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ST. PETERSBURG REFERENDUMS

The waterfront's makeover: The hottest of the five referendum questions is whether the Dali museum will move to the land now occupied by the Times Arena at the Bayfront Center.

CARRIE JOHNSON
Published October 26, 2004

Voters are being asked to decide the future of the city's waterfront, including a proposed move for the Salvador Dali Museum that would give the University of South Florida St. Petersburg room to expand.

The City Council has approved five referendum questions that will appear on Tuesday's ballot.

Two of the questions are about the Dali's move, which several council members have called the most significant change to the city's waterfront in 30 years.

Two more questions will allow 25-year leases at the Port and Albert Whitted Airport, which advocates say would allow those facilities to attract private businesses, such as restaurants. The city charter requires voters to approve any leases on the waterfront longer than 10 years.

The final question would allow the Harborage Marina to expand the amount of underwater land it leases from the city in Bayboro Harbor. Marina officials say they need the extra room for docks.

But it is the potential move of the Dali Museum that is attracting most of the attention this election season.

The proposal would allow the Dali to build a new museum on the spot now occupied by the Times Arena at the Bayfront Center, which is slated for demolition.

The museum's current building would then be transferred to USF St. Petersburg, which could use the location to expand its campus.

The deal still hinges on acquiring millions of dollars in state and private money to pay for the move and a new three-story museum. But approval of the ballot questions would be an important first step, museum officials said.

The first question asks voters to sign off on the Dali's move to Bayfront. Voting yes would allow the Dali to move into the space where the Times Arena now sits. The museum would then build a 50,000-square-foot museum south of the Mahaffey Theater. The museum and the theater would be connected by a pedestrian plaza overlooking Tampa Bay.

The three-story facility would be 20,000 square feet larger than the current museum and would include space for classrooms and a research library.

The second question asks voters to approve transferring the Dali's current waterfront property to USF St. Petersburg. If it passes, USF would get much-needed space for expansion, with possibly a new student center within the renovated museum building, and a new graduate arts program housed inside the new Dali building.

A third question on the ballot is supported by Albert Whitted Airport advocates, who have fought for years for longer leases at the struggling facility. They say extending leases from 10 years to 25 would help attract private businesses to the site.

The fourth question would allow facilities at the port to grant 25-year leases, too. City officials say this is important in light of the new casino cruise ship scheduled to start operations out of the port.

The fifth and final question would give the Harborage Marina permission to grow by giving it more submerged land to expand its docks. Voting yes would also allow the city to enter into a new 30-year lease with the marina.

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