Bumpy launch for St. Pete Pier concepts

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Eight designs have been chosen by the city of St. Pete as contenders for a re-imagined downtown pier. Six of those would use the current pier as a base for a new waterfront destination, while two completely reinvent the space.

Details of the concepts were released today on the city’s website, but a press release went out to local media outlets implying that the designs would be on display at City Hall for two hours Monday.

Nothing was on display Monday. Instead, media were invited to City Hall to collect a DVD with design concepts and artist renderings ahead of the information being made available to the public online.

About 7 or 8 St. Pete residents showed up at City Hall just before 2 p.m. to catch a glimpse of what the new downtown skyline might look like once a new pier is finally erected or the old one renovated. Instead, they were told to check back on the city’s website throughout the day as more information would become available as city staff continued to upload packets and photos from the design teams.

One of those residents was Hal Friedman. Friedman has taken an interest in the pier process since the beginning. He was active in the effort to build the previous design known as the Lens. Voters overwhelmingly shot down that plan last year after a lengthy petition process.

“I was hoping to get an idea of what they were doing,” Friedman said, though he wasn’t too annoyed with the mix-up since he lives downtown.

Since the group of concerned citizens – not to be confused with the group Concerned Citizens that was successful in killing the Lens – made the trip to City Hall, city public works administrator Mike Connors took time to answer questions about the new process, including how winners will be chosen and how the public can participate in the process.

“We’ve got at least a four-week process to inform and educate the public and that’s followed by a two-week process of surveying the public,” Connors said.

That two-week process is an online survey where residents can weight their preferred design concepts. A selection committee will choose the top three, with the top choice being the plan the city moves forward on. That survey is open from February 23-March 6 to residents 18 and older regardless of voting status.

Prior to that, the city will hold a series of public information and outreach events from January 23-February 23, with public presentations by finalists at the Coliseum on February 11 and 12. Final selection and ranking is expected by March 20 with City Council set to approve the ranking on April 2. A final contract is expected to be set by mid- to late May.

Here’s what the public has to choose from so far:

  • The Crescent by ahha! New Quarter

This team is comprised of members from a small St. Petersburg architectural firm. The team describes the design as “The crescent as a metaphor for the growth of our community. A gathering place for the people of St. Pete, a place for learning and play. A place that is self sustaining. How does one have a pier experience without actually being on a pier? ‘Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?’ — Frank Scully”

Artist renderings of this concept look almost like the Sydney Opera House. There is multi-tiered seating with another smaller pier jetting out into the water. Renderings appear to show the design with a pedestrian promenade approaching the main structure at the end where the current inverted pyramid currently sits.

“A goal of the ahha!-New Quarter design group’s Upland and Spa Beach design was to provide a cohesive design that maximizes the value of the Uplands and Spa Beach to the community while providing locations that could be converted to sites for private public partnership development without damaging the vision or cohesiveness of the whole,” a description in the group’s online presentation reads. “We foresaw the design of the uplands and spa beach as an extension of the pier experience, providing a location for community desired elements not available on the pier or in the landmark structure. In keeping with our design intent, we provide herein a guiding vision for possible public private partnership at the Uplands, including suggested uses and financial projections.”

  • Blue Pier by W Architecture and Landscape Architecture

According to this group, the design aims to extend the pier toward the city to improve access, integrate the pier and the city at a new lagoon landscape, activate the uplands to bring new program and investment opportunities and peel back the pier deck.

The group’s 75-word description reads, “”The vision for the St. Petersburg Blue Pier lagoon park is a grand civic gesture bringing the pier, bay and natural landscape closer to the city. Blue Pier acts as a unifying element uniting the Bay with the City along a new axis of recreational and economic activity. Starting new allows us to set a new sequence of events in motion to make the pier even more successful and relevant for the coming century.”

  • ALMA by Alfonso Architects of Tampa including HSN CEO Mindy Grossman, Dale Chihuly and artist James Rosenquist.

This design utilizes a narrow, semi-high-rise structure in place of the inverted pyramid with a wider indoor space adjacent to it. At night the tower projects light into the sky emulating a structure similar to the World Trade tower tribute. There would be indoor space for educational events, outdoor space for markets and festivals and an outdoor wall to show movies in the park.

“The Soul of the City. Cultural Icon. Just as the Eiffel Tower image alone can conjure up an entire cultural experience by merely representing a fragment of the City, the Pier transmutations over the years have served as the symbol and spirit of the place that is St. Petersburg. Our project will recapture the past, embrace the present, and look to the future.

  • Destination St. Pete Pier by the St. Pete Design group

This design would re-use components of the existing pier. It would maintain the iconic inverted pyramid shape currently highlighting St. Pete’s downtown waterfront and allow for observations and viewing, dining, cycling and jogging, transportation, fishing and environmental education. It would also have both courtesy and transient docks.

“The St. Pete Design Group’s concept provides the perfect marriage of historic icon and modernized, functional pier a pure, crystalline pyramid is surrounded by fun, contemporary elements and activities within multileveled layers of shade. Varied attractions that will keep residents and tourists coming back include a larger Spa Beach, multiple dining options, a children’s zone and a spectacular waterfall. Come fish, play, relax and remember. Discover the New St. Pete Pier.”

  • Discover Bay Life by VOA of Orlando

This design also re-uses parts of the inverted pyramid while modernizing the façade. A smaller pyramid would sit atop the observing deck that now serves as the top of the Pier. It features a walking, cycling and jogging promenade as well as a landscaped park surrounded by water called Bay Life Park. There would also be opportunities for environmental education and dining.

“‘Discover Bay Life’ respects the past and looks to the future by transforming the upland park and pier into a new destination for St. Petersburg. Just as life on the Bay continually transforms, so does life at “The Pier.” Three destinations Bay Life Park, the Pier, and the Marine Discovery Center become one unique destination for locals and visitors to discover and enjoy year around.”

  • Prospect Pier by FR-EE

This design is another of the six using the current Pier as a base for design. The inverted pyramid would be transformed into a massive observation deck both out onto the water and back toward the city. The pier structure itself would feature tiered seating and observation decks facing downtown while the back side would slope toward the water.

Again, walking and cycling would be key components of the approach and current components approaching the pier including Spa Beach would also be included in design plans.

“Absorbing the History Projecting the Future Prospect Pier celebrates our unique geography, culture and history as a subtropical, waterfront city. In a reinvented Pyramid that looks to the future, it builds upon the Pier’s assets – a strong form floating over the water. Our vision is a journey that begins downtown, passes through a vibrant park and becomes a magical stroll over water before ascending through active, public spaces culminating in breathtaking views of city, sea and sky, high over Tampa Bay.”

  • repier by Ross Barney Architects of Chicago

repier places the pier’s approach to the side of the existing inverted pyramid making the pier look as if the pier is attached to the side. A round promenade circles the structure. The design would also incorporate a second structure on the uplands that could be used as an event venue.

“repier is a vision of St. Petersburg as a catalyst for more environmentally friendly, physically engaging, and socially exciting urban living. repier adds opportunities to engage with the water, creates marine habitat, provides places to snack and sit in the shade, and builds a social space that also generates electricity. repier projects progress and hope and provides St. Petersburg with a place that is useful and loved.”

  • Pier Park

This design seems to most robustly change the pier’s approach by expanding the narrow roadway out into geometric jetties offering walkers and joggers the chance to interact with the waterway more intimately. The design utilizes the uplands and Spa Beach as park and entertainment space while also leaving some space for parking.

Plans include possible tram stops, bike share hubs, water play, hammocks, deck seating and kayak and paddleboat rentals. It would also include an event plaza, lawn bowl, restaurant space and an environmental center.

“The ASD/Rogers Partners/KSLA design honors St. Petersburg Pier’s robust, eclectic history while transforming it into a 21st century public place. It is a hub for activity not only at the pier head, but all along its length. Flexible programs engage tourists and community alike – from children to seniors, nature lovers to boaters, fishermen to fine diners. The Pier does not take you to a place – the Pier is the place.”

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.