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New study reiterates viability of inverted pyramid for St. Petersburg Pier

ST. PETERSBURG — A new engineering study delivers good news to those who have fought to save the inverted pyramid and to the design teams planning to reuse the iconic structure in the city's latest version of its Tampa Bay landmark.

According to the $7,500 engineering study by the Structures Group of Tampa, the 1973 structure stands up well to the state's current structural building codes, which went through an extensive update after Hurricane Andrew.

"Their look at it just confirms everything that we had discovered earlier, that the building was designed properly," said Frank Carter "Bud" Karins, a licensed structural engineer who pushed for an earlier study released in July. That analysis indicated that the inverted pyramid is structurally sound and could be renovated to last another 75 years.

Michael Connors, the city's public works administrator, said he was pleasantly surprised that from a renovation perspective, "only five structural elements out of literally dozens may need to be reinforced to accommodate today's building code wind loads."

The Tampa firm said that while several of the steel beams appeared overstressed, they were "within the safety threshold" allowed. The concrete that encases the steel beams provide extra strength, the company said, but advised that "it is best to take a conservative approach when dealing with any older structure."

But Karins, who once joined a group to sue the city for a public vote on the fate of the inverted pyramid, questions the accuracy of parts of the latest study. He said the method used to determine what kind of wind pressure the building can withstand was incorrect and that the firm used calculations designed for a regularly shaped building, which the upside-down pyramid is not.

Connors said that while he respects Karins, chief executive officer of Karins Engineering Group, he is satisfied with the new report, which uses a method recommended by the firm that did the previous analysis.

The new study has been sent to the eight design teams shortlisted for the $46 million project. Six have indicated they plan to reuse the inverted pyramid. The teams have until Dec. 19 to submit their concepts for the next Pier.

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

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