“Not so fast!” cried out the good citizens of Sunshine City. When an inspiration for my sci-fi radio series, the iconic Inverted Pyramid Pier of St. Petersburg, Florida was targeted for a demolishing – not by a hurricane demon, but by plans to build a replacement – a referendum vote found 63% of residents gave that idea a thumbs down. And as Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg points out this article: the current pier is still structurally fine. So back to the drawing board, guys! Now a new batch of designs have proven to St. Petersburgers that we really do prefer a “head in the sand” plan – or something like that.
The battle to restore, renovate or possibly just replace the gem of our waterfront has caught note of the Atlantic’s CityLab, which says “this saga is quite different from the NIMBY-style opposition that’s greeted some reuse projects attempted by U.S. cities in recent years. For starters, St. Petersburg was ahead of the curve: Decades before the High Line opened, the city had already converted an aging piece of infrastructure into a cultural amenity. And that’s the pier that people liked.”
However, says the digi-rag, “the preservation requirement for the 1973 Inverted Pyramid pavilion may prove to be a burden on the site, limiting its potential as a new landmark destination. After all, the New St. Pete Pier still has to do all the things required of a brand new pier park, such as Pier 44 in New York (designed by Heatherwick Studio) or the 11th Street Bridge Park in D.C. (designed by OMA and OLIN)—just without a fancy design scheme to carry all those new features.”
My fave is the rePier project. It follows the 3 R’s by using what is already there to rebuild a pyramidal structure of observation decks shaded under a fabric canopy. Without exterior walls and the troublesome add-on retail areas, the Inverted Pyramid allows people to get much closer to the sea and wildlife. Visitors will have an experience where one “becomes part of the environment” according to rePier by Ross Barney Architects . “The Interior of repier’s Inverted Pyramid will be vegetated and programed through private funding from the Marine Discovery Center.”
The plan includes amazing vistas of the Tampa and St. Petersburg skylines and sunrises over the vast horizons of Tampa Bay, the planting of native species like mangrove and whimsical tanks full of regional fish to make sure visitors see what the fuss is all about. Citylabbers will certainly come understand why we voted down a different plan. St. Petersburg has always been a city of the future, anticipating public needs for waterfront before that of industry, and vital ecological and urban goals are as important here as economic ones.