Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]
The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]
Published September 25 2017
Updated September 26 2017

Times Staff Writer

The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

The commission's vote raises the budget for the 26-acre Pier District to $76 million.

St. Petersburg officials had asked the county commission to approve reallocating $14 million in tax increment financing, or TIF funds — once meant to build a mixed-use transportation facility for the city — to the pier project and to improve transportation and parking options in downtown.

The sole vote against the city's request came from County Commissioner Dave Eggers.

"The mayor is pleased," mayoral spokesman Benjamin Kirby said Monday. "We're ready to rock and roll."

Kriseman appeared before the commission on Sept. 14, three days after Hurricane Irma, to make his formal request before the vote. The city plans to spend up to $10 million of that money on Pier District enhancements.

The mayor emphasized that money for the pier will be spent primarily for enhancements on the pier approach, such as a pavilion, splash pad and playground equipment.

ST. PETERSBURG'S NEW PIER: Latest developments

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Decisions loom as time grows short to get the new St. Petersburg Pier built on time (April 15, 2017)

St. Petersburg's new pier is a go: City Council approves first construction funds (June 1, 2017)

The mayor had originally hoped to use the entire $14 million in TIF money for the extras, but in April the City Council voted to allocate some of the money to transportation and parking improvements.

The proposed pier enhancements include $1.3 million for a signature art element, money that city architect Raul Quintana said would help pay for the infrastructure and engineering needed to support a lighted, aerial net sculpture by world-renowned artist Janet Echelman.

"We will not be buying artwork with this money," Kriseman said. The mayor has raised about $650,000 in private donations to help pay for an Echelman piece.

Back in 2005, the city and commission agreed that $50 million in tax revenue from the intown area would go to the pier. That served as the original budget for the proposed replacement of the old inverted pyramid pier. In 2013, a citizen-led referendum scuttled an unpopular design proposed for the new pier, leaving just $46 million for a new project.

In 2015, Kriseman sought and received an additional $20 million from the county to expand the project. That's when the idea of the Pier District, combining the over-water pier with amenities on the land linking it to downtown, was announced.

The mayor's office has said that the pier will not exceed the $46 million budget for the pier itself. The now $30 million in additional funds will pay for amenities that are part of the pier approach.

Former Mayor Rick Baker has made the amount the city is spending on the pier and the new police headquarters a campaign issue in his election battle against Kriseman.

Pier construction started this summer and the attraction is scheduled to open in early 2019.

Staff writer Mark Puente contributed to this report. Contact Waveney Ann Moore at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.

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