A proposal to expand TradeWinds Island Resorts in St. Pete Beach — including adding new buildings and parking garages — has sparked a community backlash amid some support.
The proposed project would take about a decade to finish and would add 33,000 square feet of conference space, 18,000 square feet of new retail space, three new parking garages, three new swimming pools and 650 new guest rooms.
While some residents welcome the increase in tax revenue and potential customers, others fret that the project will lead to more crowds and congestion. In a town that prides itself on being distinct from bustling cities like Clearwater or Miami Beach, some see the expansion as an assault on their way of life.
“I see disaster in store for St. Pete Beach,” said 69-year-old Deborah Schechner. “This is way too massive for our community.”
Schechner spoke last Thursday at a community meeting organized by TradeWinds Island Resorts. Hundreds of residents gathered to hear about the project and share feedback.
Adrian Petrila said he worries that the TradeWinds expansion would bring an overwhelming number of new visitors, exacerbating congestion and straining city resources.
More than 1,700 people have signed an online petition created by Petrila requesting that city officials reject the TradeWinds proposal.
The expansion “certainly benefits the TradeWinds. It benefits all the other hotels. But we’re the ones that live here. We’re the ones who have to deal with this on a daily basis,” Petrila said.
Remaining capacity of Gulf Boulevard, the main drag leading to the property, would shrink from about 33% to about 20%, according to a traffic consultant hired by the developers.
Not all residents at the meeting were opposed to the expansion.
“Change and growth are a natural progression of a thriving area,” said Dave Winkler, 67. “The plan being presented is part of that growth.”
Joe Smith, the chief executive officer of 1754 Properties, which owns TradeWinds, said that the developers have taken a number of steps to address residents’ concerns.
“We really have gone to far lengths making sure that we’re doing things not only favorable to us but to the community as a whole,” Smith said.
The proposed expansion would include a 30-foot beach access point, Smith said. Entrances to the TradeWinds property would be reduced from nine to four and an internal circulation road would funnel traffic away from Gulf Boulevard.
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The project would also include a multi-million dollar stormwater drainage system to help with flooding problems. Smith said he expects the project to generate 300 permanent jobs, 500 construction jobs and $19 million in annual tax revenue for the city.
Smith and the rest of the team plan to include feedback from the community meeting and submit a formal application to the city after 30 days.
St. Pete Beach Mayor Alan Johnson said he’s received many complaints from the community about the project. But it’s unlikely that the project would be rejected, since it aligns with the city’s comprehensive plan for planning and zoning, he said.
“I’ve got mixed emotions about it,” he said. “There isn’t anybody on the City Commission that wants this place to turn into Clearwater Beach or Sand Key or Miami Beach. We’re not going to let that happen under our watch. (However), there are certain rights that people have as property owners and we got to respect those as well.”