Friday, December 15, 2017
News Roundup

St. Petersburg Pier options push timetable further back

ST. PETERSBURG — With the contentious Pier issue now on his watch, Mayor Rick Kriseman must find consensus among disparate notions about how to continue a tradition that dates to 1889.

The new mayor also must contend with a formerly mentioned goal "to have the new pier built by the end of 2015" and a slightly diminished budget of approximately $45 million.

Friday city staff presented Kriseman with three proposals for moving the stalled Pier process forward, ideas that he will evaluate immediately, spokesman Ben Kirby said.

"He has a sense of urgency about this," Kirby said.

Each option shatters Kriseman's self-imposed 2015 deadline for a new Pier, setting a grand opening in 2018.

Kriseman may also have to consider a new report from the Urban Land Institute advising that the city rethink the Pier. ULI recommends demolishing the closed inverted pyramid, "rehabbing or rebuilding it as needed, while adding fixed-rail connections, shade and green."

Meanwhile, the three staff options, laid out with flow charts and timelines, emphasize public outreach and input, including a non-binding vote or survey about feasible concepts for a new Pier.

The plans "are malleable" and "not etched in stone," Kirby said, adding that Kriseman may select different aspects from each to devise a quicker way forward.

Approval of the groups that have argued about what should rise over Tampa Bay from the city's downtown will be a key part of the mayor's effort, Kirby said.

"The first step is to bring community partners to the table … hear them out so we can have everybody invested in the process," Kirby said.

Groups such as Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg, which organized the successful petition drive to fight a previously proposed replacement of the inverted pyramid, will be among those invited to approve the new process, Kirby said. Those who want to save the pyramid also will be asked to participate in the discussion, along with supporters of the Lens, the avant garde design by Los Angeles-based Michael Maltzan Architecture that voters rejected last August.

Bud Risser, a leader of Concerned Citizens who met with Kriseman on Tuesday, embraces the inclusive approach.

"It's clear to me that his vision about how to proceed is similar to Concerned Citizens," Risser said. "He is sensitive to the difficulties from the past and he has a plan that includes letting everybody in the front door."

Risser said his group envisions a process that would include people "who are already familiar with the Lens and the processes of the last year and half." Concerned Citizens also wants knowledgeable people involved, "because that will speed the process" and would like "preference given to participants who are knowledgeable about our community and the unique Tampa Bay environment," Risser said.

The mayor's next step will launch a phase in the years-long public debate to determine what to do about what city officials have said is a deteriorating pier bridge, pier head and pier building.

But the ULI report could fuel the arguments. The institute, whose mission is "to provide leadership in the responsible use of land," is recommending a reconfiguration of the parking lots on the pier peninsula "to make room for more open parkland." Its report says that this area and existing land could be used to create "a medium-sized venue for multipurpose use at the west end of the pier." ULI also suggests that a new area in the center could host other activities that would be "served by fixed-rail transit."

Most significantly, the institute says that the city should "revisit the $50 million public financing for rebuilding of the pier to ensure public dollars are used for top-priority projects" and "reflect the wants and needs of the community."

Kriseman could make his decision about the new Pier process in a few days, Kirby said. During his campaign, the mayor said he favored an expedited process for the pier, with designs "to be reviewed, narrowed down, and sent to council by September of 2014," and work with the architect to have the new pier built by the end of the following year.

There are bureaucratic hurdles to consider, such as permitting. Under the old plan for the Lens, the inverted pyramid was scheduled to be demolished last summer. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not yet granted a permit to do so.

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

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