Connect with us


St. Pete Pier wins ULI award, will compete globally

Veronica Brezina



The St. Pete Pier District. All images: City of St. Petersburg.

The 26-acre St. Pete Pier District that serves as the front porch to the city is among the top 10 projects in Urban Land Institute’s 2022 Americas Awards for Excellence.

The Pier was selected from 21 projects in South America, Central America and North America, ULI announced Tuesday. The prestigious ULI awards were created to recognize superior development efforts in the private, public and nonprofit sectors. They are evaluated on factors including design, amenities, economic impact, community engagement and sustainability.

With the St. Pete Pier project ranking in the top 10, the project will now be submitted to the 2022 ULI Global Awards for Excellence, along with the winners of the 2022 ULI Asia Pacific Awards for Excellence and ULI Europe Awards for Excellence.  

The other 2022 ULI Americas Awards for Excellence winners are: 

The newly established $93 million Pier District, which opened during the pandemic in 2020, was over a decade in the making. In 2005, it was determined that the pilings under the previous Pier had decayed, and the existing Pier would need to be replaced. The city then launched a 15-year process culminating in the current project. Today, the Pier has over 80 events per year and many outdoor classes, such as yoga and spin. 

Its amenities and destinations off and along the waterfront include Spa Beach, a playground and splash pad, five dining concepts, a Tampa Bay Watch environmental education center, a waterfront promenade, public art and green space. 

The St. Pete Pier as seen from Spa Beach.

“I think that continuity of the Pier connecting to multiple destinations and open space impressed them,” said Chris Ballestra, Managing Director of Development for the City of St. Petersburg.

“The connection to the water was always our No. 1 job. At the old pier, it seemed like the water was a ways away. Here, you have sidewalks throughout every viewpoint of the water. They also appreciated the sustainable aspects of the Pier,” he said, explaining initiatives the city embraced at the Pier such as the installation of solar panels and proactively protecting the bay ecosystem. 

Ballestra said three of ULI’s committee members, including the lead judge for this competition, went to St. Pete a month or so ago and spent the entire day in the city. 

Ballestra said ULI previously worked with the city on its downtown waterfront master plan study.

“During that time, they noted the St. Pete Pier was one of a string of pearls that was going to be our first substantial downtown waterfront project,” Ballestra said. “We’ve built this Pier to have a 75-year lifespan.”

RELATED: Craig Pittman’s Welcome to Florida: The St. Pete Pier

ULI will highlight St. Pete’s win at the ULI Fall Meeting in Dallas (Oct. 24-27, 2022) and the ULI Spring Meeting in Toronto (May 16-18, 2023).

“In terms of the city leveraging this win, there isn’t a particular lever we will pull. It does look good in the Pier and community’s resume, and as we eventually have new tenants or buildouts, we don’t have to sell the asset, it sells itself,” Ballestra said. “Hitting this level of ULI is really a pat on the back to everybody.” 

In addition to the news of the Pier emerging as a winner, the city’s commissioned economic impact study of the Pier has also concluded. 

The study showed that during the 12-month period from May 1, 2021, to April 30, 2022, the St. Pete Pier had approximately 2.3 million visits, which is significantly more than the city’s initial estimation of 1.7 million annual visits, based on the original 2017 study. 

The study also found that approximately 40% of Pier visits during the 12-month period, 882,800 visits were from visitors arriving from areas outside of a 100-mile range with an average frequency of 1.3 visits per year. Nearly one-third, 746,700 visits, were from St. Petersburg and the surrounding area. 

Additional economic impact numbers:

  • The St. Pete Pier District creates $125 million in total direct and indirect/induced economic output to the regional economy (Pinellas County) per annum. This compares to an estimated $80 million in economic output in the 2017 analysis. Of this $125 million in economic output, $44.7 million is estimated to be generated in labor income, or approximately $38,000 per job.
  • In the fiscal year 2021, the adjusted total revenue to the city from the Pier was approximately $4.5 million and of which $2.85 million is derived from Pier parking and street meters and nearly $1.5 million from rental-related income.
  • In addition to City revenue, during 2021, the four restaurants located on the Pier generated more than $36 million in gross sales. Additionally, the Pier expended more than $6.4 million in marketing, advertising, and transportation services during the year with the largest share flowing to local third-party businesses and contractors.
  • Currently, there are 548 employees working at the Pier who work across many sectors, including retail, restaurant, entertainment, conservation, security and management. Beyond the direct jobs, it created an additional 223 indirect/induced jobs. 

Ballestra said while the shovel work for the Pier has been completed, the city is looking at adding more aspects to the district such as a kayak/paddleboard vendor for Spa Beach, and more shade structures. 

A project that will impact The St. Pete Pier District is the upcoming 8,000-square-foot expansion of the adjacent St. Petersburg History Museum.

Continue Reading
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar


    July 13, 2022at8:56 am

    Congratulations to the City of St. Petersburg team who brought this project to fruition. I am reminded of all the people who complained about the Pier project development and delivery and predicted its failure (including many community leaders, elected officials, and the Tampa Bay Times). I wonder if any of those people will reflect on how they were unable to see what the rest of the world sees – that the project is not only a success, but a world-class success. I will be the first to applaud any of them for publicly saying, “I was wrong.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By posting a comment, I have read, understand and agree to the Posting Guidelines.

The St. Pete Catalyst

The Catalyst honors its name by aggregating & curating the sparks that propel the St Pete engine.  It is a modern news platform, powered by community sourced content and augmented with directed coverage.  Bring your news, your perspective and your spark to the St Pete Catalyst and take your seat at the table.

Email us:

Subscribe for Free

Share with friend

Enter the details of the person you want to share this article with.