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Three tourism projects that could change the St. Pete economy

Margie Manning



The proposed expansion (southeast facade).

Expansions at the Salvador Dalí Museum and the St. Petersburg Museum of History, along with the construction of the Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center, will add about $28.8 million to the local economy by 2022.

The projects collectively will draw about 253,000 new visitors to the area in 2022 and account for an extra 42,700 room nights in hotels, according to projections developed for the Pinellas County Tourist Development Council. The report, initially given to the TDC in July, was presented to the St. Petersburg City Council Thursday by Council Chair Charlie Gerdes, who is a member of the TDC.

Each project is requesting funding from the Pinellas County tourist development tax, or bed tax,  a 6 percent tax collected on accommodations in Pinellas County rented for less than six months. That’s why a key criteria for reviewing a project requesting county funding is how many extra hotel room nights the project will generate.

JLL was hired to help Pinellas County and Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater review the proposals, and the projected economic impact and other numbers came from that report. Here’s a breakdown from the JLL report.

Salvador Dalí Museum

The largest of the three projects is the one at the Dalí, which plans to spend $38 million for expansion that would add 10,000 square feet of new exhibit space, 10,000-square feet of multi-purpose and classroom space, and a 270-space parking garage. The Dalí is asking for $17.5 million from the county.

The direct and indirect economic impact from the project is expected to be $18.8 million in 2022, with an additional 25,700 hotel room nights and about 78,600 new museum attendees annually. By 2031, the annual number  of new museum attendees is expected to swell to 97,400.

St. Petersburg Museum of History

St. Petersburg Museum of History

The St. Petersburg Museum of History plans an 8,000-square-foot, two-level expansion, with the ground floor level featuring a Pinellas County visitor center, a gift shop and conference area. The second level would have 4,000-square-feet of exhibit space and a 3,500-rooftop area overlooking the Vinoy and the St. Pete Pier District.

The project cost is $6.8 million, and the museum is requesting $2.8 million from the county. The project would generate $8.4 million in annual economic impact, add 11,000 hotel room nights and draw over 75,000 new visitors to the museum, half of them from outside of Pinellas County.

That’s a big increase over the 9,000 visitors the museum currently draws. The JLL report said that’s because of the museum’s proximity to the Pier, as well as a growing interest in cultural and heritage tourism, the fastest-growing segment of the Pinellas tourism industry.

Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center

Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center

The Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center also will benefit from being on the Pier. The report is projecting 100,000 visitors annually to the center, which will showcase the economic and ecological value of the Tampa Bay estuary. The 2,900-square-foot space will have an exhibition and event gallery, as well as field trip classroom and catering space.

The project will cost $711,371 and is requesting $300,000 in bed tax funds. Its total economic impact is projected at $1.6 million annually, including $570,000 in wages for 16 jobs, both those directly created at the center and jobs created indirectly as a result of the center.

It’s also expected to lead to 6,000 hotel room nights. That’s below the 10,000-room-night minimum threshold for projects that get bed tax money.

Gerdes defended the project at a July meeting of the TDC.

“We have to look at these requests in the context of a $90 million Pier project. It’s going to be a world class location and it’s on a world class piece of geography,” Gerdes said. “Tampa Bay is in the best conditions it’s been in over 50 years and a lot of that is based upon the work of Tampa Bay Watch, and what they’ve done to bring awareness and stewardship to that body of water. Without a beautiful Tampa Bay, the whole water park system of St. Petersburg, much less the Pier, doesn’t mean anything.”

It’s now up to a committee from the Tourism Development Council to analyze and rank the funding requests, which are expected to come back before the TDC in September.

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