St. Pete Pier has one last shot at survival - FOX 13 News

St. Pete Pier has one last shot at survival

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman revealed Thursday his plan for a next-generation pier.

Last fall, Kriseman defeated former mayor Bill Foster, the last mayor tackling the issue.

“The bottom line is, it’s not going to be telling the public this is what you’re going to have to choose from,” said Kriseman.

Mayor Kriseman believes his predecessor’s administration made a critical political miscalculation.

“The architects were just told ‘go out and design us something iconic, and then we’ll figure out how to make it do what people want it to do,’” said Kriseman. “Function became an afterthought, as opposed to the main thought. So we’re going to make that the main thought.”

A working group is being assembled to determine what people want a pier to do.

The group could start with a number of studies and polls addressing the same question. But, “the whole charge that this working group is going to have is to go out to the public and hear from the public, so that when you come back and make your report it’s solely based on the input you received from the public,” Kriseman explained.

Kriseman also added he would like to see a report in a couple of months.

The group will include representatives of several citizens groups that formed during the last attempt to design a new pier.

One in particular, ‘Stop the Lens’, successfully petitioned for an August 2013 public referendum that rejected the Lens design.

A separate group supported the Lens, while another unsuccessfully petitioned for a vote on preserving the existing pier.

During the three-year long controversy, no one studied the condition of the existing inverted pyramid building, nor the ‘cassons’ that support the building.

"I think Mayor Foster made it clear the he did not support renovation," Kriseman said. "So if you're not supporting renovation then quite frankly you don't really care." 

The new mayor also prefers a new structure, but has requested studies of the life expectancies of the building and the cassons. 

"The process that we've tried to create makes it open to renovation, it makes it open to a new design, and it’s up to the public to decide," said Kriseman.

Restoration Engineer Bud Karins was the technical advisor to ‘Stop the Lens.’

He has reviewed all the city’s documents on the project. He found no evidence the inverted pyramid’s viability was ever considered.

“The building? No, erase that. That was quite clear,” said Karins.

He is now assisting city personnel in coming up with a protocol to confirm the cassons and the building's structural integrity. 

"I'm confident it is [salvageable]," said Karins. "It's a steel frame building.  All the concrete is encased in steel as a fire-proofing method, and it’s been well-maintained."

No one disputes the deteriorated condition of the bridge leading out to the Pier, nor the deck that surrounds it.

Those were constructed in the 1920's, and nearly a century in a saltwater environment has rendered them unsafe.

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