: One speaker at Thursday's hearing raised the specter of a casino gambling group somehow gaining control of Bay Plaza's property. Possible?
A: No way, Mayor Fischer says. The city's agreement with the redeveloper is tightly written to allow only specific uses in specific amounts. Casinos aren't included.