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Architects chosen to design St. Petersburg's Pier approach project

Published Oct. 17, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — Two architectural firms that lost a bid to design the city's new pier have won the $20 million project that will link the waterfront landmark to the booming downtown.

The team of W Architecture and Landscape Architecture of New York and St. Petersburg's Wannemacher Jensen beat out four others vying to design what is envisioned as a sweeping gateway to complement the new pier.

Barbara Wilks and Jason Jensen hugged Friday afternoon after a seven-member committee made their decision.

"We are speechless and happy," said Wilks, principal of W Architecture.

The Brooklyn company was praised for its experience in creating urban waterfront parks, which include Plaza 33 and West Harlem Piers Park in New York City.

The Pier Approach Project, as it is being called, will encompass areas of Bayshore and Beach drives and is expected to include elements such as a grand entry, pedestrian art promenade, an art bridge, an open-air market and two restaurants.

The selection committee ranked the W Architecture-Wannemacher Jensen team ahead of Alfonso Architects of Tampa, which also had competed for the city's $46 million pier project. Coming in third was ASD of Tampa, Rogers Partners Architects and Ken Smith Landscape Architect of New York. The team won the pier project in May and is the designer of Pier Park, the replacement of the inverted pyramid.

Civitas of Denver, which teamed up with St. Petersburg's Mesh Architecture, was eliminated earlier. AECOM, consultants for the recently approved Downtown Waterfront Master Plan that will serve as a framework for the pier approach project, also did not make the cut.

Phil Graham of the city's Waterfront Park Foundation praised W Architecture for its plans to provide multiple opportunities for activity as part of the new project.

Ross Preville of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce's Downtown Waterfront Master Plan Taskforce said he liked that W Architecture had "brought a substantial local presence" in the form of Wannemacher Jensen to the project. The fact that Wilks is friends with Ken Smith, who is part of Pier Park, "is a bonus," he added.

For Wannemacher Jensen, the opportunity to work on a pier project has been hard won. The firm was on the Michael Maltzan Architecture team that created the Lens, which was approved as the city's next pier, but was rejected by voters in 2013. In a second effort, the firm teamed up with Yann Weymouth, the internationally known Salvador Dalí Museum architect, and Harvard Jolly, which designed the inverted pyramid. Their Destination St. Pete Pier was a finalist for the current pier project.

"I'm ecstatic to help make a better community and to have a role in the final, visible outcome," Jensen said Friday.

Contract negotiations are scheduled to take place in November and December. The St. Petersburg City Council is expected to be asked to approve a contract in January.

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

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