Artist reveals $3 million sculpture proposed for St. Pete Spa Beach Park

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – World renowned artist Janet Echelman has just revealed a $3 million artwork she wants to create for Spa Beach Park on St. Pete’s downtown waterfront near the new pier. 

“It’s left to the community decide whether it’s worth it,” said City of St. Petersburg Architect Raul Quintana. “I think it is.”

Echelman’s creation is a colorful floating web that one visitor form Michigan described as a giant gill net when we showed it to her.

“I think it’s beautiful,” said Jeanine Hoffman. “However on a windy day like this, I’m not sure it would stay down like that.”

Quintana insists that Echelman has designed her artwork to withstand hurricane force winds of 150 miles per hour.

“It’s going to have to be engineering. There’s going to be a lot of testing that goes along with it but its capable,” Quintana said.

Private contributors are supposed to pay for Echelman’s fee—$1.5 million. The rest of the cost, an estimated $1.3 million, will be paid by tax increment financing—taxes paid by downtown property owners.

Echelman expects the web material to last 20 years, which works out to about $150,000 a year.

“In the world she works in, that’s a permanent piece,” Quintana said.

Maybe so, but the overall cost struck a number of people walking near the downtown waterfront as pricey when we showed them the design.

“Oh my goodness,” said Jeanine Hoffman.

“I would price it less than that,” said her husband Kirk Hoffman.

Emily Walters expressed environmental concerns.

“It would probably catch a lot of birdies,” Walters said.

“Birds have a tendency to see it. It will billow like a flag does,” Quintana said.

Whatever the case, the city won’t spend another dime beyond the $75,000 it’s already forked out for Echelman’s feasibility study until private donors raise the additional $600,000 or so needed for Echelman’s fee.

After that, if the St. Pete City Council approves it, then taxpayers will spend an estimated $1.3 million for the engineering and construction infrastructure needed for the football field size floating sculpture.

Tuesday, Echelman’s design appeared to get reviews from the city Public Art Commission when Echelman made the presentation, even though she elected to do it by telephone from her home in Massachusetts instead of in person.

“That’s a tough one,” Quintana said. “I mean its, uh, yes, it would have been nice to have her here. She just flew in from China.”

Quintana said if the city moves forward with the project, he’s pretty sure Echelman will be here for the actual unveiling, possibly in the summer of 2019, around the time the new St. Pete Pier opens nearby at an unrelated estimated cost of $76 million.

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