ST. PETERSBURG — The recently announced May opening date for the St. Pete Pier may be in some doubt because of the coronavirus pandemic.
More than a week ago, City public works administrator Claude Tankersley left open the possibility of a delay in the Pier’s grand opening — currently scheduled for May 30 — in an email to Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin and top administrators.
“We suspect many of our construction projects may be delayed if our contractors experience staff or supply chain shortages,” Tankersley said in a March 16 email obtained by the Tampa Bay Times. “We respectfully recommend Administration to prepare for a delayed Pier opening.”
Friday, though, Tomalin said the spring date announced by Mayor Rick Kriseman earlier this month stands.
“It’s a fluid situation. We assess all the variables that go into determining such a decision,” she said. “Right now, they range from availability of supplies to the impact of absenteeism, and quite honestly, they change every day. As of now, there are no indications that the Pier schedule will be delayed. Construction was included as an essential service in the most recent (stay-at-home) order and we are proceeding accordingly.”
Meanwhile, uncertainty remains about whether the Pier’s signature public art project, by world-renowned artist Janet Echelman, will be ready for a May 30 opening. The massive net sculpture, initially erected in the Pier District in early January, had to be dismantled and sent back to fabricator Diamond Nets, in Everson, Wash., for adjustments.
In a March 12 email to city architect Raul Quintana, Echelman said she had received a new update on the completion of adjustments to the sculpture, “which now includes the specific detailing methods that you emailed were being stipulated by W Architecture” — lead architect for the area of the Pier District over which the aerial sculpture will rise.
Echelman, whose studio is in Massachusetts, said Diamond Nets estimates that the work will be finished by the third week of May and take a week to arrive back in St. Petersburg. There was one caveat: In her email to the city, Echelman included a note from the fabricator that said the pandemic “could change things.”
“Washington was impacted significantly with the virus,” Tomalin said, noting that the city is in constant contact with Echelman about the project.
“Again, it’s a fluid situation and we are monitoring it. We are putting safety first with everyone involved in all aspects in the Pier construction and will gladly yield to any timing implications that result.”
Times staff writer Josh Solomon contributed to this report.