St. Pete Pier Ponders New Approach

For a number of years now, metal structures have been separating underneath the St. Petersburg Pier that stretches into Tampa Bay. And, for a number of years now, this structural issue has prompted debate among groups invested in the future of this publicly owned icon.

According to one city official, the first step will be addressing the stretch of road one must travel to get to the pier, a road that currently consists of sidewalk, two-way traffic lanes and a median.

"The important thing is to separate the icon from the roadway leading up to it," says Chris Ballestra, director of St. Petersburg's Downtown Enterprise Facilities. "We really need to look at the approach to the pier and activate that first. Then we can begin to look at the icon itself. Once we know what we're doing with the approach, we can then hopefully figure out what to do with what's at the end of it."

Ballestra says there are myriad alternatives for the stretch of road that leads to the pier, ones that may include anything from a marketplace to a simple activity like a jogging path or a dog park. "It doesn't have to be retail," says Ballestra. "But that approach needs to engage people. We need to be creative and give people a reason to go out to the pier."

According to Ballestra, Bernello & Ajanill, an architectural design firm in Miami, has been engaged to present ideas at an upcoming city council meeting, and then at a public meeting in February 2011 for input from residents and businesses.

St. Petersburg's city council recommended in 2010 that the pier be torn down and completely rebuilt amid push-back from a number of people in the community. A task force was assigned in 2008 to address the pier's decline.

In the meantime, visitors to the pier can enjoy its many amenities, including a new gallery, the Croatian Naive Art Gallery, that features reverse glass paintings.

By: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Chris Ballera, City of St. Petersburg

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