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Waterfront preservation group backs parks and green space elements of marina plan [updated]

Brian Hartz



Under Safe Harbor Development's marina redevelopment plan, the entrance to Demens Landing would be upgraded.

The Waterfront Parks Foundation Inc., a nonprofit that works to protect the St. Petersburg downtown waterfront parks, has a submitted a letter of support for the Demens Landing parkland portion of the Safe Harbor Development proposal for the City Marina. The Foundation spent two months in negotiations with the developer and the City to arrive at a satisfactory solution to the impacts of the redevelopment plan on Demens Landing Park.

The City Marina proposal has been the subject of controversy in recent weeks because, if approved, it would cede control of the marina to a private company, Safe Harbor Development, which is based in Knoxville, Tenn. The Waterfront Parks Foundation is concerned about the potential negative impact it might bring to Demens Landing.

In the letter — which is addressed to SHD executive John Finch, with copies sent to St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, city council and city staff — Waterfront Parks Foundation President Phil Graham said his group approves of the latest iteration of SHD’s plan for the Demens Landing Park portion of the redevelopment. The amended proposal would result in 33,415 square feet of additional contiguous green space, with much of it coming from removal of the parking circle at the east end of the park.

“The Waterfront Parks Foundation Demens Landing Committee appreciates the efforts over the last two months made by SHD to help mitigate our concerns with the impacts of the marina development on the Demens Landing parkland green space and related parking,” Graham states in the letter. “The meetings, phone calls and emails with the involved parties and review and comments on several iterations of the initial concept plan provided by SHD have worked to get us to our current position.”

While the full proposal calls for extensive upgrades to marina docks, buildings, utilities and other infrastructure, as well as rate increases for boat slip rentals, Graham, in the letter, is careful to spell out that the foundation approves only of the park and green space elements of SHD’s proposal.

“The Waterfront Parks Foundation Board of Directors has not reviewed the marina dockage elements and expresses no comment or opinion on those elements,” Graham states in the letter, “but we do feel that SHD has presented a reasonable resolution to our concerns regarding Demens Landing Park.”

Graham wrote that the foundation’s approval is conditional upon a new, certified survey being conducted that would verify the designated areas of green space to be added. His group has also requested a color-coded plan with locations of all parking designations, as well as “written commitment from the City of St. Petersburg to provide the construction work and materials required to accomplish the removal of the existing drive circle, reconfiguration of the drive and parking, resodding, relandscaping and irrigation adjustments necessary to achieve the park redevelopment.”

Click here to view SHD’s full proposal for the marina.

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  1. Avatar

    Debi Mazo

    May 1, 2021at9:30 pm

    As mentioned above by another long-term St Pete Marina resident, the redesign of Demens Landing Park should not be part of the proposed lease to Darby Campbell’s Tennessee company, variously called Safe Harbor Development LLC, St Pete Marina Inc and Sun Life Marinas. Demens Landing Park is Trip Adviser’s 27th out of 100 St Pete recommended places and residents and visitors alike herald it as a rare piece of quiet in the amidst of the increasing hustle and bustle of the Downtown district. Last I heard from Phil Graham his Foundation had only two active members. Whatever their number they don’t speak for me or the over 400 boat owners and signers of a Petition op posing the privatization of public property represented by this deal. The historic import of Demens Landing, from the receiving dock, the first railroad, to the only downtown waterfront access allowed to our Black Community before desegregation of the downtown —is completely obliterated by allowing private development in the Park. While I support the Waterfront Foundation’s mission statement, I find their purported championing of the private redesign of the public access, the gaudy bridge pedestal entry and other attempts to commercialize the Park or the Marina totally incompatible with their purpose the historic nature of the placer and the public use doctrine upon which our City was founded. See you all on 5/20 or whenever the whole matter comes up for Council approval.

  2. Avatar

    Bill Dahl

    May 1, 2021at3:14 pm

    This is still quite incorrect. WPF submitted a letter that had three (3) extensive conditions that the city and the developer had to meet before WPF would support Concept D as it only relates to Demens Landing land use. It would take months for both parties to ever meet those conditions. So there is no endorsement and any other conclusion is false until when–and if–the city and the developer meet all three conditions.

  3. Avatar

    Hugh J. Hazeltine

    May 1, 2021at2:55 pm

    I used to think that John Finch was an SHD executive. His business card reads “Owners Representative”. He is the CEO of PBG Builders Inc in Goodlettesville, TN The role of Owners Representative is outlined in the lease agreement. The circle in Demons Landing is outside the proposed lease area for SHD. Neither Jim Graham nor John Finch control this area so I am not sure how they can negotiate its layout.

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