St. Pete councilman unhappy with latest Pier plan
The St. Petersburg City Council got its first look at what an architect called the "evolving design" of the planned Pier renovation during a workshop Tuesday. The latest plans call for a shaded waterside restaurant, amphitheatre, playground and underwater garden. The revised vision comes after input from public groups, something the design team took "very seriously," architect Michael Maltzsen said. However, many of amenities are not included in the $50 million budget allocated for the project, which did not sit well with council members Karl Nurse and Wengay Newton. "The dramatic difference is what we have done to stay within budget is strip out all of the amenities," Nurse said. "Additional money for what was stripped down does not exist."Nurse complained that images in the presentation did not mesh with what the city will actually get. He said most of the project actually called for a "slab with plumbing," and planners were expecting private businesses to come in and build the restaurant, concession areas, bait shop and other amenities. "All we have is 50 million bucks," Nurse said. "Most projects would not consider that chump change. We can't build any of the amenities. I don't know where in the world you think that money is going to come from. It's not much for 50 million bucks." Chris Ballestra, manager of city development, replied that the city wasn't in the restaurant business, and that people have been "knocking on the door for months" to be in the spaces. In February, the city will formally seek vendors, he said. There was also concern over inference that some of the amenities would be in St. Pete's master downtown waterfront plan. Councilman Steve Kornell pointed out that the waterfront plan was not a "funding document" and wanted any suggestion that it was to be removed from the Lens proposal. Mayor Bill Foster said the pier and waterfront plan are independent items. The council will vote Thursday on whether to spend $5 million to proceed with construction. A local group, Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg, opposes the plan and wants voters to decide whether to proceed. Former mayoral candidate Kathleen Ford filed suit against the city for not holding a public referendum. A court hearing regarding the suit is slated for this morning. Maltzen's presentation revealed several alterations to the original Lens plan approved by city council this year. Ideas came from a diverse group ranging from middle school students to neighborhood associations, said Lisa Wannemacher, one of the project's architects who led the search for public input. The presentation included wider pathways, with parallel paved and wooden areas to separate wheeled and foot traffic. Responding to public input, the figure-8 looping paths will jut out 193 feet in Tampa Bay, shorter than the current Pier. There will be more shade, designated fishing platforms and space for a shaded Promontory Grill at water's end. A major change involves the marina, which will be limited to people-powered crafts such as kayaks and paddleboats. There will be lightning underwater to attract sea life. The sprawling canopy, which will be made of aluminum, can have illuminated projections on it. At night, lightning will allow the Pier to be a "dynamic lantern," Maltzen said. An area will be available for a planned underwater park, and 92 pilings from the exiting pier will remain as a framework. Maltzen called it a "civic icon," and compared it to Paris' Eiffel Tower in the views it will allow of the city. "It's a place to come and connect to the extraordinary landscape of the bay. Also, a place to see the city now and to see the city as it will evolve in the future."