Friday, January 19, 2018
News Roundup

Pier working group sifts through ocean of residents' ideas

ST. PETERSBURG — Invited to specify amenities they'd like at a new or renovated Pier, more than 2,000 residents have offered ideas running the gamut from a comedy club to a microbrewery to a basketball court.

But while some clamored for shade and air conditioning, top favorites were open-air casual dining, observation areas, accommodations for cycling, jogging, walking and fishing, and trams or trolleys.

On Wednesday evening, the Pier working group appointed by Mayor Rick Kriseman to sift through residents' must-haves met for the first time since the conclusion of five public feedback sessions and an online survey. Key elements named by the public will be used to seek an architect to design the Pier replacement.

By the end of its two-hour meeting, the group had selected 13 preliminary elements to be considered, adding amenities such as a marine discovery center, courtesy docks, water taxis, shopping, green space, a performance stage, and bicycle and watercraft rentals.

Vice chairman Ed Montanari said it was "remarkable how consistent the public has stayed over the past six years" with what they say they want at the Pier.

Meanwhile, a report that could determine the feasibility of renovating the current inverted pyramid will soon be complete. Michael Connors, the city's public works administrator, said a structural analysis of the pyramid and its five 20- by 20-foot supporting caissons should be ready by the end of July. A preliminary examination "found little to no structural degradation, with connections in surprisingly good shape," he said.

Some residents have been passionate about trying to save the 1973 structure.

Formal discussions about what should happen to the city's newest or renovated Pier have been ongoing since 2008, when a visioning process was followed by the creation of the Pier Advisory Task Force. Last August, former Mayor Bill Foster appointed a new committee to push what had become a contentious process forward. Kriseman later appointed a new Pier task force as part of his transition team; that task force recommended the creation of the working group.

During the group's recent public input sessions, held over a two-week period, almost 400 people completed surveys detailing what they want. Another 75 surveys were submitted separately, and 1,585 residents completed theirs online.

At the Lake Vista Recreation Center, Bobbie Bennett sat alone completing her form, which included elements culled from past Pier input efforts.

"I would like to see a better design," the 33-year St. Petersburg resident said.

She dismissed the importance of fine dining. "Seems to me like expensive stuff. I want something simple but good," Bennett said.

Cathy Harrelson, head of the St. Petersburg Sustainability Council, spoke about floating docks. "That's exactly what we need," she said. "Not only is it less expensive, there is less damage to the sea bottom. The whole thing could be floating, the causeway and the structure."

Wayne "Skipp" Fraser, a retired accountant and treasurer of Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg, which opposed the last Pier process and the design that resulted, said he is pleased with what he has seen so far.

"Our thought is that Mayor Kriseman really had wisdom and foresight the way he approached the process," he said.

Concerned Citizens, though, wants to monitor successive phases of the plan. The group's worry is that the city could get a design team that is qualified but doesn't know and understand St. Petersburg and what is needed, Fraser said.

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

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