The St. Pete Pier is one of the largest construction projects the city has ever undertaken, totaling 26 acres of downtown waterfront development. If you live or work near downtown, you no doubt have seen some of the new Pier’s structures and supports starting to spiral upwards. They are the walls and framing for buildings, the support for solar panels at the Marketplace, and beginning framework for the Janet Echelman floating sculpture.
Construction is now at a feverish pitch with overnight concrete pours for the Pier Head building floors, and the entire Pier District is an active construction site. An average of over 200 workers are on site, working 10+ hours a day, six days a week.
As many long-standing residents know, there have been several public piers throughout St. Pete’s history. Seven, in fact. The earliest pier, built in 1889, was the Railroad Pier, built by entrepreneur Peter Demens to handle distribution of goods by rail. Several followed, the most recent being the Inverted Pyramid, which was built on top of St. Pete’s 1926 pier head. Designed by noted architect William Harvard, Sr., the upside-down pyramid opened in 1973, and over the years housed three restaurants, snack bars, novelty shops, an aquarium, and breathtaking views of Tampa Bay. Due to a crumbling infrastructure from the 1926 vintage it was constructed upon, the Inverted Pyramid closed in 2013.
Soon, St. Pete will celebrate its eighth public pier – no doubt the most noteworthy waterfront landmark of our city’s history. So, what will the new Pier have to offer? I wanted to give readers of the Northeast Journal an idea of what to expect. Here’s a sampling:
- Kid’s Play Area: St. Pete has dozens of wonderful parks and green space, however it has never housed a downtown playground. The new Pier’s play area will be its first, and will be unlike any other. Adjacent to the Family Park, this will be an exciting, interactive fun-zone for children, themed – appropriately– to the sea and intended to expand curiosity in nature. Nearby splash pads will offer water fun for kids of all ages.
- Beach: Spa Beach will be expanded, thanks to new breakwaters installed to shore up the beach and protect local sea-grass beds. To provide a respite from the bright Florida rays, a large shade structure will be constructed in Spa Beach Park, thanks to a grant from the American Academy of Dermatology.
- Dining and Drinks: There will be three dining concepts at the main Pier Head, with something for everyone to enjoy. Teak is an upscale fine dining restaurant featuring a Florida-themed menu. Pier Teaki is a rooftop bar with a tropical atmosphere and trendy cocktails. And the Driftwood Café is a ground-level casual-dining spot with healthy menu options. Additional dining within the new Pier District will include Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille, a Florida-themed restaurant with locations in Ft. Myers Beach, Sanibel, and Captiva. The restaurant takes its name from the novels of New York Times best-selling author Randy Wayne White.
Rounding out the Pier’s food scene is the Pavilion Café, a quick-serve take-out concession near Spa Beach Park.
- Discovery Center: The Discovery Center – operated by Tampa Bay Watch – will offer dynamic interactive exhibits geared toward educating the public and showcasing our Tampa Bay estuary. This marine learning center will also provide classroom space for school field trips and summer camp programs.
- Fishing: The Fishing Platform at the Pier Head was created using the existing caissons from the Inverted Pyramid Pier, and will allow visitors to get close to the water and provide a dedicated area for fishing. Gator Jim’s Bait Shop will offer fishing supplies for local anglers.
- Art: Spectacular works of art by four world-famous artists will be on display at the new Pier. An aluminum-coated, origami-inspired pelican by Nathan Mabry will ‘guard’ the Pier’s entrance. Near the Family Park, a brilliantly colored mosaic mandala created by Xenobia Bailey will amaze and delight all visitors. And, at the Pier Head, a bronze sculpture by Nick Ervinck in the image of splashing water will definitely cause heads to turn. In addition, a much-anticipated net sculpture designed by world-renowned artist Janet Echelman will be located near the Family Park. Echelman – who grew up in the Tampa Bay area – has showcased her work throughout the world in a variety of locations, including London, Montreal, Boston, San Diego, and Amsterdam. She creates experiential sculptures that transform wind and light.
- Relaxation: How about some down time? The new Pier will offer just that with enlarged beach access at Spa Beach, Family Park and lawns where visitors can stretch out and picnic, and plenty of seating along the waterfront to sit and soak up the scenery.
With all of these amenities and more, there will be new and unfolding experiences for each and every visitor to the new St. Pete Pier.™ It’s destined to become a world-class attraction, drawing residents and visitors of all ages to enjoy and experience it time and time again.