New St. Pete Pier now open!

Filed under: Florida News,Just For Fun,Restaurant,St. Petersburg |

It’s been a week that the whole of St. Petersburg has looked forward to… the reopening of the St. Pete Pier.

Seven years ago the old five story inverted pyramid pier, that was built in 1973 at a cost of $4 million, was demolished and now, in its place, is a new $92 million pier taking pride of place.

The history of the pier in St. Pete is long and several piers have come and gone since the first pier was built in 1889 when John C. Williams persuaded Russian nobleman Peter Demens to bring the Orange Belt Railway to the area, effectively creating the city. The original wooden structure was close to the railroad depot and stretched 3,000 feet into the waters of Tampa Bay. The rail on the pier eased transportation of goods between trains and sea vessels and today, waterfront park, Demens Landing, is located on the site of the old pier…still bearing the name of the man who brought the railroad to the area.

Other piers then followed. Boat builder D.F.S. Brantley had the Brantley Pier constructed at Second Avenue N in 1896 while another pier, the Fountain of Youth Pier, a.k.a. the Tomlinson Pier, was built nearby in 1901. The name came from an artesian well drilled at the base by pier founder Edwin Tomlinson, who claimed that its waters were “miraculously restorative.”

The Brantley Pier was then demolished and replaced with the Electric Pier in 1905. Visitors were able to ride to the end of the structure on an electric trolley for the first time. The Municipal Recreation Pier was added by the city in 1913 but it, and the other piers, were badly damaged by the 1921 hurricane, which also toppled the bandstand at Williams Park and flooded the yacht club.

The city went on to replace the Municipal Recreation Pier with the Million Dollar Pier. Despite the name, the project was completed under budget at $998,729. The 1,400-foot-long pier, ending in the Mediterranean Revival-style Casino, opened on Thanksgiving Day in 1926 to a crowd of over 10,000. The Million Dollar Pier Casino was demolished in 1967 and for five years, the pier head was left bare but for a waterfront park until the inverted-pyramid pier, known simply as “The Pier’ rose in 1973.

Here’s what you need to know about the “St Pete Pier’:

1st Week Reservations Required

With the coronavirus pandemic discouraging people from gathering in large groups, the city wants to limit the crowd size for the first week. A reservation system is available at stpetepier.org, where visitors can pick a day and time they plan to visit the Pier. It runs through to Sunday 12th July.

Parking

Parking is easy during the week but expected to be more difficult at weekend.  There is on-street parking at the Pier approach similar to the city’s parking meters that use the ParkMobile App. The Dolphin and Pelican lots have a pay station. It’s a good idea take a picture of your license plate in those lots because you will need it at the pay stations.

Keep an eye out for the bright yellow Pier signs that include an electronic message at the entrance to the Pelican and Dolphin lots that will indicate if the lot is full. There are also several downtown parking garages and lots within walking distance and a tram that runs the length of the Pier approach. Parking starts at $2 per hour for the first four hours and a six-hour maximum costs $15. There are spaces set aside for scooter parking and six electric car spaces.

Play Area

The design of the pier district is very open and aimed at relaxation.  You can grab one of many seats located around, play with the kids or spend sometime fishing.

Splash pad: Located next to the St. Petersburg Museum of History and Spa Beach, which both front Second Avenue NE, the wide open splash pad has fountains that kids can play in. At night it is planned to have lights and music and next to the fountains are lounge chairs and umbrellas for shade that are completely free to use.

The playground: Just past the marketplace at the Pier entrance, look to the left for a park that includes a marine-themed playground. It’s a great area with one section for ages 2 to 5 and a larger section that has climbing features and a lighthouse with tall slides for 5 to 12 year olds. It has a spongy artificial ground covering and the structures are made of a compact wood called Robinia that has high oil content and is resistant to decay.

Tilted Lawn: The playground is situated midway along the Pier between Spa Beach and what they call the Tilted Lawn, a broad green space meant for picnics, reading a book or simply grabbing a quick snooze.  You’ll can also a great view of the city if f you climb to the top of the Tilted Lawn.

Promenade: One benefit of the design and going with smaller features instead of one large building is that the Pier District gained 5 acres of green space and that means lots of space for walking and bike riding along the wide path overlooking the water. It’s quite a lovely way to spend your time!

Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center: If you’d like to take a break from the heat, hit the air-conditioned center devoted to telling the story of Tampa Bay and its unique ecosystem. There are educational displays, including a microscope that shows slides of plankton and water droplets, a demonstration of how oysters clean dirty ocean water and a touch tank stocked with horseshoe crabs and shrimp. Beautiful but invasive lionfish are in a special tank at the entrance, but the focal point of the exhibit hall is a central aquarium that showcases species found in local waters with an electronic pad that identifies the fish on display. Another fun place for kids is a giant sand box with projected images of turtles, sea urchins and other marine life. As visitors dig into the sand, new life forms surface from the projector. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for kids ages 12 and younger, and the center will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays.

Fishing: The old pier was always a popular place to fish and the new pier is no different. At the very tip of the Pier Point there is a nice sized fishing deck with a bait shop and fish-cleaning stations.

Live music and special events: Although there were plans for approximately 80 special events a year at the Pier, from 5K runs to festivals, the coronavirus pandemic has brought a temporary halt to those plans. While the special events are off for now, there is a small stage area at the Pier head that will have live music every day at 5 p.m. and there are also plans for roaming entertainers around the Pier District at some stage.

Shopping: Naturally there is shopping! More than a dozen local vendors will be set up in the Pier Marketplace similar to St. Petersburg’s Saturday Morning Market. There is also a gift shop and Gator Jim’s Tackle shop, located on the ground floor of the Pier at the opposite end of the Pier District.

At the Pier Marketplace, located at the Pier District entrance, the vendors will be set up under a trellis that also sports solar panels, which help power the Pier. The overhead trellis won’t protect you from rain, but it does offer some shade. The vendors include:

  • Lily Rose Jewelry: locally handmade jewelry
  • Craft-Tee: custom T-shirts while you wait
  • Planks: locally made signs featuring area landmarks
  • The Merchant: a local collective of St. Petersburg-inspired souvenirs and handcrafted items
  • One Community: a collective of various vendors
  • Hey Mon Sauces: authentic Caribbean specialty sauces
  • Sunshine City Arts: an art collective of various handmade items
  • Flamed Copper: heat-treated copper jewelry and accessories
  • Hats at the Pier: specialty hats
  • Flaming Pearl: tie-dyed custom-printed apparel and accessories
  • Kashien Chanterell: custom clothing, shoes, jewelry, handbags from Ghana
  • Land of Gaia: wood art-fashion-home decor from around the world
  • Goofy Faces: caricatures
  • Ancient Herbal Care: organic, plant-based skin care products
  • 7 Sins Blood Caesar Mix: Bloody Mary mix and rim salts
  • McTavish’s Cookie Shack/Highland Shortbread: locally made cookies, Scottish shortbread and scones
  • Son’ni Boi and Petal: locally made gourmet confections

These businesses have short-term leases and may rotate during the course of a year.

Dining: There are several new places to eat, from sit-down restaurants to quick-serve kiosks and there are also plans to have food truck rallies at the Pier in the future.

Here’s where to eat and drink:

Spa Beach Bistro: This quick-serve bistro next to Spa Beach offers grab-and-go options with outdoor seating and picnic tables available near the playground and splash pad.

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille: The Caribbean-themed restaurant and bar has indoor and outdoor seating, and there’s a man-made beach on the waterfront.

Pier Teaki: Located on the rooftop, it has a view of the water, great views of the city and specialty cocktails for “a modern take on the classic tiki bar.”

Teak: A sit-down restaurant on the fourth floor of the Pier Point, it will offer fine dining and waterfront views.

Driftwood Cafe: This casual walk-up spot offers ice cream and snacks on the ground level of the Pier Point.

Fresco’s Waterfront Bistro: In addition to new places at the Pier, this landmark waterfront restaurant has been operating since 2004 near the Pier entrance. It features a spacious wrap-around deck with views of the water and marinas and it specializes in seafood, steaks, burgers and pastas.

Hops & Props: The cafe with a long list of craft beers on tap has been operating next to the St. Petersburg Museum of History since 2014. It’s named for the hops in the beer and “props” for the aviation and boat props in the museum’s exhibits.

Art: St. Petersburg has always been known for its thriving art community and the Pier District is no exception. Four distinct pieces have been installed throughout the pier and perhaps the most high-profile piece is Janet Echelman’s Bending Arc, an aerial net sculpture that is suspended above a family park on the pier’s approach. Bending Arc billows with the breeze. It’s attached to poles that resemble sail masts, done intentionally to blend in with the nearby marina. It can be seen from almost anywhere at the pier and in the daytime, the sculpture’s gradient shades of blue blend with the sky, giving the effect of gazing at clouds. At night, it’s a whole different experience when LED colored lights in a palette of magentas and violets transform the sculpture’s physical color.

Myth, Mabry’s monumental metal red origami pelican sculpture, greets visitors near the pier’s entrance. Two realistic, red statues of pelicans, which Mabry creates in a multistage process that begins with 3D scanning of taxidermy birds, are perched on top of the sculpture, and a few others sit several feet away.

Ervinck’s Olnetopia sculpture at the Pier Head looks like a big water droplet. His work is usually rendered in bright yellow polycarbonate but the need for constant upkeep meant the sculpture was created in bronze with a patina that will deepen over time.

The fourth piece is Bailey’s Morning Stars glass mosaic, affixed to a concrete wall. The piece peeks out on the path to and from the Pier Head and has all the makings of a selfie wall. Bailey is a crochet artist who became known for her African-inspired hats that were worn on The Cosby Show, in a Spike Lee movie and in United Colors of Benetton ads. For Morning Stars, she crocheted the mandalas, took photographs of them, pixelated the photos and worked with fabricators to have one of them rendered in glass tiles and assembled into a mosaic.

St. Petersburg artists also  have some representation at the St. Pete Pier as vendor stalls in the Marketplace area are adorned with details of murals from around the city that lists the artists’ names and the location of the mural. Artists include the Vitale Bros., Palehorse, Jennifer Kosharek, Cecilia Lueza and Zulu Painter. These will all be updated with different murals as time goes on.

The St. Petersburg Pier tradition goes back over 130 years and now it is all set for the future. It’s a great place to visit… go!

 

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