Morning Report: Does St. Pete need to redevelop its waterfront?

An Urban Land Institute panel is in St. Petersburg this week meeting with stakeholders to develop recommendations for developing the downtown waterfront.

But the eight-member panel’s visit is raising questions, at least privately, among some city council members.

“Other than the parking lot near the City Pier approach, I was not aware that our waterfront needed redevelopment,” said one council member after a chamber-hosted cocktail reception Monday for the panel.

On Friday, the team of eight consultants — most with a real estate, planning and development background — will issue their recommendations at a public meeting at the Vinoy Hotel. The findings are intended to help the city as it creates the first Downtown Waterfront Master Plan for guiding development over the next several years.

“I can tell you one thing, this downtown may look quite different in a few years than it does right now,” said Mike Higbee, a former development director with the city of Indianapolis who is heading the Urban Land Institute panel. "There will be a lot more energy."

Higbee added that his group will not propose big changes but help to "validate ideas for responsible land use.”

“We are not going to come in here with a silver bullet,” he said. “We will look at this differently because we’re not from here.”

More this morning:

It’s a vision thing: Rick Kriseman, who’s challenging incumbent Bill Foster for mayor, is also peddling his fresh perspective to voters.

At a Wednesday press conference, Kriseman unveiled his vision for leading St. Petersburg. The plans were the most detailed to date that the candidate has offered.

But Kriseman also emphasized that he would not arrive in office pretending to have all the answers. Instead, repeating his campaign mantra, Kriseman said he will work “to listen, to learn and to lead.”

As mayor, Kriseman’s focus would be to improve efficiencies at City Hall and work to boost the economy, across all the neighborhood business districts, not just downtown.

He also wants to focus on energy efficiency, including switching out 30,000 street light bulbs for energy-efficient LED bulbs, for a savings of $1.8 million.

Kriseman said he would hire a full-time experienced grants writer to make sure the city is able to tap foundation and government dollars for projects and initiatives.

He also would create a marine sciences research district for tying together institutions that operate there, including USF’s Marine Sciences Department, the Florida Institute of Oceanography and NOAA.

Cuba flight hub: Tampa International Airport is becoming a hub for flights to the island of Cuba.

Starting on Dec. 4, ABC Charters will start flying from Tampa to Santa Clara, Cuba. The airline already flies between Tampa and Holguin and Havana, Cuba, with plans to increase weekly flights to Havana.

Island Travel & Tours also flies between Tampa and Cuba, and has plans to increase its weekly flights to Havana, starting Nov. 1.

Flights between the U.S. and Cuba are allowed but under tight restrictions. Cuban-Americans and Americans who meet certain conditions and qualifications are allowed to travel to Cuba.

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