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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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St. Pete architect backs Pier assertion with details

ST. PETERSBURG — Local architecture firm Mesh made waves recently when it announced it could renovate the city’s inverted pyramid pier for $24 million, well below the city’s original estimate of more than $70 million.

Now the firm has released a set of drawings showcasing its proposed radical makeover of the 40-year-old building that has sat empty for five months — since it was closed as a first step toward demolition.

In the new design, the pier’s dated glass, steel and concrete exterior would be covered with a mesh-like material, giving it a sleek modern look but also preserving the original pyramid which still would be visible. The design also moves the pier approach slightly south, making the pyramid appear to rise out of Tampa Bay.

“We’re trying to give people something new while also saving the pyramid,” said CEO Gary Grooms.

Mesh’s “Wave” design was one of three finalists in an international pier design contest that was won by Michael Maltzan’s Lens design. But voters decisively rejected the Lens in an August referendum, sending the city back to the drawing board.

The pier was a hotly debated issue during the recent mayoral campaign with both Mayor Bill Foster and Mayor-Elect Rick Kriseman saying they favor building a new pier over renovating the inverted pyramid.

On Thursday, Kriseman said that is still his preference but he would be willing to listen to proposals to re-use the pyramid.

“I’m certainly willing to give them a chance to convince me,” he said.

Kriseman, who was elected as the city’s new mayor Tuesday, plans to get thoughts from residents on what amenities they want on their pier. Then the city would accept design proposals with residents choosing their top three favorites and city leaders making the final choice.

The city has hired OpinonWorks, a Maryland-based firm, to survey residents in the next few weeks about what amenities they want in their new pier.

Mesh is likely to be one of the firms submitting designs, said Grooms.

Its new proposal would reduce the width of the pier approach to 50 feet, roughly half its current size. It would include trolley lanes in the center and lanes for walkers and cyclists on the outside. The southern side of the approach would include a canopy for shade, fitted with solar panels in its roof, and a fishing platform.

The pier would include a soda shop, event space and restaurants, including outdoor dining on the fifth floor.

The plan also has a plaza and other amenities on uplands now used as parking lots. That could include space for public art, beach volleyball facilities, a splash park and a stage with up to 1,500 fixed seats and a grassy hill to give the venue an amphitheater feel.

The company estimates the overall cost of the project at $46 million, roughly the amount the city has left in its budget after more than $4 million was spent on The Lens.

Grooms said the city should not repeat its insistence on hiring a big-name architect; there are local firms, including his, that easily can handle a project of this size.

“Of course we’d like to do the job” Grooms said. “We think we know the city better — we think that qualifies us in a different way.”

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