First step in choosing new Pier design kicks-off with RFQ

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Mayor Rick Kriseman isn’t going to meet his ambitious campaign goal of building a new Pier for St. Pete by 2015, but he is getting closer.

On Tuesday, the city opened a Request for Qualification process inviting design firms to submit their experience and ideas on how to solve the Pier debacle once and for all.

“And since we’re including the option of renovation, we’re asking them to tell us what direction they’re intending to go in,” said Raul Quintana, the city’s lead architect.

Design teams have until September 5 to submit a Statement of Qualification to the city. It’s the first in a two-stage process and won’t include any specific design concepts.

After September 5, the Pier Advisory Council appointed by Mayor Kriseman will choose up to 8 teams to move on to the next stage.

Each team will be given a $30,000 stipend to develop concepts for a new or renovated pier within a $46 million budget. Of that, only about $33 million will be available for actual construction.

The city had a $50 million budget, but $4 million was whittled away during the previous design competition that led to the approval of “The Lens” by city council and subsequent squashing of that design by voters.

aCritics of the previous process had a host of complaints. It was a sidewalk to nowhere. There wasn’t enough retail or restaurant space. There wasn’t enough shade. No one would use it. One dissenter even worried about Pelican droppings marring the planned white facade. The most pressing complaint though, was that the public didn’t have enough say in choosing the design that would ultimately replace the city’s iconic inverted pyramid.

City officials say that’s not the case this time around.

“There are more teams that will be shortlisted. Last time it was limited to three,” Quintana said. “The public is going to have a formal way to provide their input.”

Just how the public will weigh in hasn’t been figured out yet. The mayor suggested during a press conference earlier this year that it might be through online voting.  Residents will know for sure sometime early next year.

Another problem with the previous process was possibly misleading designs. Three architectural firms were chosen as finalists and those companies showcased their ideas for the public at the Coliseum. All three included components of the design the city just couldn’t afford.

The city made it clear on the first page of its 70-page RFQ they’re not looking for anything that exceeds the budget.

“They’re might be opportunities for enhancing after, but not during the concept development,” Quintana said.

The crawling process is geared at making sure a new design doesn’t suffer the same fate as “The Lens,” but there are no guarantees.

“Nothing that we do can eliminate that possibility,” Quintana said.

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.