Monday, July 16, 2018
Opinion

Daniel Ruth: Too much, too little at St. Petersburg Pier

Eventually, when the new St. Petersburg pier becomes whatever it is going to be, could we include just one more additional element?

Could we please have a plain modest edifice erected? Not too big, not too small. It would be called the Whining Wall in honor of all the cluckers, grumps and malcontents who would oppose the pier project if it was the Gardens of Versailles. Too many roses. Not enough petunias.

In the beginning, various Katzenjammer Kids of contentiousness squawked about the original design. That resulted in the current configuration, which is fine but hardly ambitious.

And now a new snit-fit has erupted, perpetuated by a group called the Waterfront Parks Foundation, which opposes the original plan to include three restaurants as part of the pier complex. Three eateries!!!! No, no, no a thousand times, no!

Not about to let the Waterfront Park Foundation seize the high ground of poutiness, another group, Concerned Citizens, sent a sternly worded letter to Chris Ballestra, the city's managing director of development coordination, stating for the record they, too, were plenty exorcized over the radical notion three — count ’em, three — restaurants might spoil the pier project. You might say they were — concerned.

Well! When St. Petersburg found itself fending off an unrelenting assault from the Waterfront Parks Foundation to the right and the Concerned Citizens to the left it immediately went into action and called a meeting to ruminate over the great Pier District Three Restaurant Crisis gripping the city.

It is probably only a matter of time before another cabal of trust funds gathers together calling itself Worry Warts United for A Better St. Petersburg to dither over the presence of too much water surrounding the pier.

Apparently, the biggest bone of contention was a proposed restaurant that would be situated at the end of the Pelican Parking Lot, which Waterfront Parks Foundation president Phil Graham said in his tsking letter to Mayor Rick Kriseman would constitute a "blemish on our waterfront." Or think that the proposed restaurant, at least in Graham's point of view, would be an architectural zit on the civic forehead of the city.

The city's waterfront is indeed a thing of beauty. And the commercial district connected to it is teeming with chi-chi eateries, saloons and high-end shopping boutiques.

Does anyone seriously believe the addition of one more restaurant in an area of the city already full of restaurants is going to constitute a "blemish" on the area?

Virtually every element of the pier project has annoyed somebody, a reminder of that old joke that a camel is a horse designed by a committee.

Alas, there are still some folks who continue to rue the razing of the old inverted pyramid, as if the prior structure was St. Petersburg's answer to the Washington Monument.

And nothing less than an inverted Devo hat ever will satisfy the skeptics. Too many restaurants. Not enough restaurants. Not enough air conditioning. Too much parking. Too little parking. Too long an approach. Too short an approach. Not enough green space. Not enough of a view.

The city could be building the Garden of Eden at the end of the pier and some group of hand-wringers called Party Poopers For A More Petulant St. Petersburg would be caterwauling the project had too many apples and not enough snakes.

Whatever dining establishment survives, let us hope it at least includes a well-stocked bar.

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