Public considers options for new St. Petersburg Pier Approach

Published March 15 2016
Updated March 16 2016

ST. PETERSBURG — Residents reviewed ideas Tuesday for the Pier Approach, the sweeping $20 million project that will link the city's waterfront landmark to the popular downtown core.

The diagrams, displayed on easels in the student center ballroom of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, are simply a starting point, said the project's lead architect, Barbara Wilks.

"Nothing is set in stone," said the founder and principal of W Architecture and Landscape Architecture of New York.

While the city's Downtown Waterfront Master Plan provides a framework for the planned Pier Approach, Wilks said she is seeking specifics from St. Petersburg residents.

"What we are trying to do is get another level of detail in terms of uses for this area," she said.

Two diagrams were displayed Tuesday. One showed the Pier Approach with an overlay of ideas and activities recommended by planners. Another was of the architects' initial diagram of where those elements would work best. One idea is to convert Bayshore Drive into a shared space for pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles.

Wilks' firm, working with St. Petersburg's Wannemacher Jensen, was successful against five other teams vying to design the approach. Encompassing a swath of streets and parking lots abutting the Pier, the approach is meant to provide a series of enticements, such as a grand entry, art bridge, open-air market and restaurants, to draw visitors from the city's bustling downtown to what previously has seemed a remote pier.

"We want to make it easy to walk out there," Wilks said, adding that her team will work within the waterfront master plan to provide attractions so it will no longer be "a long trek."

The approach is an important segment of the city's new 26-acre, $66 million Pier District. Wilks' team is collaborating with the architects of the new pier — ASD of Tampa, Rogers Partners Architects and Ken Smith Landscape Architect of New York — to create what city officials envision must be a seamless district.

The Pier Approach designers have already had two meetings with the pier architects, said Wilks, whose firm had competed for the controversial pier project.

"People in St. Petersburg are very passionate about their city, and I've learned that it is a vital, growing and changing city, and new people are being attracted to it," she said. "There's a lot happening in St. Petersburg right now, and this will help build on that."

Besides Tuesday's public workshop, Wilks' team has already met with key local groups, including the Ocean Team, the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and the Council of Neighborhood Associations.

The architects' updated concepts for the approach are expected in May or June.

Construction of the pier is scheduled to begin in 2017, with the grand opening the next year.

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