What started as an effort to restore a sundial that dates back to the 1930s has morphed into a full-blown Waterfront Parks Centennial celebration that will culminate with a dedication and Party in the Parks on Nov. 6.
The yearlong celebration, which kicked off in October, includes festivals, lectures, movies, tours and outdoor events.
Since that time, an effort to restore an old sundial and its replacement in the 1970s has evolved into a plan for a new sculpture by noted artist Eric Higgs.
At the Downtown Neighborhood Association's porch party Wednesday at the Northeast Tavern, Higgs gave a presentation about the planned sundial sculpture before a standing-room-only crowd. The next day, he made a similar presentation to the St. Petersburg City Council.
Plans call for Vista Point to be placed at North Shore Park near the intersection of North Shore Drive and Coffee Pot Boulevard.
Higgs, 44, who worked in Japan and France before settling in Florida, has a studio at 2245 Fourth Ave. S. His work appears at the Morean Arts Center, Shorecrest Preparatory School and on Beach Drive.
Higgs said he was originally approached by Robin Reed, who chairs the historic preservation committee for the Historic Old Northeast Neighborhood Association. She was interested in sprucing up a decrepit area where the sundials once stood.
"Robin Reed called me up one day and said, 'We'd like to do something with that location that would be meaningful to the people in the neighborhood. We have $1,000. Do you have any ideas?' " said Higgs.
The area Reed was referring to now includes an oddly shaped concrete pad and a round brick planter.
"I've lived here 11 years and that site has been basically an eyesore," said Reed, who added that after some research she learned that there had been a sundial there. "That's when I called Eric."
"It's restoring the idea of a sundial to the site, but is much more in keeping with the times in having an unusual sundial where children can actually go and learn something," she said.
Higgs says the sculpture is a "human sundial." A semicircle of markers at ground level denotes each hour. When a person stands in front of the half-circle facing north, a shadow is cast upon the correct hour marker.
At the neighborhood meeting, Higgs stressed that his design will be educational and include symbols of St. Petersburg's history, from oyster shells in the base to an element reflecting the city's sister city in Japan.
The Waterfront Centennial Committee estimates that the cost of the project will be $17,000. Higgs, who says the sculpture has a value of about $35,000, is donating his time "as a gift to the neighborhood." The committee and donors will finance the rest of the project, and the city will help with in-kind donations.
"It very quickly escalated into a project for the centennial," he said. "It's a substantial part of the centennial, and I'm thrilled about it."
If all goes as planned, the Vista Point sculpture is scheduled to be completed in conjunction with the North Shore Trail in November.
The city's waterfront is already an attraction, but with additional features like Higgs' sculpture, the trail and the new Dalí Museum, it will undoubtedly offer people even more reasons to visit the shoreline.
Sandra J. Gadsden is assistant metro editor, community news. She can be reached at [email protected] or at (727) 893-8874.