ST. PETERSBURG — When the Salvador Dalí Museum recently announced plans for a more than $38 million expansion on city-owned, charter-protected waterfront property, it naturally raised a couple of questions.
Would the project have to go before city voters? And, if so, would they even approve it?
St. Petersburg residents, after all, are known for being staunchly protective of their downtown waterfront.
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Consider the push back when the city proposed installing one of acclaimed artist Janet Echleman’s billowing net sculptures at Spa Beach, or the voter-led referendum against the Lens, the Pier design before the current one.
Many residents also opposed the Tampa Bay Rays’ plans for a new ballpark at Al Lang Stadium. And in 2003, they voted overwhelmingly to save Albert Whitted Airport rather than replace it with a waterfront park.
But plans to expand the Dali, which houses the largest collection of its namesake's work outside of Spain and is a point of pride for St. Petersburg, appear to be on solid ground. In a November 2004 referendum, 75 percent of voters agreed to let the city lease a portion of its precious waterfront to the Dali for up to 99 years.
The lease, which eventually was signed in 2007, covers three lots.
Lot 1 was designated for the “initial building location” and “where future building expansion may occur.” A second lot was set aside for open space and other landscaping, but also could be used for parking and, with the city’s approval, other improvements.
Lot 3, off Bayshore Drive SE, could be used for future building and expansion, but with a caveat. According to the lease, the lot may be developed by the museum only after a period of five consecutive years had passed without it being used to accommodate the Grand Prix.
The expansion, projected to take two years, includes building a 150,000-square-foot parking garage and a new wing with 20,000 square feet for community spaces and digital exhibits.
The Dali has applied for $17.5 million in bed tax money from Pinellas County to help with the expansion. Last week, county commissioners voted to forward the museum's request to the Tourist Development Council. The rest of the money for the project would come from fundraising.
Ben Kirby, spokesman for Mayor Rick Kriseman, cautioned that it is very early in the process. “We still have work to do with the Dali to move forward,” he said.
In a Jan. 8 letter to Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Kriseman spoke of the Dali’s need “to create new spaces” and of its proven ability "to not only attract visitors to St. Petersburg," but to the entire region.
When it reopened at its current site eight years ago, Kriseman said, the number of “inbound visitors” doubled.
“The Dali Museum created the groundwork for Pinellas County to have something to promote outside of the beach communities and led the way in tourism marketing expansion into international markets such as Japan, Latin America, the UK and Central Europe,” the mayor added.
Under its current lease, the museum pays the city $1 a year for the waterfront site next to the Mahaffey Theater.
When it moved in 2011, its new, $36 million, 66,450-square-foot building doubled its size. The museum, established in 1982, previously had been in a one-story building at 1000 Third St. S.
Contact Waveney Ann Moore at email@example.com or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.