Tuesday, November 21, 2017
News Roundup

City Council votes to move forward with plan for new St. Petersburg Pier

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ST. PETERSBURG — Negotiations begin today with the architects chosen to design the city's new Pier.

The talks start one day after City Council members voted 7-1 to move forward with plans to replace the inverted pyramid that opened in 1973.

The vote came despite disdain from some residents for the proposed design, opposition to the millions set aside for the project and calls for a referendum.

Thursday's decision set in motion a process that could make the new Pier a reality by 2015.

Meanwhile, the next few weeks will bring Michael Maltzan Architecture, the Los Angeles-based creators of the design known as the Lens, on a whirlwind visit to St. Petersburg for meetings with city officials, staff and community groups. The aim is to refine the concept into one that will reflect the needs of St. Petersburg.

An architectural and engineering agreement with Maltzan could go before the council in about two months, said Chris Ballestra, the city's managing director of development coordination.

Meanwhile, discussions will continue about how to assist the tenants who occupy the current Pier, which is set to be demolished in 2013.

Thursday's agenda drew dozens of residents. A handful from Occupy St. Pete picketed outside before the meeting. Lenny Flank, a member of the group, later likened tearing down the inverted pyramid to demolishing the St. Louis arch.

Neurosurgeon David McKalip, a member of the tea party, was among those who spoke against the project.

"I don't think there's a plain in Africa to hold all the white elephants the council has produced over the years," he said, urging a referendum that would allow the city to lease the Pier to a private entity.

The project also had its supporters. Chris Steinocher, president and chief executive officer of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, praised the council.

"We applaud you all today," he said, but offered some counsel:

"Let's honor and stay on budget."

And money continued to be an issue during the discussions. Council member Karl Nurse reiterated his concerns.

"I'm not going to vote for something that is a first phase," he said, referring to language in a PowerPoint presentation. "I am willing to vote for something that is $50 million on its own."

Mayor Bill Foster ordered the word "first" to be removed.

"Unless manna falls from heaven, we're unlikely to see any more phases in our lifetime," he said. "Please lock that door."

Before Thursday's vote, Raul Quintana, the city's architect, presented a projected budget of $50 million that included a demolition estimate of $6.5 million and $34 million for construction.

He also showed a rendering of what might be expected from the project. The Lens will keep its looping bridges, observation decks, walkway through the top of the crown and promontory that includes a gelato stand. The design also is expected to keep the underwater reef and habitat, along with the proposed marina/dock, cafe, kayak and paddleboat rental space, bait shop and fishing areas in protected waters. The design also calls for limited uplands development that will include space that can be used for cafes, restaurants and retail.

Council member Wengay Newton voted against beginning negotiations with Michael Maltzan. Responding to discussions that the public has had a chance to weigh in for several years, he noted that input is not the same as letting residents vote.

"It was a deliberative process. It was a collaborative process," colleague Charlie Gerdes said. "Voting on this to me is about honoring the process."

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283

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