Video: Pier Business Owners Want Public Vote

Business owners call for a public vote and renovations and question the May 31 closing date for the St. Pete Pier.

Business owners Fred Dabardelaben and Ahmad Shamsedding were among a handful of protestors at the city's announcement at the St. Pete Pier on Thursday. Mayor Bill Foster and Columbia Restaurant Group President Richard Gonzmart gathered at the Pelican Parking lot to announce a partnership and plan to build a new Columbia Restaurant at the Hub, as part of "The Lens" project.

Protestors held up "Stop The Lens" signs and posters calling for a public vote behind a line of media cameras at the event.

Shamsedding and his wife own World Treasures and Burger Bay, both located in the St. Pete Pier. Shamsedding came out to the press conference and asked Mayor Foster why the city chose May 31 to close the pier. He said his business will suffer, not only because he is being forced to close, but because it's right before the busy season.

Foster told Shamsedding that businesses need time before the scheduled demolition in August.

Debardelaben, owner of Pier Dolphin Cruises, is demanding a public vote, stating that he doesn't want to see the city in debt over the next 30 years for this project.

For the past 22 years Debardelaben has seen customers return year after year to his business. If his business suffers when he moves its location, he may have to let go some of his employees, he said.

Watch our attached video interviews to hear more from Debardelaben and Shamsedding.

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Bill H. February 26, 2013 at 02:53 PM
On the waterfront, we should get a vote.
Walter Talley February 26, 2013 at 04:36 PM
I agree with Bill H. Why is the city government fighting the pier or really the people of St.Pete. over it ? It all stinks and does not look good for the city . From what I have been told the mayor has no forward looking ideas anyway.Something does not smell right about the whole pier deal.
Nicolas Weathersbee February 26, 2013 at 05:16 PM
There are other options to the lens. There is something very sinister gong on in this city, and someone, somewhere needs to look very closely into how this is being handled by people that will very likely be voted out very soon. Use what we have. We are Florida's "first green city"....if that's the case, why are they ignoring recycling, re-use, and upcycling of our internationally renown landmark? We already have an icon, we already have international recognition....the world will see our city in a much better light by showing that we care about what our citizens think, and for preserving our unique history. A refurbished, modernized Pier with a water taxi to Tampa would put us on the map as a truly progressive, green city! Here's what the pier could be: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10200290836129841&set=a.3506601220031.2162119.1121813685&type=1&theater
Nicolas Weathersbee February 26, 2013 at 05:25 PM
All it takes to find out what international tourists think of this is to spend a few days during season(now), interviewing them. They come to see The Pier, the museums, the downtown, and they are all unanimously dismayed at this effort to destroy the pier they came to see. I speak with people from Sweden, Germany, Scotland, Ireland, England, South Africa, China, Japan, South America, Central America, Mexico, Greece, Micronesia, Bulgaria, Trinidad, Jamaica...and on and on, everyday of the year. THEY come to see the pier we already have. When they see the lens, they are unanimous in their sentiment- "What is there to DO on it?" While a small percentage thinks it looks interesting, even those say that the looks of the thing will not make them return. This city is on a precipice, about to completely alter the very fabric of the franchise that has brought 65 million people to our waterfront since 1973. We have the world's ONLY inverted pyramid over the water on the planet! This demolition of our history without a vote, in my mind, is criminal and immoral.
Rider February 26, 2013 at 05:31 PM
.....agreed about the water taxi and even a real streetcar like there used to be in St Pete from the Million Dollar Pier.....Tampa loves the idea of a water taxi service and so do most St Petians, except for council and the mayor, of course.
Walter Talley February 26, 2013 at 06:43 PM
It almost seems as if somebody close to the council and or mayor stand to make a lot of money on the new plan . I just saying.
Paul Welday February 26, 2013 at 06:48 PM
The rain in Spain fals
JW February 26, 2013 at 06:59 PM
No matter what happens the pier is closed for 2 years so those business's have to move. By the way the busy season is winter not summer. This is Florida the land of snow birds.
Bill H. February 26, 2013 at 07:04 PM
Yes, but the businesses can come back to a "refurbished" pier.
Nicolas Weathersbee February 26, 2013 at 07:08 PM
You might not know, but there are refurbishment plans out there that take into consideration the plight of the merchants, allowing for a very minimal downtime during the construction process. Of course this alternative has been ignored by the city. As a pier merchant, I can tell you that the busiest part of the season begins right now, and slows slightly in the summer. The summer is still very busy until it slows down on about Sept 1st.
Nicolas Weathersbee February 26, 2013 at 07:11 PM
Ken Kroger's refurbishment plan called for building the retail and cafes on the south side of the approach first, allowing the merchants to move in, then continue with the rest of the refurbishment, which would be an attraction in itself. The millions of tourists that have visited The Pier in the last 40 years would be very happy to see we care enough about our history to preserve and keep it. Of course a plan like this makes too much sense for our "leadership". They will cite millions of reasons it cannot be done, at the same time admitting they never seriously looked into what could be done. It is shameful and disgusting.
JW February 26, 2013 at 07:47 PM
The approach has to be replaced along with the whole first floor. New structures have to be 9 feet higher than the current structure so the replacement time is extensive even with phasing that would restrict construction. The Columbia wants to be in the lens and is paying to build there own space. If anyone else wants to continue they can do the same or team with a private developer. I just don't believe the city should be building and operating retail
Nicolas Weathersbee February 26, 2013 at 08:25 PM
This refurbishment is build in accordance to fema requirements, and also builds the retail first in order to keep the jobs and rents going...the pier has done about 145 million in sales in the last 13 years, with over 350 jobs and 29 local mom and pop businesses including my own. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10200290836129841&set=a.3506601220031.2162119.1121813685&type=1&theater
JW February 26, 2013 at 09:18 PM
How do you rebuild the approach with new retail and maintain access to the existing pier building until its done.
sparky February 26, 2013 at 09:39 PM
Nic has it right the end goal is to build commercial spaces on our parkland no matter what. The city charter says parkland is protected from development. A 7,500 sq.ft. restaurant with rooftop dining will block the view from the park along beach drive. To paraphrase Obama...We need a vote- give the people a vote- or we will most certainly vote you out.
sparky February 26, 2013 at 09:41 PM
How about you leave the retail out on the water, redo the AC in the current building, replace or shore up the approach as the original ordinance said and preserve our parkland for free access to the water and its view?
Nicolas Weathersbee February 27, 2013 at 12:38 PM
Demolish the south approach first, then build the retail, leaving the north approach open to keep access to the pier during the retail construction. When the south approach retail is done, the tenants move in(those that wish to stay). Once the tenants have moved in, you close off the north approach, demolish and rebuild it, as well as the pier deck around the building. At this time you reinforce/protect the caissons with a sheet wall system, and then gut and restore the inverted pyramid. The construction would be an attraction in itself.
Bill H. February 27, 2013 at 12:47 PM
But the city/tax payers are putting in $500,000 for the Columbia. They are also on the hook for the lease agreement which has a repayment/penalty clause if not renewed after ten yeras. Once again, another way to get around letting the people have a vote. Not all businesses that rent have the ability to buy their own space.


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