1. St. Petersburg

The St. Pete Pier, now with a price tag of $87 million, has a new opening date in the spring of 2020

Photo of the nighttime concrete pour of the fourth floor of the Pier head building, which began on April 16. The operation involved 80 workers, 77 concrete trucks and 767 cubic yards of concrete. {City of St. Petersburg/Aerial Innovations Inc.]
Photo of the nighttime concrete pour of the fourth floor of the Pier head building, which began on April 16. The operation involved 80 workers, 77 concrete trucks and 767 cubic yards of concrete. {City of St. Petersburg/Aerial Innovations Inc.]
Published Apr. 26, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — Taking the path of many construction projects, the 26-acre Pier District has meandered past its original completion date, buffeted by the vagaries of weather, surprise encounters with long-buried pilings and seawalls and other unforeseen circumstances.

The vaunted world-class destination of the city's aspirations, once scheduled to be finished early this year, then targeted to fall, and now with promises of "substantial completion" in December, won't be ready to welcome visitors until the spring of 2020.

"We will get the keys handed over to us at the end of December,'' said Chris Ballestra, the city's managing director of development coordination. "But while we theoretically could cut the ribbon that day, I think that we want to afford our tenants some time. They will be taking care of all of their equipment inside their spaces and training their staff, as will we.

"We want to be prudent on how to make sure it's a successful grand opening."

The past few weeks have produced visible above-ground progress at the site, where there have been months of subterranean and marine work. Pier contractor Skanska USA recently used a helicopter to capture the dramatic nighttime concrete pour of the Pier head building's fourth floor, where the new Teak restaurant will be located — the same level of the Columbia at the old inverted pyramid Pier. The April 16 operation involved 80 workers, 77 concrete trucks and 767 cubic yards of concrete.

Earlier this month, conservation group Tampa Bay Watch dedicated the Pier's first building. The Tierre Verde organization's Discovery Center, which will house hands-on marine exhibits and teach about Tampa Bay's ecosystem, however, has months of interior work ahead.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Tampa Bay Watch dedicates the first building in St. Petersburg's $80 million Pier District

Preparation for the installation of a $1 million water-themed, wooden playground is also underway. In about two weeks, work on four massive pilings, part of the infrastructure required to install one of international artist Janet Echelman's billowing net sculptures, will begin.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: St. Petersburg's $1-million Pier playground to be 'one of a kind'

To date, the cost of the Pier and its ancillary projects is $87 million. The original $50 million budget has grown as the project has expanded from 5½ acres to 26. City officials say they'll need at least another $6 million to complete the new Pier District.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: St. Pete Pier's official budget is $80 million, but other pots providing millions more

Work is at a stage, said assistant city administrator Tom Greene, where "we're in a better position to forecast what the future expenses associated with this multigenerational project will be."

He said three categories of available funds, along with remaining elements of the project were used to make the forecasts.

"There's $8.4 million in projects that are proximate to the Pier project, which include $5.5 million in seawalls," Greene said, with much of that $8.4 million coming from Tax Increment Financing in the Intown Redevelopment Plan area and from Penny for Pinellas funds. A little more than $800,000 also is being spent on sewer and stormwater improvements while the area is torn up for construction, Greene said, a decision that makes "economic sense."

There's also a $2 million pot of donations and grants, including $250,000 from the American Academy of Dermatology for shade structures.

However, the long-awaited project also faces about $2 million in overages caused by rising construction costs and unforeseen conditions, Greene said. St. Petersburg has avoided the 18 percent hike in construction costs forecast by industry experts because of agreements with contractors that locked in prices, but new segments of the project are coming in at current market pricing, Greene said.

The city also is tapping into its technology budget for infrastructure for Wifi service and its marketing and transportation budgets for wayfinding signs.

Original funding for the Pier came from a 2005 agreement between the city and the Pinellas County Commission, which allocated $50 million tied to tax increment financing, in which increased tax revenue in a certain area is reinvested in that area. Mayor Rick Kriseman sought another $20 million in 2015, and two years later an additional $14 million for Pier enhancements.The City Council agreed to only $10 million for the enhancements. The money is paying for such elements as the playground, much of the infrastructure for Echelman's sculpture and a more elaborate splash.

As of April 18, $854,699 of the $10 million remains. The city has needed to dip into the enhancement money to cover contingencies.

"The longer the construction takes, the more chances there are for prices to go up," Ballestra said. "The good news is, we've completed some major milestones. All the marine construction is complete. The Pier building is well underway at the head and our foundation is complete and the shell for Doc Ford's (restaurant). We now have more of a comfort level for unforeseen conditions in the next 10 months."


  1. Thomas Henry Shayhorn, left, and Dennis Phillip Lermy, right, were arrested after Pinellas deputies received a report of a man driving a Jaguar recklessly while shooting up with a needle. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  2. An artist's rendering shows one view of Tyrone Middle School in St. Petersburg after a $28 million renovation. Work is expected to start in February 2021. The Pinellas County School Board approved a contract with Rowe Architects Inc. to work on the project. [Pinellas County Schools]
  3. Drone video posted by See Through Canoe shows David Beede of Shallow Point Fishing Charters scraping a manatee's back with a fishing pole. [See Through Canoes]
  4. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. [Times]
  5. St. Petersburg-based Jabil said Tuesday it's projecting that the spread of the coronavirus will hurt its second-quarter performance. [Handout photo]
  6. A green bench is part of the Florida Holocaust Museum's exhibition, “Beaches, Benches and Boycotts: The Civil Rights Movement in the Tampa Bay.” [The Florida Holocaust Museum]
  7. Gail Franklin, 55, with her daughter Fahran Franklin, 28, at he Emerson Straw PL law offices 1101 MLK Jr St North, on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020 in St. Petersburg. Gail's husband, and Fahran's father, died after an operation for his knee. They are now suing the doctor for malpractice. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
  8. The future site of Green Light Cinema at 221 Second Ave on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020 in St. Petersburg. The art house theater will be nestled between Pour Taproom and 2nd & Second. [MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times]
  9. Kerri Faye Thomas, 32, is facing a charge of scheme to defraud after police say she used company credit cards to buy about $100,000 in Walgreens gift cards. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  10. Keesha Benson is director of Thrive By Five Pinellas for the Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas. (Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas photo) [Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County]
  11. St. Petersburg police Chief Tony Holloway demonstrates the body camera that he and six officers will be testing during an upcoming pilot program. The chief says the St. Petersburg Police Department will become the next Tampa Bay law enforcement agency to adopt the technology. [KATHRYN VARN  |  Times]
  12. Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik  [Times staff]