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City to select consultant for Albert Whitted Airport

Veronica Brezina

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Downtown St. Petersburg and the airport. File photo.

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.


RELATED: VINTAGE ST. PETE: The legend of Albert Whitted


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. 

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ben Gilbert

    July 25, 2022at3:07 pm

    Just another attempt by the money Hungry politicians can’t stand the airport being there.

  2. Avatar

    Jodi

    July 25, 2022at3:21 pm

    Let’s just demolish the Vinoy, the YMCA building and every other piece of St. Pete’s history for the sake of the almighty dollar. At least it won’t be more “affordable housing” that nobody can afford.

  3. Avatar

    Hugh J. Hazeltine

    July 25, 2022at3:24 pm

    The picture shown is now outdated. The runway in the foreground is 36. It has that number because of its magnetic direction. In 2021, this runway was relocated farther east to increase the separation between it and the taxiway next to it in order to comply with modern regulations. AIP funds were used to help finance this work.

    The Airport Improvement Program (AIP) provides grants to public agencies — and, in some cases, to private owners and entities — for the planning and development of public-use airports that are included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS).

  4. Avatar

    Barb Jiannetti

    July 25, 2022at3:45 pm

    Great place for a waterfront ballpark.

  5. Avatar

    Gail Ruland

    July 25, 2022at3:53 pm

    This airport has historical relevance to this area. Just like Al Lange ballpark, which should be kept as it is being used for today. If you want to attract big money to this area there is no bigger draw then to have a private airport so close to downtown.

  6. Avatar

    Dr Mary L Turgeon

    July 25, 2022at4:11 pm

    Chicago has a small airport on the lakefront MEIGS FIELD. It is a private airport used by business owners coming to and from the city rather than using OHare or Midway airports. ASK CHICAGO why they keep prime lakefront property for a small private airport before you kill Whitted
    Dr Mary L Turgeon

  7. Avatar

    D Skrypek

    July 25, 2022at4:14 pm

    The airport is fun, quirky, interesting and useful. Definitely better than another stupid condo just for the rich. St. Pete is becoming over built, losing its charm.

  8. Avatar

    HAL FREEDMAN

    July 25, 2022at4:51 pm

    This is a major waste of time & money, especially given far more important issues facing the city: affordable housing, climate change, homelessness, etc. I addition, 2 major obstacles stand in the way of Albert Whitted being anything but an airport: 1) the airport is City Charter protected, as the result of the last attempt to develop it…it would require a city-wide referendum to change its status; 2) there are FAA grants involved, the latest used in 2021, that require the property remain an airport for the next 20 years. Based on letters from the FAA, the most recent in 2/2022, repayment of grants is not an option; There is a contractural obligation to maintain Albert Whitted as an important part of “the regional, state, and national system of airports.”

  9. Avatar

    Sue Moore

    July 25, 2022at4:52 pm

    My windows face the flyway. Starting every Thursday afternoon I see private planes coming in…I assume for the weekend. On Monday the reverse. Clearly the well to do in our community can do something to keep the airport in place. It’s definitely being used.

  10. Avatar

    Andy

    July 25, 2022at5:46 pm

    Rebuild the Gas Plant district, bulldoze 175 & 375, hand the City Marina over to outside interests, extinguish Albert Witted. The City is moving to remove its hard earned reputation. Disaster!

  11. Avatar

    Hugh J. Hazeltine

    July 25, 2022at8:17 pm

    The following is from a memo prepared for city council by Chris Ballestra Director of Enterprise Facilities Development on April 15, 2021, edited for brevity.

    Encumbrances or restrictions of up to twenty years for that property or portions of
    that property generally known as Albert Whitted Airport which would restrict the use
    of that property, or portions of that property, to airport uses each time such a
    restriction is executed.

    Acceptance of any grants requires the City to meet certain grant assurances, including a
    20-year commitment to keep the Albert Whitted Airport property as an operating airport.
    The FAA has determined that a portion of the project does not meet federal eligibility
    requirements. The runway is currently 150ft wide which is well above minimum width
    requirements based on the size of aircraft the runway is designed for. The FAA will only
    fund the Runway’s width at 60ft. The City desires to keep the Runway’s width at least at
    75ft. As the FAA will not fund the 15ft width difference, the FDOT has agreed to participate
    in funding this portion at eighty percent (80%) of the cost. The City will provide the
    remaining twenty percent (20%) match.

    Acceptance of any grants requires the City to meet certain grant assurances, including a
    20-year commitment to keep the Albert Whitted Airport property as an operating airport.

  12. Avatar

    Tom B

    July 25, 2022at9:14 pm

    The city rulers tried this 18 years ago. Yes, it’s very valuable municipal property. Same rulers that tried to spin off the municipal docks. 18 years ago we the people forced the city to put it to a referendum, the citizens voted 82% to keep the airport. If the rulers try again, we will embarrass them again

  13. Avatar

    Billy Greene

    July 26, 2022at6:32 am

    I love keeping iconic portions of the city, but simply too many better uses out there than an airport less than 1% of the population actually uses. St. Pete/Clearwater airport is in close proximity as well. As mentioned, a great spot for a new ballpark and a great deal of possibilities surrounding it.

  14. Avatar

    Yikes

    July 26, 2022at7:15 am

    From Wikipedia

    “Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley forced the closing of Meigs in 2003 by ordering the overnight bulldozing of its runway without notice, in violation of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.”

  15. Avatar

    Roman Craig

    July 26, 2022at10:09 am

    Peter O’ Knight on Davis Islands in Tampa should go before this one!

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