The St. Pete Pier is so much more than just an urban project for City Planning Director Chris Ballestra.
“It takes your breath away every time,” he said. “I’ve been up here thousands of times and it’s special every time.”
What You Need To Know
- The St. Pete Pier was listed as “one of the best uses of public park space in the Americas” by the Urban Land Institute
- City Planning Director Chris Ballestra spent over eight years developing the pier and celebrates its success as he prepares for other development projects around St. Pete
- The pier now advances to an international competition where one will be selected as the best park venue in the world
For more than eight years, Ballestra worked, ate, slept and focused on nothing else but getting the pier built.
“It’s an unfolding experience. That’s the beauty of it. It wants you to come back over and over again,” he said.
Something else that keeps happening over and over again are the series of industry awards praising the pier project from design to finish. The latest one was announced Tuesday by the Urban Land Institute, naming the St. Pete Pier as “one of the best uses of public park space in the Americas.”
“In my opinion, it’s at the level of the Oscars,” Ballestra said, and he added that the economic numbers for the pier back that claim up.
“We originally estimated about 1.7 million (people would visit the pier) each year, and it came back at 2.3 million visitors a year. That’s staggering,” Ballestra said. “Only Busch Gardens has better attendance numbers in our area. Another staggering number is the nearly $250 million in revenue the pier has generated in just the last two years. That’s more than double the $93 million the city spent to build it.”
But as the city celebrates the pier’s success, Ballestra says he’s also studying that success because his job of developing the city is far from over.
“Of course, we have Tropicana Field coming. We may be doing some work for the Center for the Arts Plaza surrounding Dali, Mahaffey, Grand Prix area, so we’ve got a lot coming down stream but this is a great benchmark right now on again, doing the hard work up front,” Ballestra said.
The pier now advances to an international competition where one will be selected as the best part venue in the world.