Advertisement
  1. Opinion

Pelicans, check. Green space, check. Water views, restaurants, shade, fun, check. Open the new St. Pete Pier already!

The new and still under construction St. Pete Pier as seen from the Spa Beach area. (SCOTT KEELER | Times)
Published Aug. 2

The other day, I was in a hard hat, neon vest and a cloud of construction dust on the still-in-progress St. Pete Pier. And kind of amazed.

A forklift trundled past juggling a massive sable palm, one of more than 500 trees being added before the Pier's expected re-opening next spring.

My impressions from a tour of the hard-fought, not-yet-finished, latest version of this town's much-loved Pier?

I didn't realize it would be so green. And praise be, someone gets the critical importance of shade.

Overall? As someone who lives across the bridge in Tampa and is thoroughly enjoying my own town's current momentum, I walked away with a serious case of St. Pete envy.

Although the years it took getting here didn't look so easy. Let's just say there's been some differences of opinion along the way.

While many considered the old Pier and its upside-down pyramid tired and obsolete, others defended it as iconic and at the very heart of St. Pete's history.

In 2013, voters rejected a proposal for a futuristic-looking replacement called the Lens.

Then there was that billowing net sculpture by an international artist planned for nearby Spa Beach that got push-back and was relocated. You even saw some eyebrows raised this year when the artist, Janet Echelman, publicly unveiled her sculpture's design at an event not in St. Pete but Tampa. Ahem.

But look at this Pier project now — 1,350 feet stretching into Tampa Bay and 26 acres all told in a district blended into the city's waterfront with the downtown high-rises as a picturesque backdrop.

On the tour, we passed where vendors will sell from kiosks and tents and people can lounge on grass and benches in the shade. We saw where kids will romp in a marine-themed playground with a splash pad nearby and places everyone can gather for events. We walked up a sloping lawn — tilted, they call it — and saw where native plants will grow in a coastal thicket you'll be able to stroll through.

City architect Raul Quintana pointed out the two restaurants in progress and the educational discovery center with its wet classroom. And that stacked-looking building at the end that reminds me of playing Jenga? It's just one more thing to do out there, not the only thing, not the single destination. The place has great hang-out potential.

And at the pier's very end facing across the bay is an expansive fishing deck with a bait shop, fishing being, oh yeah, one of the points of a pier. Even one that's a whole Pier District expected to top out at $92 million when you include all the ancillary projects.

As we tromped through the rumble and dust discussing surprise seawalls found during construction that might be a century old, Quintana stopped and squinted at the water. "I just saw a dolphin," he said, which no matter how long you live in Florida or how many you see, never, ever gets old. Isn't that part of the point of a pier, too?

I saw a cormorant drying its wings at the water's edge and a pack of pelicans sitting patient in the sun, ignoring all the construction fuss.

No doubt they'll be here when the Pier finally re-opens at last, making it their own, too.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1.  Andy Marlette -- Pensacola News Journal
  2. Medal of Honor recipient Robert Ingram Navy Medical History; Photo by Nick Del Calzo
    About 50 recipients visit the region this week to share their stories and reaffirm their permanent connections.
  3. The bipartisan Lower Health Care Costs Act would impose price controls on doctors. MICHAEL MCCLOSKEY  |  iStockPhoto
    U.S. Senate legislation aims to prevent surprise bills but actually would hurt doctors and patients, a James Madison Institute policy expert writes.
  4. European producers of premium specialty agricultural products like French wine, are facing a U.S. tariff hike, with $7.5 billion duties on a range of European goods approved by the World Trade Organization. DANIEL COLE  |  AP
    Here’s what readers had to say in Tuesday’s letters to the editor.
  5. Syria's opposition flag flies on a pole in Tal Abyad, Syria, as seen from the town of Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to meet Tuesday with Russian leader Vladimir Putin and the conflict between Turkey and the Kurds is expected to be the focus of their discussions. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis) LEFTERIS PITARAKIS  |  AP
    From Russia to refugees to shifting alliances, a lot could go wrong, writes a former Naval War College professor.
  6. Pasco County community news TMCCARTY80  |  Tara McCarty
    Pasco County letters to the editor
  7. The Howard Frankland Bridge, which connects St. Petersburg and Tampa, is a leading symbol of regional unity.
    Organizations that rebrand themselves should have a regional mission that reflects the name.
  8. The White House says it has chosen President Donald Trump's golf resort in Miami as the site for next year's Group of Seven summit.  (AP Photo/Alex Sanz, File) ALEX SANZ  |  AP
    Monday’s letters to the editor
  9. Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o has written a children's book called Sulwe, about a girl who "was born the color of midnight."[Photo (2014) by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP] File photo
    Most white people have never heard of skin lightening cream or the “paper bag test,” where your fiance can be no darker than a paper sack. | Leonard Pitts Jr.
  10. Ayana Lage, 26, and Vagner Lage, 27, pose with a sonogram of their unborn child. Ayana writes openly about going through a miscarriage due to the baby having a rare genetic defect. She wonders why more women don't discuss their miscarriages. JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |  Times
    Here’s what readers had to say in Sunday’s letters to the editor.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement