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My Turn
Other Views from Those in the Know
Liz Drayer
mother of two, Clearwater attorney
Gorgeous Bayfront View – No Concrete Required

Here’s a solution for St. Petersburg’s pier conundrum I haven’t heard: cart the whole mess away and let the waterfront be.

After several years debating the fate of the inverted pyramid and an international competition to design a replacement, a jury has chosen “The Lens,” with its escalating promenades, artificial reefs and shops, to replace the deteriorating pier and approach. The city is moving forward with the plan, though a petition drive is underway to save the current pier, and the public is still debating the wisdom of spending megabucks on the project in a down economy. 

It’s amazing to me that in all this time, no one’s seriously proposed replacing the pyramid with – nothing. Treating downtown to sweeping views of beautiful Tampa Bay. 

Many tout the pyramid as an “icon” that defines St. Petersburg.  In my view it’s hulking and incongruous, wrecking an otherwise lovely view.  Not that anyone there needs to care what I think, living up here in Clearwater, but I do frequently make the drive south to enjoy all that great city has to offer, and the more attractive it looks the more often I’ll come and spend money.  Which I believe the city and its businesses would welcome right now.

St. Petersburg boasts first-rate restaurants, theater, music, baseball, and museums, making a “destination” pier superfluous.  Why siphon visitors from the existing attractions the city tries hard to promote?  Sweeten the view from those much-loved waterfront parks, instead of spending big on a new expanse of white concrete that will need upkeep and eventual replacement.  Concrete’s a commodity we’re in no shortage of here in Pinellas; it’s the sea grasses, fish, birds, and vegetation we need to bring back.  Who’s to say the bay’s natural beauty won’t draw more residents and tourists than the Lens and it’s trumped up sea meadow ring? 

St. Petersburg, like so many cities, is hamstrung by declining tax revenue, budget deficits, unable to fund necessities like police stations.  Why exacerbate financial woes with a costly, nonessential taxpayer-financed project, the ultimate price of which is still unknown?  And cost is just one question mark.  Now planners are debating whether the proposed underwater gardens, a “signature” feature of the Lens, are scientifically viable.  Nor can we be sure the new structure will draw residents and visitors who will keep coming back.  We can address all these concerns by eliminating the pier, no $50 million plus outlay or operating subsidy necessary. 

Waterfront locales are prized for their picturesque serenity, and the wealthy shell out large sums to live and vacation in the ones still unspoiled by development.  St. Pete can give this rare benefit to all its residents and visitors for a tiny fraction of what the Lens will cost.  In this case less is more, living under budget a winning strategy.  And, with a world population of seven billion and growing, we need to rein in growth and consumption for the sake of the planet.  Perpetual growth is yesterday’s answer to problems; preserve, reuse, and restore are the watchwords for the new millennium. By getting rid of its pier, St. Petersburg can lead us into the future.

Liz Drayer is the mother of two and a lawyer in Clearwater.

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by Dr. Radut.