New director to help Riverwalk raise funds

By JANET ZINK, Times Staff Writer
Published September 5, 2007

TAMPA - The Riverwalk, one of Mayor Pam Iorio's top priorities, now has some full-time fundraising help.

The not-for-profit Friends of the Riverwalk last week hired Alex Petrilak as its executive director.

Petrilak, 53, will head a $24-million capital campaign to support construction of the 2.2-mile linear park along the Hillsborough River through downtown Tampa.

Iorio hopes to cover the rest of the construction costs, about $16-million, with taxpayer dollars from local, state and federal sources.

Petrilak, president of the consulting firm Marketing Systems Management Inc., formerly worked as director of real estate and international trade for the Tampa Port Authority. In that role, he helped promote the Channelside retail and entertainment complex.

He'll earn $110,000 a year in his new post. His salary is being paid by the private Friends of the Riverwalk group, not with public money.

"The biggest challenge will be to get the private sector to step up," he said. "The pitch is already in place. It's an economic development opportunity, community-building opportunity and will create jobs."

Petrilak said he comes into the job about one-third of the way towards his goal. Developers of The Heights just north of downtown have pledged to build one mile of the Riverwalk, a contribution worth nearly $4-million.

Cash donors include Sandy MacKinnon, CEO of Yale Industrial Trucks, who has committed $250,000; and SunTrust Bank, which has promised $250,000.

Petrilak said one of his first steps to promote the Riverwalk will be to plan events at segments that have been completed, such as performances on a mobile stage or outdoor movies, to show that the park will be a destination for bay area residents and tourists.

"We're open for business" he said.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or 813 226-3401.