City Moves Forward With Evolving 'Lens,' as Legal Threats Loom
The architect who designed the "Lens" offered modifications, which he said reflects input from the public. Meanwhile, the city faces legal threats from two different groups.
Noting that he considered feedback from more than 25 public meetings, architect Michael Maltzan presented an evolving "Lens" pier design Thursday that he said better reflects what St. Petersburg residents want.
The $50 million "Lens" is the design slated to replace the inverted pyramid building that is the centerpiece of the St. Petersburg Pier.
Changes to the design include adding additional shade structures along the pier approach, more dinning options over the water including an event space at the end of the rebuilt pier.
One significant change was the shifting of the so-called "Hub" of the Lens. Originally, the Hub was positioned directly in front of the Lens. Now, Maltzan said it has been moved south to allow better views of the pier and the bay.
The top pier bridge, Maltzan said, will connect with the roof of the hub to create an observatory. At the ground level of the hub, there will be waterfront dinning as well as various retail shops.
"(We) are trying to create this moment in the project, where you can see that new icon with the bay in the backdrop," Maltzan said about moving the hub.
Directly in front of the pier will now be a piazza, or as Maltzan calls it, the welcome mat. There, it will be an open event space as well as the place to pick up the tram that will take passengers along the pier approach and to the end of the "Lens."
Local architect on the Maltzan architecture team, Lisa Wannemacher, has been giving presentations about the updated pier design to various business groups, neighborhood associations and other civic groups around town.
"Nearly 1,000 people in over 25 meeting have seen a presentation," Wannemacher said. "An overwhelming majority of the feedback following the presentations has been positive."
Wannemacher and Maltzan stressed that any of the activities visitors can partake in at the existing pier will be available on the "Lens." In fact, she said, there will be more to do and explore.
A significant change from the design that won the international pier design competition is the underwater reef. With too many unknowns about the visibility of a clear underwater reef, the Maltzan team is planning for that space to be an educational area as well as an underwater light show at night.
Near the center of the "Lens" is where the marina would be located, with fishing options, a cafe and 24 boat slips. Patrons could also rent kayaks to explore the bay.
- St. Petersburg Pier is set to close on May 31, 2013
- Demolition of the inverted pyramid is slated for September 2013
- Construction on the Lens could begin in January 2014
- Lens should be completed by mid 2015.
Last week, according to city architect Raul Quintana, St. Pete applied for a permit to demolish the St. Petersburg Pier. Currently, the city is considering bids for demolition.
Quintana said the current low bid is $2.9 million for demolition, with the highest bid being $6.8 million. The city budgeted $4.5 million for demolition.
By Oct. 25, Maltzan is expected to have the basis of design, completed with a more thorough plan to present to council.
That was good news for council member Jim Kennedy, who had a few concerns after hearing Maltzan's presentation Thursday at City Hall.
"This presentation, what appears to be somewhat lacking is the ultimate business plan," Kennedy said. "The anticipated incomes, whether there will be a subsidy. What the maintenance will be."
The future of the St. Petersburg Pier was thought to be decided when the City Council voted 6-2 for the "Lens" design to move forward without a citywide vote.
Now, the city is facing two threats to halt the process to build the "Lens."
Attorney Kathleen Ford, a former City Council member, is suing the city.
According to Fox 13 News, Ford is arguing that the Pier is granted special protections through the city charter, because it is waterfront property. Ford is arguing that the city was required to hold a referendum, even if no petition had been filed.
Earlier this week, the city responded to the lawsuit by asking for a dismissal in the suit.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, there is another group wishing to also stop the Lens.
"The group, Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg, timed its announcement hours before Michael Maltzan Architecture was to present a progress report on the project to City Council members (Thursday).
"Our goal really in coming out now is to let people know that there is going to be an opportunity for people to pass judgment on the Lens in an effective way," the group's president, William Ballard, said."
The group, according to the Times, is hoping to start another petition drive.
"I think we are going to continue," said council chair Leslie Curran. "A waterfront master plan is going to play a huge role. I think this does, in a way, bring the community together.
"(However), no matter what petition group is out there, suits have been filed, we’ll work through it," Curran added.
Mayor Bill Foster, who jokingly mentioned his own parents hate the design, said Thursday the city will continue with the process to build the Lens until it is told to stop.
"This is coming along and move forward is what we will do," Foster said. "I assure you that my staff is prepared to move forward with permitting, demolition and construction until somebody tells us to stop.
"I am excited about the potential for the new pier," Foster added. "There are some in the city that disagree and that’s the American way. If things turn into a campaign then people in this city will be able to take a side ... and this may end up on a ballot, but until then we are going to move forward."