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The Dali’s expansion may be back on the table

Veronica Brezina



The Salvador Dali Museum is St. Petersburg's leading tourist-visitation museum. Photo provided.

The Dali Museum is resurrecting its plans for a massive expansion along the city’s waterfront. 

On July 14, the St. Petersburg City Council will review an ordinance on amending the city’s 99-year-long lease of waterfront property for The Dali Museum’s expansion. The city council would also be authorized to amend the lease with certain conditions. 

Over several years, The Dali has drafted a massive expansion that calls for a new wing with 20,000 square feet for community spaces and digital exhibits, and a new 150,000-square-foot parking garage.

The latest proposal was to use Lot 6 for the expansion. The lot is a narrow strip of waterfront property controlled by the city, and would require a referendum for a change in the lease if The Dali were to pursue the property. 

“We are excited about the opportunities the museum expansion will bring to our city and county, and we continue to work closely with our neighbors and governmental partners to move the project forward – starting with this referendum. The referendum will not require the city to contribute financially to the project. We are hopeful voting residents will embrace this project as enthusiastically as they did in 2004, when voters approved the referendum that granted The Dali its current home for multiple generations,” the Dali team wrote in a statement to the St. Pete Catalyst.

The discussion of the expansion comes after Dali Museum Director Hank Hine withdrew his plans to move forward on the expansion, which at the time was estimated to cost $42 million. He decided to pause the plans last year when concerns emerged on how it may impact the Firestone Grand Prix races and the Mahaffey Theater.

The site of where the lots are located in conjunction with The Dali’s existing property. The City of St. Petersburg.

The city staff had said it was hopeful that all the parties could come to a mutual agreement on how the museum can proceed forward without it negatively impacting the theater or Grand Prix. 

The Mahaffey Theater and The Dali are part of the city’s newly unveiled vision for establishing a section of the bayfront as its “Center of the Arts.

The city has considered a variety of plans for future improvements to the Center for the Arts that would benefit both the museum and the Mahaffey Theater while continuing to support the Grand Prix, according to the city documents. 

If the referendum to allow The Dali to expand is approved by a majority of electors voting on the referendum, the city can amend the lease under the conditions established in the referendum ordinance, including:

  • The expansion of the museum can’t compromise the Grand Prix race, including the track construction and dismantling. Currently, all of Lot 3 is included within the leased premises and is used by the museum for surface parking. Additionally, the lease provides the museum with certain future development rights for Lot 3 that may be exercised when it has not been used by the Grand Prix for five years. As currently written, those conditional development rights allow the museum to construct vertical improvements within Lot 3 that could be inconsistent with the Center of the Arts. Accordingly, the lease would be amended to establish a process through which the city would be allowed to remove portions of Lot 3 from the leased premises. 
  • The Mahaffey Theater, permanently situated within and comprising the majority of land mass within the Center for the Arts, will have impacts including parking and
    access to the site. These and other issues must be addressed subject to the referendum receiving approval through lease amendments with Big 3 Entertainment, Bill Edwards’ company that operates the Mahaffey Theater.

In addition to an amendment to the lease with The Dali, amendments will also likely be required for the Mahaffey Theater lease and Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg agreement to ensure success across all stakeholders within the Center for the Arts for the Dali Museum expansion, according to city documents. 

If the proposed plan is adopted by the city council, a citywide vote on the referendum for the expansion will be part of the general election on Nov. 8.

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