At a meeting Thursday, St. Petersburg city council members approved spending $20 million to develop the area leading up to what will be the new pier.

The vote is a huge financial leap forward in making the new pier and its park a reality.

“I think you’re seeing us move forward from what are initial impressions, piecing together,” said Darden Rice, St. Petersburg City Council woman. “A lot of different elements that were presented. It’s all very exciting, but we do have to stay within the budget.”

Before the vote, council members got a fresh glimpse at what those millions of dollars will be used to create. The design team for the Pier Approach, W Architecture and Landscape Architecture and Wannemacher Jensen Architects, released new before images and after renderings of the area around the pier.

"Right now, there's a lot of black top out there, and so there will be a lot more green space," said Chris Ballestra, St. Petersburg's City Development Director. "Additionally the entire theme of the Pier was you went 7 or 8 city blocks to get to one location. Now it will be activated all the way along the way."

The new Pier - and its approach - are expected to completed by 2018.