Sixteen design teams line up to renovate or build a new St. Petersburg Pier

Many favor using the pyramid. The first round of cuts is Oct. 3.
Sixteen design teams met the Friday deadline to be considered for the challenge of redesigning the Pier, with a strong local presence. Times files
Sixteen design teams met the Friday deadline to be considered for the challenge of redesigning the Pier, with a strong local presence.Times files
Published September 5 2014
Updated September 6 2014

ST. PETERSBURG — The closed inverted pyramid, beloved and reviled, and once appeared destined for obliteration, could be in for a reprieve.

A majority of the 16 design teams vying for a chance to reprise St. Petersburg's decades-old tradition of a fully functioning public pier want to incorporate the 1973 structure in their plans.

"This unique structure as well as the passionate dialogue around this project attracts us to St. Petersburg," declares W Architecture and Landscape Architecture of New York.

Another firm, Fisher and Associates of Clearwater, promises to "redesign and repurpose."

And while the Ahha! Design Group headed by Paul Ries thinks replacing the inverted pyramid is the right choice, the team also is open to saving it.

But Alfonso Architects of Tampa and members of its team are unequivocal.

"Our position is that the city is ready for the next Pier transmutation, a new symbol," the group states in its portfolio, invoking "visionary leaders" such as renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly, HSN CEO Mindy Grossman and others who will help "insure that the final product is not only architecturally iconic but that it achieves all the social, civic and economic expectations as well."

Prospective design teams had until 4 p.m. Friday to respond to the city's request for qualifications that offered them the option to either renovate the pyramid or create a new landmark.

The hopefuls included well-known names in the architectural profession, with a showing of local talent. It is the first step in a process meant to result in the selection of architects, engineers and other professionals to work on the $46 million project.

Friday afternoon, city staff logged in design teams that included partners from as far away as Colombia, Mexico and London and homegrown St. Petersburg talent. Local teams included the St. Pete Design Group, headed by Salvador Dalí Museum architect Yann Weymouth. It plans to renovate the inverted pyramid. Mesh Architecture of St. Petersburg, which partnered with Civatas, selected to redesign Tampa's Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, and internationally known architect Fernando Romero, also wants to give the iconic pyramid new life.

"Part of what is intriguing to us about partnering with Fernando on this project is, because coming from Mexico City, the pyramid is a really elemental, powerful form of his culture and so you'll see it in his work already,'' Tim Clemmons of MESH said. "That's really what resonates with Fernando on this project."

In its request for qualifications, the city "encouraged" teams to involve local participation or collaboration with Tampa Bay area architectural, planning and engineering design firms. Those hoping to design the new Pier include local names such as Andrew Hayes, who headed Mayor Rick Kriseman's transition team. His company, Hayes Cumming Architects, is teaming up with El Equipo de Mazzanti of Colombia and Griner Engineering of St. Petersburg. The team is proposing a modular system that would be attached to the pier with shaded paths and bridges.

Peter Clark, founder of Tampa Bay Watch, an environmental group, who led Kriseman's Pier working group that sought input from residents to determine what they want at the attraction, is associated with Alfonso Architects.

Weymouth is working with Harvard Jolly, the firm that gave St. Petersburg the controversial inverted pyramid and is designing St. Petersburg's new police headquarters. Wannemacher Jensen, which worked with Michael Maltzan Architecture, the Los Angeles team that designed the Lens, the pyramid's rejected replacement, also is on the team. Wannemacher Jensen has worked on a number of public projects, including St. Petersburg's Fire Station No. 8.

"I think between the two firms and myself and the consultants we are bringing into our team, I think we have a very highly qualified team," Weymouth said earlier this week of the group that also includes Phil Graham, a descendant of St. Petersburg pioneers.

"All of the prime, major consultants are people we know and have been people we have worked with for a long time and are from the Tampa Bay area and a number of them are from St. Pete."

A selection committee will meet Oct. 3 to pare the number of competing teams to about eight, based on criteria such as their qualifications and proposed approach to the $46 million project. Short-listed candidates will each get a lump sum of $30,000 to develop their concept and face another elimination round in January that will be determined on the feasibility of their ideas.

Finalists will present their concepts to residents, who will give their input through a nonbinding vote that will be considered by the selection committee, which includes preservationists, an expert on sea-level rise, an architect and a vice president of the Tampa Bay Rays.

The top designs are scheduled to be ranked in February — state statutes require no fewer than three be ranked — and presented to Kriseman. The City Council will then be asked to authorize negotiations with the highest-ranked team.

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