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Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019
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St. Pete residents get closer look at Pier proposals

From his neighborhood in Old Northeast, Evan Futterman can see the city’s bayfront pier and its landmark inverted pyramid every day.

So as the seven teams competing to design the next pier put their work on display this week, Futterman has a keen personal interest in seeing what might be there.

“We’re going to be living with it the rest of our lives,” he said.

Futterman, 58, was among several hundred people who came to the Coliseum, a city landmark of its own, as four teams pitched their plans to the Pier Selection Committee on Wednesday. The three other teams are scheduled to make presentations today.

Mike Connors, city public works administrator and chairman of the selection committee, said the teams were filling in the details and answering questions about costs, timetables, permitting and more.

“I think they have been excellent presentations,” Connors said during a break. “They’re hitting all the areas we asked them to focus on. I think the public will be much better informed.”

The two-day presentations and interviews with the six-member committee are the first public exhibition of the plans that have been in the works since the summer. Next, the city will conduct a public survey from Feb. 23 to March 6 to collect comments before the committee ranks the top three proposals and Mayor Rick Kriseman recommends one to the City Council for a vote, expected in April.

The aging pyramid at the head of the pier is vacant and the pier approach fenced off as the city waits for a new development. It has budgeted $33 million for the design project, and another $13 million to demolish and repair the pier approach that dates to the original Million Dollar Pier, built in 1926.

On Tuesday, visitors got up-close views of renderings of the proposed replacements on easels in the Coliseum.

“It’s exciting as a resident to have some things we can look at,” Futterman said. He had a couple of favorites, but liked some elements in each of the plans. “Visually, it’s very important for it to be appealing. That’s an icon of St. Petersburg.”

Susan Hofstader, 61, a 12-year city resident, said she wasn’t a fan of the inverted pyramid at first, but was intrigued by some of the redesigned pyramids she saw Tuesday.

“I like the designs that do more along the approach, where you have a place to stop along the way” to the pier’s end, she said. She liked the fishing and boating options, “but it would be good to have something for people who just want to walk.”

Some were worried about access for the disabled, or whether a shuttle will drive people to the end. Others wondered if there would be enough restaurants, shops or other revenue generators to operate the facility without taxpayer subsidies.

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Several people said they like this selection process more than a previous attempt to replace the pier in 2013, which resulted in a special referendum in which voters rejected the Lens design the city selected after a five-year, $4 million process. This time there are more proposals, more public access and more opportunity to comment, they said.

Architect Paul Palmer had seen the designs online, but came to the Coliseum for a better view of the renderings. He liked several of the plans, particularly those that make prominent use of the renovated pyramid.

Palmer, 44, said he came to St. Petersburg in 1979, before the pyramid was turned into a shopping center to help make money.

“You can see the pyramid again,” he said after viewing a handful of the designs. “It’s not surrounded by the mall. It’s more attractive.”

The city gave each design team $30,000 to develop a plan, though Connors said after viewing the presentations it was apparent “their expenses are significantly higher.”

Mark Johnson, with the FR-EE, Civitas and Mesh team, smiled when asked about the expenses. “We do this all the time,” he said.

“I think it’s a terrific process,” he said after presenting his team’s proposal to the selection committee.

The committee asked about revenue possibilities, but Johnson stressed the public access of his team’s design, called Prospect Pier. Past attempts to make money on the pier failed, he said, and the cost may have kept some people away.

“It’s owned by everybody in the city. It should be a share experience,” he said.

Along with the Prospect Pier team, the committee on Wednesday heard from the Alfonso Architects ALMA design team, the Rogers Partners/ASD Pier Park team, and the Ross Barney rePier team.

Presentations today begin with the Destination St. Pete Pier plan by the St. Pete Design Group at 9 a.m.; the Discover Bay Life plan by VOA at 10:45 a.m. and the Blue Pier by W-Architecture at 1 p.m. The Coliseum is at 535 Fourth Ave. N.

After the presentations, the renderings will be displayed at the Museum of History, near the pier approach at 335 Second Ave. NE, until March 6. Information also will be available at outdoor weekend markets and a kiosk at Tyrone Mall. The plans also may be seen on the city’s website, www.stpete.org.

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