From its humble beginning as a railroad trestle devoted to the delivery of goods into the city from Tampa Bay, the city of St. Petersburg has always had a pier. The city's first pier dates back to 1889, when the Orange Belt Railway constructed the "Railroad Pier" as a railway-accessible sightseeing and recreational resort for locals and tourists.
Several piers followed, and the most significant was the "Million Dollar" pier with construction completed in 1926. Its Mediterranean revival architecture was a major feature and the Million Dollar pier became a popular community gathering space until it was demolished in 1967 to make room for the new Inverted Pyramid building.
In 1973 the Inverted Pyramid structure was completed and opened to the public. It continued the tradition of an over-water public gathering place and tourist attraction in downtown St. Pe-tersburg.
In 1987, the Pier was transformed once again with the addition of nearly 70,000 square feet of "festival market" style retail space. In the late 1980's, downtown St. Petersburg was declared to be too far off-center from the growth areas of Pinellas County and too far from the beaches to capitalize on the high-end tourist trade. Nonetheless, it was determined at the time that the tourist market offered the greatest opportunity for growth in downtown retailing. The existing Pier today is the product of the mid-1980's destination retail specialty center concept.
The Pier has always been a visible symbol of the city. Its strong axial relationship with the down-town has remained one of its strongest linkages to the city core. Yet what makes the Pier unique, its distance over the water, also results in its greatest drawback – a sense of isolation from the activity of the downtown waterfront and the difficulty of operating and maintaining a venue over the water.
There are components of the Pier approach and head that date back to its original 1926 con-struction. Today, the Pier suffers from concrete and structural deterioration due to corrosion of the reinforcing steel causing concrete spalls, cracks and de-laminations. Despite repairs, super-structure elements continue to deteriorate due to the elements and age. Continued general re-pairs do not increase the load carrying capacity of the structure, and are not seen as a viable long-term solution.
The Inverted Pyramid building does not rely on the 1926 original Pier Head for support; rather it is supported by an independent foundation which consists of four - 20' x 20' square concrete caissons, which may be incorporated into possible future designs. The Pier Approach and Head surrounding the Inverted Pyramid building require replacement. The Pier Head superstructure will also need to be replaced, which will require the removal of the existing retail space on the ground level of the Pier Building.