BRADENTON BEACH -- Brien Quinn, the first Bradenton Beach resident to step foot on the newly reopened Bridge Street Pier, used to come to the pier all the time before it closed due to damage.
"I love the ambience of this pier. People would come here to take in the sunrise, do some fishing, read a book or have a cup of coffee," said Quinn, manager of the Pines Trailer Park next door. "We were really missing it. And now it's back, just the same, in a good way."
The Bridge Street Pier had a soft opening on Friday morning. Most of it was closed in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy smashed boats docked nearby into the pier, shearing the concrete supports and badly damaging the 94-year-old
Renovations were estimated to cost $1.4 million but came in at $200,000 under budget, according to Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale, who is also the facilitator for the pier repair team. Construction started in August 2014 and most was completed by the start of the new year.
"It's done under budget and on time," Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon said with a chuckle. "Those two things don't happen in government, especially not on the same project."
Residents, visitors and local government officials walked the length of the pier Friday morning while pointing, taking pictures, admiring and talking about memories of the pier.
"I used to come here every day," said Eileen Suhre, a Bradenton Beach resident for 27 years. "The pavilion at the end is dedicated to my late husband, and I love being there."
Suhre won't have to worry about staying off the pier again, according to Speciale. During renovations they also added 15 additional dolphin piles, which are piles built around the pier to cushion ship impacts.
"It'll be here long after we're gone," Speciale said. "It's not moving."
Bradenton Beach officials are hosting a formal dedication on Feb. 27, though the pier is now open to the public. Shearon said there's only a few things left to do, such as repainting the clock tower, putting in new guardrails and a walkway near the clock tower and repaving the parking lot nearby.
"This feels unbelievable," Shearon said, standing at the end of the pier. "It's overwhelming -- every detail has been taken care of."
For the soft opening, former Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy celebrated by cutting the yellow caution tape across the pier's entrance. Shearon first welcomed Bradenton Beach officials and county officials, then welcomed a Bradenton Beach resident, a county resident and a visiting couple who were the first group to stand on the reopened pier.
The two residents and the visitors each received a block of wood from the original pier structure.
"I was in the right place at the right time. I'm going to put it in my office," Quinn said with a smile. "Part of our daily routine was taken away, and it feels great to be back out here."