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Ideas plentiful for a revived Pier, all of them costly

Bill Stokes, 66, who lives in downtown St. Petersburg, told the Pier Advisory Task Force on Tuesday: “We have a diamond in the rough that could be resuscitated with a little polish.”

DIRK SHADD | Times

Bill Stokes, 66, who lives in downtown St. Petersburg, told the Pier Advisory Task Force on Tuesday: “We have a diamond in the rough that could be resuscitated with a little polish.”

ST. PETERSBURG — There was talk of a mega yacht harbor, naval museum, a Ferris wheel, water park and a rotating restaurant in the sky.

Roughly 200 people gathered at the St. Petersburg Coliseum to review six tentative designs for a new Pier Tuesday night, with the cheapest proposal totaling $46.9 million.

The opinions shared were so varied that by the end of the one-hour discussion, the men tasked to map the downtown icon's future couldn't even agree on what had happened.

"Sounds to me like we are going to keep it, unless I misheard," former Mayor Randy Wedding, chairman of the Pier Advisory Task Force, said of the inverted pyramid shopping center.

Mayor Bill Foster, however, wasn't so sure.

"Everyone in the room loved a Pier function," he said. "After that, it was hit or miss."

City and county officials have earmarked $50 million that comes available in 2012 toward the waterfront landmark and its corroded 83-year-old approach that the city staff says is functionally obsolete.

A rebuild remains an option, but task force members are considering replacing the attraction with a shorter approach or a simple fishing pier that will free up more of the $50 million to build commercial and tourist activities in what are now parking lots.

The cheapest proposal calls for shortening the approach from 100 feet to 48 feet, which would allow the city to maintain the iconic structure and reduce annual maintenance costs dedicated to shoring up eroded pilings. The most expensive option, at $75.3 million, proposes widening the approach to create activity zones that could make the walk to the Pier more enticing.

Miami consultants Bermello Ajamil & Partners will eventually translate the broad-brush concepts into a formal plan, develop cost estimates and do market analysis on more specific ideas that emerge.

During Tuesday's meeting, residents spoke both for and against rebuilding the Pier's lengthy approach.

Downtown resident Bill Stokes, 66, said the approach allows residents to enjoy the city's stunning waterfront views.

"We have a diamond in the rough that could be resuscitated with a little polish," he said.

Lisa Wannemacher, 47, said any attraction over the water would be cost-prohibitive and difficult to walk to.

"We need to start over with a brand new approach, 21st century, and create a brand new icon for the city," she said.

Foster, who doesn't support rebuilding the current Pier, said he had a favorite proposal, but declined to identify it.

He said he was disappointed by Tuesday's moderate turnout and looked forward to hearing from more residents.

"I expected this to be packed," he said. "Standing room only."

Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or csilva@sptimes.com.

Ideas plentiful for a revived Pier, all of them costly 01/19/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 1:33pm]
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