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Saint Petersburg, Florida, United States

The Iconic Pier

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From the Million Dollar Pier to the current inverted pyramid pier, The Pier has become a St. Petersburg icon. For a time, The Pier was the biggest attraction in downtown St. Petersburg. Before BayWalk (which is having its own issues now), the new and improved Beach Drive, 600 Block and other things, The Pier was the place to go for both locals and tourists. Today, it is mainly what I consider a secondary tourist attraction with touristy shops and restaurants. I, personally, have not been to The Pier in a couple of years. There is so much to do in other parts of downtown that when I think of going downtown I rarely think about The Pier. I would say most locals probably think the same way.

Well, the City of St. Petersburg aims to change that, and bring this attraction back to its former iconic status. St. Petersburg is developing some architectural interest with the new Dali Museum, The Signature, the Grand Bohemian proposal (if it ever gets built). A new Pier presents the city another opportunity to add to that architectural interest while at the same time giving the city a new icon. Like it or not, most people recognized the city in photos by the now-dated inverted pyramid design of the current pier. So it makes sense that the city would want to create a new icon.

Recently the city held a design contest. The three finalist designs were released to the public earlier in December. Each has a name - The Lens, The Wave and The Eye - and each aims to create a new icon for the city that will attract both locals and tourists. Here, I do not want to get too much into the costs associated with each. I just want to talk about the design elements.

The Lens certainly creates a large structure with some interesting elements. I like the bike and walking paths that lead to and traverse the pier. I like the various balconies throughout the pier structure. It is clear that this design is definitely meant to highlight views of the city and the bay, providing different ways through which to view the city. The other great things about this design are the reef that will develop on the old pier pilings (which can build on the city's established and growing marine science cluster), the amphitheatre (where most of the parking will be located, the water park, and how it all integrates with other parks and trails. Overall, there are a lot of activities within the design. I do not particularly like the design of the pier structure itself. It definitely seems to have a beautiful front (facing the city) and an undesirable back (facing Tampa Bay). Also, there does not appear to be much to do on The Pier itself other than walk and view. All of the big activity is in the uplands. I suppose the design of the structure itself is meant to draw folks out. But, I think this may be a weak point. The current view provides the views, and a few things to do. I think there needs to be more to do out on the pier to get a lot of folks to take the walk and continue to come back.

The Wave is certainly iconic. Of the three, I think it captures the iconic desires of the City the best. It would certainly be a recognizable structure and one that would certainly draw on design alone. Contrasting with the Lens, the design is iconic, but not as overbearing. Also, the draw will not be just for its circular design, but in how the activities are physically structured and ordered within the building. The idea is for the activities within to follow the water cycle. One option is for a series of restaurants and shops. Another option is for a series of activities, such as surfing, mini golf and a slip and slide. These scenarios, whichever is chosen, would certainly draw both tourists and locals alike. I also like how a concert stage was worked into the design. The idea of water falling from the top of the structure might be a bit much. Also, the upland portion doesn't seem as well thought out as The Lens. Further, they can eliminate features designed for swimming in the bay. Most people choose not to swim in the murky bay waters when we have the beautiful gulf beaches. Even more, there will need to be some sort of inconspicuous barricade at the end of the wave to keep people from walking into the water, but that does not take away from the design.

The Eye is simple but still has some compelling elements. I like the theme of being "the people's pier". That in itself is compelling. It also aims to develop some ecological interest by preserving, enhancing and developing some new environments for native plant life and animals to grow and be observed. Also, though not enclosed, it aims to provide a shady, cool experience, which is very important for our hot and humid weather. The design of the structure itself, is not very appealing in my opinion. In fact, it may certainly become outdated, to say the least, much quicker than the other two. It may even become the subject of humorous conversation with its spaceship-like design. Also, a huge feature of this design is the Shoal, which essentially creates a man-made beach in the Bay. This is a cool idea, but as was said of the Wave, it will not be utilized as much as anticipated because people do not swim in the Bay. This is a rather expensive feature, that likely will not bring in much of a return.

Overall, if I had to choose, I think the Wave is the best of the three. It is iconic without being overbearing. It has interesting activities within the structure. From newspaper articles, and discussions around town, it appears to already be garnering the most interest from locals. So, my vote is for the Wave. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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