Since moving to St. Petersburg in 1986, Tim Baker has literally seen the city grow from the ground up. Nine years ago, Baker moved into a townhouse on Second Street and, a year later, formed the Downtown Neighborhood Association with several other residents to lobby city officials to maintain a viable urban core in which residents could live, work and play. DNA scored a major victory last week when dozens of residents convinced the city's Environmental Development Commission to deny a 33-story Westin hotel and condominium project at Fifth Avenue N. and First Street. While sipping coffee at the Atlanta Bread Company, Baker shared his thoughts on DNA and the future of downtown St. Pete. Here's Baker on:
The defeat of the Westin hotel and condominium proposal:
"We're not a NIMBY organization. We like things to happen. A lot of times we go to meetings to support developers. This project was just way off the charts."
The most important issue facing downtown residents:
"The biggest issue right now is getting the new zoning code adopted. That's enormous. I think the Westin [project] showed how bad our code is ... We want to help write the zoning code instead of fighting [the city]. If you don't like what's happening, all you can do is change the rules."
His conflicting views with city officials:
"[City officials] look at downtown as a commercial district. They don't look at it as a neighborhood. To hear them talk, there's nobody here."
Baker's next undertaking:
"My big thing now is the waterfront. We want to create a new zoning district for the waterfront [for parks/recreation]. The city says they want to leave their options open. We want the options closed."