Daytona Beach’s city leaders want to explore the possibilities of constructing a new pier, modifying the existing pier, replacing the 95-year-old casino building on the pier, and adding new buildings on the city-owned span.
DAYTONA BEACH — The Daytona Beach Pier, an iconic structure that predates just about everything on the oceanfront except the sand and sea, could be in for some monumental changes.
City leaders want to explore the possibilities of constructing a new pier, altering the existing city-owned span, replacing the pier’s 95-year-old casino building, and adding new buildings on the hulking structure.
City Manager Jim Chisholm said he’s not itching to tear down the 740-foot-long pier or the 10,900-square-foot building on top of it, which has been the rental home of Joe’s Crab Shack since 2012. The city has amassed more than $4 million in rent payments since Joe’s opened nearly eight years ago.
Chisholm did say the historic casino building that houses the popular seafood eatery could be replaced in the more distant future. But for now he’s interested in determining if a pier addition or second pier could be built within the portion of the beach the city controls under a submerged lands lease.
The idea for a second companion pier has popped up several times over the past few decades, but plans have always fizzled.
"We’ll do an analysis of what we can expect in the long-term," Chisholm told city commissioners during a workshop meeting this week. "It will give us a basis to make future decisions."
To plan for the pier’s future, the city is looking for a firm to do a feasibility study of possible changes to the wooden span. The study will also include the areas just to the south and east of the pier that are included in the city’s submerged lands lease with the state.
The submerged lands lease offers the city the possibility of using a large area that extends farther out into the water to the east and close to the southern boundary of Breakers Oceanfront Park.
Three companies are interested in heading up the feasibility study, and in the coming weeks city commissioners will vote on which firm they want for the job.
"We want someone to tell us the best thing to do for the pier’s longevity," Chisholm said.
The chosen consultant will be asked to look into what the chances would be of securing permits from the state and federal governments to do work on and around the pier. They’ll also be tasked with coming up with cost estimates for various alternatives, identifying potential funding sources, and determining how turtle nesting season could impact work.
Another key consideration will be historical aspects. The casino building is on the National Register of Historic Places, which would make it difficult or maybe even impossible to demolish. There would also be a revolt from people who remember going there when it was the place to be with rock bands, orchestras and dancing.
"We went nuts when they talked about tearing it down for Joe’s Crab Shack," said Gary Libby, a longtime beachside resident and the former director of the Museum of Arts & Sciences. "Why tear down the Eiffel Tower?"
Also paramount will be the city’s 10-year lease agreement for Joe’s Crab Shack to use the pier building, which expires in a few years but offers renewal options.
The consultant would draft the length and width of various pier options, suggest building materials that could be used, and recommend potential future uses. The analysis also would weigh the impact of keeping the existing pier, which is currently undergoing $1 million of repair and reinforcement work slated to be completed by May.
The $1 million project involves repairing and replacing cross bracing and decking as well as installing supportive collars on piles under the pier’s east end, which were damaged during Hurricane Dorian. Other maintenance will also be performed on the pier substructure. Some of the pier’s piles are rotten, detached, split and cracked.
The city also plans to tackle repairs to the pier building, which has had water intrusion problems for years. Warped rubber pavers throughout the flooring of the outdoor rooftop bar are opening channels for water intrusion and creating tripping hazards. The roof membrane below that walking surface has unsealed spots at the roof perimeter, and there is insufficient roof slope to allow water drainage.
The pier is in the heart of the city’s beachside core tourist district area. It’s an area city leaders have been trying to reinvent for decades. At Wednesday’s meeting, Chisholm also told commissioners the city is looking at several property acquisitions near the ocean.
The city is interested in a building on the southeast corner of Main Street and State Road A1A that’s for sale, as well as a few properties directly to the east of that, the city manager said. Acquiring the whole piece would give the city a clear path from A1A to Breakers Oceanfront Park to the pier.
A lot to the south of Breakers Park that’s the site of a failed hotel project is also available, as is a vacant property on nearby Grandview Avenue.
Daytona Beach’s original pier was built in 1900, said Fayn LeVeille, director of the Halifax Historical Society Museum in downtown Daytona Beach. It was damaged by a hurricane a few years later, and then destroyed by a fire in 1919, LeVeille said.
The current pier and the building on top of it were constructed in 1925. That new pier, located at the eastern tip of Main Street, stretched out for 1,000 feet. But storms and hurricanes have chewed away at the span and 260 feet has been lost over the years.
The pier has had several different owners, and in 2004 the city acquired it.
For decades, the 79-year-old LeVeille has hung on to a faded photograph of her godmother decked out in a classic Victorian-era dress and hat as she posed in front of the Daytona Beach Pier with three friends.
LeVeille said her godmother was born around 1897, and she was a teenager when the treasured picture was taken. So she guesses it was shot around 1914, an estimate reinforced by the fact that there’s no building yet on the pier in her photograph.
It’s an example of how intertwined the historic wooden pier is in so many local residents’ lives, and evidence of how long the span has been perched over the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
Lifelong local residents such as Dino Paspalakis, who went on the pier’s sky ride and space needle in years past, can’t imagine a Daytona without the tall span standing guard over the beach. Paspalakis, who along with his family has owned Boardwalk properties for decades, has watched the pier evolve throughout his 54 years.
"We love the pier," said Paspalakis, who along with other beachside merchants helps pay for fireworks launched off the pier every summer. "I look forward to hearing what the consultant has to say. It’s great news if they want to invest."
Paul Zimmerman, who has lived most of his 70 years on the beachside, said he thinks it’s "a fantastic idea" for the city to look into new things for the pier’s future.
"I’m glad to hear it," said Zimmerman, who’s been involved in pier and beach issues for decades. "Anything that would improve the core area of Daytona Beach, I’m for it."