More questions about salvaging the Pier - FOX 13 News

More questions about salvaging the Pier

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

The viability of rehabbing the now-closed St. Pete Pier needs to be determined once and for all, before asking for more pier designs.

That is the advice to be given mayor-elect Rick Kriseman by one of the transition advisory committees he appointed last month.

Pier committee chair Ed Montanari told FOX 13 News a significant number of residents think the existing inverted pyramid can be salvaged.

"That's one of the first priorities, is to start an engineering study of the existing pyramid," he said.

Specifically, the remaining lifespans of the steel frame of the building and the huge pilings it sits on (called caissons) need to be determined.

If the goal is to have a new pier that lasts 75 years, "Is it worth investing $50 million into that structure to keep it open another 30, 40 years?" Montanari queried.

In August, voters rejected a proposed replacement Pier known as the Lens, reviving interest in renovations. The city developed two scenarios for doing that, and "When we estimated the cost to renovate the inverted pyramid in order to get 50 to 75 more years life out of it, we included in the $1.5 million of expenses associated with the caissons," the city's Mike Conners explained.

That expense would involve a system that continuously runs an electrical charge through the steel to counter the corrosive impacts of the salt-water environment.

Conners agreed an engineering study could determine whether the steel is solid enough now to justify the expense.

He also agreed with the committee that the financial assumptions of a June, 2010 Pier Advisory Task Force need updating.

"Since the economy has rebounded, so has the cost of construction," Conners said, adding that borrowing costs are also rising.

The committee also said the city council needs to spell out what functions any downtown pier should provide. Then a "request for qualifications" should be sent to design architects.

"We want to see concepts with those qualifications," Montanari said. "The concepts would be like napkin sketches: not a whole lot of detail, but we'd like to see what these architects are thinking about."

The Pier report is one of several the mayor-elect will receive Friday. Kriseman takes office January 2nd.

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