Solar panels and trees have found a home on the new St. Pete Pier, as a new construction video just released by the city shows.
The Pier, scheduled to open sometime in the spring, will be “unlike any Pier the city has had in its history,” Mayor Rick Kriseman said at the Jan. 14 meeting of the Disston Heights Civic Association.
“It’s a lot different than just a roadway past two parking lots to another roadway to a building on the water. This is a 26-acre destination district,” Kriseman said.
He took association members on a virtual tour of the Pier, starting at a soon-to-be-expanded Museum of History, just off Bayshore Drive.
“Then everything changes. Those two parking lots that were there — they’re gone. There still are some parking lots but they’re not the entire land mass. Instead, the first thing you come to is an open air market.
“If you’ve ever been to the Saturday morning market, it’s kind of like that but on a smaller scale. Initially, we’ll be starting out with 17 vendors, all local shops, all small independents, which is great. It’s who St. Pete is. You’ll be able to go shopping there, whether you are buying a piece of artwork or something to eat, there’ll be different vendors. And there will be a shade structure, and the cool thing is it’s solar panels. I’ve signed an order that we’re going to become 100 percent renewable, which helps us toward that goal.
“Those vendors will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but our long-term plan is once we’ve been open for a while to make that seven days a week. We also have the potential to expand to somewhere around 30 different vendors in this open air market.
“Then you keep walking and you’ll come across a beautiful park that we’re creating there. We’re adding about 500 trees. There’s grass and places to sit and you’ll be able to enjoy what’s so beautiful about being out on the waterfront, which is the water, and then looking back at the city. I think you’ll be blown away by how nice the park is.
“You keep walking and you’ll come upon a major piece of art by Janet Echelman, who has done work all over the world … It’s suspended in the air and what’s really cool about it is is the material it’s made out of. With the breeze out over the water, it will move. It will also seem like this piece of artwork is a little bit alive because it’s always going to be changing and moving. At night it will be lit up. There will be grass underneath it, so if you want to lay down in the grass and just look up and watch this thing move, you can do that. [NOTE: The Echelman sculpture was put up then taken down last month for adjustments, according to the Tampa Bay Times. It’s expected to be shipped back to St. Petersburg for reinstallation. ]
“Then you’ll come across a children’s playground, unlike any playground we have anywhere in this city. This is not just swings and a slide. The playground cost close to $1 million and it will be ADA-accessible and open to everyone, and I think the kids in this community are going to go crazy when they see this playground. It is super cool.
“Keep walking and you’ll come across the pavilion area, where if you want to get something to eat or have a cold beer and do it in the shade, you’ll be able to do that. It’s close enough to the playground where if your kids are out playing, you can be sitting in the shade, having something to eat or drink and watching them play.
“It’s close to Spa Beach, which we are enlarging and actually creating a real beach where you can rent paddleboards and kayaks.
“On the other side of the pavilion, there’ll be a splash pad. The fountains will be lit, there will be music. Not only will our kids want to go there, especially when it’s hot, but I think a lot of us are going to walk through those fountains to cool off a little bit.
“Then behind the splash pad is what we call the tilted lawn. It literally is a lawn that is tilted. There will be shade structures there too. If you want to just sit and read a book, lay on the grass and just look out you can do that. There’s a pavilion area in front of the tilted lawn where you might be able to see a concert or an orchestra playing, even a theater performance there.
“Then you keep walking and now you’re finally getting to the part where you are starting to go over the water, but just before you do that, off to your right you can have lunch or dinner at Doc Ford’s, which is a seafood restaurant. We are their fourth location — Sanibel, Captiva Island, Fort Myers Beach and now St. Petersburg. If you’ve ever eaten there you know how good the food is.
“Now we’re heading out over the water, and we have a couple of different choices of ways to head toward the Pier Head itself. We could walk down the main road. We could get on a tram, because you won’t be able to drive your car anymore. Or we could take a detour and walk through a coastal thicket. It’s like walking through a nature preserve trail in Boyd Hill, except this one is built over water. You can take that all the way out to the Pier Head.
“But before you get there is the Tampa Bay Watch Marine Discovery Center, where there will be exhibits about our environment, how our city interacts with water. There are classrooms where they will hold classes and summer camps.
“Then you keep walking and get to the Great Lawn, a lawn right in front of the Pier itself, where we envision concerts and different events.
“Then you finally get to the Pier Head itself. Ground floor, you’ll have the Driftwood Cafe, where you can get breakfast or a sandwich. There will be a restaurant on the second floor, Teak, run by Chuck Prather, who runs the Birchwood. There will be a rooftop bar, Pier Teaki, so if you like The Canopy on top of the Birchwood, picture that on steroids.
“And of course on the back of the Pier we will always have a fishing dock where you can go fishing. There will be a bait shop and a sundry shop.
“I hope this becomes our Central Park, or if you’ve been to Chicago, Millennium Park. I believe this is going to be a place all of us want to go, even when we ‘re not just taking visitors there. I think it will be a great place for kids, and something that’s accessible to the whole community.”
The most recent cost estimate for the Pier District is about $92 million.