Choosing a new Pier design is a big decision for St. Petersburg.
There are plenty of comments out there, and mine wouldn't add much. What we need to consider now is the process and the impact of a new Pier.
The last thing we need is a new Pier that becomes a laughing point and the object of bad jokes, or a Pier that ultimately ends up on Spa Beach as a tangled mess after a hurricane finally hits here.
There is a fine line between artful attraction and something that becomes a eyesore. In my view, we've been a bit too preoccupied with touting St. Pete as an art destination. I enjoy molded glass and the occasional clock dripping off the edge of a table.
But a new city Pier that is inordinately expensive to build, exorbitantly costly to insure and maintain, and that most visitors stand on the shore and laugh at is not where we need to go.
Fifty million is the opening price. That is nowhere near what the final bill will be, if it is anything like the Dome and the International Museum projects.
Add to all of that the effort to prevent the people from actually having an opportunity to vote on what is done at the Pier, and you have the makings of a real disaster.
As it is, things are not going all that well in our city. The hometown newspaper is abandoning St. Petersburg as a namesake. It is probably just a matter of time before Major League Baseball takes the game elsewhere. And St. Petersburg was just bestowed the dubious distinction of being one of the saddest cities in the nation.
Developing a new Pier offers opportunity and risk. It is notable that there is not one Florida firm among the designers, one who might understand the environment and this community.
There are a lot of questions to be asked – and answered – before the city commits to a project of this scale and importance.
The Arts Council, the Chamber of Commerce and a few well connected downtown players have way to much say in this whole process. They don't want residents to be able to vote on it, because they know how it will go.
After a long time working in the City Administration, I finally figured out that the people got it right a lot more often than we did. The public needs to push hard for a Pier referendum.
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