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Ready or not, a Pier selection is coming

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Thursday afternoon begins what will likely be another long meeting for the Pier Selection Committee. Beginning at 3 p.m. at City Hall, the committee will hear from each of the three design teams answering questions regarding their respective designs.

Following the 12-hour meeting last month, committee members each sent a series of questions to design teams seeking clarification on particular design elements.

The St. Pete Design Group will answer questions about transportation on its Destination St. Pete Pier concept. There are some concerns about private vehicular access to the Pier head – a feature only that design provides.

Pier Park designers will answer some permitting questions and Alfonso Architects are expected to make some clarifications about building height and the number of air-conditioned floors within the iconic tower planned for the Pier head.

Other information is expected including design cost both in construction and operating costs and whether or not the designs fit within the Pier Working group determinations and the downtown waterfront master plan.

At 6 p.m. the committee is scheduled to hear public comment on the designs. This is where things are expected to get fun – or chaotic.

Numerous speakers are expected to speak on behalf of Destination St. Pete Pier. That design was overwhelmingly voted as the public’s top choice in both a city survey and others conducted independently by St. Pete Polls.

In two St. Pete Polls surveys a majority of respondents indicated City Council should reject a ranking if it doesn’t put Destination St. Pete Pier in the top seat.

A group growing in support for the rejected Blue Pier design is expected to speak on behalf of both that design and Pier Park as a plan B. The Build Blue Pier group has taken to supporting Pier Park as an alternative to its preferred design because it has the greatest emphasis on green space of the three finalists.

The Columbia restaurant Gonzmart family is also expected to speak in favor of the Alma design. Any number of followers supporting what has emerged as the establishment choice are expected to join in that conversation.

The Tampa Bay Times has come out in support of either Pier Park or Alma. While they seem to favor Alma, they have certainly rejected the notion of any design that includes keeping the inverted pyramid. Destination St. Pete is the only design that does that.

Meanwhile, former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker has come out in support of Destination St. Pete.

Whatever decision is made by the selection committee will go before City Council on May 7 for an up or down vote. If the Council approves the ranking, that gives Mayor Rick Kriseman authorization to begin negotiations with the top-ranked design team.

If the City Council rejects the ranking, the process could go back to square one. It’s also possible City Council could choose its own design and begin a new Request for Qualification process. A report last week quoting the city’s legal department indicated that is an option despite the fact that the Kriseman administration has held steadfast to the assertion that a no-vote means beck to the drawing board.

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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