What should happen to the Pier?
Curious about a couple of the seemingly underestimated candidates for St. Petersburg mayor, I stopped by recent receptions for Deveron Gibbons and Scott Wagman. Both were asked about the future of the Pier, and they gave strikingly different responses:
Deveron Gibbons: "That's a good question. I don't know. I know you're not used to hearing that, but I just don't know. I'm on the hot seat. The Pier has been a jewel. It still has potential. It still brings -- I don't remember how many people, but a lot of people. The Columbia is a good restaurant. I just don't know. I wish I could tell you I had a vision and a plan for the Pier, but I don't. I'd really like to have more public input because it is a real jewel for us. I remember reading about the Million Dollar Pier, which was very popular.... I think times have changed, and we've kind of outgrown the pyramid scheme. But that's not to say we can't utilize that facility and have different things there."
Scott Wagman (after running down financial and engineering problems with the Pier): ..."When the visioning is done -- and I think it's going to be another year before the visioning is done -- in my opinion I think we're going to find the public likes a pier, not necessarily the Pier. We're going to have to look at a couple alternatives. One of them is to bulldoze the Pier -- and you can negotiate your way out of leases. ... Bulldoze it, plant some sod, make it a temporary park -- temporary park. Put up concession stands and some bathrooms. This buys you some time to be able to let the public have their full say as to what they want. From what I'm hearing people like a pier, (but) there's a question as to what should be at the pier. Restaurants are almost a no-brainer. Bring the pier in about 150 yards so that elderly people don't have to walk as far out. ...
... Leave the back so people have for a huge fishing opportunity. But here's the twist I'm sort of thinking about you might find interesting: Don't fix the superstructure of the pier, fill it in, put in seawalls, fill in all this dirt. You may be aware they're going to dredge the boat channels. ... All that dredge stuff gets dumped out somewhere else. I view that as free fill. Fill it in so you never have to fix the Pier superstructure again. It's a dirt causeway. Make it a little bit wider, go ahead and build whatever building gets decided. There's some people saying make it look like the Vinoy, but at this point the public has to weigh in on that. What your going to wind up with is a building that is rentable. You can't rent an upside down pyramid.... Rent it out, put in what the public wants. Get some mechanics that know what they're doing. Revitalize an iconic, beautiful pier. It's going to cost a lot of money, but from what I'm hearing the public values that pier and it will be up to the mayor and the city council to make that happen."
Adam Smith, Times Staff Writer