AM chooses longevity for pier

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Based on a plan approved Oct. 17, the Anna Maria City Pier could be closed for up to 82 weeks.
Jay Saxena, of Ayres Associates, Tampa, attends a presentation Oct. 17 at a special meeting of the Anna Maria City Commission to discuss replacing the Historic Anna Maria City Pier. Islander Photos: Sandy Ambrogi

“Our ancestors gave us a pier that lasted a hundred years. I think we should do the same for the next generation.”

So said Commissioner Doug Copeland Oct. 17 regarding which path to pursue in rebuilding the landmark Anna Maria City Pier.

And so they did. The Anna Maria City Commission voted unanimously Oct. 17 to move forward with plans for the rehabilitation of the pier, 100 S. Bay Blvd. The vote was somewhat unexpected, occurring at a special meeting.

The wooden structure already was suffering from wear and tear when Hurricane Irma roared through the area Sept. 10-11, causing major damage to the site that “is” Anna Maria to so many visitors and residents.

On Oct. 17, commissioners listened to Jay Saxena of the city’s contracted engineering firm, Ayres Associates of Tampa, as he narrated a PowerPoint presentation showing costs and time lines for the rehab of the pier, including the restaurant and bait shop at the end of the walkway.

The engineers working with the city of Anna Maria are striving to extend the service life of a new pier while maintaining the historical aspects of the original pier.

Three associates, Christopher Martin, Jan Ash and Hisham Sunna, answered questions and offered detailed explanations in their areas of expertise. Ayres Associates did the initial assessment of the pier’s condition after Irma and found “extensive damage.” They recommended the city close the pier until it could be repaired.

The long-term “75- to 100-year plan” will take 68-82 weeks to complete — from permitting to the day when the public again can stroll the 800-foot-long walkway to the T-end.
Ayres estimates 30 weeks of construction.

Commissioners asked the Ayres team about differences between the “25-to 50-year repair plan” and the “75-to 100-year plan” officials eventually approved.

Saxena compared approving the short-term fix to applying a “Band-Aid” on a big wound.

“It’s like treating the symptoms and ignoring the disease,” Saxena said.

The long-term plan will create what the engineering firm dubbed a “superstructure.”

Existing substructures would be removed and replaced with 18-inch square precast piles and cast-in-place pile caps.

Spans will be 29-30 feet to maintain environmental impact areas and top planks will be placed with quarter-inch spacing to allow light to the area below the pier, encouraging seagrass growth. Estimated cost for substructure phase is $1,014,000.

Lumberlock planking, comprising recycled molded plastic with the color infused, would replace wooden planks, without affecting the aesthetics of the pier, according to Ayres. The planks will never need paint or stain. Fixtures, electrical, utility pipes, framing with corrosion resistant materials and above the deck materials would make up the next two phases of construction, at a cost of about $3,141,000.

Building, including interior finishes, would cost $776,000-$1.1 million.

Special permits from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies would be required and could take as long as 24 weeks to process, according to the Ayres team.

Commissioner Dale Woodland questioned the “superstructure” long-term build during the presentation period, wondering if a shorter, less expensive rehab would help pier and restaurant workers return to their livelihoods faster. In the end, Woodland also voted “yes” to moving forward with the long-term fix.

Mayor Dan Murphy, when discussing possible funding sources, said relief money made available after Irma would definitely assist with paying the check for the new pier.

Saxena said the state historical resources office would be consulted during the permitting process to understand what, if any role, it might have, in response to Commissioner Carol Carter’s question about the historical nature of the pier.

“Our pier is not registered as a historical building,” Murphy said.

Murphy said they considered a historical designation because of the associated grants but, to accomplish that, there could be six months of lead time. “I don’t think that’s what we want,” Murphy said.

Ash explained that as long as the building is not deemed historical, the rebuild doesn’t have to meet the criteria of a restoration.

“If it is an historical building, a lot of other regulations come to play with respect to restoration,” Ash said.

As for the 1,000 or so engraved planks currently on the pier walkway, the disposition remains up in the air. Current plans call for the walkway planks to be removed and stored.

Commissioners agreed the planks have “sentimental” value to islanders and should be repurposed into a memorial or display.

29 thoughts on “AM chooses longevity for pier


    I have seen too many historical building knocked down in England in the name of progress and then regreted later on. it is known as Anna Maria Historical Pier. There will be no history, other than pics, if it is allowed to be made from plastic

  2. Lucy Cumston

    A suggestion for the memorial planks would be to use them as the inside walls of the restaurant. At least they would still be part of the pier and people could see them. They would be protected from the westher. My family purchased one in memory of our parents who spent a lot of time fishing off the pier over the years. We try to eat at the restaurant each time we visit the area. Just a suggestion.

  3. Barry Haworth

    Being a member of a family who paid for three planks for AMI pier,the least I would expect is for ALL messages to be replicated,free of charge when the new planks are fitted.People paid in good faith for the wood planks,not only to leave a message,but to also save the city council renovation costs.
    Residing in the UK,we have no chance of our planks being given to us.The only scenario we can hope for is that if they are not to be re-used on the rebuilt pier,they be re-used in any refurbishment in the AMI pier area.

    1. bonnerj

      Sorry to say, but people paid to sponsor planks on the pier and there was no “ownership” implied. We regret the hurricane damaged the pier — but we also knew the planks would not last forever. We encourage you to contact the city and urge them to FIRST repair the pier and keep it open — and to rebuild in stages so people can continue to enjoy this treasure. The stewards are the elected officials in Anna Maria. — Bonner Joy

    2. Gill Janzen

      Iam devastated. We have been visiting AMI since our kids were tiny, from the U.K. The wooden pier is such a HUGE part of our pleasure and reason for visiting. AMI is UNIQUE please o not change it!!

  4. Larry Schafer

    I know that the Japanese have wood structures that are thousands of years old and have held up to earthquakes and typhoons due to woods ability to flex and move They have accomplished this without using NGKF anything but wood even for fasteners.
    Plastic is a terribly terrible way of construction. I haven’t found anything that’s made of plastic to last other than when it reaches the landfill.

  5. Laura

    I’ve heard the new planks will be very slippery and dangerous.

    My father’s memorial plank is out there and definitely want it back if it is not going to be displayed properly.

  6. Bruce Tetzloff

    Bad idea. It’s the old Florida fishing look people are attracted to. How long has this old pier been there? If it’s been needing repairs, why wasn’t it kept up with over the years? I hardly think a new pier would hold up just as well as the old one during a major storm.

  7. Rick Hoffman

    I can’t imagine a project of this magnitude, staying within the estimated target of 82 weeks.
    Concrete pilings and poly decking, along with L.E.D. lighting would enhance aesthetics, while improving it’s storm worthiness and weather resistance..
    Wise decision making by the city commissioners.

  8. air4smom

    I totally agree with other folks here that people who purchased planks should definitely be allowed to have those back. Those planks mean more to us than anyone else. Please consider this.

  9. Ann Banfield

    I think it’s an expensive solution and of course Ayres will make lots of money while building the new pier .
    Interesting at a time like this it’s no longer deemed historical.
    I am not happy with this plan in case anyone is listening!
    Ann Banfield

    1. Lisa Normand

      Definitely! I would definitely want the plank with my mother’s name on it if it is not going to be re-stationed on the new pier!

  10. Thomas Goossens

    I am in agreement that the new Pier should be of concrete for longevity. The new Pier will develop some natural aging in petina over time. As time goes on it will fit in for all. Sure the old Pier had a lot of character and the like but that will develop with the new one. I remember the old wooden structure restaurant before the larger windows and metal. Those improvements did not detract from the pier. There may also be ways that some of the memorial planks and other items can accent the new structure. Possibly as kick plates along the pier or siding on the bait shop and restaurant.

    1. Jeanne Williams

      I disagree. Thai pier has lasted over 100 years and is a historical landmark in the mind of the locals and the seasonal visitors. Too much money and too much new. My 89 year old father and brothers could repair that pier in no time with sturdy wood set in concrete. We all love the pier, and the character must not be destroyed as so many other quaint buildings have been.
      Poll the taxpayers. You’ll see they are not in favor!

  11. John Pontier

    Why plan for a 100 year pier when the island will likely be underwater in 50 years due to climate change induced sea level rise?

  12. Becky Kieffer

    After paying the ridulous price for 2 planks, and waiting FOREVER for them to be put in, I would think you would be ask ing the buyers of those planks what THEY wanted done! For myself and my family, I would want our planks RETURNED…..not stuck in some AMI “memorial” !

  13. Melisa Heitman

    I personally bought a plank and my mom, sisters, and I bought another in memory of my dad. If it is decided that the planks are relocated or, God forbid, destroyed, I hope you will contact not just us, but whomever purchased them.

    Like I said, we did. This as a tribute to our dad and they were certainly not cheap but more importantly, we look for them every time we go to the pier just like it was the first time.

    1. Kathy Craggs

      I quite agree with you.,I bought 2 planks one for my husband as a memorial and one for myself just to say I will always love AMI. Unfortunately I live in the England so I can’t have mine back.
      I wonder if they will get in touch with me.I only found out about the seriousness of the damage by accident. I don’t know who to get intouch with to be updated

  14. Louis Montgomery

    So many memories of that pier. Well miss it for the next 6 or 7 years but I’m glad that long term planning won out over short term fixes.

      1. bonnerj

        There’s an error in the newspaper under the photo caption of the pier … 82 months should state 82 weeks. Still … too long IMHO. — Bonner Joy

  15. Mike Deal

    The difference between 25 to 50 years and 75 to 100 years is easy more money for Ayres!! You have been duped Mayor and commision!!!


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