Thursday, July 19, 2018
News Roundup

Panel weighs public artwork for St. Petersburg pier project

ST. PETERSBURG

Although the demolished inverted pyramid was itself a work of art for some, the new pier will have something the old one did not — actual public art.

A committee appointed by the city's public art commission held its first meeting last week to determine how to spend what could be a minimum of $500,000 on artwork for the Pier District that's scheduled to open in the fall of 2018.

"This is a big number that is going to be carved out of the construction budget as required by our code," said Chris Ballestra, managing director of development coordination for the city of St. Petersburg.

"This project is an amazing location for art and so we'd like, obviously, to do it right."

The committee will pick an artist, artwork and installation site or sites to recommend to the commission, which will send its decision to the City Council for approval.

A city ordinance mandates that a percentage of the cost of certain public works projects be set aside for the acquisition of public art. For projects exceeding $10 million, three-quarters of a percent of the project's cost is set aside for public art. The cap is $500,000.

The public art commission "could allocate more dollars if they have them and there could also be additional public contributions," Assistant City Attorney Mark Winn said in an email.

At present, the budget for the Pier District — comprising the pier and the approach — is $66 million. Winn said that since the two areas are being financed with two separate bond issues, they must be considered separate projects for public art. There is leeway for the pier and the pier approach to be considered as a whole if the art is installed where the two areas overlap, he said. That common space is near what is currently being referred to as the welcome plaza.

On its own, the pier project, which includes a main building with a restaurant and fishing deck and Spa Beach, is budgeted at $46 million. That means $347,500 must be allocated for art.

The adjacent pier approach, stretching from the Vinoy Renaissance Resort to Pioneer Park and Beach Drive to Spa Beach, has a $20 million price tag. The public art set aside would be $138,000.

Public art for the new waterfront district could feature a series of pieces, or even a single signature piece, Winn said, adding that the committee can issue a request for proposals, or simply commission work from a particular artist.

Currently the committee is responsible only for fulfilling the public art requirement for the pier. Its job, though, could be expanded to include the pier approach, or another group set up to make recommendations for that section of the Pier District.

St. Petersburg began its "percent for art" program in 1990 and now has more than 70 pieces of public art throughout the city. The first was Chuck Fager's Beach Balls at North Shore Pool. Others include Paul Eppling's 30-foot-long Security Lizard, welded from old auto parts, at the city's fleet maintenance building, and Foundations for Development by Ayokunle Odeleye at the Wildwood Recreation Center.

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.

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