The Chamber held a very important Public Policy Council meeting on April 5th with regards to the Pier Project Update. There are currently two design architectural teams working towards one project dedicated to enhancing the visitor experience at the downtown waterfront and Pier. There have been plans for renovations to Spa beach, the transit hub building, an education center, and the pier head. One will be greeted with the opportunity to engage with the water as soon as they walk onto the pier. There will also be plenty of coastal thicket present in efforts to protect the sea grass and ecosystem.
The central hub of this pier concept will be the 3,000 ft. education center. This center will provide educational experiences, ecological experiences, and give an opportunity to experience the water. There will also be a kayak boat house, boardwalk, floating dock, and beautiful fishing platforms. The Pier-Head Building was designed to encourage people to come to the edge of the pier for fishing. It ultimately helps minimize opportunity for entanglements with turtles and birds. It is a controlled experience. The designers also discussed the importance of creating a restaurant to take advantage of the views, and to fulfill this request, the plan has been flipped to face city and western views.
Architect for this project, Harold Somarriba, states that the Pier Project must be family oriented with a central idea that pedestrians are first. Providing an ecological experience along with a push to improve the marine habitat is equally as important. Shade and greenspaces become key in this project for people to be able to enjoy themselves. There has also been a proposed market closer to downtown core to maintain vibrant synergy. To enhance the public’s experience, there has been a creation of loops instead of straight lines, especially with the Pier’s building of a tram system. There is a “desire to make this space active, vibrant and functional,” said Somarriba.
Many concerns about the availability of parking were brought up to the design team. Chris Ballestra explained that implications need to be understood as a base case for a two-way road and parking won’t be resolved for another two months in the project. He says it is important we “don’t junk up waterfront with cars, if people have a hard time getting in and out, it’s a one and done experience.” Bayshore drive parking is being explored, but this could propose a financial issue. The tram also does a great job of helping to alleviate this parking congestion. The team is currently still working with a transportation engineer and parking is being heavily considered. All in all, the project seems to be lining up nicely with what the public wants. Demolition is underway and needs to get done by the end of the summer.
John Curran expressed his excitement in the meeting talking about how architecturally the space will have a sense of one-ness. He tell us that as an architect the design is growing on him and that the uniformity in the architectural detail is going to be exquisite. He remarked, “I am very confident that this will be a fantastic beacon for the city of St. Petersburg”
Diversity and Inclusiveness, Ronnell Montgomery
Montgomery talked about CRA and economic development occurring in the 22nd street area, and the importance of job training relation to developing business on 22nd street. The women’s forum has been talking about next steps and what is means for the Chamber. This task force is looking at April 21st for the next meeting.
Education, Dr. Kevin Gordon
Gordon tells us that there is no surprise that Pinellas County public schools are still failing and under investigation by the OCR in the US Dept. of Education, and as long as they remain segregated, they will continue to fail. Another issue that will come before review is whether or not they are proving access to quality teachers. If investigators look deeper at the resourcing they may be able to see something out of order.
At the end of the day they are protected by the unitary status granted in 2000 and have the right to not be in a court order for desegregation. The only way to guarantee changes is at policy level school board and to have different school board members. Short of that, it is an uphill battle to be able to do something substantive in real change about the curriculum as well.
No one has conversed about schools being segregated in all of this mess. We know that neighborhoods with high rates of poverty are related to the five failing schools. The trapping of poverty and environmental issues associated with these children are brought directly into school. He believes we will not see anything substantive unless changes in policy and the schools board occurs.