Tenants vacate as Pier prepares to close on May 31 - FOX 13 News

Tenants vacate as Pier prepares to close on May 31

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

The St. Petersburg Pier has now entered its final month, at least in its current form. The familiar inverted pyramid closes to the public May 31st.

"The tenants will have 45 days to move out," manager Carol Everson said, "We don't anticipate it taking that long."

One store has already closed due to lack of inventory and some vending machines are being removed by their owners.

"It's kind of sad, to be honest with you," candle shop manager Nick Weathersbee said. "It's a little bit surreal being here."

Weathersbee was one of those involved with a petition drive calling for a public vote on whether to keep or demolish the 1960s vintage structure. VoteOnThePier.com collected the signatures of more than 23,000 registered voters, but the city council rejected the petition because of defects in its language.

A circuit judge upheld the city's decision, and his decision is now being appealed to a higher court.

But that process will not delay the scheduled closure.

"The last three months it's like, it's a done deal," Rameh Baydoun admitted, "It's over."

Baydoun has run a concession on the food court for 25 years, and still maintains some hope for the future.

"I'll tell you they're going to shut it down for a year and they're going to re-open the same Pier back," Baydoun predicted. "And I'll bet on that."

His prediction requires a dramatic change of course. The proposed next-generation Pier, called the Lens, has sparked strong opposition, including a new petition drive to "Stop The Lens."

Organizers claim they have collected more than enough signatures, but are delaying turning them in to the city clerk's office.

If enough signatures are verified by the Supervisor of Elections office, the city council has 90 days to either terminate the contract with the Lens architect or hold a referendum. The petitioners want the question on the city's August primary ballot, so they are delaying their next move to make sure it is barely within 90 days of the primary.

That in turn is impacting the city council's next big decision: whether to approve the next $1.54 million for designing the Lens. That decision is supposed to be made Thursday, and will have to be made without knowing whether a referendum will eventually be required.

None of that changes the closing of the existing Pier.

"We have been planning and working on this process for several months already," Everson said.

The city's timetable calls for demolition to start in August. The bridge leading out to the Pier head is more than 90 years old, and beyond repair.

LINK: Poll results on Pier

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