St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration is getting out ahead of an expected vote Thursday. City Council will hear a staff presentation regarding the Pier Selection Committee’s final ranking in which Pier Park came out on top.
“We established a pier process that citizens on every side of this issue agreed would result in a fair and objective decision,” Kriseman wrote in a statement emailed to residents subscribed to citywide email updates. “I am proud that we have stayed true to that process and that it has been transparent and open to the public throughout. I thank the Selection Committee for their diligence and their hard work.”
Destination St. Pete Pier was ranked second with Alma rounding out the top three.
Dueling groups are expected to pack the 8:30 a.m. meeting. Among the most likely to attend are those supporting Pier Park’s top ranking and another consisting of residents who prefer the Destination St. Pete Pier design.
Destination St. Pete Pier is the only design in the top three that would renovate the current inverted pyramid. It was also the top-ranked design in a public survey conducted by the city and several others conducted by St. Pete Polls.
Supporters of that design are expected to implore City Council members to reject the selection committee’s ranking in hopes of pushing their favored design forward.
However, in the email the city points out that City Council “must approve the Selection Committee’s final ranking before contract negotiations can ensue.”
This serves as something of a cautionary tale for Destination St. Pete Pier supporters considering a plea to City Council to reject the ranking. The Kriseman administration has largely maintained that if City Council rejects the ranking the process starts over.
However, in a report prior to the selection committee’s ranking, City Attorney John Wolfe admitted City Council could have more options than originally thought. That includes the possibility of rejecting the ranking and choosing a design on their own. The details are complicated, however, and council would still be bound by state law on how to decide on a team.
Regardless, the city is hoping to move forward.
“The iconic St. Petersburg Pier has often been the source of passionate debate in the Sunshine City, but it is also a source of great pride,” Kriseman said. “I’m looking forward to the day we cut the ribbon on a new St. Petersburg Pier.”
St. Pete Public Works Administrator Mike Connors chaired the selection committee. His presence on the committee has been the source of great debate among critics of the city’s selection process. Early on he indicated a clear preference to choose a design that did not re-use the inverted pyramid.
“The Selection Committee has chosen a preeminent architect with their associated team who will advance the detail of their iconic concept as we move closer to construction and the symbol of St. Petersburg’s next chapter. With this selection, we are taking a bold step towards our city’s bright future.” Connors said.
At least one City Council member is expected to vote “no” on the final Pier ranking. Outgoing City Council member Wengay Newton who represents parts of South St. Pete and Midtown is asking his colleagues to vote on a measure that would put the entire issue on the ballot for voters to decide.
The Pier issue is first on council’s list on Thursday. That meeting begins at 8:30. Heavy turnout is expected and people wishing to speak on the matter may have to use the city’s overflow room.