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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Fate of the Pier still uncertain



ST. PETERSBURG -- The pier task force will wait for more detailed information about costs associated with each of the options for remaking St. Petersburg's Pier before making recommendations to the City Council.

The task force met Tuesday for the first time since hosting three public hearings to gather input.

The group heard presentations from the St. Petersburg Sailing Center, which seeks to increase its visibility and boater access around the Pier by relocating its facility to the uplands leading to the approach, and a group seeking to make the Pier head into a maritime museum. Another representative from Premier Rides Inc. discussed the possibilities of building a ferris wheel and carousel along the uplands and a high-speed monorail train stretching from the BayWalk to the Pier head.

The committee also discussed public input from an online survey and the three public hearings. Residents have been largely divided over whether to keep the existing Pier and approach with a few renovations or to go in an entirely different direction.

Several committee members brought up the emerging divide between the city's youth, who would like to see a new Pier building or a shorter approach, and older residents, who feel wedded to the inverted pyramid that has been in place for more than 35 years.

Committee vice chairman Ed Montanari said that a new pier may need to change to keep up with a modern way of life.

"The original pier design was put together back when people took Sunday drives," he said. "It was a different lifestyle back then."

Task force design chair Will Michaels pointed out that many of the problems posed by the pyramid structure came about because the building itself was not built for restaurants and tourists.

"Bill Harvard Jr. never intended it to be used for retail," Michaels said. "It was primarily to be used for an observation space....not for many of the uses we have heard proposed for it."

The task force began narrowing down their current list of six alternatives but later decided there were many other issues and questions to be considered, such as detailed financial information for each alternative. They resolved to wait until after March 5, when the task force's financial consultants will present their findings, to meet again.

The narrowed-down list will be presented to City Council in late March or early April.

Tania Karas, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:26pm]


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