ST. PETE BEACH — A plan to work together with a local restaurateur envisions the western end of Corey Avenue at Sunset Way to include a mini-marina at the eatery and fishing pier at adjacent city-owned Fisherman’s Park.
At the Sept. 9, City Commission meeting, Recreation Director Jennifer McMahon said the idea to enhance the public space along the west side of Corey Avenue initially came out of a 2015 community visioning meeting; such an opportunity has recently arisen.
She told commissioners the owner of Buoys Waterfront Bar and Grill, at 75th and Sunset Way, would like to build a dock in front of their property with a few boat slips that would allow visitors arriving from the gulf to frequent their restaurant, the park and the west Corey Avenue district.
The docks would be situated along the rocks next to the parking lot area, and adjacent to Fisherman’s Park. “What we are looking at is to extend Fisherman’s Park to include a fishing pier, which would go along with what the visioning plan had entailed,” McMahon explained. “We would create the pier along the docks to create that waterfront destination.”
Partnering with the restaurant would lower the cost of the project for the city, as well as meet the desire of the community to create an anchor on the west end of Corey Avenue with a small marina and fishing pier, she noted.
“It also allows the city to work with a developer in the area,” the parks director said. Currently fisherman at the park must cast their line about 20 feet from a seawall into a deep channel, which is said to be a good spot to reel in a catch of the day.
City Manager Alex Rey said the city estimates its portion of the project will cost about $250,000 depending on the size of the pier design and construction, as well as how much remodeling is done to the small existing park.
He noted if the commission likes the concept, city staff will draft a specific development agreement with the adjacent property owner and figure out cost-sharing. Staff will then come back to the commission with an agreement on funding and specific design details as to what the park and pier will look like.
“I like that it uses waterfront that we own which is Fisherman’s Park and the piece that is behind the park for Buoys,” said Mayor Al Johnson.
City Manager Rey said “there is going to be two different projects, but visually it will look like one. It will have the boat slips and a mini-marina type look and then end up with a fishing pier.”
Rey added the restaurant would maintain its area while the city would maintain its area.
“Sounds good to me,” said Johnson.
Commissioner Melinda Pletcher, however, was disappointed that the city’s long-term vision of creating a district that included hotels or condos was not being realized. She said the “dream and hope … of what our vision was and what this is couldn’t be any more different.
“We had such high aspirations,” she added. “This project may be an interesting short-term vision. This is so different than what we were hoping and dreaming for.”
Pletcher said the city can view this as a temporary fix, until a developer is interested in redeveloping the area.
Commissioner Doug Izzo said adding the pier and making improvements will raise property values in the area and potentially attract more development.
Commissioner Ward Friszolowski said he is for the project, as long as it’s understood this is the start of redeveloping the area. “It’s the first step to a future vision … This could be a good first step to help out that whole area. We have to make sure it fits in with the overall next steps.”
The city manager said the project is a good first step in an area of the city that will be difficult to redevelop, since property parcels are owned by different people.
Rey added there has been some developer interest in the East Corey area, but very limited interest in West Corey, where Fisherman’s Park is located. He added the city envisions major development in East Corey will take place, but not the west.
”We thought small government infrastructure improvements to the West Corey area could make it more attractive to becoming the dream you are looking for, but right now there is no attraction by developers,” he explained.
Commissioner Izzo said he would like to see improvements made to at Fisherman’s Park, where there is a lot of problems with the homeless. “Any step to clean it up, I’m 110 percent for it,” he said.
Matt Vareo, owner of Buoys Restaurant and an adjacent property, said his proposed mini-marina and the city fixing up Fisherman’s Park with a pier will hopefully alleviate some of the problems with homeless frequenting in the area. Fisherman’s Park attracts a lot of homeless people, who try to use neighboring restaurant restrooms and public places.
He said he is investing a lot of money to improve the area and make it a destination location, even though building a hotel or condo development is not currently in his wheelhouse, because of other projects he is undertaking.
Johnson told city staff to proceed and “see what we can put together.”