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TradeWinds vote postponed after marathon discussion

Mark Parker



The TradeWinds redevelopment's first phase would include a 12-story hotel and two-story restaurant and bar with noise-mitigating retractable glass walls.

After a public hearing that began at 4 p.m. Monday and ended at 12:45 a.m. Tuesday, St. Pete Beach City Commissioners came to a familiar conclusion – postponing a vote.

South Florida-based 1754 Properties has proposed a massive expansion that would bring three new hotel towers to the TradeWinds Island Resort’s 25-acre beachfront property. The St. Pete Beach Planning Board unanimously approved a conditional use permit and development agreement in March.

With the commission’s final approval, the redevelopment will add 629 hotel rooms, 68,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space and 2,113 parking spaces to the sprawling property at 5500 Gulf Blvd. Local stakeholders must wait until at least April 23 to hear if the previously estimated $500 million project will move forward.

The development team will build the project over four phases, which could take up to 20 years. Joe Smith, founder and CEO of 1754 Properties, sought to assuage Mayor Adrian Petrila’s concerns over the firm’s “financial capacity.”

“We have enough liquid resources to pay for the entire construction all the way through, in cash, without a loan,” Smith said. “That is a big, important thing that I want to make sure you all realize – this is, by no means, a financial stretch for us.”

A rendering of a publicly accessible Rooftop View Terrace with a glass-floored balcony. If approved, TradeWinds Island Resort’s expansion will also feature a surfing simulator.

In February, the commission similarly punted a vote on the Sirata Beach Resort’s redevelopment after a 10-hour hearing. That followed previous postponements caused by an overabundance of residents vehemently opposed to the project and city officials resigning en masse before new financial reporting laws took effect. The expansion eventually received approval.

While public speakers waiting to comment again packed St. Pete Beach’s City Hall, many favored the TradeWinds proposal. The resort currently features 967 rooms and villas and 102,373 square feet of restaurant and retail space.

Aaron Grassman said he was initially against the massive expansion. “I now realize my fears were unfounded,” he added.

“I’ve concluded that the biggest traffic issues are caused by neighboring, non-beach residents,” Grassman said. “Not hotel guests who intend to use hotel facilities and walk to nearby facilities. I believe this proposed enhancement will improve our beach … thankfully, it will not be like Clearwater Beach.”

A resident speaking on behalf of the adjacent Sunrise Resort’s condominium association noted that development is inevitable. He said Smith and his team were willing to “roll up their sleeves and answer any questions.”

That was a common theme, even among speakers who expressed project concerns. One resident credited “what appears to be a very thoughtful design for our community” and blamed potential traffic impacts on thousands of planned new housing units in St. Petersburg.

The Sea Mark Condominium Association’s president began by acknowledging the “open dialogue that Joe Smith and his team have shown … trying to mitigate several of our concerns.”

The Sea Mark features a revenue-generating cellular tower, and the association believes a proposed hotel will negatively impact signals. They are “deeply concerned” that a building exceeding 125 feet will impede residents and visitors from contacting emergency services.

While the commission will not deliberate until April 23, Petrila questioned the project’s estimated economic impacts. The development team expects the 20-year project to generate $3.5 billion in local sales and support 508 annual jobs.

Economist Greg Pepitone also noted that the expansion would generate $409 million in state and local taxes. He said a former Pinellas County tax assessor helped compile those statistics.

Pepitone explained that $1.8 billion of $2.2 billion in projected direct spending would occur onsite. However, he added that TradeWinds officials would “spend money in the local economy to support their operations.”

“It’s also those visitors that are spending at a restaurant,” Pepitone said. “It does consider jobs throughout the economy.”

Once the project is complete, TradeWinds will feature 1,596 hotel keys and 170,126 square feet of accessory space. Plans include multiple parking garages, a conference hall, three swimming pools, a children’s center, a surfing simulator and a publicly accessible glass-bottomed observation deck.

A view of the project from Gulf Boulevard. The St. Pete Beach City Commission will deliberate on the proposal April 23 at 6 p.m.


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