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Pier could be saved, report finds, but cost is unclear

St. Petersburg’s budget for a new or renovated pier is $46 million.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

St. Petersburg’s budget for a new or renovated pier is $46 million.

ST. PETERSBURG — The inverted pyramid Pier is structurally sound and could be renovated to last another 75 years, according to a city-commissioned engineering study released Friday

The report was good news for those who have fought to save the controversial building, especially Frank Carter "Bud" Karins, a licensed structural engineer who pushed for the study and wrote the protocol for conducting it. Karins said an evaluation of the building's condition was imperative before the city asks design teams to submit concepts for a new or renovated pier.

"I am pleased that the building is in really good shape," he said. "I don't believe in throwing away things that are part of the fabric of the community."

The engineering study also found that the massive caissons that hold up the landmark are in good shape. Cost, however, could be a drawback to refurbishment. The building, closed for more than a year, must be brought up to current codes and will have to parallel the lifespan of a new approach, which must be replaced.

The city's budget for a new or renovated pier is a firm $46 million, Mayor Rick Kriseman has said. A city estimate puts the cost of renovating the pyramid, replacing the area around it and the approach at that sum. The renovation budget does not, however, include key amenities residents have said they want, including fishing.

Shirley O'Sullivan, who supported the now-rejected replacement project known as the Lens, said she hopes to see something new built.

"Until they determine what the cost is going to be, I can't be for saving the Pier," she said.

City public works administrator Michael Connors said the estimated cost just to refurbish the building is over $12 million.

"Even though the structural report was not all that alarming, there's a significant sum of money necessary to renovate the building," he said.

He added that it will require "a considerable amount of investment" and mean "a significant reduction" in the size of the pier approach and pier head and the loss of brick pavers, ornate railings and shade shelters.

"If we do renovate the building, it will be a comprehensive renovation. It will be comparable to a new building," he said.

Joseph Reed, who worked with the group Vote on the Pier and helped collect petitions demanding a public vote on the fate of the pyramid, is pleased. "I think there will be design teams that utilize the inverted structure."

Other highlights of the $30,000 study, done by the Tampa firm Kisinger Campo & Associates:

• The inverted pyramid will have to be brought up to code to meet wind load requirements for 140- to 150-mph winds. This could require "significant structural modifications" to strengthen connections, beams, and columns for the steel structure. A structural wind-load analysis, which could also cost about $30,000, would be required to determine what type of reinforcement is needed. Such a study would be done only if one or more short-listed pier design teams indicate a plan to use the closed structure, Connors said.

• The first floor likely will be lost because it would have to be raised about 6 feet to accommodate current flood elevation requirements.

• Tests indicated limited corrosion of the building's steel structure. The five 20- by 20-foot supporting caissons are in good condition and their steel piles "appear to have limited chloride exposure."

• Extending the life of the building for an additional 75 years "would greatly exceed that of similar coastal structures," but could be done, the report said.

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at wmoore@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.

Pier could be saved, report finds, but cost is unclear 08/01/14 [Last modified: Friday, August 1, 2014 10:49pm]
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