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St. Petersburg gets first look at pier proposals

Destination St. Pete Pier would expand and renovate Spa Beach. The Pier would be four floors, three inside a glass crystal.
Published Dec. 16, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG — After six years of discussions and the selection and contentious rejection of a much-reviled design for a new pier, St. Petersburg is back for a second try.

On Monday, eight design teams offered fresh ways to look at the closed inverted pyramid, with some pitching an entirely new shape for the iconic landmark.

The teams competing for the $46 million product, with $33 million targeted for construction, are proposing concepts that include new features such as a waterfall, lagoons and terraces.

Council member Karl Nurse is impressed by what he has seen.

"These are pretty cool. You can see that several of them used the approach as an integral part of the pier. I thought that was one of the missing pieces before. Hopefully, a number of these will excite people," he said.

He added that he was surprised by the way designers have come up with ways to reuse the 1973 inverted pyramid.

Tim Clemmons, a principal with Mesh, a St. Petersburg firm teaming up with FR-EE, an international company, and Civitas, which is redesigning Tampa's Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, said his team is offering three major transformations to what it is calling Prospect Pier.

One is raising the first level of the building by four feet to meet flood-zone requirements.

"What we have done as you approach the pier head, there is a series of cascading terraces that take you up to the second level, which becomes the main entry," he said. "You can still enter on the ground level. At the ground level is a snack shack, a bait shop, a bicycle rental station and a trash room."

Alfonso Architects of Tampa, which says it wants to "recapture the past, embrace the present and look to the future," will include a high-rise look that will give residents the observation decks they have said they want.

The team says it will "create a vertical symbol to be viewed from throughout the city."

Alfonso is one of two that will not be using the inverted pyramid.

But Salvador Dali Museum architect Yann Weymouth, who is working with Harvard Jolly, designer of the original inverted pyramid, and Wannemacher Jensen, says reusing it does not mean that his team is craving nostalgia. Wannemacher Jensen were involved with the Lens project, a Pier replacement rejected by voters in 2013.

"We are reimagining the original inverted pyramid and we are bringing it directly in a wonderful way into the 21st century," Weymouth said.

The team is expanding and renovating Spa Beach and adding a restaurant. The design provides a kayak, canoe and paddleboard launch at the south end of Spa Beach. Docks for the proposed St. Petersburg-Tampa high-speed ferry could occur at the south side of the Vinoy Basin. The pier will be four floors, three inside a glass crystal structure. There will be a waterfall on the face of the pyramid.

The VOA team of Orlando will keep the inverted pyramid and preserve the existing uplands park in its Discover Bay Life project.

The Pier Park, a concept by ASD, uses the existing foundation but looks more like a cube, with a large elevated viewing platform and casual restaurant and bar. John Curran, the project director, said the goal is to get people away from thinking of the pier as an iconic building and instead have them use it as a complete experience.

"We felt that based on the history of what we studied . . . that what we were trying to create from the very beginning was a park. If you went to the education center and never went out to the pier head, you had a great time," he said.

Several groups said their aim was not only to meet residents' wish list of amenities and programming, but also to keep the environment in mind.

rePier, by Ross Barney Architects, envisions a large, multi-use Solar Plaza on the site of the existing Pelican Parking Lot. The plaza would be used for markets and festivals and generate solar energy, said lead designer Carol Ross Barney. In rePier, the approach would be slimmed down and the pyramid itself would be turned into an indoor-outdoor garden of sorts.

Another concept, the Blue Pier, envisions three acres of lagoons. "Our concept is trying to bring together the ecology of the bay," said Barbara Wilks, principal for New York-based W Architecture and Landscape Architecture. "We brought the beginning of the pier closer in, so your whole experience would start a little closer. The idea is to have a pedestrian experience that is more intimate in scale."

Paul Ries, lead designer of ahha!, said his project, the Crescent, focuses on both the land side and a sail-shaped building at the end of the approach that will still feature things such as event space, a ballroom and a marine center.

The city is seeking to replace the Pier because it has required expensive maintenance and the approach is crumbling.

Lorraine Margeson, an environmentalist who was part of the group Concerned Citizens that fought the Lens, the last proposed design, believes the new ones are "highly creative."

"They are all striking and I don't think that it is a decision that any citizen who is involved in the process is going to make in one day," she said. "I would advise that everyone not look at the picture, but examine the plans."

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

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