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Airport RFP extended, new bid received

Veronica Brezina

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Albert Whitted Airport's sign. File photo (2019).

The City of St. Petersburg has extended the timeline in searching for a consultant to study the economic impacts and best use of the Albert Whitted Airport site – and a new offer is on the table. 

The new proposal submitted by Kimley-Horn and Associates to study the 110-acre waterfront airport property comes after an initial request for proposals issued in May –  the city received two proposals, one from Alpha Sol LLC and another from New York-based HR&A Advisors. 

The solictation language states the consultant would study economic, fiscal and community/social impacts (positive and negative) of the airport site under two development scenarios: the existing configuration of the airport, and the configuration of the airport with the proposed Albert Whitted Airport master plan improvements, such as an extension of Runway 7-25 and adaptive reuse of the current city wastewater treatment plant area.

“The economic impact of the airport scenarios should focus on the current and potential employment, wages, total construction activity, required infrastructure and impacts to the region between the two uses,” the description reads in the RFQ language. The initial deadline for consultants to submit proposals was June 9, with contract negotiations scheduled for July 19 and city council approval and award scheduled for Sept. 8.

However, the city extended the RFQ deadline to June 23, according to city documents. 

The Albert Whitted Airport site. GoogleEarth image.

The resurfaced concept of reevaluating the current and future use of the airport is being spearheaded by St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch, who said he instructed city staff to further study the economic and community impacts of the city-owned airfield. Welch stated his goal is to identify the best uses for the site through the lens of equity, business and the needs of the community.

Today, the airport doesn’t house commercial airlines; however, it has operated for 100 years and there are numerous aviation businesses from charter flight operators to providing flight training. 

The call for the study also comes at a time when the city is still bounded by a federal agreement. In 2021, the city received grant funds from the Federal Aviation Authority, and the FAA’s language for the grant included the stipulation that the City of St. Petersburg must maintain the airport for at least 20 years, according to city documents. 

Inside the proposal

In Kimley-Horn’s 30-plus page proposal, the firm highlighted the projects it has worked on in partnership with the city since 2008, which ranged from water/wastewater services and drainage improvements to traffic calming, signalization analysis and parking demand studies.  

For the Albert Whitted Airport study, the team wrote, “To ensure that the project is managed correctly and to garner input and support from the City of St. Petersburg and key stakeholders, project management meetings are recommended throughout the life of the project. A virtual kickoff meeting will be held at the onset of the project, followed by virtual project meetings prior to initiating each task, including a presentation to city staff once final impacts are quantified and approved.”

Kimley-Horn explained it has assembled a team for the airport study that includes EBP US, a firm specializing in economic analyses, and KRAMER Aerotek, a woman-owned firm that specializes in aviation market forecasts and analytics.

Kimley-Horn and EBP US currently are contracted by the state to produce the 2022 Florida Aviation Economic Impact Study, in which it has identified direct impacts at more than 120 airports in the state, including Albert Whitted.

“The Kimley-Horn team can use the data obtained during this effort as a starting point to reduce the typical data collection effort; however, the state uses a conservative methodology that does not take local factors into account, such as nearby businesses that utilize the airport as well as local off-airport businesses with based aircraft. As such, Kimley-Horn recommends a more limited, cost-effective data collection and validation effort using staff with familiarity of the airport and the statewide economic impact data collection and modeling process. In consultation with the city, the Kimley-Horn team will develop draft surveys and review the design and dissemination plan for each survey prior to administration,” the firm wrote. 

It listed multiple surveys it would conduct such as an airport business tenant survey and it would interview the team at the airport to identify the direct impacts it carries.

Kimley-Horn also noted how its local office is one mile from the Albert Whitted Airport, and that it has worked on other various airport studies, including economic impact studies for Lakeland Linder International Airport, Tallahassee International Airport and the Columbus Regional Airport Authority.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Bob La Brant

    July 26, 2022at3:44 pm

    Leave the airport alone. I learned to fly there back in the early sixties. I was born and raised in St.Pete I left the last time they threatened to close Albert Whitted. It makes St.Pete a special place where many tourist admire for the location and convenience it offers. bob La Brant or bobbyridgecrest@yahoo.com

  2. Avatar

    Page Obenshain

    July 27, 2022at11:54 am

    The highest and best use of the airport is not an airport! I think we already know that. I never liked flying so I do not have a dog in this fight from the love for flying standpoint, but I firmly believe the airport should remain as is. 78% of the voters said so several years back. The FAA says we are obligated to retain the airport for at least another two decades. I have trouble understanding how our administration thinks they can change the voters and the FAA.

  3. Avatar

    Tom Barry

    July 27, 2022at4:15 pm

    Does anybody have any of those bright yellow “save Albert Whitted Airport” bumper stickers from 17 years ago? I would like to paid to have 5000 of those printed right away. We can start distributing them immediately. Try to get ahead of this.

  4. Avatar

    VLHeraty

    July 27, 2022at5:18 pm

    The administrations here in St. Pete have a propensity to ignore their own agreements with others and even with themselves (Spa Beach as a Passive Park for example). Not only does Whitted live in the history books of aviation, it’s impacted our city in many beneficial ways. For example emergency flights for Johns Hopkins Childrens Hospital. That’s no small thing. I understand it’s tempting to “prove” something to one’s constituents but honoring legal agreements with the FAA should trump that “glory road”goal. Finally, I see nowhere in the project proposals that address climate change. According to some environmental time tables those runways could be underwater and so could anything else built there in not so far a future. I’d like to see some integrity back in out local government by honoring all current agreements. IMO, it would be great if the focus and energy shifted to Tangerine Plaza in earnest.

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