Tuesday, December 12, 2017
News Roundup

St. Petersburg begins process of selecting new pier

ST. PETERSBURG — If all goes according to Mayor Rick Kriseman's plan, the next few months should yield a shortlist of five to eight teams who will compete to design the city's new or renovated pier.

That field will be narrowed to three and, come next April, a top pick made.

In the meantime, other pieces are being put into place to fast-track the project, slated for a grand opening in December 2017.

• The city is seeking permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to demolish the inverted pyramid should the public decide to replace it.

• A structural analysis of the pyramid and its four 17- by 17-foot supporting caissons is being considered in advance of plans that could involve saving the landmark or simply reusing its caissons for a new pier.

• About $240,000 has been budgeted for stipends — $30,000 apiece — for short-listed design teams to develop their concepts.

Kriseman also added five people to the now 21-member working group charged with determining what amenities residents want at the waterfront landmark. They are: David Punzak, former chairman of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce; Robin Link, accounting intern with CBIZ and Mayer Hoffman McCann and active with the Mainsail Art Festival; Angela Rouson, Juvenile Welfare Board and wife of state Rep. Darryl Rouson; Marilyn Olsen, Downtown Neighborhood Association; and Joseph Reed, retired investment executive and Vote on the Pier member.

The group's first meeting could be this week.

Even before Kriseman unveiled his much-anticipated process, though, creative minds were churning out ideas.

Council member Karl Nurse plans to ask colleagues this week to schedule a discussion about using funds created by the sale of property near Weeki Wachee Springs for a new skate park that could be part of a redesigned pier approach.

The Tampa Bay Marine Industries Association is floating designs.

"After the Lens was voted down, the boating community decided it was time to get involved," chairman Jopie Helsen said.

"We are not competing as an architectural firm," Helsen said. "We are assuming that one of the architectural firms might consider what we are doing" and seek input.

His group's presentation includes two drawings of a renovated inverted pyramid, but Helsen said members don't have a strong opinion about whether the 1973 structure should be saved, only how the downtown waterfront is used. They're most interested in making sure the new pier has activities that "keep people engaged," he said.

The group, a chapter of the Southwest Florida Marine Industries Association, has suggested floating docks near the pier approach and even floating restaurants and shops.

City Council members Steve Kornell and Darden Rice have questioned the environmental impact of the concept, and Helson said his group is consulting with marine scientists.

Darryl LeClair's Echelon, a residential and commercial developer, will be among those vying to build the new pier.

"I talked to my team and they are excited about the opportunity, so they are onboard in submitting something that is appropriate," he said. "At the end of the day, you have to come up with something that the community is telling you to do."

LeClair introduced an idea for a new pier in 2011. It included 30,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space at the pier and additional retail and restaurants on the uplands. A wider approach would cater to events like the Saturday Morning Market and offer retail space, a carousel and other amenities.

The design team included Wannemacher Jensen Architects, the local representative for the Lens project that was created by Los Angeles-based Michael Maltzan Architecture. "They are going to bring a lot of experience to our team," LeClair said

Another downtown design group, Mesh Architecture, has been showing around a design that calls for a smaller inverted pyramid that would feature tall ceilings for a signature restaurant, with family eateries on the rooftop. Unveiled late last year, the design narrows the approach and would include a parallel "activity pier," a 500-foot-long floating dock with space for fishing and small group activities.

In the city's previous pier design competition, Mesh had partnered with BIG, an architectural firm based in Denmark and New York. They were a finalist, but not ultimately selected.

Mesh is considering a bid now, said Tim Clemmons, a principal of the firm. "But we want to see what comes out of the programmatic process" he said, referring to the working group's findings.

Clemmons said he also awaits the analysis of the inverted pyramid: "We think that there's some life left in that building yet."

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

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