ST. PETERSBURG — Images of what a new $50 million Pier could look like were unveiled by city officials Thursday for the first time since they embarked two years ago to overhaul the struggling tourist landmark.
Miami engineering consultant Luis Ajamil showed renderings of the new Pier during a presentation to the City Council. It came two days after a private developer scooped the city by presenting his own version of the project if his company were to do it.
Darryl LeClair's unsolicited bid drew raves. Ajamil had a smaller audience at City Hall, but he too got good reviews.
"I really liked it," said Council Chairman Jim Kennedy. "This is like a sifting process, where we shake it and see what forms."
Ajamil and his partners, who are getting paid $418,000 by the city, unveiled seven concepts, or "themes," of how to re-imagine the Pier, which was rebuilt into an upside-down pyramid that opened in 1973.
The themes ranged from keeping the Pier approach the same length as it is now, a straight-line out, to curving it so that it veers north and connects to Vinoy Park. The terminus could host any number of buildings and activities: an amphitheater, community events plaza, tower with observation platform, a marina, lighthouse, and dancing fountains.
While it shared similar concepts with LeClair's proposal, including an enhanced beach, it was also quite different. For instance, Ajamil proposes a much slimmer approach that leaves room only for pedestrians and a trolley. LeClair's version had an approach wide enough to include a possible carousel, booths for a farmer's market and a tram.
The public is invited to a forum to discuss the concepts at 7 p.m. Thursday at the downtown Coliseum. By the summer, the city will invite architects and engineering firms to compete to design the Pier based on Ajamil's concepts and comments from the public.
"You take this and combine it with (LeClair's) concept on Tuesday, and we're really thinking outside the confines of the inverted pyramid," said Mayor Bill Foster. "It's a matter of getting people to use their imagination."
After the presentation, only council member Wengay Newton expressed disappointment.
"I wasn't impressed," said Newton, who voted against the decision last August to demolish the Pier. "We're spending a lot of money on a slide show."
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