Although there has been some kind of Pier project in downtown St. Pete since the late 1800s, the city has changed, and the Pier is not needed.
When I first moved to Tampa Bay 35 years ago, downtown was anything but vibrant. The Vinoy, now a crown jewel, was closed, full of broken windows and in search of a developer.
Young people didn’t seek downtown as a destination. The only things the drew people was Spring Training and the inverted pyramid Pier — I could never figure out why.
Back then, St. Petersburg was known for its green benches and (jokingly) was called the home of the newlywed and nearly dead.
But that was then, and this is now; things have changed.
Downtown is alive with outdoor cafes that draw people even during weekday nights … the Vinoy is a world-class hotel … the new Dali and Chihuly museums bring thousands to the city. but there is this little problem called sewage running in the streets and being dumped into Tampa Bay.
The city sewer system is a mess and needs a fix that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars … while the city administration says it can take care of the problem through issuing bonds.
Remember, bonds are like a loan that has to be paid back … and spending money on the Pier is like running out and buying a Rolls-Royce when your roof is leaking.
Now, there is an expense to stopping the Pier project; the city claims it will cost $35 million because of bond obligations it took out for the project … but others, including [St. Pete City] Councilman Karl Nurse, believes it will be much less … But still, even if the administration has wasted $35 million … that is less than half the $80 million it wants to spend on the Pier.
And continuing, in my mind, is throwing good money after bad.
I know Mayor [Rick] Kriseman is hellbent on completing this project, but I believe it is a waste of money, particularly at this time.
It is unnecessary and foolish … and if I were king, it would end today.