New St. Pete Pier proposals don't include everything in the drawings

12/16/11 Janelle Irwin
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Nearly 200 residents showed up today at the Coliseum in St. Petersburg for a chance to hear from designers vying for a chance to replace the city’s iconic pier. The three companies all incorporated the concept of merging downtown with the waterfront.

Architects from BIG proposed a design they are calling the Wave. It’s a giant loop that dives into Tampa Bay. The plans include a top-floor viewing room with an observation deck above that, about 30 feet higher than the current Pier. There’s also access to the water for swimming and small boat docking. Designers said they wanted visitors to have a view either back into the downtown skyline, or out to the Bay. One resident, “V”, said the Wave was her favorite.

“It’s very gentle on the eye. It appears to be very gentle with nature and the environment around it. It’s not really intrusive. It’s that circle that keeps going.

The Wave’s gentle rise and decent from land to water might be a great way to welcome visitors to take a swim but not everyone thinks swimming in the Bay is a good idea. Community volunteer Shirley O’Sullivan said she’d rather drive 15-minutes to the Gulf to go swimming.

“It’s one of the major shark populations in the state of Florida is located right here in Tampa Bay. You can verify that. The other reason is, at one point the main sewer line from the city of St. Petersburg ran off of Albert Whitted Airport into the Bay. So the bay was extremely polluted for many, many years. Thanks to people like Tampa Bay Watch, the bay is starting to get cleaner and beginning to come back, but it still is not truly feasible for swimming.”

The Wave presentation had a lot of people nodding with approval. But some of the elements of the design might not ever get built, even if it wins the competition. The city gave firms a 50-million dollar budget. To stay within that limit, the Wave design would lack permanent shade structures along the pier’s approach and several key elements displayed in models. Principal architect Tim Clemmons said the extras are long-term goals if more money becomes available.

“The 12 million would be the tributary part that we discussed and that would not be in phase one and the initial phase, that would be the wave walk – what we call the wave walk and the wave, that’s the 49 million dollars. So that’s what we’re proposing in response to this competition. Again, as Martha and Bjarke described, the tributary park – we’ve proposed a framework – in some ways we see it as relatively modest and achievable but we still know that the funds aren’t available for that at this time.”

West 8’s proposed first stage of what they are calling the Eye, includes a bridge leading to a 3-level pavilion. But to proceed with the second phase of the project, a spaceship-like shell around the pavilion, the city would have to come up with another $19 million. And after that another $29 million would be required to add a 4-acre sandbar. Businessman Mark Guthrie said he sees the potential for failure in this kind of planning.

“I don’t see revenue sustainability because there’s not much as far as – how are you going to derive revenue from activities out there? So, that’s one of the things I’m really concerned about. We don’t want this to be an albatross to pump millions of dollars in every year. It needs to be sustainable.”

Michael Maltzan Architects calls their pier design the Lens. The budgeted project doesn’t include bike paths shown on models. Not much more than the tiara-like structure and bridge is included. Guthrie said the Lens was his favorite design, even if additional funding was needed.

“There is a large amphitheatre that has a parking structure and what’s cool about that is it looks out towards the pier and there’s a place you can bring boats in also.”

Some residents didn’t like any of the plans. Shirley O’Sullivan doesn’t even like the already standing inverted pyramid.

“I personally would like to see a Spanish/Mediterranean, open air – I’d like to incorporate gardens and fountains and Spanish tile and have it open on four sides and just be a more people friendly place. And good restaurants. Even though we’ve got excellent restaurants on Beach Drive, it’s very nice to be able to sit out on the water.”

A panel of jurors including industry professionals and elected officials was on hand to judge the three designs. The panel will make a recommendation to St. Pete City Council on January 20th. A final vote is expected by mid-February.

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City Angel

I don't think any of the three can be built on the budget the city has. My idea would to build a Lighthouse with a unique design. Build it taller than 209 feet and it would be the tallest in the United States. It could house restaurants, shops and a unreal view of St. Pete and Tampa Bay. From the top you could see all the way to the Gulf. Build a large sea wall around the whole pier and fill it in with fill. Never have to worry about any replacing the base again. Build a Spanish/Mediterranean style village on the approach to make a destination for people of St. Pete and Visitors! And have the whole thing pay for it's self and not a drain on the City. Picture it this neat village with a grand Main Street with this beautiful Lighthouse at the end. The Lighthouse known as the tallest in the United States and a beacon that would be seen anywhere in the Tampa Bay area. And it can all be built for your 50 million dollars.


What I don't understand is how this project got approved. No one asked the citizens if they wanted a new pier. We were simply told the existing pier had suddenly become unsafe and needed replacing. If the citizens have to pay for it, we should have a say in whether this project goes ahead AND what are options are. We're limited to three designs? Says who? And you paid these companies hundreds of thousands of dollars just to present their designs?? That's not how business is done. Those companies would have gladly provided plans and ideas for free in exchange for the opportunity to win the contract. These "elected officials" are obviously either stupid or corrupt or both. I guess they learned their lesson when the voters rejected the new stadium. The key is to not ask, right? Just tell them they have three choices and to pick one.

I agree

We don't need a new pier, especially now. I would like to see the evidence that the existing pier isn't safe.