Hurricane Irma ripped through Florida’s west coast in September 2017, tearing the roof off the Anna Maria City Pier. Now, more than a year later, the process of building a new iconic pier to replace the historic structure is underway.
Crew members skillfully maneuvered the platforms where the pilings were being driven into the earth below the water on a gray Monday morning as reporters were invited on a boat to see the progress being made to the site of the new pier.
Though the sun wasn’t shining, it was finally a good day for the six-man crew from i+icon USA, which is building the pier, to get out on the water and get to work. The crew mobilized a week and a half ago but after rough weather and waters last week, workers began with the first of the test pilings Saturday.
There will be two test pilings at the T-shaped end of the pier and two more near the entrance to the pier from the island, said Paul Johnson, project director from i+icon USA.
From there, the installation of the permanent concrete pilings for the pier will begin. There’s a temporary piling template in place now, which Johnson said will hold the pilings in place.
The pilings must go into a hard layer of earth about 23 feet below water level, Johnson said.
From land, most of what can be seen is the crane atop the work station directing the tall concrete pilings as workers guide them into the template. Those pilings sticking up from the water that will eventually be the end of the pier.
Halfway between the shore and the site of what will be the T-shaped end of the pier is a small control platform in the making.
“It’s been quite the process to get us to the point where icon is driving pilings into the ground. We’re really excited to rebuild and get open our No. 1 tourist attraction in Manatee County and looking forward to seeing the progress that we’re seeing today,” Anna Maria Commissioner Brian Seymour said.
The pier was closed after the damage from the hurricane was discovered. City commissioners voted in October 2017 to rebuild. The pier was demolished in the summer of 2018. Seymour said the new pier should look similar to the original.
While the structure of the new pier will be mostly concrete, it will be covered in Ipe, a Brazilian wood that is more durable and sustainable, Seymour said. The wood will go over the concrete, giving it the appearance of a wooden pier.
The city hopes the pier will be complete by January or February of 2020, according to Seymour, and should be sound for decades to come. Seymour said they are trying to build the pier to have an 80-year lifespan.
“I’m hoping everyone will come to love this pier and this one will be iconic for future generations. This isn’t just for us now but for future generations. People are going to discover Anna Maria who have never been here and just fall in love with this city the same way I did 10 years ago when I moved here,” Seymour said.
Seymour expects the cost of the project to be about $4.5 million, which he said would include demolition of the old pier and rebuilding the new pier along with the restaurant and bait shop.
The Tourist Development Council gave about $1.5 million for the project, while the city received $750,000 in state historical grants and the Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursed the city for $1.3 million.
Not having the pier since Hurricane Irma has affected the city of Anna Maria, Seymour said.
“It’s immensely important. It’s really been a impact, really not only to the city, but to the businesses that try to operate out here, the residents that enjoy time on the pier. Nobody has been able to come out on the pier now for a year and a half almost and it’s what a lot of people associate this city with. When they think of Anna Maria, they think of the city pier,” Seymour said.