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No bids for Pier Park restaurant brings more Pier Park criticism

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A bidding process for a restaurant located in the Pier Park design yielded not a single interested party. Not a single restaurateur submitted a request for proposal by Thursday’s 1 p.m. deadline.

The Tampa Bay Times reports the city is downplaying the lack of initial interest.

“It’s early,” St. Pete director of development coordination Chris Ballestra told the Times. “This would go in a project that won’t open until 2018.”

He said he wasn’t surprised the two planned spaces failed to draw interest right away because little is known about the sites planned for the third floor of the structure that will serve as the new Pier’s visual icon.

Would-be interested parties are likely concerned about a number of issues surrounding preliminary plans for the restaurant including where patrons would park.

The restaurant would be located at the end of the Pier and no vehicular traffic is planned. That means parking for the restaurant would be off-site, a problem for most restaurants.

That’s long been the concern voiced by Columbia Restaurant owner Casey Gonzmart.

And others told the Times they had other concerns. Steve Westphal, owner of the Hangar Restaurant at Albert Whitted Airport, 400 Seafood & Tap House, and Parkshore Grill said he’d be more interested in restaurant space closer to land where views, he argues, are just as good.

The lack of bids is also fueling criticism about Pier Park from those who have opposed it from the start.

A post on the Vote on the Pier Facebook page advocating for a chance to let voters decide on downtown waterfront projects on city-owned land wrote, the “City and Mayor Kriseman’s cronies are in in spin mode.”

That page has morphed from just advocating for the demise of the 2013 design known as the Lens that was squashed by voters to an anti-Rick Kriseman propaganda machine.

“They want design plans to know what they’re getting into BEFORE they bid?” Kate Adams posted sarcastically. “Gee don’t they just trust the mayor when he assures them it’s just gonna be AWESOME out there at the end of that Lonnnnnnng sidewalk?”

Over on the other anti-Lens turned anti-Pier Park Facebook page called “WOW the Lens Sucks” posts are a little crasser.

“eh … eheheh … eh lol … eh LMAO! WOW Potty Park SUCKS!!!” read a post linking to the Times report.

Commenters on the post lamented the city still doesn’t know what it’s buying for $46 million.

The latest news is just another in a long line of indications of what’s to come: a repeat of 2013 where a small group of naysayers make a whole lot of noise.

The anti-Pier Park group claims to be still working on raising money to get enough petition signatures to force a referendum asking whether or not voters should have a say at the ballot box on construction or demolition projects on city-owned downtown waterfront land.

However, according to financial records filed with the City Clerk last month, the group Voteonthepier.com has not raised any money toward that effort.

It’s also too late for that effort to save the inverted pyramid. That structure is almost entirely demolished with the rest of the Pier expected to be gone by February. But with Pier Park not expected to be shovel ready until next fall, it is still possible the effort could cause problems.

The group would need to move quickly though making all that noise probably just a calamitous annoyance.

The city plans to put out another request for proposal the restaurant, but does not have a timeline on when that will happen.

Two other requests for proposals will also go out in the coming months for two restaurants planned for the uplands in the current Dolphin and Pelican Parking lots.

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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