St. Petersburg Pier

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St. Petersburg Pier
Official name Pier Park
Type Pleasure pier
Spans Tampa Bay
Locale St. Petersburg, Florida, United States
Construction June 28, 2017–present
Owner City of St. Petersburg
Coordinates 27°46′24″N 82°37′19″W / 27.77333°N 82.62194°W / 27.77333; -82.62194

The St. Petersburg Pier, known locally as The Pier and currently Pier Park, was a landmark and tourist destination extending into Tampa Bay from downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. The last iteration of The Pier featured a five-story inverted pyramid-shaped building.[1][2] Constructed in 1973, it was designed by St. Petersburg architect William B. Harvard, Sr..[3] May 31, 2013 was the last official day for the public to visit the pier.


1906 postcard of the Electric Pier and Municipal Pier by W.L. Straub of St. Petersburg

The Railroad Pier[edit]

The Pier's origins date to 1889, when the Orange Belt Railway constructed the Railroad Pier on Tampa Bay as a railway-accessible sightseeing and recreational resort for locals and tourists, three years prior to St. Petersburg’s incorporation as a town in 1892. The Railroad Pier's immediate success led to its replacement in 1906 with the Electric Pier, which extended 3,000 feet into the bay.[4][5]

The Electric Pier & The Municipal Pier[edit]

The Electric Pier replaced the Railroad Pier in 1906. The Electric Pier served as a dock for the steamship Favorite and had electric trolley tracks put down in order to serve the terminal where the steamship could board and exit passengers. The Electric Pier was replaced shortly after around 1913 by the wooden Municipal Pier, which was built 10 feet away from the defunct Electric Pier.[5] This new pier introduced a new beach, a solarium, and a bathhouse.[6]

The Million Dollar Pier[edit]

The Million Dollar Pier picture from Spa Beach in 1954

The former Municipal Pier was heavily damaged by the Tampa Bay Hurricane of 1921,[7] but in the aftermath the city of St. Petersburg appropriated a $1 million bond for a new structure. This was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day in 1926 as the Million Dollar Pier, a Mediterranean-style casino that included an observation deck, an open-air ballroom, and a spacious interior atrium for card games and community events. The building's entrance portico was later enclosed as WSUN-TV’s studios, from which "Captain Mac" broadcast his children’s show in the 1950s.[6] George Snow Hill painted a picture of pier goers at the Million Dollar Pier.[8] By 1967, the Million Dollar Pier was demolished.[9]

The Inverted Pyramid Pier[edit]

View of The Pier

The site was vacant for several years until the next structure was constructed in 1970 and 1971[10] and opened on January 20, 1973.[5] The inverted pyramid-shaped building was designed by William B. Harvard Sr., founder of Harvard Jolly architectural firm in St. Petersburg, with a tubular steel framework to create large windows for panoramic views of Tampa Bay and a larger top floor and observation deck.[11]

On March 20, 1976, the city dedicated a laser sculpture by Rockne Krebs entitled Starboard Home on the Range, Part VI.[12] The sculpture was a featuring a green laser beam from the Pier directed towards downtown St. Petersburg, reflecting to the Pier several times with mirrors, finally reflecting out to Tampa Bay. When ongoing technical problems with cooling the laser engine caused repeated dysfunction, the laser sculpture was shut down.[13]

In 1987, the inverted pyramid was given a 70,000 square foot makeover with an edition of a 'festive market' style.[4][14]

In 2004, the city of St. Petersburg found that the structure of The Pier could no longer be funded as it cost too much in up keep and a new pier would replace the current inverted pyramid pier in the coming years. In April 2005, Pinellas County created a plan to set aside 50 million dollars for the new plans for the pier. Finally in 2009, an official Pier Task Force was created and set an international design competition which included 29 architectural firms that submitted designs.[4] The Inverted Pyramid Pier officially closed on May 31, 2013.[14]

Before its closure, activities and sights offered at the pier included shopping, dining, nightlife, fishing, boat rentals, weekly festivals, and the Pier Aquarium.[citation needed] The aquarium was located on the second floor. A branch of Ybor City's Columbia Restaurant was on the fourth floor and Cha Cha Coconuts Tropical Bar and Grill on the fifth floor. The first floor included a Concierge Center, specialty shops and galleries, Waterside Grill & Bar, and the Dockside Eatery food court with burgers, pizza, ice cream and Chinese. Local bands were featured in Courtyard by the Bay every Sunday afternoon.[citation needed]

Plans for a new pier[edit]

The Lens[edit]

In a straw-poll vote (5–3) after a two-hour workshop on August 18, 2010, the St. Petersburg City Council accepted Mayor Bill Foster's recommendation to demolish the current pier.[15] A binding vote, 7–1, was taken at an August 26 meeting.[16] On January 20, 2012, the St. Petersburg Pier International Design Competition Jury unanimously selected Michael Maltzan Architecture's "The Lens" as the design for the new pier out of the original 29 architectural firms that submitted designs for the pier. Design proposals by the top three competitors included Bjarke Ingels Group's (BIG) "The Wave" and West 8's "The People's Pier".[17] In September 2012, the city applied to the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers for a permit to demolish the pier. Approval would have taken 6 to 12 months.[18]

A campaign to stop the destruction of the existing pier and prevent the lens design from replacing it was called for a referendum. One issue with the Lens design is its plans for a visible reef. Scientists had concluded that visibility in the Tampa Bay make that part of the proposed design plan unrealistic.[19] The referendum to stop The Lens was carried out and on August 27, 2013 with city residents voting to cancel the tract with Michael Maltzan Architecture[20] and the contract was cancelled ending the plans for The Lens to be built.[21]

Pier Park[edit]

View of the pier in September of 2015 without its 1987 renovation (top) and with the approach with the gate blocking off the demolition area of the pier in December 2015 (bottom)

After The Lens design was turned down by the citizens of St. Petersburg, mayor Rick Kriseman asked for the request for qualification for a design consultant in January 2014. Later a group was established called the Pier Working Group to incorporate elements and activities from the community in order to set the basis for the new pier.[22][4][better source needed]

The process of finding a new pier began with sixteen initial teams that submitted a statement of qualification on September 8, 2014 with ideas ranging from renovating to replacing the current pier.[23][24] From those initial teams, eight were invited by the city of St. Petersburg to the second stage of the selection process.[25][26] Designs for the new pier concept were due on December 15, 2014 by the selected eight teams.[27][28] After review from the selection committee of the designs introduced by the teams, the design teams were shortlisted on January 23, 2015 to include seven of the original eight teams,[29] dropping "The Crescent" by ahha! Design Group.[30][31][32] Over the course of the next month from January to February, public outreach was collected based on the shortlisting and the teams presented their pier concepts to the public.[33][34] A public online survey ensued from February to March which the results from verified citizens of St. Petersburg favored the "Destination St. Pete Pier" by the St. Pete Design Group followed by "Pier Park" by ASD Architects, Rogers Partners Architects+Urban Designers, & Ken Smith Architect and "Blue Pier" by W Architecture and Landscape Architecture.[35][36]

A meeting with the pier committee was held on March 20, 2015 to decide the top three rankings for the pier. During this meeting, the committee evaluated the designs of all seven piers viewing each pro's and con's and hearing comments from both the committee and public. In conclusion of the meeting, four of the seven teams were eliminated which excluded the "Blue Pier", "Discover Bay Life Pier", "rePier", and "Prospect Pier". The top three piers were ranked by "ALMA" first, "Destination St. Pete Pier" second, and "Pier Park" third, however the movement to rank the piers in the order given was failed during a vote between the committee.[37][38] Weeks after the initial meeting, mayor Rick Kriseman commented that the residents just want to see their elected officials build a pier.[39]

During a final hearing on April 23, 2015, the selection committee had two meetings.[40] The first involved a questions and answers for the top three teams and the second included a hearing from the public with final consideration for the top three designs.[41] During the second meeting, the selection committee ranked the piers by several major criteria.[42][better source needed] During the late night meeting, the committee ranked "Pier Park" as their number one pick followed by the favored "Destination St. Pete Pier" ranked second and "ALMA" by Alfonso Architects ranked third.[40][43][44] The St. Petersburg City Council approved of the Pier Park plans on May 7, 2015 in a 7 to 1 vote,[45][46] and approved the contract on June 9, 2015.[47]

On July 9, 2015, the city council approved on a $5.2 million deal to demolish the current pier and to finalize the Pier Park.[48] The demolition of the pier began on August 18, 2015.[49][50] On November 17, 2015, the St. Petersburg Pier structure was fully demolished.[51][52] After the demolition of the structure, the approach of the pier was next which was estimated to be fully demolished four months after starting. The entire demolition was expected to be done by February 2016.[53] Pier Park's groundbreaking began on June 28, 2017.[54][55]

In popular culture[edit]

On June 17, 1922, 18-year-old Dorothy MacLatchie was killed by a "monster fish" while floating next to the Municipal Pier in St. Petersburg, Florida. While some reports indicate her death was caused by a shark, newspaper accounts indicate her death was caused by a barracuda.[56][57]

A significant amount of footage was filmed in and around the Pier for the second and third season of the mid-1990s television series seaQuest DSV.[58]

The Pier was shown prominently on the cover of local zombie anthology, Zombie St. Pete. This is a short story collection featuring fictional zombie attacks in the St. Petersburg city. The Pier also held the Zombie St. Pete book release party on February 27, 2010.[59]


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