ST. PETERSBURG — Buttonholed on Facebook, in coffee shops and anywhere they're seen, local members of the panel that will judge finalists competing to design the city's new Pier can do little but politely listen.
"I've heard from people from just being out downtown and being in my neighborhood,'' St. Petersburg council member Leslie Curran said.
"Everyone has an opinion. As a juror, all I can do is listen.''
Friday, Curran and others on the five-member jury will get to do more. They'll listen to hourlong presentations from each design team and ply them with questions.
West 8 Urban Design in New York will explain the Eye. BIG of Denmark and New York City will enlighten them about the Wave; and Michael Maltzan Architecture of Los Angeles will talk about the Lens.
With interest running high, city officials have scheduled the presentations in the Coliseum. The presentations will start at 8:45 a.m. and end about 3 p.m., with breaks in between. The teams will employ architectural drawings and three-dimensional models — temporarily removed from the St. Petersburg Museum of History, where they are on display during December.
They will have to impress a panel made up of experts in architecture, urban design and planning, and elected officials. There's Stanley Saitowitz, professor emeritus of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and principal of Stanley Saitowitz/Natoma Architects in San Francisco. James Moore is senior vice president of HDR, an architectural, engineering and planning firm with offices around the world, including Tampa. Susan Fainstein is an urban planning professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design with a doctorate in political science. Curran and Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch round out the group.
For Fainstein, the Pier competition is not her first. Her focus on redevelopment and its economic and social impact, as reflected in her recent book, The Just City, hints at what she might be looking for in the Pier designs.
"I would rather not comment on what I am looking for beyond saying that imagination and creativity, combined with practicality, are my primary principles, as well as a concern that benefits flow to the citizens of St. Petersburg, not just tourists,'' she said in an email.
Curran, who sat on the Pier Advisory Task Force that helped establish the vision for the new Pier and surrounding waterfront, is interested in a combination of things.
"I'm looking for design feasibility, accessibility and uses, costs, the waterfront, the environmental impact with the waterfront and really, the integration of the Pier with the upland, the waterfront and the rest of downtown," she said.
Curran added that it is a privilege to serve on a panel "that is really going to change the face of our downtown waterfront.''
"It's a huge responsibility that I take very seriously," she said.
Welch, whose roots in St. Petersburg go back three generations, is looking for "something that attracts both visitors and residents.''
"I ask myself, when was the last time we as a family said, let's go down to the Pier? It has to be an attractor that fits in with Beach Drive and that is environmentally sustainable," he said.
Besides Friday's presentations, the jurors will also receive additional information in the form of reviews from consultants hired by the city. Raul Quintana, the city's architect, said consultants will perform independent cost analyses and assess requirements for environmental permitting and construction, market viability and construction schedules of the three proposals.
The jurors will also be given tabulations and comments from cards completed by people who viewed the designs at the St. Petersburg Museum of History — about 2,000 in the first week — and from those submitted through the city's website.
Curran is excited with the interest residents have shown.
"I wish they were as passionate while we were having the 53 meetings (of the Pier Advisory Task Force). I kept saying that there wasn't the participation level that I had hoped for at that point,'' she said.
"Once you start putting ideas out there, if it's anything that people don't like, you are certainly going to hear it."
So far, Curran said, opinions are running about 50-50 for specific proposals or for none at all.
"How can you in good faith vote approve any of those horrible designs?" one person asked on Welch's Facebook page.
"A landscaped park. Might get a lot more use. And a lot less cost?" another posted.
"People are not shy about their opinion, nor should they be. It's certainly a hot topic," Welch said.
"It's not going to be an easy decision. The funding aspect of it, the environmental issue, I have some questions. There's a long way to go on any of the three."
The jurors will rank the three designs on Jan. 20 and the City Council will approve the rankings and authorize negotiations with the top-ranked firm.
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at email@example.com and (727) 892-2283.