City councilmember Ed Montanari was misquoted in an earlier version of this story, re: the discussion on consultant RFQs (Request for Qualifications). The Catalyst regrets the error.
The City of St. Petersburg is preparing to select a consultant to study the best use of the 110-acre Albert Whitted Airport site.
The airport, which does not house commercial passenger airlines, has operated at the waterfront site for over 100 years and provides aviation services including fueling, storage, parking, maintenance, flight training, charter and rentals; however, the city wants to reevaluate the property as the bustling downtown continues to spur growth.
On Thursday, the city will have an evaluation committee meeting regarding the retention of a consultancy firm to study the site. A source familiar with the process said the city has received two proposals – one from Alpha Sol LLC and another from New York-based HR&A Advisors. The anonymous source also stated the city may restart the RFQ/RFP process to garner more interest.
The news of the city seeking a consultant to help determine the fate of the airport property follows an earlier announcement from St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch, who said he instructed city staff to further study the economic and community impacts of the city-owned airfield.
“It could be everything from the extension of our waterpark system south to the expansion of the USF [University of South Florida] Marine Sciences Center [or] the Maritime Defense and Technology Hub – there could be a lot of possibilities,” Welch previously said, also stating it could be the new home of the Tampa Bay Rays; however, that’s not what is driving the study.
Welch continued to say this would be “a clean slate” and he does not foresee hi-rise condos and similar development taking shape there.
In May, the city officially kicked off the process by issuing a request for proposals from consultants to study the 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 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.
The cost estimate for the study was not disclosed.
The attached documents in the RFQ include the proposed airport master plan study and the Florida Department of Transportation’s 2018 economic impact study. The study was based solely on economic impact and heavily focused on the extension of the airport’s runway – but nothing further.
If the city were to ultimately proceed with the redevelopment of the site, one of the significant obstacles would be how to return funds the airport has received from FDOT and the federal government for projects, locking the airport into funding agreements that span over years.