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Most popular St. Pete Pier design hasn’t been playing by the rules

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The Destination St. Pete Pier design by the St. Pete Design Group should be in hot water over a little self-promoting, but it doesn’t look like they are.

The group finished first out of seven possible designs for a new St. Pete pier and it wasn’t even close. They had thousands of more votes than their closest competition.

However, there’s some question as to whether or not the design team played by the rules. Florida Politics obtained a screen shot from a sponsored Facebook post promoting the St. Pete Design Group’s submission.

“Destination St. Pete Pier building interiors and potential tenants. We anticipate an anchor tenant such as a Marine Discovery Center or Glass Museum. These tenants could hold large community events like the Dali does. There will also be the Sky Deck Restaurant and Bar. Approximately 40,000 sq ft of AC is available,” the post read. There were 17 photos of the design attached in a photo album.

pier screenshot

According to the agreement signed by teams who submitted proposals, self-promotion is not allowed.

“The A/E (design team) agrees that the A/E shall not promote or self-market (e.g.; press releases or announcements) its design concept without the prior written consent of the OWNER (the city),” the agreement reads.

According to City Architect Raul Quintana, several generic emails were sent to design groups reiterating the no self-promotion rule, but none specifically to the St. Pete Design Group regarding the Facebook post.

However, Quintana did speak verbally with a member of the group warning them about the rules after they hung a banner from a theater during a St. Pete Chamber of Commerce event.

Quintana said he didn’t know about the Facebook post.

“We didn’t expect to be policemen,” he said noting that the city expected groups to be professional and follow the rules.

There’s a provision in the agreement that gives groups the option to obtain permission from the city when it comes to self-promotion, but based on Quintana’s description of that, almost anything would be a no-go.

As far as the Facebook post in question, Quintana said had the group asked permission to post that the answer would have been no.

So, they did break the rules. However, there’s no measure in place to implement consequences. Nowhere does the agreement say that a team would be disqualified for self-promoting.

In fact, when asked if the city will do anything about it, Quintana said he didn’t know how to answer that.

“The selection committee is the only group that can remove or disqualify,” Quintana said.

Destination St. Pete Pier received more than 10,000 votes during public voting. The next closest design received 4,000 fewer. The lead, at least in the public’s eye, is staggering.

While a final decision on which pier design will be chosen will be decided by the Pier Selection Committee, the results from public voting are expected to be taken into consideration.

One group, VOA, asked about promoting its design, Discover Bay Life, on Facebook.

“On behalf of the VOA Associates Discover Bay Life Team, as per the agreement instructions attached, we are requesting permission to allow VOA to utilize social media to promote awareness of the design competition including our own design. No Press Releases will be distributed,” wrote Senior Vice President of VOA’s business development Joanna Del Moral.

Quintana’s department told them no.

“I reviewed your request with City staff and unfortunately must deny the request.  We appreciate the desire to help the City promote awareness of the concepts. However, we believe that in fairness to all, the City should maintain control of the marketing efforts, particularly the social media,” Quintana wrote. “Kristin Brett and her team have been diligently developing the promotional material needed for the long run ahead.  While we had a few technical hurdles early on, the City web site has received over 11,250 separate sessions with over 24,600 page views since going live on Monday afternoon. One option you do have is to go to the City of St. Petersburg’s Facebook site and re-share the City’s link to your groups via Facebook. So far, the City’s Facebook referrals make up 18.2% of the total referrals received on our website.”

The St. Pete Design Group made no such request, they just did it anyway.

That begs the question of whether or not the other six teams who seemed to have followed the city’s rules got an unfair shake.

“That is a fair issue,” 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 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

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