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Downtown association gets a pier progress update

Bill DeYoung



City council member Gina Driscoll, representing District 6, discusses the new pier with the Downtown Neighborhood Association.

Members of St. Petersburg’s Downtown Neighborhood Association got a progress update and a virtual walk-through of the new pier at the organization’s monthly meeting Wednesday night.

“Our waterfront park system downtown is the third largest in North America,” said Chris Ballestra, managing director of development for the City’s pier project. “A lot of folks don’t recognize that. Which is pretty impressive for a city of 260,000 people.”

Ballestra, city architect Raul Quintana and city council member Gina Driscoll told the 100 in attendance, in the Cathedral of St. Peter meeting room, that the $76 million project dovetails perfectly with St. Pete’s Downtown Waterfront Master Plan.

As in years past, the zenith (over water section) of the new pier will consist of retail space – in this case, a café and a single restaurant still to be determined – and an open area for fishing. New to the pier head will be shaded observation areas, to enjoy the views over and across Tampa Bay.

The rest of the pier – known as the pier approach – has been designed like a multi-functional public park.

The goal,” Ballestra explained, “was to provide a combination of both active and passive spaces that the public could take more advantage of. Just like the rest of our downtown waterfront park system.

“‘Shade cover comfort’ is kind of a buzz word that we use. That was one thing that was missing in the old pier. You had about a 3,000-foot walk from Bayshore to get to the prize at the end. Whether you liked the prize or not was up to you. Now the goal is to have zones that you can move between, every 200-300 feet. You might have the opportunity to sit down, relax, buy water or a soft drink and get comfort. Where previously, it was blacktop.”

This freshwater pond will be centrally located on the new pier approach.

View the plans, and see the designs at

The pier will be open 24 hours a day, with on-site security.

Driscoll, representing District 6, which includes the downtown waterfront and the pier, discussed the proposed public art commission from sculptor Janet Echelman (“I want to hear your thoughts on it”) and about civic responsibility in the 21st century. “One of the things that’s important for me and a priority for us, I believe, is that we make sure that this is very environmentally friendly, and that we’re being great stewards of our waterfront in everything that we do on this pier,” she said.

Driscoll intends to make it her mission to drum up support from the mayor, the Council and city staff in restricting single-use plastics on the pier, and to restrict smoking to specific areas.

“Just to make this a place that doesn’t contribute to litter in our waterways. That’s important. This is part of who we are. So I want to be sure that the way we handle the pier, and the way that we take care of it, reflects that.”

Tampa Bay Watch, a local, environmentally-focused nonprofit group has a pending lease to operate and manage the 3,000-foot education center building. Here, area school children will be bussed in to learn about the bay and its ecosystem.

The pier deck and piles are currently being installed, and the pier approach is in the early stages of construction.

According to planners, the rest of the construction schedule looks like this:

  • Lease up of tenant spaces begins Spring 2018
  • Pier head (over water) complete Summer 2019
  • Construction substantially complete Summer 2019
  • Grand Opening Fall 2019


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