St. Petersburg Pier in “good shape” for renovation, but at what cost?

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St. Petersburg Pier’s iconic inverted pyramid is structurally sound and could last 75 more years — with renovations — says an engineering study commissioned by the city.

But the report, released on Friday, remains uncertain on what renovation costs would ultimately be, or whether they can stay within the firm $46 million budget for a new or refurbished pier set by Mayor Rick Kriseman.

The $30,000 study, performed by Kisinger Campo and Associates of Tampa, also found that the massive caissons holding up the structure are in good shape. Refurbishment, on the other hand, could be costly. The building, closed since last May, must be upgraded to meet current codes, and should have a similar lifespan to a new approach, which needs replacement.

Although the $46 million figure is for renovation of the building and approach, it does not take into account some of the extra amenities residents are looking for, such as fishing.

For those fighting to save the Pier, the report comes as vindication.

“I am pleased that the building is in really good shape,” licensed structural engineer Frank Carter “Bud” Karins told Waveney Ann Moore of the Tampa Bay Times. Karins pressed the city for the study and wrote the key issues for the analysis to address. “I don’t believe in throwing away things that are part of the fabric of the community.”

Highlights study include:

  • The new Pier is required to withstand 140- to 150-mile-an-hour winds. Bringing it to code needs “significant structural modifications” for strengthening the steel structure’s connections, beams, and columns. An additional structural wind load analysis, costing another $30,000, would determine precisely what types of reinforcements are needed. That study will only come after there is a short-listed pier design that plans to use the current structure.
  • Current flood requirements will result in the loss of the entire first floor since any new construction would be approximately 6 feet higher.
  • Testing found limited corrosion of the steel structure, with piles that “appear to have limited chloride exposure.” and the five 20- by 20-foot supporting caissons show to be in good condition.
  • Prolonging the life of the building for 75 years more “would greatly exceed that of similar coastal structures,” but is entirely conceivable, the report said.

Moore also spoke with city public works administrator Michael Connors, who said the estimated cost of refurbishing just the building would be more than $12 million.

“Even though the structural report was not all that alarming,” Connors said, “there’s a significant sum of money necessary to renovate the building.”

There will be “a considerable amount of investment” and “significant reduction” in the size of the pier head and approach, as well as losing many of the brick pavers, ornate railings and shade shelters.

“If we do renovate the building,” he said, “it will be a comprehensive renovation. It will be comparable to a new building.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.