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Meet the Pier Park team: Rob Rogers

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Architects working on the Pier Park concept are fine-tuning plans in preparation to present a final design to City Council and the public in January.

In the meantime, the PR firm hired to provide communications services for the design team is making sure those in the process know who’s behind the future of St. Pete’s Pier.

In the first of several weekly videos highlighting members of the Pier Park design team, lead architect Rob Rogers of the New York firm Rogers Partners explains why Pier Park is such an exciting project.

“Because of its historic role as a place,” Rogers said. “My role, in fact, is really to make sure that big ideas are really right and when things get down to little pieces and small parts that need to support the big idea, they stay in those boundaries.”

Pier Park is intended to not just be a destination at the end of a road. The approach to the end of the park is being designed to be a destination in and of itself.

The idea is a step outside of what the Pier had been since the inverted pyramid was erected in the ’70s.

“We’ve kind of moved past singular retail destination as an idea of how to use public realm and really to make it deep and participatory, broad and diverse,” Rogers said. “That’s the goal.”

The design concept includes a number of programmatic elements called for during a series of public input sessions asking residents what they were looking for in a design.

“The park is going to be kind of the peak moment but there’s 100 other things that’s going to be happening from education programs that are really focused on the local school populations to festivals,” Rogers said. Education and event space were a huge part of the public’s input. “We expect to have regional even national reputation for music, food, and art.”

Public input also showed that residents wanted to include both fine and casual dining at a new Pier. Pier Park is expected to have three restaurants – one at the Pier head and the other two where the existing Pelican and Dolphin lots are located.

Requests for Proposals have already gone out for the space that will be located at the Pier head. A selection is expected in January.

The city has also chosen W Architecture to undertake the $20 million Pier uplands project as part of the downtown waterfront master plan. That design is intended to symbiotically connect Pier Park to downtown St. Pete through a grand entryway, public art and other walkable elements. City Council is expected to approve the design team ranking for that project this month.

The inverted pyramid is nearly demolished. The rest of the Pier will be dismantled by the end of February. Groundbreaking on Pier Park is expected next fall.

Still to come in Pier Park’s weekly “get to know the designers” series are architects Vince Lee, John Curran and Ken Cowart as well as landscape architects Ken Smith and Hunter Booth.

“[It’s] bigger than doing a building,” Rogers said. “This is a very, very public piece of space and it’s for everybody, and it’s not just dinner and a cocktail.”

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.

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