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St. Petersburg City Council likely to support pier choice

ST. PETERSBURG — The majority of City Council members appear ready to endorse the decision of Mayor Rick Kriseman's selection committee concerning the future of the city's pier.

"I'm going to vote for it," council member Karl Nurse said. "Let's do it and get it under construction."

Council members will be asked to authorize contract negotiations with the designers of Pier Park, a project with floating docks, environmental classrooms, a four-level structure and concert space for 4,000 at the end of the pier.

Meanwhile, some supporters of the runner-up proposal, Destination St. Pete Pier, say they may challenge "unfair aspects" of the process that ranked Pier Park first.

"It's not that we don't like Pier Park or we are not green," said Tom Lambdon, founder of Vote on the Pier, the grass roots organization that fomented an uprising against the city's last plan to demolish the inverted pyramid pier.

Lambdon said he takes comfort in the fact that Destination St. Pete Pier, which would have renovated the pyramid, was second.

"They can't move to demolish the inverted pyramid when the second choice in line requires the reuse of the inverted pyramid structure," he said.

According to state law, if the city is unable to reach an agreement with Pier Park, it can then negotiate with the designers of the second-, third- and fourth-ranked proposals — Destination St. Pete Pier, Alma and Prospect Pier, if necessary, in that order. At each step, negotiations must be formally terminated and City Council must authorize new talks for the $46 million project.

Council member Steve Kornell said he is likely to vote to negotiate with Pier Park.

"I say likely, because I'm going to have some questions. Some of them have to do with the environmental aspects of it,'' he said "I want to make sure that whatever we do on the bay is a net positive for the environment.''

Council member Darden Rice tweeted her support for the project and colleague Bill Dudley said he has "no problem with the choice . . . unless something changes."

One likely dissenter is council member Wengay Newton.

"People wanted a pier. I think they were looking for a pier not a park," he said, adding that he will ask for a special election to allow residents to choose between Pier Park and Destination St. Pete Pier.

A delay is not something that Kriseman wants — he hopes for a grand opening in spring 2018.

"This is a great night for us here in St. Petersburg. . . . now it's up to the City Council to move St. Petersburg forward by approving this excellent recommendation,'' he said about midnight, after the committee made its selection.

Members chose Pier Park by a 5-1 vote, with preservationist Kai Warren — a backer of Destination St. Pete Pier, which would have restored the inverted pyramid — against.

John Curran of ASD, which teamed up with Rogers Partners and Ken Smith Landscape Architect to design Pier Park, said they are excited to be picked.

"We keep talking about this as a pier for everyone, with all the activities we have addressed, like boating, fishing, kayaking, cycling, dining, concerts, festivals, weddings, movies on the lawn, jogging, playing in the splash pad and then swimming off Spa Beach and strolling and walking and hanging out and just people-watching in the shade," he said.

Will Michaels, who headed the design committee of the Pier Advisory Task Force that issued a key report in 2010, said the committee had a difficult job.

"Pier Park has much to offer our city with its special focus on enhancing and making more accessible our celebrated downtown waterfront public space and bay — weaving the parkland into the pier structure,'' he said.

Like the mayor, City Council chairman Charlie Gerdes praised the Pier Selection Committee. He was not surprised by the rankings after watching the six-member group evaluate the three competing concepts.

"It was becoming pretty apparent that Pier Park was the strongest in a lot of the categories," he said.

What about the loss of the inverted pyramid as a downtown waterfront landmark?

"I think it's served its purpose and the city has changed a lot since 1973," Gerdes said. "I think that to a certain extent, the pyramid is part of the city's wonderful past, but the city is moving in a tremendous new direction."

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