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New St. Petersburg Pier coming into focus

ST. PETERSBURG — They want it closer to shore, yet far out enough for boat slips. They don't want it as wide. They want people to stroll it, not drive it. They don't want a hotel, a casino or amusement rides.

Most of all, they want the city's landmark Pier to be popular not only with tourists but also with the locals.

Mayor Bill Foster and the City Council began to lay out their dos and don'ts Tuesday for a new Pier. The current one is set to be demolished in 2013 or 2014 and will cost more than $50 million to be replaced.

"Blow us away for $50 million. That's all I ask," Foster told Luis Ajamil, an engineer with Bermello Ajamil and Partners.

The city is paying the Miami firm $418,000 to come up with a concept for replacing the 37-year-old Pier. The city will then hold a worldwide design competition to choose an architectural firm.

Ajamil said his firm will focus on developing parameters that will ensure firms do not submit designs that blow past budget.

Ajamil will take Tuesday's comments, which are still pretty vague, and come back early next year with a more detailed plan.

In August, the City Council, at Foster's prompting, voted 7-1 to demolish the Pier and to rebuild from scratch. Wengay Newton was the lone dissenter. He said at the beginning of Tuesday's meeting that the council was making decisions that should be decided by city voters.

"This is a huge asset, and it shouldn't be decided by me or the other seven council members," Newton said. As the council members offered their thoughts on the new Pier, Newton was silent.

Columbia Restaurant owner Richard Gonzmart said he wants to preserve the Pier, calling the inverted pyramid a symbol of St. Petersburg.

A representative from a Sarasota company, Florida West Structural Preservation Systems, told Gonzmart the Pier's pilings could be saved for about $12 million to $15 million. Yet the city has paid for two studies, in 2004 and 2006, that said the pilings had deteriorated too much.

Foster said if the company can prove it can repair the Pier approach for a significantly reduced cost, it would be a game changer.

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at mvansickler@sptimes.com.

New St. Petersburg Pier coming into focus 11/16/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 17, 2010 10:29am]

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