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Pier Selection Committee to announce design ranking today

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The Pier Selection Committee will make its long-awaited ranking of the seven designs shortlisted to replace the current inverted pyramid Friday morning beginning at 8:30 a.m. The top of those will likely take the contract.

It’s been a long and tumultuous road for city officials on a quest to find a new icon for St. Pete’s downtown waterfront. In 2013 it looked like there would be a lavish over-water walkway. But it was dubbed a sidewalk to nowhere and voted out overwhelmingly in the 2013 municipal primary.

Now that teams have gone back to the drawing board, all signs point to one design as the clear frontrunner. Destination St. Pete Pier by the St. Pete Design Group grabbed a staggering majority of public votes during the city’s online survey spanning late February to earlier this month.

Including non-residents, nearly 11,000 votes were cast for the St. Pete Design Group’s plan that most resembles the current pier. The next closest design, Pier Park, brought in nearly 4,000 votes less.

But the results of those votes aren’t all the selection team will look at. The meeting is expected to last all day while members of the committee rifle through a long list of considerations.

Among major considerations for the committee in choosing a team to move forward with the $46 million project are whether or not the design falls within the city’s $33 million construction budget, ease of permitting, operating costs, how much of a subsidy each design will require and whether the amenities each design offers meets the needs previously laid out by the committee.

The team selected will also have to pass muster based on qualifications and experience.

Whichever team is chosen will have to be approved by City Council April 2. From there a final contract is expected sometime in mid- to late May.

Regardless of how much weight the selection committee puts on the results of the public survey, there has already been some swirling controversy. And because Destination St. Pete Pier seems to have the edge in this particular design competition, they’ve been right in the center of it.

The design team has been accused of breaking the city’s rules regarding self-promotion. It falls under the “do-not” category in the contracts signed by all of the teams. Despite that rule, the team hung a banner from a St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce event and posted at least one “sponsored” Facebook post. The team was spoken to after the banner-hanging incident, but as of right now it appears no action has been take regarding the Facebook post.

When asked about it, city architect Raul Quintana told SaintPetersblog there was no recourse laid out for teams who broke the rule. Instead, he said he expected teams to function under the honor system and just do what they were supposed to do.

In any case, Destination St. Pete Pier wasn’t the only group to potentially break that rule – others posted photos and encouraging words on social media. However, Destination St. Pete’s posts seem to have gotten the most attention.

There has also been some speculation about the city’s survey process itself. SaintPetersblog reported Wednesday that a local company, St. Pete Polls, is conducting its own survey they say is more scientific.

They sent 10,000 email request to registered voters in St. Pete that asks whether or not they approve or disapprove of each design and then to rate the designs with their top three.

The group is conducting the survey because they say the city’s process made it possible for some residents to ballot stuff by casting votes for other residents. They’re not sure if that happened or not, but wanted a second survey to possibly validate or invalidate the city’s data.

The group hopes to have some data of their own before a vote is complete Friday.

Whether or not the controversy has any impact on the selection committees choice, it’s likely whatever teams don’t make the cut won’t be happy about it.

At this point residents and city officials can only hope that disappointment doesn’t lead to another challenge to the city’s chosen design.

The Pier Selection Committee meets at 8:30 a.m. at St. Pete City Hall located at 175 Fifth Street North. It will also be televised on St. Pete T.V.

Here’s a rundown of the designs in order of public voting:

Destination St. Pete Pier: Re-uses the current inverted pyramid, but changes the approach slightly by adding multi-level docks around the structure. The new entrance to the building would be on the second floor.

The Pier Park: Re-uses only the caissons and elevator shafts of the existing structure, but includes open-air observation platforms. This design has a geometric appeal with multiple angles along the approach.

Blue Pier: The Pier head consists of a sloping lawn at the pier head and multiple lagoons along the approach. It includes added mangroves, but those are rumored to be removed based on feasibility and permitting.

Discover Bay Life: Also re-uses the inverted pyramid, but the structure becomes open-air featuring an observation platform. A sculpture in the shape of a diamond ornaments the top.

The Alma: Completely replaces inverted pyramid and replaces it with a narrow tower.

rePier: Basically removes the outer walls of the inverted pyramid and the innards to create a view from all angles.

Prospect Pier: Also re-uses the inverted pyramid. Maintains indoor space. Creates landscaped terraces at both the base and the roof of the building.

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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