St. Petersburg’s Dream Starts to Take Shape
By SHELLY STECK REALE, Correspondent, TB Reporter
After controversy and a long wait, officials broke ground today on the new St. Petersburg Pier.
ST. PETERSBURG – The effort took more than a decade, but today (June 28), the new Pier became real when city officials broke ground on one of the highest profile projects in St. Petersburg.
“Good things come to those who wait,” St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said. “And today, we get to celebrate those good things. Today is not a dream. This is real life. We are actually building a Pier.”
“The Pier” is actually two projects: the Pier approach, also called the Pier district or the uplands; and the Pier Plaza, also known as the Pier pavilion. Together they make up 26 acres of waterfront attractions. Completion is expected in late 2018 or early 2019.
“This is going to be a place where residents hang out; they’re going to come here often and enjoy all the different features that are going to be here in the new Pier as we expand our waterfront park system. We are really excited about the fact that this project is moving forward,” Kriseman said.
The Pier approach comprises the 18 acres closest to downtown. It will encompass the existing St. Petersburg History Museum, an open air market, parking with tram transportation, pedestrian walking paths, an ecological garden, small amphitheater, restaurant, children’s play area, and linear park with shuffleboard and bocce ball courts.
The Pier Plaza will make up the remaining 7 to 8 acres closest to and over the water. It will include the Pier itself as well as a splash pad, lawn, groves of trees, areas for events like markets or movies, and access to a reconfigured Spa Beach.
As you move out of the Pier approach and closer to the Pier itself, an education center and a bayside amphitheater will provide a place for demonstrations. A reef will allow visitors to observe marine life, and a shaded boardwalk meanders through a costal thicket of St. Petersburg’s native landscape and habitat. A flight deck will allow visitors to relax and watch planes take off overhead. An events plaza will provide space for food carts and craft fairs, while a lawn bowl provides ample space to host concerts and plays.
The Pier itself will include a ground café, a floating restaurant, and shaded overlooks of both the city and the bay. A bait shop will serve the fishing pier.
A state grant provides funds for 25 courtesy boat slips.
“We began this project hoping to produce a design that was forward thinking, but also rooted in the tradition of the city’s green necklace of waterfront public spaces,” project designer Vincent Lee said. “We started with the idea that the Pier should be an iconic experience; an active place where anyone could enjoy a day – resident or visitor – whether you have 50 cents, or $50, we wanted to make a space for everyone.”
The road to the groundbreaking was bumpy. Controversy and debate swirled around the design and the budget.
He added, “We are absolutely on budget. I think the reason there’s been confusion is because the price tag for the pier and the price tag for the uplands area have been added together, and then talked in generality about ‘the Pier’.Those are really two separate projects. And, each one of them are in budget.”
Chris Ballestra, managing director of development for St. Petersburg, said, “We’re a very passionate lo, us St. Petersburgers. We’re like family; we fight like family, and the results are obvious. It’s those arguments that have allowed us to arrive at the right decisions, and where we are right here, today.”
For information about the new St. Petersburg Pier, go to newstpetepier.com.
Photo showing St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman at the podium by Shelly Steck Reale, TB Reporter correspondent. Other photos courtesy of the city of St. Petersburg.
New St. Pete Pier | The Pier | Pier Groundbreaking | Rick Kriseman | Tampa Bay News | TB Reporter
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