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City refines agreement with The Dali for expansion

Veronica Brezina



Museum Executive Director Hank Hine inside the museum. Photo by Bill DeYoung.

The newly revised agreement between The Dali Museum and the city will go before voters this November. 

The St. Petersburg City Council unanimously voted on Thursday to move forward with the amended agreement, which now includes additional language protecting Bill Edwards’ Big 3 Entertainment company, which operates The Mahaffey Theater, to the potential impacts of The Dali’s expansion. 

Per the plans, the city-owned Lot 6 property would be used by The Dali for a 20,000 square feet expansion that includes community spaces and digital exhibits, and a new 150,000-square-foot parking garage. Lot 6 is currently used as the access point for the Mahaffey Theater’s parking garage. 

However, the updated plans don’t include new or additional parking, and the expansion would be roughly 30,000 square feet with a focus on bringing new immersive experiences, education and community programming spaces. 

A rendering of The Dali’s expansion on Lot 1 and Lot 6. All images: City of St. Petersburg documents.

Since the city’s July 14 meeting on the topic of amending the Dali’s 99-year lease and the referendum, discussions have continued with Edwards, and The Dali and Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg executives. 

An aerial image of The Dali Museum and Mahaffey Theater as seen today.  

The city added to the definition of the theater as the theater manager and Big 3 Entertainment specifically, which the July 14 document did not reference. Additionally, the city and theater added a requirement regarding the coordination of construction to minimize impact.

Edwards and Joe Santiago, general manager of the Mahaffey Theater, previously expressed concerns to the council about how the expansion could negatively affect The Mahaffey and asked to be protected from any losses Big 3 Entertainment may experience including construction that disrupts operations or leads to show cancellations. 

“It looks like we have discussed every implication of the expansion with our neighbors…we give our extra leased land each year to their [the Grand Prix’s] race and we have a great relationship with Joe Santiago, who manages Big 3’s operations at the city theater,” The Dali Museum Executive Director Hank Hine said during the Thursday meeting. 

“This expansion is crucial. People come to the city and the art museums for different reasons now than they did 10 years ago. They expect to be fully immersed in the technology that’s available today. We can do that – we have the staff, the skill, the ability and have shown it’s possible, but we don’t have enough room. What we can do for this community is limited,” said Karen Lang Johnston, chair of The Dalí’s Board of Trustees, stating how the 29-member board has discussed the plans over the past three years. 

St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership President Jason Mathis and Lang Johnston cited how The Dali has attracted millions of people to St. Petersburg and the museum has spurred nearly $1 billion in economic impact to the area in the last decade. 

A rendering showing The Dali’s expansion and theater as part of the Center of the Arts vision

With the approval, the ordinance goes into effect next week and the item will be submitted to the Supervisor of Elections and then placed on the ballot. 

If voters approve the referendum on Nov. 8, the city will then be able to negotiate the agreement with the museum and make addition agreements with Big 3 and the Grand Prix. 

The amended changes would go before the city council for final approval. 



  1. Avatar

    Geff Strik

    August 7, 2022at3:42 pm

    Interesting battle.

  2. Avatar

    Geff Strik

    August 7, 2022at3:40 pm

    Hummmmm, we need a great theater the Dali museum is perfect as it is , my question is simple , why do we need our tax to develop or private business? The Dali museum is great no doubt about it , but the other museums like the “James” or the ” craft” didn t asked for any local tax payer help, why should we pay for the Dali museum? What gonna be my return on investment if my tax finance the extention of the Dali Museum ?
    There are enough assets in the Dali collections to get a private loan .

  3. Avatar

    Steve Phillips

    August 6, 2022at2:35 pm

    And just where is the new parking garage to be located?

  4. Avatar


    August 5, 2022at10:54 pm

    Take the theatre down and let the museum have all the space for all I care. Build a new theatre at the Trop site.

  5. Avatar

    David B.

    August 5, 2022at7:52 am

    I fully support the Dali expansion, the museum is a jewel for downtown St. Pete. I could care less about any impact on the Grand Prix.

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