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St. Petersburg mayor prepares Bay Plaza task force

Mayor David Fischer on Friday began carrying out a City Council command that he assemble a task force to help renovate St. Petersburg's downtown.

By the middle of next week, Fischer said, he expects to have about 40 people willing to review the Bay Plaza Cos. plan to redevelop downtown.

A day earlier, council members approved a plan that would give Bay Plaza up to 21 months to redraw its existing redevelopment plan, find prospective tenants and secure financing for the project.

For the city's part, the task force would help ensure that the plans Bay Plaza offers will be compatible with what residents want.

"I really want to have a lot of neighborhood people in this group because that's where it's got to germinate," Fischer said. "And it's all going to be in the sunshine and open to the public."

Fischer plans to use the same type of group consensus-building plan he used in a meeting conducted just after he took office under the then-new "strong" mayoral system in 1992.

After meeting as a large group, participants will divide into smaller working groups to address several issues, then report back with their results. A facilitator would then bring the different findings together in a way that all participants could support.

Fischer said the first daylong meeting would probably be on July 15, a Saturday, and that he would find a neutral site.

In addition to a facilitator, Fischer said he also wants to provide a professional urban planner to help guide the discussion.

Although he does not plan to name any City Council members to the task force, Fischer said they would all be welcome to attend.

"I'm going to try to listen in, if I can," council member Connie Kone said. "I would like to just sit there and do a lot of listening."

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