What the Hell Is Going on with South Pointe Pier?
For over a decade, Miamians have watched and wondered about what's going to happen to the South Pointe Pier. It's tragically similar to the local Cuban situation: just sit and wait and see when they'll open the border and let us back in. Likewise, it has been so long that--for many of us at least--the energetic demand has dwindled to a simple, disillusioned curiosity.
As a matter of fact, nothing, in the last 15 years, has been more emblematic of the generation gap in Miami than the closing of the pier. If you walk through Concourse F of Miami International Airport, you'll see an exhibition of nostalgic, black-and-white--and not half-bad in this blog's opinion--photographs, dated by subject matter such as kids waiting to jump from the pier's railing. Now, with a whole generation soon getting ready for high school that has never set foot on it, we started to get curious again, and wanted to find out once and for all what the hell's going on with that thing.
"American cities are concentrated on main streets," said Rick Lopez, an
architect who grew up here in the city, as we chatted one night over
beers. "We don't really have plazas. South Pointe was like a plaza for
young people from all over town, and the pier itself was central to the
We began by calling the Miami Beach building department, who told us to
call the public works department, who then told us to call the
engineering department (of public works), where someone mentioned that
he'd heard talk amongst property management a year or two back about
fixing the pier before telling us to call the Capital Improvement Office
(CIP), which was the department that had handled the park.
"The pier was supposed to be repaired as part of the same contract as
the park," explained Miami Beach public information officer Nannette
Rodriguez. "The contract with the designer was terminated after the park
was completed, but before they started construction on the pier."
The doors to South Pointe Park opened to the public in 2009, and by
then, next to the park's trimmed dunes and stylish lighting, it seemed
safe to assume that the splintered pier had been abandoned all together.
In Miami Beach City Hall, however, steps were being taken (albeit at a
very bureaucratic pace). In 2005, it was approved as a component of the
South Pointe Park Project. In 2007, five conceptual design options were
reviewed, of which the Committee preferred one that would retain the
pier's existing footprint. Then, in 2008, two more designs were
proposed: an update for the preferred plan (nicknamed "Guppy"), and an
another, alternate plan ("Whale"). The last conceptual design--the one
that was finally approved--was a telescoping pattern that would widen
with each consecutive platform.
Then came the break in contract, and now, with the termination still in
litigation, a committee is evaluating requests for qualifications from
new firms with the condition that the proposal adheres to the last
conceptual design, but we were assured that city hall is as anxious as
"It is expected that an open design process will take place in the next
few weeks," Rodriguez said, "but it's not known for sure."
So, as the world keeps spinning and politicians keep running it, what
does all this mean for us? Really just one thing: whenever construction
is complete, it seems we'll finally be looking at a new telescopic pier,
complete with fishing amenities and geriatric rest spots.
But some of the bigger questions cannot be answered so easily: Will the
pier see the same vitality and culture that it spawned a decade and a
half ago, or has too much time passed? Will kids be just as free to jump
from it as they were? Or here's a less redundant one: Is the selected
design--the "Telescope"--the one you would have picked? And finally the
obvious one: Do we really expect to see the damn thing anytime soon?
-- Joshua Abril
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