Excitement is building in Anna Maria with the new city pier coming into shape.
Mayor Dan Murphy, who visited the site to review progress April 17, said in an interview that i+iconSOUTHEAST finished driving the last pile for the 776-foot-long city pier earlier in the day. He said the next step will be to level and cap the piles. Then the concrete deck will be placed on the T-end and wood bents will be hammered to support the walkway.
Progress on the pier has Pine Avenue businessowners eager for more.
The historic Anna Maria City Pier was built in 1911 and was a critical part of the island’s early growth. It had served as one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions and drew a stream of visitors aboard steamers and ferries to Pine Avenue until it was closed in 2017 after sustaining damage from Hurricane Irma.
Commission Chair Brian Seymour, owner of the Anna Maria General Store, 503 Pine Ave., said in an interview April 17 that he noticed a 10% downturn in business at his store after the pier closed. The store has yet to rebound.
“It’s still impacting us, but we are starting to see a little bit of business during the day of people coming down, getting a sandwich or a drink or something, and going down and sitting and watching construction on the pier,” Seymour said.
He added that the construction-watching customers give him hope the new pier also will bring back foot traffic to the avenue.
Seymour said construction noise during the pile-driving was noticeable, but not a disruption.
“I can hear it in my house. … I can hear it outside, but it’s music to my ears,” he said. “I’m extremely excited about the progress.”
Seymour resides at the Historic Green Village on Pine in an apartment adjacent to the store.
The city will issue a request for proposals for the construction of the restaurant and bait shop “any day now,” according to Seymour.
“Everybody wants the pier done yesterday, but we want to make sure it’s done right and that we try to replicate what was there,” he added.
Rebecca Preston, owner of Shiny Fish Emporium, 306 Pine Ave., told The Islander April 17 her business was negatively impacted by the loss of the pier and the foot traffic it brought to Pine.
However, she said business began to ramp up when construction of a new pier began.
Customers have asked about the pier, but she hasn’t heard any complaints about the construction process, or the noise it created.
“It’s the lifeblood of Anna Maria, so we can’t wait for it to be back,” Preston said.
Brigette Kubin, owner of Three Island Monkeys, 314 Pine Ave., said April 17 that business continues to suffer without the pier.
“I sense the disappointment that it’s still not there,” she said. “People are anxious to have it done, and I think it has hurt business.”
She said business this year improved to the level in 2017 before the pier closed.
On the other hand, Karsen Lonzo, general manager of Island Cabana, 403 Pine Ave., said April 17 the loss of the pier had little to no impact on the store’s sales.
Nevertheless, it remains the talk of the town.
“Everyone asks about it,” she said. “People that haven’t been here for a couple years will ask, ‘Where’s the pier?’ But everyone is happy to see that construction has started.”
“Everybody seems really excited that it’s going to be back,” Lonzo added.