St. Petersburg voters have one easy choice this Election Day that will add to the life of the city at no cost to taxpayers. All they have to do is vote "yes" on the question of whether the city should release restrictive covenants on 2 acres of former city property now owned by the Renaissance Vinoy Resort.
The purpose? To allow the Vinoy to build a permanent conference center where a tent-like structure now stands. Only a small portion of the new building would intrude on open space. Part of the center sits on land designated for open space and recreational use, thus the need for voter approval of a permanent structure. The Vinoy needs more room and flexibility to accommodate increasing, variable demands for corporate meetings. With its existing space, the resort is losing business to other resorts in Florida and around the country.
The cost? None to taxpayers. The Renaissance Vinoy will pay the entire $8.5-million to build the 15,000-square-foot center in the Mediterranean revival style of the old hotel.
The benefits? Resort officials estimate the conference center will create 50 new full- and part-time jobs, not to mention those needed during construction. It also will generate an additional $405,000 in taxes each year, plus another $1.5-million in increased purchases from local vendors.
Built in the 1920s, the pink stucco hotel sputtered out of life in the 1970s. It sat vacant for 15 years but was restored and reopened in 1992. The Vinoy, a monument to the best of the city's past, is a beautiful building to behold where a faded eyesore once stood. Perhaps more important, though, the success of the Vinoy and the need for more convention space are testaments to the larger resurgence of St. Petersburg.
There are no good reasons to vote against the Vinoy proposal. The new structure will replace a much less attractive temporary one, and the project will improve convention space and enlarge the health club, retail space and parking.
Vote "yes" on the referendum question of releasing restrictive covenants on portions of the Renaissance Vinoy grounds.