More "Foster's Pier Facts" examined

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Mayor Bill Foster released some more “Pier Facts” today in his sometimes-weekly weekly forecast email, so we thought we would go through these and see if he was any more truthful on these new facts than he was on the “facts” he released last week in his shiny “facts” brochure. If you haven’t read our post from Monday, please take a few minutes to read it, there is a lot of good background information in there.

“The Pier Approach… and the Pier Head were built in 1926. According to engineering assessments, these portions of the Pier are continuing to diminish in their ability to bear weight, and will have to be closed within two years.” We haven’t seen anyone anywhere debate you on this Mayor Foster, everyone agrees that the pier approach and head need to be replaced.

“Even if the city were to replace The Pier approach and Pier Head, we would be left with a 40-year-old building which drains city dollars through $1.5 million in annual subsidies and would require expensive renovations.” The Pier was built to be dependent on a subsidy, it is an “attraction”, it is meant to attract people to it to spend time and money while out there looking at our beautiful city from an unparalleled vantage point. Nobody will spend time out on the Lens pier, there is nowhere to gather, sit or eat, and there is very little shade. There is nothing to do out there except stand and look around, so no time or money will be spent out there.

The Mayor also mentions the age of the pier building as a problem, maybe that means his next targets are the even-more-geriatric Coliseum and Sunken Gardens buildings, after all, they are both a lot older than 40.

“Floors 1, 2 and 3, due to their awkward size and layout, cannot command sufficient revenue to be self sustaining.” This is about as bad as saying that the entryway of Sunken Gardens (which the city has to subsidize by the way) does not generate enough money by itself through vending machines, so we should demolish the entire Sunken Gardens complex(because it is not self-sustaining) and fill it in to be a parking lot for Carrabba’s Restaurant. Or maybe since the concession stand at the Mahaffey Theater(another city-subsidized structure) doesn’t make enough money for the Mahaffey Theater to be self-sustaining we should just tear down the whole building to make a bigger parking lot for the Dali Museum. What about those Tea Dances at the Coliseum(another subsidized building), not enough old folks dancing like there use to be to pay for it, so we should just tear the Coliseum down too, maybe make room for a toll plaza complex to get money out of all of those freeloading drivers coming off of I-375 using our non-self-sustaining roads here in St. Petersburg.

Does Mayor Foster understand how ridiculous he sounds? Of course the first through third floors of the pier are not self-sustaining, but they shouldn’t have to be, they were not built by themselves and they should not be singled out by themselves as a reason to demolish the entire pier. Is the gelato stand at the end of the Lens pier going to be profitable enough to sustain the 24-hour security and bird-dropping cleaning services that the Lens pier will require? Not a chance.

“And while we all enjoy dinner at the Columbia or Cha Cha Coconut’s on floors 4 and 5, operating a restaurant 1/4 of a mile out into the water is not efficient. The Pier’s new design calls for 6,000 sq. ft. of retail at the land’s edge on The Hub, which is a more suitable place for a dining establishment.” So insead of over 52,000 sq. ft. of retail space currently in the pier, most with great views of the city or the bay, we will end up with only 6,000 sq. ft. for a single restaurant on land(or a couple small shops and a small restaurant) with a view not of the water, but of the sidewalk-to-nowhere, and we don’t even know what it will look like from that vantage point because the architects won’t release pictures of how the Lens pier will look from land. The pier task-force recommended “30,000 and 40,000 square feet of restaurant, bar, and banquet space.” and less than one fifth of that is nowhere close to their recommendations.

“The Pier’s electrical, fire, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and other systems do not meet current city codes. The exterior doors and windows do not meet current wind codes. Elevators and bathrooms do not meet federal ADA regulations.” OK Mayor Foster, but how much would it cost to make these repairs? You say it’s expensive, but you never say how expensive it is. Give us some “facts” on the costs please.

“All HVAC systems require replacement.” It seems that the Mayor needs to read the 2010 PSI report, here is a quote from that report on the condition of the pier “The building has one (1) operational chiller system that was manufactured by Carrier. The unit was installed in 2005 and is in good condition.” So it really isn’t ALL HVAC systems that require replacement is it Mr. Mayor.

“After 40 years, all pipes need to be replaced, the observation deck needs to be re-roofed, and the building needs painting and waterproofing.” Again, please give us some costs on these items that need to be replaced, from third party independent companies, no more “internal estimates” please.

That is about it for the new “Foster Facts” on the pier. In his email, he goes on to talk about what TIF means and why we can’t build a police station with pier money(even though we could if we moved it into the TIF area, but the Mayor doesn’t mention that option for some reason).

Now we just want to mention one more fact that Mayor Foster hasn’t put out there so far, there are currently between 300 to 500 people(depending on who’s numbers you believe) that work out on the pier, those are permanent jobs that will not be there after the Lens is built. The gelato stand and 6,000 sq. ft. of retail on land will only employ 50 people at most, so there will be a minimum net loss of at least 250 jobs in total after the Lens is finished. With the city spending money and giving tax breaks to bring new companies to St Petersburgwe thought this would be a great time to mention one of Bill Foster’s great quotes: “Jobs is the biggest indicator of economic vitality and growth of a city. If you’re not creating jobs, and growing, you’re dying”. Maybe we should start by not letting go of hundreds of jobs we already have here, right at the pier.

We look forward to debunking the next batch of “Foster Facts on the Pier”, he seems to be on a roll now.

Cross-posted with permission of Bob Wilson of the Bill Foster Watch.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.