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St. Pete’s new pier is taking shape, literally

“The entire 26 acres is now under construction.”

The new St. Petersburg Pier is well on its way.

For proof, just gaze out over Bayshore Drive or from the rooftop bar at the Birchwood … the progress is obvious.

“The entire 26 acres is now under construction,” said St. Pete City Architect Raul Quintana.

The main structure at the end of the Pier is already several stories high and wrapped in scaffolding. In the coming days, Quintana said construction crews will begin a major concrete pour for the building, a major step in its overall construction. However, the entire building won’t be done until late this year with internal work possibly lasting into next year.

Other features are also coming together. The shape of the Pier itself is visible from aerials, showing sharp corners of various surfaces that will hold the planned coastal thicket, Doc Ford’s Restaurant, a marine science center, various shade structures and a host of other amenities.

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In the coming weeks and months, Quintana said the now barren pier will begin to signs of life with plants and trees being planted in planters along the pier.

Onlookers will also soon get a glimpse of where the Janet Echelman structure will be located. Crews will begin drilling caissons to support the structure in the next two weeks. The poles to hold the colorful, billowing canopy are being fabricated. Echelman’s mesh sculpture will go up later this year.

The tilted lawn, which slants upward toward Tampa Bay is also well underway. Eventually, it will be covered in grass.

The shell of the building that will be Doc Ford’s is about half done, Quintana said. He expects restaurant owners to be able to come in sometime this summer to begin retrofitting the inside of the restaurant.

Overall progress is mostly on schedule. The city expects substantial completion in December with an opening likely early next year, though an exact date hasn’t been determined.

The pier was originally slated to open late this year, but the city revised the timeline after altering certain parts of the plan.

As with any major construction project, there have been some unexpected hiccups. Workers had to replace more of the sea wall surrounding Spa Beach than they expected and they had to remove underground sea walls no one knew were there.

The city has also had to scale back some of its construction plans to keep the project within the overall $80 million budget for the Pier and Pier approach.

“The decisions aren’t going to minimize the project,” Quintana said.

Those changes are minor like opting for concrete instead of pavers in some areas.

Quintana said the city has had to make adjustments to plans on the fly due to rising construction costs in the region.

The city is documenting construction progress with photos and videos, including aerials. Here’s the latest view of the work in progress.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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