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St. Pete’s Pier District expected to move forward with more money

By Waveney Ann Moore
The new pier project is expected to take a further step forward Thursday, when the City Council is likely to approve another step in funding for the now $76 million project. [City of St.Petersburg]

ST. PETERSBURG —The pier will take a further step forward Thursday, when the City Council is expected to approve another step in funding for the now $76 million project.

Council members will be asked to vote on $18 million for remaining work to complete the original pier project, an area that stretches from the pier head and includes Spa Beach.

"This is the basically the last piece of the pie for the replacement of what was the pier," said city architect Raul Quintana, referring to the widely recognized inverted pyramid that was closed in 2013 and demolished two years later.

"This is a significant commitment to completion of the pier project," Quintana said.

But the controversial, on-and-off project has more than a year left before it is finished. The completion date for this section of the 26-acre Pier District is now May 21, 2019.

Thursday, the council will also be asked to approve an additional $2.8 million to upgrade a splash pad, for construction of a second breakwater off Spa Beach and to build a 13,000-square-foot shaded pavilion with restrooms and open-air snack shack. Council members will also consider $800,000 in contingency funding.

In June, an initial $17.6 million to begin construction, including piles and the pier platform, was approved. Altogether total construction price for this portion of the Pier District will be $39 million. It’s the guaranteed maximum price from Skanska USA Building, the pier’s construction manager. It covers construction of the pier before it was expanded to incorporate the approach, the link from Spa Beach to the city’s bustling downtown.

The money will deliver components such as the pier head building, education center and pier plaza, Quintana said.

The $2.8 million budgeted for enhancements to the splash pad, breakwater and pavilion will come from funds not originally budgeted for the district. That money, requested by Mayor Rick Kriseman, will come from $14 million in reallocated financing once meant for a mixed-use transportation facility in the city’s downtown. In September, the Pinellas County Commission approved St. Petersburg’s request to allow up to $10 million of that sum for the pier project, with the remainder allocated to improve transportation and parking downtown.

The council has yet to approve a guaranteed maximum price contract for the $20 million pier approach, the other part of the project. Chris Ballestra, the city’s managing director of development coordination, said the council could take that up in February or March.

This week, council members will also clarify Skanska’s requirements for adhering to the city’s disadvantaged workers and apprenticeship ordinances. Under city regulations, projects of more than $2 million, such as the Pier District and the new Police Department headquarters, require that at least 10 percent of all labor hours be performed by disadvantaged workers. The same percentage applies to apprentices.

Skanska must demonstrate good-faith efforts to achieve those thresholds, efforts that include conducting at least one monthly outreach event and placing at least two monthly advertisements in two community publications. Skanska will also be required to work with organizations such as Career Source Pinellas and the Pinellas Ex-Offender Re-Entry Coalition to recruit applicants and also to register job openings with groups such as the Pinellas County Urban League.

Meanwhile, 425 concrete piles are being driven into the bay bottom, work that is expected to continue through February, Quintana said. The piles will support the 92,000-square-foot concrete deck for components including the pier head and education center buildings and a "coastal thicket" with trees, landscaping and boardwalk.

The city currently is finalizing an agreement with the nonprofit Tampa Bay Watch to lease the 2,000-square-foot education center in the middle of the pier. Tampa Bay Watch, which describes itself as "dedicated to the protection and restoration of the Tampa Bay estuary through scientific and educational programs," submitted an unsolicited proposal to operate the center. The city subsequently advertised the space, but received no other interest, Ballestra said.

Skanska estimates "substantial completion" of this part of the project by March 26, 2019, and final completion by May 21 that same year.

The goal is to complete the entire Pier District at the same time, Quintana said, but additional work could lie ahead.

"We want all the tenants in, as well," he said. "It could be summer of 2019 when it is all done."

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes