The St. Petersburg Pier has a rich history dating back over 100 years. 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. Petersburg.
In 1987, the Pier was transformed once again with the addition of nearly 70,000 square feet of "festival market" style retail space. The existing Pier today is the product of the mid-1980's destination retail specialty center concept.
In a 2004 report to City Council, it was stated that the structural maintenance program for the Pier approach and Pier head were no longer cost effective, and its replacement should be planned for in the next 10 years. In 2005, with Pinellas County, a plan was put in place to replace the Pier approach and head, with an agreed upon allocation of $50M for the pending work. In 2009, a mayoral appointed Pier Advisory Task Force was formed, and over 14 months, met extensively with the public, hired outside consultants, and provided options for both the pier itself as well as the program. These options were not limited to the over-water portion of the Pier, they also included the pier approach. Following the formation of a Pier Advisory Task Force, the city pursued replacement of the Inverted Pyramid. It launched an international design competition that drew interest from 29 architectural firms. A jury comprised of design professionals and elected officials narrowed this list to three firms which each submitted a proposed design. After lengthy public displays of the concept and public meetings, the jury selected Los Angeles-based Michael Maltzan Architecture, Inc. and its design, called "The Lens." After a successful petition drive, a group calling itself "Stop the Lens" placed a measure on the August 27, 2013 city election ballot to cancel the city's contract with Michael Maltzan. This measure passed, and the contract was severed with the Los Angeles architect.
A process that started in 2014, shortly after Mayor Kriseman took office, is underway for the development of a new Pier for St. Petersburg. Initially, funds were allocated for the development of a new Pier, from Spa Beach to the end of the Pier Head. However, an additional $20 million to develop the Pier approach became available through TIF funds from the downtown tax district. The Pier approach connects the Pier to the downtown business core (Beach Drive and Bayshore Boulevard) and its boundaries follow the waterfront from the Vinoy to Pioneer Park. The new Pier District will provide interactive experiences throughout this area and along its 3,065 foot length.