Pier Could Close in May 2013
On Thursday, city staff recommended closing the St. Petersburg Pier on May 31, 2013. Staff said the construction of "The Lens" is tentatively scheduled to be completed by the third quarter of 2015.
The historic St. Petersburg Pier will likely close in May 2013 if contract negotiations and the process moves forward for the city to build "The Lens."
Opened in 1973, the inverted pyramid is scheduled to be shut down May 31, 2013. Chris Ballestra, with development, said that while the construction, design and permitting process is fluid, construction for "The Lens" is slated to end in the third quarter of 2015.
"It's important that we establish a date for closure," Ballestra said.
Following the closing, city staff said the tenants would have 45 days to move out. Demolition would follow with construction tentatively scheduled for the first quarter of 2014.
"We are looking at about an 18-month construction window," Ballestra added.
While staff proposed closing the Pier approach on the day it closes the pier, multiple Council members suggested keeping the approach open for fishing, biking and running until the official demolition of the pier begins.
"Is there a reason why the approach can’t stay open for fishing, jogging until we tear it down?" Council member Jeff Danner asked.
Staff said that is something to consider and it will continue to do so. The city could have huge liability issues with an ever-deteriorating approach and with the traffic of tenants moving out.
While contract negotiations continue with Michael Maltzan Architecutre for "The Lens," the city said it is trying to work with current tenants to help them relocate in the downtown area.
Ballestra said there are 28 businesses at the Pier. Council member Karl Nurse suggested the city look at the revitalization of the 600 block as a guide to relocating those 28 tenants.
"Let's see if we could duplicate the 600 block," Nurse said. "Have a couple dozen tenants, most of them might end up together. I encourage us to find somebody who owns and under-utilized block in the downtown area .... to take a dead block and breathe life into it."
Mayor Bill Foster said the closing would be a historic event. But before it closes, Foster said it is important for the city to help relocate the tenants operating at the Pier.
Ballestra said he trying to connect businesses with the city's business assistance center.
"We will be engaged with (tenants) until that time at which the Pier is not just closed but beyond that," Ballestra said. "They are there and they are a resource. We would like to keep them in St. Petersburg if we can."
On Thursday, Foster said he has had discussions with the ownership of Columbia Restaurant, which is on the fourth floor of the Pier.
"They talked about having some very special event there at the Columbia and the 5th floor," Foster said in his discussion with Columbia. He said the restaurant is very interested in having a sizeable presence in St. Petersburg.
"(I) made it very clear that we wanted to have that relationship with the Columbia. We're not going to be the only major city in Tampa Bay without a Columbia," Foster added.
Foster assured the Council that the city will work with Columbia to make sure that the anchor tenant can find space to operate elsewhere in the city.