St. Petersburg pier ideas, new and old, popping up

Mesh Architecture’s design retains the Pier’s inverted pyramid, but reduces it in size and has three floors instead of four.
Mesh Architecture’s design retains the Pier’s inverted pyramid, but reduces it in size and has three floors instead of four.
Published Mar. 9, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG — As Mayor Rick Kriseman ponders the complexities of the Pier quagmire, meeting with those who have been vociferous in their views, creative minds are developing new ideas for the waterfront landmark or dusting off old ones.

Darryl LeClair, who proposed a $570 million stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays, is ready to reprise his pier proposal that debuted in 2011. That was before the city selected the Lens and voters rejected it as a replacement to the inverted pyramid.

LeClair's is one of several ideas floating around, including a concept by Mesh Architecture, which says it is offering a way to renovate the inverted pyramid within the $45 million budget.

Meanwhile, the city is sending a new application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to demolish the 1973 structure. And Kriseman's meetings with various pier interests will continue through March, his chief of staff Kevin King said.

"The goal is to get buy-in and to get these community leaders and activists to stand with him," King said.

Kriseman met Tuesday with Joseph Reed, Tom Lambdon and three other members of Vote on the Pier, the group that started the revolt against a new pier and demanded a public vote after the City Council decided to demolish the pyramid.

"We had a cordial, yet frank discussion with the mayor," Reed said. "He seems very interested in an open, transparent process going forward to build a new pier or rebuild the existing pier."

The group told the mayor it's important the process "does not preclude design proposals that utilize all, or part, of the inverted pyramid structure," Reed said.

In what may signal a breakthrough, Reed said the group agrees that if the public decides through a fair process that it wants "a totally new structure, we're okay with that."

Kriseman has also met with Bud Risser, a leader of Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg, which organized the successful petition drive that led to the defeat of the Lens. The group has chosen Frank Carter "Bud" Karins, an engineer, to represent them on any pier committee Kriseman establishes.

"We think that this time, the functions should be spelled out and that the process should be open to all sorts of fresh ideas," said Risser. "People keep talking to me about their ideas and they are just wonderful."

Tim Clemmons, a principal of Mesh, whose design proposes renovating the inverted pyramid, has also met with Kriseman.

"The process that the mayor is setting up is going to correctly start with what are the appropriate functions of the pier," Clemmons said. "The last time, the architects weren't given very definitive directions about what the programmatic elements should be. "

The architect said he wants a process that encourages top-notch architects to participate, especially since some might be wary after Michael Maltzan Architecture's Lens project was canceled.

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Mesh's design reduces the size of the inverted pyramid and eliminates its fourth floor to create tall ceilings for a signature restaurant. A narrower approach will have a trolley running down the center, pedestrian lanes and a solar canopy for shade.

The concept proposes a 500-foot-long floating dock, with space for fishing, small group activities and getting closer to the water. The Mesh plan also calls for saving money for amenities on the uplands, such as a plaza for community events, a splash park and a casual beach restaurant.

LeClair, president of Echelon, a residential and commercial developer, said his Cityscape team's $50 million concept is "very family oriented."

The design includes a carousel, splash pad, 30,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space at the pier itself (about 14,000 less than the old Pier) and additional retail and restaurants on the uplands. The project greatly expands Spa Beach and creates another on the southern side of the pier approach. LeClair's team sought the advice of local marine scientists, an omission for which Lens' designers were severely criticized.

The Pier's 100-foot approach will be widened by 50 feet to accommodate events like the Saturday Morning Market, retail space, a carousel, tram and other amenities. Parking on the uplands will be camouflaged by retail space. The project increases green space, including an area at the pier head, where there would be a three-story, air-conditioned building.

"None of this is set in stone," LeClair said, describing the concept as a placeholder "that provides opportunities to change as the community wants."

A top priority, he said, is to make the pier self-sustaining. The inverted pyramid cost taxpayers an average $1.4 million a year in subsidies.

"Whatever we do, it's got to make money," LeClair said, adding that he also wants to keep the money spent on the project in the area.

Kriseman is considering one of three options for proceeding with the pier. Each puts a grand opening in 2018.

During his campaign, Kriseman promised "to have the new pier built by the end of 2015."

"I know that we are trying to compress the time frame," King said.

For his part, LeClair is advocating a collegial approach and an end to the years-long bickering.

"It's just time to cut it out and get it done," he said.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at or (727) 892-2283.