Foster’s Pier plans differ from 828 Alliance recommendation

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Does someone need to call 911 to resuscitate the 828 Alliance?

After swiftly dismantling the Pier advisory group known as the 828 Alliance, Mayor Bill Foster now says that he does not intend to follow all the recommendations detailed in the group’s report for restarting the Pier redevelopment planning process. The alliance’s goal was to develop a planning process the community will accept. But Foster apparently does not agree with all of the recommendations from the broad-based group he appointed in the weeks before the heated primary election for mayor.

At a business-themed debate Tuesday at USF St. Pete, Foster told a crowd of 100 people that the city will put out an RFQ – or request for qualifications – after surveying residents about what they want in a new Pier.

But the alliance recommended against that approach, opting instead for issuing an RFP, or request for proposals.

Fred Whaley, who had co-chaired the 828 Alliance, said that the group felt that decisions on choosing architects should be based on design proposals for rebuilding the Pier and not solely on the designer’s credentials. 

In the previous go-around, a committee had selected Los Angeles-based Michael Maltzan, a Harvard-trained architect, as a finalist in a design competition using the RFQ process. Maltzan went on to develop the “Lens,” which the City Council and Foster supported but that the voters rejected at the polls.

After the debate Tuesday night, Foster reiterated that an RFQ – or request for qualifications – is the best approach. “We want world class designers in here,” he said.

Foster also said that he supports the city moving ahead to redevelop the Pier as it creates a Downtown Waterfront Master Plan, instead of waiting for the blueprint to be completed by the summer of 2015.

At the debate, challenger Rick Kriseman criticized Foster for moving too quickly to shut down the existing Pier structure and pushing for a replacement without creating a waterfront vision first that the community will support.