TIERRA VERDE — The broken and splintered pilings that once greeted visitors to this coastal community are gone.
Construction equipment, including massive cranes that ripped out the pilings, have made way for new floating concrete docks that now welcome home residents along the west side of the Tierra Verde bridge.
The Tierra Verde Marina renovation and expansion project is under way.
Some 125 new wet slips are available for pre-lease and will be fully functional in 30 days.
A waterside restaurant and its accompanying pool and private cabanas are scheduled to open next spring at the complex at 100 Pinellas Bayway S.
In addition, an eight-story hotel/condominium is scheduled to be built a few years down the road.
It was a project that many thought would never be built.
When Richard Fabrizi, a former contractor and nightclub owner, bought the marina complex — a 7-acre parcel of land on the Intracoastal Waterway — for $21 million in December 2005, he had big plans to improve the property.
"I'm trying my hardest to get rid of the eyesore you see as you come across the Tierra Verde bridge," Fabrizi said.
"We are the first thing you see when you come onto the island. There are lots of beautiful multimillion-dollar houses in Tierra Verde. I'm just trying to match them."
While there was — and still is — opposition to his plan by many residents of Tierra Verde, Fabrizi has remained steadfast in his determination to build on the site. He got the city of St. Petersburg to annex the land and he began his $5 million renovation project.
A lawsuit seeking to overturn the annexation is still pending but it doesn't worry Fabrizi.
In fact, the 43-year-old's friendly manner and enthusiasm as he points out the plans for his property belie the controversy behind it.
"We're in the city (of St. Petersburg) now. We tried everything we could possibly do to stay in the county, but we just couldn't come to terms with the Tierra Verde Association," he said.
His partner in Tierra Verde Marina Holdings LLC is his Rochester, N.Y., boyhood pal, Tony Amico.
As owner of Caddy's on the Beach in Treasure Island, Amico has been embroiled in battles with that city and some residents who want to ban alcohol on Sunset Beach, where his popular beach bar and restaurant are located.
Amico was not available for comment.
As the project seems to be getting off the ground at last, Fabrizi seemed to brush off concerns about being limited in developing the property.
"Even the way the market is," Fabrizi said, "the property is on the water.
"And you know that kind of property is not going to be a loser."