Is there any turbulence ahead for Albert Whitted Airport? • St Pete Catalyst
Albert Whitted Airport, located on prime waterfront property in St. Petersburg, could face an uncertain future as the city considers potentially redeveloping the 119-acre site.
Earlier this year, St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch announced he had instructed city staff to further investigate the economic and community impacts of the city-owned airfield, which also houses charter flight schools and maintenance operators. Welch said his goal is to identify the best uses for the site through the lens of equity, business and community needs.
“I understand this is a two-pronged approach – one involves us as an airport and the other involves the site not including aviation uses,” the director of the company said. airport, Richard Lesniak, stating that he was neither opposed nor against the study.
The airport has operated on the site for over 100 years. If the city were to turn the site into a park or set up mixed-use developments, Lesniak said, it would be unlikely that airport operations would be able to continue elsewhere in Pinellas County.
“At this point, the county has no land available even if the city wanted to move the airport,” he said, noting how significant 119 acres is in terms of downtown real estate, but are quite small compared to other airport sites.
“One of the advantages of an airport in downtown St. Petersburg is having people [from charter schools, etc.] fly over downtown and the waterfront,” he said.
Today the airport is home to 180 private aircraft and the operations of St. Pete Air. It does not serve commercial passenger airlines.
The property was last reviewed in 2018, solely on economic impact and heavily focused on expanding the airport runway – but nothing more. Welch said there was no specific plan for the site, but listed possible developments that could occur.
“It could be anything from expanding our water park system south to expanding USF [University of South Florida] Marine Science Center [or] the Maritime Defense and Technology Hub – there could be a lot of possibilities,” Welch previously said, also stating that this could be the new home of the Tampa Bay Rays; however, this is not the motivation for the study.
Welch explained that it would be “a clean slate” and he does not foresee high-rise condos and similar developments taking shape there.
The site also has an existing wastewater treatment plant.
If the city ultimately pursues redevelopment of the property, it will need to communicate and establish terms with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration, which have provided grants for the airport’s many projects.
“Right now, we’re putting a hold on FAA funds until the study is complete,” Lesniak said.
The airport recently completed an initial phase of its hanger replacement and new tie-down project. Albert Whitted is also completing his runway rehabilitation project, which includes the addition of new electrical and lighting systems.