Pier proponents want to renovate existing structure - FOX 13 News

Pier proponents want to renovate existing structure

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

The St. Pete Pier has been closed to the public since May 31, but it isn't dead yet.

Demolition has been stalled since August, when voters rejected a replacement pier known as the Lens.

Talk about renovating the existing Pier is building on several fronts.

"It really was a beautiful building," Gary Grooms said, pointing over the Vinoy Yacht Basin to the inverted pyramid. "Why it doesn't look so good now is all that stuff we did on the bottom and that elevator on the face of it. It didn't look like that when it was born."

Grooms is one of several architects who think the building and the giant casons it sits on top of can be re-purposed.

The apron around the structure and the bridge leading out to the Pier head have to be replaced, but could be much smaller, reducing costs.

Grooms and others would strip the building down to its steel superstructure and floor plates, and dress it out from there.

"It's not going to look anything like that if we had our way," Grooms said.

There are other possibilities portrayed at Savethepier.org. Wednesday, architect Bill Harvard, Jr, whose father designed the inverted pyramid, said his firm is also contemplating some new looks.

He also confirmed the superstructure was designed to carry an additional floor that was not built due to budget constraints.

St. Petersburg's political dynamics are also changing.

"There will be enough new people on city council and perhaps mayor that we may be able to take a fresher look," city council chairman Karl Nurse said.

He was one of the council members who voted to demolish and replace the Pier, after being told renovations could cost $70 to $80 million.

"I think you really have to say that we were given professional staff opinion that could only lead you to one conclusion, which was to tear it down," Nurse said.

Ed Montaneri co-chaired two task forces on the pier issue, and personally doubts renovation is an option.

"This is a 75-year project, so if we're going to renovate it, we're going to use some materials that are 40 years old, and are they going to be able to last another 75 years?" Montaneri explained.

However, he agreed "We need to bring our community together, and there's people out there that still think we can re-use the existing Pier, I think we need to take another look at it, I think that would be good."

Nurse predicted no substantial discussions will happen until after next month's municipal election.

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