St. Pete Council approves more contingency funds, other payments for $80 million Pier District

be As the project rushes to a hoped-for year-end completion, the City Council okays money for art, a marine center and more
Nathan Mabry’s red origami pelican sculpture will greet visitors at the entrance to the pier. It’s entitled: “Myth (Red Pelican). [City of St. Petersburg]
Nathan Mabry’s red origami pelican sculpture will greet visitors at the entrance to the pier. It’s entitled: “Myth (Red Pelican). [City of St. Petersburg]
Published February 8
Updated February 8

ST.PETERSBURG — Completion of the $80 million Pier District is 10 months away, with much to be done to meet the year-end projection.

the City Council on Thursday approved $300,000 for Tampa-born Janet Echelman to order materials for her voluminous floating net sculpture that will rise on the Pier approach. In January, Echelman, an internationally famous artist, unveiled the design for her billowing work, Bending Arc, at an Urban Land Institute conference in Tampa.

Before Thursday's vote to approve the Echelman payment, Council Member Ed Montanari announced he was not pleased that the artist had unveiled her design across the bay. He noted that taxpaper money was involved in the project.

"It didn't go over well with me,’’ he said. “She should have done it in St. Pete."

Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin said the city had known of Echelman's plans and had no objection. Council Member Steve Kornell reiterated that he saw no problem with the unveiling in Tampa, which he referred to as a sister city.

He had not supported the sculpture in the past, Montanari said, and was "not going to support it today."

The payment to Echelman was approved 6-1, with Montanari voting against. Council Member Amy Foster was absent.

Echelman, who is based in Massachusetts, has a $1.5 million contract with St. Petersburg for her work. Mayor Rick Kriseman has raised $1.2 million in private money to pay for the sculpture.

Taxpayers will pay for the infrastructure necessary to support and showcase the net sculpture, which will be 76 feet at its highest point and 428 feet wide at its widest. About $1.3 million has been budgeted for the infrastructure, which will include a foundation, lighting, and four pylons, the tallest of which will be 73 feet.

The city's agreement with Echelman calls for her to complete and deliver her sculpture to the city on, or before, Nov. 1.

Thursday the council also authorized money for a piece of art by California artist Nathan Mabry — a whimsical, 13-foot, red aluminum pelican — that will greet visitors at the Pier entrance. Mabry will be paid $150,000 for the origami-style sculpture, titled Myth (Red Pelican), which will include three smaller, more realistic looking pelicans perched atop. Additional small pelicans will be available to the public at $8,500 a piece, director of cultural affairs Wayne Atherholt said.

The council also was asked to release additional funds as work continues on the five-story Pier head building, with its café, restaurant and roof-top bar, the Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille in the Pelican parking lot area, and other elements across the 26-acre expanse.

Council members approved an amendment to the city's lease agreement with Tampa Bay Watch, which will operate a marine education center at the Pier. The lease was revised to 10 years from the original five and conditions established for naming rights. The facility will be known as the Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center presented by Milkey Family Foundation. Council members also approved $711,371 for Pier construction manager Skanska USA to work on tenant improvements at the center. The city is contributing $150,000 towards the work, with Tampa Bay Watch paying the rest.

The $80 million Pier District owes its funding to a 2005 agreement between the city and the County Commission that allocated $50 million tied to Tax Increment Financing to the project. Ten years later, Kriseman asked the commission for another $20 million, and in 2017, $14 million more. Kriseman had hoped to use the entire $14 million for Pier “enhancements,” but the City Council agreed to budget only up to $10 million.

The Echelman sculpture infrastructure is one of the enhancements. Also being funded so far are a $1 million children's playground and improvements to the Pier plaza. The council had previously approved an additional $850,000 from the enhancement fund for Doc Ford's and added $100,000 to contingency funds for the Pier approach.

Thursday, the council approved another $400,000 for contingencies, leaving just $3.3 million from the $10 million of enhancement money.

The project has seen a wavering timetable for completion, from a promised early 2019 to the currently “substantial completion” date of Dec. 20.

Council member Charlie Gerdes said Thursday that he didn't care when the project is complete, just as long as visitors are "blown away" by it.

"It's got to be OMG," he said.

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