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Tuesday, Oct 21, 2014

Few in St. Pete back saving current Pier, poll finds


Published:   |   Updated: December 13, 2013 at 06:36 AM

ST. PETERSBURG — A majority of residents do not want to save the inverted pyramid Pier, according to a new poll released by the city Thursday.

The telephone survey of roughly 1,000 residents conducted last month showed that just 25 percent of respondents favored renovating The Pier.

High on residents’ wish list for a new pier were a fine dining restaurant and air-conditioned areas out on the water, amenities largely lacking from the controversial Lens pier design that residents rejected in a citywide referendum in August, sending city officials back to the drawing board.

Residents also said they want an iconic pier with sweeping views and facilities that promote walking, jogging, cycling and fishing.

“It’s very clear to us the motif that is important to most residents is going out there for key moment in life, for a special dinner or a special walk,” said Steve Raabe, president of OpinionWorks, the Maryland company that conducted the poll, which has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

The survey is the first step for the city to solicit new design proposals for a replacement for the 40-year-old Pier. The lack of support for renovation could be a final death knell for the structure, which has sat empty and shuttered since it was closed June 1. During his successful campaign, Mayor-elect Rick Kriseman he said he favored demolishing The Pier and building a new one by the end of 2015, although he has since said he is open to ideas that include its renovation.

He plans to use the survey, which was approved by Mayor Bill Foster, as part of the input into choosing a new pier, although he plans further outreach efforts. A spokesman for Kriseman said he would not comment until he had time to review the survey results.

The findings are unlikely to end the controversy over the inverted pyramid, considered a city icon by supporters. They say the survey questions were engineered to produce a result that would let the city demolish The Pier since they included caveats about raising taxes if it went over budget or that it may not include ground-floor retail and restaurants.

The poll gave a clear message that residents still want a pier even with 88 percent saying it was important for the city, although just 27 percent of respondents said they visited it over the past three years.

Observation and viewing areas emerged as residents’ number one priority for a pier with 88 percent making it one of their top two priorities. More than 70 percent said a pier must have air-conditioned spaces.

“I hope that it can help to inform as we develop a new process,” said Chris Ballestra, the city’s managing director of development “It’s good information and it’s a tool.”

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