Pier panel narrows design list, postpones ranking after long, long, long, long meeting

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Well, the Pier Selection Committee had its big meeting today.

Did we say big?

We meant excruciatingly long and tedious

It started at 8:30 a.m. with a list of seven proposals for revamping the inverted pyramid structure and replacing the Pier approach, a list that was narrowed from eight in January. Nearly 12 hours later, the committee narrowed its list to three, eliminating the Blue Pier, rePier and Discover Bay Life and Prospect Pier, the latter three of which keep the inverted pyramid largely intact.

The design entitled Alma, the one with the tower thingy, seemed the frontrunner despite the concerns of committee members who want to see the inverted pyramid preserved.

Mike Connors, the chair of the committee and the city's public works director, didn't hide his enthusiasm for the design, noting that whatever gets built is required to last at least 75 years.

"Seventy-five years of lifespan deserves a greater iconic [design]," he said.

When the committee ruminated on putting Destination St. Pete Pier, by far the most popular design in two public surveys, third in their top three short list, people got pissed. Multiple people gave public testimony urging the city to reconsider, given the popularity of the design, which basically looks like a hybrid of the current design and the failed Lens Pier design voters brought down in 2013.

"You're totally ignoring the will of the public," said David Harris during public comment.

Leonard Schmeige, whose polling firm, St. Pete Polls, had similar results as a city poll suggesting the vast majority of people want Destination St. Pete Pier, warned the panel against ignoring the wishes of a majority of voters by choosing Alma, which ranked low in his survey.

"That's the most un-liked of all the designs that we polled on," he said.

The committee is not obligated to choose a design that aligns with popular opinion, though doing so could have consequences, as it did for the city with the Lens in 2013.

Ultimately, the panel decided to table their vote on the top three designs for a later date, which they did not specify Friday night.

Early in the day, it was a little easier for the panel to eliminate some of the other designs.

USF marine science professor Gary Mitchum said he liked the Blue Pier's lagoons and embrace of the natural landscape, but he understood how its lack of an iconic structure justified its elimination.

“Even though I like it, I'm kind of reading the writing on the wall,” Mitchum said.

Not everyone agreed. 

“I think it's a grave decision for us to eliminate it,” said Ryan Mitchell, a member of the public who attended the meeting to speak in favor of Blue Pier. “What we know will last is Florida's ecology.”

...After much deliberation, of course.

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