Pier presentations begin; public asked politely to weigh in, pretty please

Wednesday morning marked the start of a two-day series of presentations in which the groups behind seven Pier design proposals will present to a panel of judges on how neat-o their concepts are.

The first two up were Alfonso Architects' concept, Alma, and FR-EE's Prospect Pier. The first would demolish the inverted pyramid while the second would significantly renovate it (as would all the others).

Each gave an hour-long presentation explaining the layout and amenities of their design, as well as details about construction. Members of the Pier Selection Committee sitting at a long table near the front of the room grilled the teams on perceived holes in their proposals.

The main objective? Winning over the dozens of people in the audience who came to scope out the different ideas, some open-minded, some not.

“We think this needs to become more of a public space, a place for everyone,” said Mark Johnson, owner of Civitas, a landscape architecture firm collaborating with St. Pete-based architecture firm mesh and Mexico City-based FR-EE on the Prospect Pier concept.

That design would reinforce the inverted pyramid, raise the approach and pier head by four feet and give the building more of an hourglass profile, with terraced walkways leading down to the water. Inside the building would be dining and event space, and at the top would be an eastward-sloping terrace with skyline and Gulf views.

The pier head would be the culmination of a lengthy pedestrian walkway Johnson said would start on the western edge of downtown.

“It's not all about the pyramid, it' not all about the pier,” he said.

Following FR-EE's presentation, Rogers/ASD (Pier Park) as well as Ross Barney (rePier) delivered theirs to the selection committee and a rotating room full of locals.

Mayor Rick Kriseman has long said the process of selecting a design to replace what currently crowns the St. Petersburg waterfront will be far different from the process from the one that culminated in voters' rejection of the Lens proposal.

Primarily, he said, the Pier selection committee would be more transparent and the public would have tons of opportunities to weigh in.

This week's presentations are part of that.

Of course, the process is already not without at least a handful of detractors (this is St. Pete, guys).

Standing outside the Coliseum's front doors Wednesday morning, a man identifying himself as a "concerned citizen" (sound familiar?) was handing out fliers demanding the city save the Crescent. That design concept was taken out of the running a few weeks ago largely because of the vagueness and unprofessional appearance of the Ah-ha! group's proposal.

Kinsley McEachern, 24, was among the younger attendees. Her take on the process was more upbeat.

"I think it's a really organized, well thought-out process," she said. "Having the Pier Working Group giving this chance for a public forum and having all the different designers present is very helpful and it gives visualization. It also gives the public a chance to think critically about how it's going to affect St. Pete in terms of sustainability and what fits well with our city and future."

On Thursday, St. Pete Design Group, VOA and W-Architecture will all offer their pitches.

All of these presentations will be posted on the Web site the city has dedicated to the process, newstpetepier.com.

The public then has from Feb. 23 to March 6 to participate in a survey asking for their reference. 

Again, the public has a couple of weeks to weigh in starting 11 days from now.


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