After a marathon of meetings, vision of new Pier still blurry

ST. PETERSBURG — When the city is done remaking the Pier, spending between $60 million and $92 million, it will be overhauled in one of three ways:

It will look pretty much the way it does now.

It will be closer to shore.

It will be on land.

Those are the options that were "narrowed" down by a task force on Friday. The 20 members spent about a year holding meetings and public hearings to consider various ways to rebuild the structurally and financially shaky Pier. In making their final picks, which they will submit to the City Council, they eliminated three other options.

But the options that remain are so broad that the city is no closer to having a clue as to what its tourist landmark will look like in the future once $50 million is made available for the project in 2012.

"This is a committee that met at least three times a month and did an extensive amount of work," said City Council Chairwoman Leslie Curran, who sat on the task force. "And what did we come up with? Three very different recommendations. Council will be surprised when they see that it's not as narrowed down as they hoped it would be."

Yet narrowing the focus was never the intent of the task force, said Chris Ballestra, the city's director of downtown enterprise facilities, who manages the task force.

"The task force isn't required to narrow it down to one alternative," Ballestra said. "Members are there to point out the benefits and negatives of the alternates that are available."

The task force's recommendations to the council, which are due May 20, will also include an array of other ideas, such as creating about 50 boat slips along the Pier; hanging a gondola (think ski lift) that links parking garages to the Pier; searching worldwide for an architect; building a swing bridge that would connect the approach to Vinoy Park; and paving the causeway approach, an idea favored by the chairman of the task force, Randy Wedding.

On top of that, each task force member will be asked to submit his or her own recommendations. Ed Montanari, the vice chairman, has four pages of recommendations, including a monorail that connects BayWalk to the Pier.

Each task force subcommittee made recommendations that will be reviewed by the council, too. And don't forget the more than one thousand comments made online by the public that are part of the record council members may consider.

"A committee is the wrong way to do this," said former mayoral candidate Scott Wagman, who didn't sit on the task force. "Getting a Pier that will do what we want requires vision and leadership, which is exactly what you don't get with a committee."

After the meeting, Mayor Bill Foster spoke with Wedding about how he thought the task force was coming along.

"It's a little like herding cats," said Wedding. "But it's not too bad."

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (727) 893-8037 or mvansickler@sptimes.com.

After more than a year of meetings, a 20-member task force whittled down ways to rebuild the Pier to three concepts on Friday. There is a fourth option that is similar to Option 5, but the approach is wider.

Option 3: A wider approach, but building remains the same. Estimated Construction Cost: $89.3 million. Estimated Operation Cost: $53.2 million.

Option 5: New Pier building that's closer to shore with a wider approach. Estimated Construction Cost: $91.5 million. Estimated Operation Cost: $48.9 million.

Option 6: New Pier building that's on land, with a smaller approach used mainly for fishing. Estimated Construction Cost: $59.8 million. Estimated Operation Cost: $41.3 million.

Pier options

After more than a year of meetings, a 20-member task force whittled down ways to rebuild the Pier to three concepts on Friday. There is a fourth option that is similar to Option 5, but the approach is wider.

Option 3: A wider approach, but the building remains the same. Estimated construction cost: $89.3 million. Estimated operation cost: $53.2 million.

Option 5: A new Pier building that's closer to shore with a wider approach. Estimated construction cost: $91.5 million. Estimated operation cost: $48.9 million.

Option 6: A new Pier building that's on land, with a smaller approach used mainly for fishing. Estimated construction cost: $59.8 million. Estimated operation cost: $41.3 million.

After a marathon of meetings, vision of new Pier still blurry 03/19/10 [Last modified: Saturday, March 20, 2010 1:20am]

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