Remembering the 2012 battle to save St. Pete's Pier and looking forward to keeping it going

01/03/13 Janelle Irwin
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The iconic inverted pyramid that is the St. Petersburg Pier may have just rung in its last new year. St. Pete City Council members voted last year to have the Pier demolished at the end of this May. After that a new Pier called the Lens is set to replace it. That design was chosen after a lengthy international competition and is an over-water pedestrian and bike path. Critics of the new design bombarded city council meetings throughout the year and gathered thousands of petition signatures to let voters decide whether or not the existing Pier should be demolished. Officials refused their efforts and are now being sued by the group. Tyler Mitchell is an activist with the group VoteOnThePier. He and others active in the effort to stop the Lens from being built say their fight isn’t over.

I spoke with Mitchell about how this fight started and where it’s headed in 2013.

"How I got involved with the Pier effort was back in the infancy of Occupy St. Pete one of the guys involved with that was involved with the vote on the Pier effort and had approached us and talked to us and I thought it was a very important issue to get involved with simply because of the prospect of democracy being involved. Us deserving our vote, they're spending $50 million of our money, our tax dollars to build a new Pier or to refurbish this one if that's the way it goes. We should really have a say when it comes to that much money, especially when it comes to the waterfront and downtown St. Pete which is the treasure of St. Pete is our waterfront that as of yet hasn't been completely destroyed and covered up with big buildings like most of the beaches have been."

What's the road been like? Did you have any interesting moments along the way?

"It's been a really long road. We've had hard times. We finally got all the petitions to vote on the Pier and then getting struck down by city council completely ignoring, what is it, I believe we have over 25,000 petitions at this time. We met the required number of petitions and they ignored us and we've taken it to court now and still, that was a huge blow. I was in city council that day when they made that decision and that was a hard day. It definitely was a huge disappointment to me and everybody else involved with the effort. We knew that we were going to file a lawsuit if it went that way. We just really didn't expect it to go that way. We thought our city council would have a bit more integrity than to completely ignore a legitimate petition drive."

Where do you see it going now with the law suit?

"It's kind of up in the air. It looks promising but, at the same time, after the way things went with the petition drive it's one of those things where I don't want to get my hopes up too much because I don't want to get disappointed but at the same time I think Kathleen Ford is an excellent attorney and is really doing a great job on this. Hopefully we'll be able to win this thing."

You said during public comments at the last meeting that if the wrecking ball comes out you'll stand in front of it. Are you going to do that?

"Yeah, absolutely. I believe there'll be several people there with me. I know there's going to be a lot of people out of work and if they, when the close the Pier. And when they go to tear it down that's pretty much sealing the deal on those people's jobs. I know more than a few of them have said that they will be there with me."

St. Pete City Council has allocated $50 million toward building the new pier. They say restoring the current one isn’t financially feasible due to deterioration of the structure’s roadway approach. Our website.

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Great job Tyler! The judge said, in no uncertain terms, that the city needs to go into mediation with Kathleen Ford to work on ballot language. The city said in court, it is in the record, that they are "eager, ready, and willing" for this to go to a vote. The judge took that to mean what it says, and I believe that's what's going to happen.

YAY, Tyler!