Some outsiders' views of St. Pete are downright funny

The public got its first glimpse of what the new $50 million Pier could look like Wednesday morning when the city unveiled the three finalists’ designs.

City of St. Petersburg

The public got its first glimpse of what the new $50 million Pier could look like Wednesday morning when the city unveiled the three finalists’ designs.

It has been an interesting week in the Sunshine City.

On the one hand, life here is apparently so dismal that a magazine, headquartered in Emmaus, Pa. (average January temperature: 28 degrees), has made certain the world knows we're a bunch of Sad Sacks.

At the same time, newly released design concepts to replace the iconic Pier have created a buzz about the future of St. Petersburg's waterfront.

Men's Health magazine recently concluded the city is the nation's saddest by calculating the suicide and unemployment rates here.

A few days later, another magazine declared that Eckerd College is full of beer-guzzling potheads.

With those dubious distinctions, it seems all eyes are on St. Petersburg. As they should be.

If the city is sad now, just wait until one of three world-renowned designers replaces the crumbling Pier.

To be sure, the concepts are interesting and appealing. And I'm all for any design that comes within the allotted $50 million or less. It should be built with the money that's currently on the table. To suggest that more money will be needed would be contemptuous in these tough economic times. The taxpayers need a break.

The concepts have been dubbed by their designers the Wave, the Lens and the Eye. But I prefer to liken them to a large wheel, a grand prix loop and a mother ship — which looks a lot like the old Bedrox Bar that was demolished in 1999 on Sunset Beach.

They all offer compelling components, but some aspects miss the mark and speak to the fact that these talented designers haven't paid close enough attention to how residents use the bay.

First, few residents swim in the bay. So there's no need for another beach. A trip to North Shore Park would have provided a clue or two. The concept could work for kayaks, canoes and standup paddleboards, though.

The idea of having a weekly market on wide-open vistas offered by the Lens concept could work, but it needs to be tweaked.

Like the opening of the new Salvador Dalí Museum in January, the iconic concepts could be a game-changer. But I'd like to see the hurricane plans first.

The possibilities for putting an emblematic new structure in the bay are endless and the concepts are noteworthy, but the conversations have just begun.

Here's what I do know: For the past two years, St. Petersburg earned first place on a list of AmericanStyle magazine's top 25 U.S. arts destinations for midsized cities.

That distinction recognizes the city's vibrant arts community, which includes the Chihuly, Dalí and other visual art venues. But there's so much more here.

There will always be naysayers and critics. This city should be used to it by now.

I don't mind when they call us "Sleepy St. Pete." Neighboring cities are trying to figure out this city's secret in keeping visitors downtown after the banks close.

The longtime moniker of "God's Waiting Room" just makes me chuckle, because the folks who live here know better: The demographics have changed — it's a much younger, more vibrant city.

And taking a leap off of the Sunshine Skyway bridge and pill-popping are not quality-of-life issues for most residents.

As for the list writers in Emmaus, check back in a month or so. I bet we'll be basking in sunshine and feeling really sad by then.

Sandra J. Gadsden is an assistant metro editor, community news. She can be reached at sgadsden@tampabay.com or at (727) 893-8874.

Some outsiders' views of St. Pete are downright funny 12/03/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 3, 2011 3:31am]

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