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St. Petersburg pier survey results released (w/ video)

Destination St. Pete Pier, pictured, received the most votes, followed by Pier Park and Blue Pier. [The St. Pete Design Group]
Published Mar. 10, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — A local team that would "reimagine" the inverted pyramid has captured the most votes in a nonbinding poll that sought to determine which of seven proposed pier designs St. Petersburg residents like most.

Neither of the two runners-up, though, plan to use the pyramid.

Destination St. Pete Pier, the people's favorite in the unscientific survey, will reprise the original inverted pyramid — added on to in the 1980s — but update the unusual structure and surround it with multilevel decks.

Coming in second and third in the popularity contest were Pier Park and Blue Pier.

That pleased Neil Irwin, who owns prime downtown property and supported the ultra-modern design called the Lens that voters rejected in a 2013 referendum.

"The fact that Pier Park and Blue Pier finished in the top three, rather than having just an iconic structure for our public space, it demonstrates that the public is ready for an experience-oriented pier, which fits with how urban planners are now thinking," said Irwin, who wants Blue Pier.

Residents then picked Discover Bay Life, Alma, rePier and Prospect Pier, in that order.

However, the city's request to "Help Pick Your New Pier" drew only about 4 percent of the 229,780 residents eligible to do so. Despite a widely publicized campaign, only 16,797 people participated, and of those, only 9,631 were from the city's paid database of verified residents 18 and older.

Chris Ballestra, the city's managing director of development coordination, said it's likely that most of the 7,166 unverified voters were not St. Petersburg residents.

In a prepared statement, Mayor Rick Kriseman thanked those who participated.

"The key to this process has always been transparency, and that is why it was important to take the pulse of the community and hear their voice," he said. "I look forward to the next steps as we plan for a new St. Petersburg pier."

The mayor's pier selection committee will use the survey results to help determine which of the seven design teams will be finalists for the $46 million project. The city is following a state law that requires government agencies hiring professionals such as architects and engineers to do so based on qualifications.

Therefore, besides the poll results, the six-member group will examine such criteria as the experience of the teams and how their concepts conform to the $33 million construction budget and project schedule. The group also will consider such factors as permitting requirements, operating and maintenance costs, and suggested amenities.

Yann Weymouth, the internationally known Salvador Dalí Museum architect who brought together the team that created the Destination St. Pete Pier concept, said he is "heartened" by the public's approval.

"I just hope that this shows that we listened carefully to what people hoped to see and enjoy at the pier," he said.

John Curran of ASD in Tampa, who is with the team that came up with the Pier Park idea, is similarly pleased.

"What's nice for us is that the design speaks for itself and people responded to the idea of creating a park and, I think, looking at an alternative approach as opposed to what's been there a long time," said Curran, who is working with Rogers Partners Architects and Urban Designers and Ken Smith Landscape Architect from New York.

Of the three most popular concepts, Blue Pier is perhaps the most controversial. The concept from W Architecture and Landscape Architecture in New York proposes lagoons, artificial reefs and adding a series of dunes to Spa Beach. W Architecture has also suggested planting mangroves, an idea that some residents have ridiculed.

"I think for the Blue Pier proposal, there needed to be some support from the public and the result of the survey confirms that there is support to do something different from what exists, which has proven to fail in the past," said Martin Barry, an associate with the New York firm.

"The inverted pyramid scheme is economically and programmatically unsustainable."

But the inverted pyramid has its devotees among St. Petersburg residents, many of whom fought to save it when it was threatened with demolition.

"I think it's a very brilliant original design," said Weymouth, whose team members in the St. Pete Design Group include Harvard Jolly — the firm that designed the inverted pyramid — and Wannemacher Jensen, another well known local firm.

In keeping with state law, the pier selection committee will rank no fewer than three of the teams. That will happen on March 20. The City Council will then be asked to authorize contract negotiations with the top-ranked team.

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

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