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Friday, Oct 31, 2014

Architects envison new life for old St. Petersburg Pier


Published:   |   Updated: September 3, 2014 at 05:17 PM

— More than 40 years after architect William B. Harvard Sr. designed the city’s iconic inverted pyramid pier, the firm he founded is teaming up with the designer of the Dali Museum in an effort to give the aging pier a second life.

Dali Museum designer Yann Weymouth announced Wednesday he is joining with Harvard Jolly and local firm Wannemacher Jensen to bid for the $33 million city contract for a new pier.

Billed as the St. Pete Design Group, the coalition is proposing not to demolish but to re-imagine the 41-year-old pier, which was scheduled to meet the wrecking ball last fall. It was spared, at least temporarily, when residents rejected it futuristic proposed replacement, sending the city back to the drawing board.

“We learned a great deal about what St. Pete wants,” said Weymouth, a St. Pete Beach resident. “We think that it would make sense to honor the past, to honor the original pyramid and to bring it totally into the 21st century, to bring it into the future.”

The group is likely to face competition. Mesh Architecture, another St. Petersburg firm, plans to bid for the contract. Meanwhile while other firms, including ASD and UNStudio based in Amsterdam, have contacted the city to clarify submission requirements, records show. The deadline to submit qualifications is Friday.

Mesh was one of three finalists in the most recent pier selection process with a design called The Wave. This time, the firm has teamed with an international designer, although CEO Gary Grooms declined to name the firm.

“We think we have a very strong team with a world class designer and structural engineer and civil engineer,” Grooms said.

Weymouth, who will be the head designer for the St. Pete Design Group, was with architecture firm HOK when it bid for the most recent pier project. The firm was ranked among the top six applicants, but was not chosen as one of the final three that went on to submit designs.

In addition to the Dali Museum, his past work includes the renovation and expansion of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota and the Hazel Hough Wing of the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts. He also worked as chief designer for renowned architect I.M. Pei on the famous glass and steel pyramid for the Musée du Louvre in Paris.

Weymouth said it was a “no-brainer” to partner with Harvard Jolly to revisit the building it completed in 1973.

Reinvigorating the inverted pyramid will mean a mixture of new and old. The badly corroded pier approach and concrete apron were built in 1926 as part of the Million Dollar Pier and must be replaced. But engineering reports commissioned by the city show that the steel infrastructure of the inverted pyramid and the concrete caissons it sits upon are in good condition.

Nonetheless, city leaders pushed for its demolition because the pier was costing the city $1.4 million per year even with restaurants and souvenir stores paying rent.

The re-imagined pier is likely to omit the ground-floor stores that were added at the end of the 1980s and cluttered the original design, Weymouth said. It would likely be strengthened and reglazed.

‘It’s a classic timeless form,” Weymouth said. “It needs to be a fascinating, wonderful experience that people want to go back to.” The selection of Wannemacher Jensen to design the uplands approach to the pier may surprise some since the firm was hired by Maltzan as associate architects for the Lens project.

“I wanted to have them as a part of the team as they have deep experience in marine engineering and the permitting issues, which are significant,” Weymouth said.

The city spent more than $4 million on the futuristic pier replacement known as the Lens before being forced to scrap the project. It still has $46 million set aside for the project with $13 million of that planned to be spent on demolition and permitting.

After pledging during his campaign to get a new pier built by the end of 2015, Mayor Rick Kriseman earlier this year announced a more pragmatic time frame that should see a new or renovated pier open by the end of 2017.

In an attempt to avoid a repeat of the Lens debacle, a new round of public surveys was conducted that showed residents want facilities for casual and outdoor dining, observation decks, a tram and areas to jog, walk, cycle and fish.

Following Friday’s deadline, a selection committee will review the firms that have applied for the contract. Those considered qualified will be paid a $30,000 stipend to submit designs.

The committee will then review designs to ensure they are feasible before the public is asked to vote for their favorite three in a non-binding poll.

The selection committee and Kriseman will recommend one of those three to City Council, which would have to approve the design and construction contracts.

“We’ve seen from the last go around, it’s very important that people are involved,” said Bryan Eichler, the city’s capital projects coordinator.

codonnell@tampatrib.com

(727) 828-6757

Twitter: @codonnellTBO

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