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Three firms present vision for managing Pier District

Published Jan. 13, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG — The decision about who will manage the city's vision for its planned $66 million Pier District appears to be between two firms with global reach, though a small local start-up has drawn attention for its ideas.

The three companies made their pitches Tuesday to a committee of city staff and private citizens that will send its evaluations to Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Colliers International, a commercial real estate services firm that counts John's Pass Marina at Madeira Beach among its clients, may have the edge. It's competing against Spectra Venue Management, a Philadelphia business whose parent company is Comcast NBCUniversal. Skyway One, a fledging enterprise that touted its St. Petersburg connections, won admiration, but some on the evaluation committee questioned its experience, financial backing and staff size.

Kriseman is expected to make a decision in coming weeks about which firm will get what is expected to be a five-year contract. The contract will have to be approved by the City Council.

Things are beginning to ramp up for the redevelopment of the city's latest Pier, which is scheduled to open in 2018. Next week, the City Council will consider a contract with W Architecture and Landscape Architecture of New York, which will work with local firm Wannemacher Jensen, to design the Pier approach. The 26-acre Pier District will span an area from Bayshore and Beach drives to the new pier.

On Tuesday, Paul Carder, a retired advertising executive and a regular at Pier meetings, was one of a few residents who showed up for the Pier District operator presentations.

"It was interesting to me that of all the three, there was really quite a range in their structure, approach and experience, which should give the city several good options," he said.

Spectra spoke of its plans to work with Zev Buffman, president and CEO of Ruth Eckerd Hall, to boost event booking and programming.

"We are passionate about what we do," Buffman told the committee. "We shall not fail you. We are going to add the sound of music to the fine arts at the Pier."

Colliers International touted its knowledge of St. Petersburg. "Our team members work, live and play in the St. Petersburg area," one of its opening slides proclaimed. It is promoting a tenant mix of retail, leisure, entertainment and destination-based attractions.

Paul Hsu, executive director of Skyway One, which suggested sustainability programs, including bringing beekeeping to downtown, spoke of the advantage of the firm's local ties.

"We'll be hitting the ground running," he said.

Alan DeLisle, the city's development administrator, was impressed with Colliers International's "global experience with destination sites across the country, across the world."

Colliers, which has an office in Clearwater, also impressed committee members by pairing up with Big City Events in Tampa, known for such productions as the Gasparilla International Film Festival. Big City Events' plans includes creating a major signature event per year.

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at wmoore@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes