St. Petersburg City Council Vice Chairman Gina Driscoll said it felt like “an Echelman moment” as the Council discussed signage at the St. Pete Pier.
At issue is a $1.5 million donation by the Glazer Vision Foundation for a sign at the playground at the Pier. Driscoll has objected to the proposed size, location and theme of the sign.
St. Petersburg residents will be invited to weigh in when the Council holds a public hearing this week on the Pier signage. It’s one of two issues likely to draw a lot of discussion. Proposed changes that would allow controlled development in some flood-prone parts of the city also are up for public comment.
The public hearings begin at 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8 with the City Council meeting currently scheduled to be online.
The Council is being asked to approve a 30-year agreement between the city and the Glazer Vision Foundation, established by the the Glazer family, the owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The foundation would contribute $1.5 million to the city, paid over 10 years, with a portion of each payment used as revenue to offset city operating costs in the Pier District and the rest invested by the city as restricted revenue for the life of the agreement. The city’s contribution towards the signage costs are not to exceed $4,000.
The Council members had their first chance to discuss the Pier signage last week, when Driscoll raised three concerns about the proposed sign at the playground.
Size. “This sign at its highest point is 6-feet 10-inches. To give you a point of reference, LeBron James is 6-feet 9-inches. It’s also very wide.”
Location. The sign would located outside of the southwest corner of the playground. “If we’re going to have a big sign it should be in a location that is appropriate. Right now, the placement will be on a corner when you get out onto the Pier and into the approach area … You cannot see an entrance to the playground area when you are looking at the sign, so it’s not like a welcome sign to go in. It really looks more like a place where you would put a sign for the Pier itself and not the playground.”
Theme. “We have a wonderful marine-themed playground. I think it would be more appropriate to have a sign with artwork that is themed to the playground.”
The sign looks bigger on paper than it will at the Pier and there are three individual panels that keep it from being a monolithic block, said Chris Ballestra, the city’s director of enterprise facilities. The location was recommended by city staff and engineers and the theme — showing children playing – is what the donors wanted, Ballestra said.
“We have been working with the Glazer family on this for well over a year, closer to two years,” said Alan DeLisle, city development administrator. “Anything that we do raise through naming rights minimizes the public subsidy we pay for operating expenses for the Pier.”
Two more naming rights deals are pending, DeLisle said.
For Driscoll, the discussion was deja vu. She recalled the controversy a couple of year ago over what is now Bending Arc, the aerial sculpture by Janet Echelman on the Pier that originally was supposed to be on Spa Beach.
“I’m feeling an Echelman moment right now from when we discussed where the Echelman sculpture would be. At that time, some of you may recall, that we asked city staff where Plan B was, where the alternate location was, and we learned there wasn’t one. So we gave staff a couple of weeks to come up with an alternative we could consider,” Driscoll said. “Together we were able to come up with the current location for the sculpture, which turned out to be a good move. Even the artist Janet Echelman herself called me and thanked me and said she liked that location better.”
Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin discouraged the Council from postponing the scheduled public hearing, and said city staff would meet with Driscoll at the Pier for a first-hand look at how the sign might look. Driscoll said she was would be willing to do that. Still, she cast the only no vote on a measure to set the public hearing date.
The playground signage hearing will follow a pubic hearing on whether to allow more residential development density in the roughly 40 percent of the city deemed highly vulnerable to storm surges in a Category 1 hurricane.
The City Council voted to advance the controversial plan for the Coastal High Hazard Area, after a wide ranging, two-hour debate that touched on climate change, hurricane preparedness and gentrification. See a recap of that discussion here.