St. Pete plans Pier District on downtown waterfront

- St. Petersburg residents will soon learn more about a pair of downtown waterfront projects that will in total cost them more than $60 million. 

Thursday morning, the city council, and then the general public, will receive the final design for a new St. Pete Pier. Sources tell FOX 13 News the promised functions remain intact, as does the general form of the preliminary design. 

However, bringing the building at the end of the Pier closer to shore is among several changes made since an update late last year. The final design will arrive, along with a final price tag, Thursday, March 17.

Tuesday, a separate design team will share its initial thoughts on a newly-created Pier District. The area includes the roughly 20 acres of park land leading out to the Pier, plus Bayshore Drive from the Vinoy Hotel to Pioneer Park and Second Avenue North, between Beach Drive and Bayshore Drive. 

Second Avenue North is the street leading out to the Pier. 

Architect Jason Jensen told FOX 13 News, Second Ave. between Beach and Bayshore will become an entry point, as envisioned in a downtown waterfront master plan. 

"That should really be a nexus, a center of the city, at that point, that really guides you into the Pier, invites you in," Jensen said. 

The master plan also envisions a wide, pedestrian-friendly promenade along Bayshore Drive, eventually extending all the way south, to the Dali Museum. 

"Getting people close to the water and getting cars a little bit farther away from the water is an extremely important part of the master plan," the architect explained.

Jensen said new images of an actual Pier District design were not available Thursday, but he confirmed the design includes a new pedestrian bridge between the Museum of Fine Arts on the mainland and the St. Petersburg Museum of History on the Pier approach, as well as a new restaurant behind the Museum of History, and a second restaurant near the foot of the new Pier. 

There would also be a "kid's zone" on the Pier approach and a restructuring of existing roadways and parking lots. 

"At the end of the day, it will not seem like two large parking lots on the Pier approach. It will seem like a park with restaurants and activities in it," Jensen said. "You will absolutely have more open space, more green space, more activities, more things to do and a wider variety of activities throughout the whole park."

Tuesday evening, Jensen and the city will host the first public session to explain the design concepts and receive public input. The overarching goal, they say, is to create a destination area that appeals to residents and in turn, visitors. 

Or as Jensen summed it up: "You come to the Pier District when you have nothing else to do, without necessarily a specific restaurant or specific activity in mind. You just go there on an evening and spend it with your family."

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