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Allison Graves
By Allison Graves June 13, 2017

Analysis of new St. Pete pier costs calls for $1. 9 million subsidy

In his 2013 run for mayor, Rick Kriseman campaigned on reducing the burden on taxpayers to support the new St. Petersburg pier.

In a July 2013 questionnaire from the Tampa Bay Times, Kriseman said he was "hopeful" that the more than $1 million annual taxpayer subsidy for the old, inverted pyramid pier could be eliminated or reduced if the pier issue was handled well.

So far the effort to build a new pier has not been smooth. Kriseman had promised to have the new pier built by 2015, but that didn't happen. Kriseman's opponent in his re-election bid, former Mayor Rick Baker, has been critical of Kriseman's slow progress on the pier, which officials hope to complete by early 2019.

There is a similar lack of progress on the pier's taxpayer burden. For Kriseman to make good on this promise, the subsidy for the new Pier District would have to be lower than the subsidy for the old pier.

According to estimates put together by the city and Colliers International, the management group hired by the city council, that will not happen.

The old pier's average 10-year subsidy was $1.4 million. The costs to operate the bridge dropped to less than $500,000 after the pier closed in 2013, but the subsidy remained intact to cover some on-going costs for security and maintenance of the property.

City staff told council members in April 2017 that like the old pier, the new Pier District would require a taxpayer subsidy. The 26-acre district consists of at least one restaurant, event space and an overlook.

The new pier's subsidy is estimated to be $1.9 million a year.

Still, the final costs of the pier are elusive. Even with the city set to start construction in late June, there is uncertainty regarding what facilities will be added. The current budget is $66 million.

Kriseman spokesman Ben Kirby said the mayor remains hopeful that the cost of the subsidy could be reduced in the future.

"The current estimate for a subsidy is $1.9 million, and does not include percentages brought in from restaurants or events," Kirby said.

Chris Ballestra, the city's managing director of development coordination, said there's two ways to decrease the subsidy: increase revenues or decrease expenses.

He said that there will be ample opportunity to increase revenue at the new pier district. The new Pier District will be 26 acres, compared to the old 5-acre pier.

Kriseman pledged to try to reduce or eliminate the pier subsidy. With the old pier's demolition, the cost has logically decreased. But it won't last for long. The new pier calls for an even larger annual subsidy.

The final numbers of the pier's operating costs won't be known for some time. But Kriseman's goal will not be met based on what we know so far. We rate this promise Stalled.

Our Sources

Tampa Bay Times, "Decisions loom as time grows short to get the new St. Petersburg Pier built on time," April 15, 2017

Tampa Bay Times, "St. Petersburg's new pier is a go: City Council approves first construction funds," June 1, 2017

Tampa Bay Times, "Consultant: St. Pete Pier District could draw millions," May 18, 2017

PolitiFact Florida, Krise-O-Meter: Kriseman's new timeline adds two years, May 15, 2014

Interview with Benjamin Kirby, mayor's communications director, June 7 and 8

Interview with Chris Ballestra, city's managing director of development coordination, June 8 and 13

Adopted city budgets, 2007-2017


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