Preserving! or ... Hanging on to What's Left Bay Plaza, Part IV

19 Jun 2020 1:28 PM | Anonymous

By Peyton Jones, Ph.D. 

This is the fourth and final article in a series on the Bay Plaza Development that was slated to remake downtown in the 1990's. To read the previous three articles, click here: Bittersweet Memories of Bay Plaza Part IBittersweet Memories of Bay Plaza, Part IIBittersweet Memories of Bay Plaza, Part III

Opposition to the Rescue!

Opposition to Bay Plaza came from two primary sources: The St. Petersburg Times and historic preservationists (including Preserve the 'Burg!)

In 1988, a consulting firm hired by the SPT concluded that while the plan for Bay Plaza had its merits, the project was ultimately too big, too expensive, and gave away too much political-

economic power to a private company. An enthusiastic booster for the Suncoast Dome and an earlier proposal for a shopping plaza at the pier, the Times was not anti-development. But from 1988-1996, in article after editorial after article, it waged a journalistic war against the city’s Master Developer. Neil Elsey’s checkered financial history was a popular topic, and when he stepped down in disgrace, in 1991, the Bay Plaza Co., behind closed doors, accused the local paper of record of character assassination and largely blamed it for Elsey’s failures to land major department store tenants.

“Save Our St. Petersburg” (aka: SOS) formed in May 1988, only weeks before the first of two major city council votes on final plans for Bay Plaza. Comprised of architects and planners and other

concerned citizens, many of whom hailed from local preservationist groups such as St. Petersburg Preservation (now Preserve the 'Burg) and Booker Creek Preservation, SOS articulated an alternative vision for growth and development, one that entailed the preservation of historical architecture and a greater emphasis on protecting public resources. SOS and affiliated groups helped save a major section of First Block and led to the relocation of the Perry Snell House (to the USFSP campus) and the city’s oldest building, the Brantley House (to Boyd Hill Nature Preserve). Unable to save the Soreno, the reinvigorated preservation movement worked to educate the public and pressured elected officials to take a more active role in protecting the city’s unique sense of place.

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Preserve the 'Burg
P.O. Box 838
St. Petersburg, FL 33731
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