Waiting for the Pier: why the process for selecting a new Pier feels like an existential play

VLADIMIR: Nothing you can do about it.

ESTRAGON: No use struggling.

VLADIMIR: One is what one is.

ESTRAGON: No use wriggling.

VLADIMIR: The essential doesn't change.

ESTRAGON: Nothing to be done.

We're quoting Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot because we're sitting in the media room at St. Pete City Hall feeling like we're in the middle of an existential play that taunts its characters with absurdity, repetition and futility. 

Six hours deep into the supposedly be-all-end-all Pier Selection Committee meeting, the panel is talking about the fourth of seven design concepts that could potentially update or demolish the inverted pyramid structure and replace the Pier approach. Or is it the fifth?

The committee is supposed to cull its list from seven down to three designs by the end of today, but we're still light years away from any kind of conclusion, as conversation is moving at a snail's pace (probably for good reason, though; if they don't get every single minute detail on the record, they could get hit with lawsuits or worse). The conversation is getting repetitive.

So discussion about each design goes down a list of about 15 criteria.

Does it account for sea-level rise?

What are the fishing options?

Is there enough shade?

Should that bait and tackle shop be to the left of the snack shack or to the right?

Should the upstairs bathrooms be decorated in warm or cool colors?

Will night never come?

Each of the six committee members weighs in on each of these, sometimes multiple times.

After all of this, the agenda reads more or less as follows: Preliminary shortlisting of no fewer than three designs. Public comment. Short listing of no fewer than three designs. Preliminary ranking of no more than three. Public comment (seriously, again). Final ranking; first, second, third. Adjorn.

If it didn't feel enough like an existential play, there is looming opposition to the design that does prevail, perhaps especially if it doesn't align with public preference surveys, the latest of which was conducted by St. Pete Polls, which showed, as the city's survey did, Destination St. Pete Pier as the preferred design.

Public outrage could turn into organized public outrage, which could turn into a petition drive, which could turn into a ballot initiative, as happened with the Lens in 2013.

St. Pete City Council has to then pick its design.

To put it another way:

VLADIMIR: We can still part, if you think it would be better.

ESTRAGON: It's not worthwhile now.

Silence.

VLADIMIR: No, it's not worthwhile now.

Silence.

ESTRAGON: Well, shall we go?

VLADIMIR: Yes, let's go.

They do not move.

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