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As Pier demolition begins, public invited to commemorative event

ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday's unannounced onset of the demolition of the city's Pier took many off guard.

It was, after all, a significant step in the long-delayed project that felled one mayor and has vexed Mayor Rick Kriseman, who heralded a new start early in his term with music, speeches and special guests.

Yet there was no fanfare heralding the chomping of heavy equipment. A formal announcement wouldn't come until Wednesday, taking the form of a community invitation to commemorate the doomed 1973 inverted pyramid.

The event, dubbed "Celebrating the St. Petersburg Pier: Honoring the Past, while Pursuing the Future," is set for Friday evening. It will include a brief presentation by Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Brick pavers from the Pier, stamped with the image of the inverted pyramid, will be given to the first 250 attendees on a first-come, first-served basis. Additionally, postcards with a print of an original watercolor of the Pier by Milton Howarth will be handed out.

The St. Petersburg Museum of History and Great Explorations Children's Museum will be on hand to provide an opportunity for people of all ages to write a farewell message, or videotape thoughts about a special Pier memory. Children may create a picture or write a goodbye message on a large banner.

Council member Karl Nurse said he was surprised by the sequence of events this week.

"But I know they have an unusually large number of balls in the air, whether it's schools or sewage or the Downtown Waterfront Master Plan, historic preservation," Nurse said. "That's all in the middle of significant issues this week."

Kriseman spokesman Ben Kirby said the start of demolition was "just another step in the process."

"It's certainly important," Kirby said. "There was no effort to keep it quiet. … I think that our message on this is, it's a series of steps, a series of important steps and this is certainly one of those very important steps."

Kirby said it would have been difficult to plan an event to kick-off the demolition, which began last week with the removal of light bulbs and thermostats inside the pyramid.

"That's the reason we're doing it Friday and people have an opportunity to write about the Pier and get a good look at it one last time," he said.

The event takes place at Spa Beach and the Dolphin Parking lot on the Pier approach east of the St. Petersburg Museum of History, from 5 to 7 p.m. There is no cost to attend.

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

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