Architecture & Design

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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