'Lens' Picked as Top Pier Design
The Pier jury ranked the final three, with the top choice "The Lens," followed by "The Wave" and then "The Eye." The City Council will vote on its choice Feb. 2.
After more than four years of deliberations and an international competition, the St. Petersburg Pier jury ranked "The Lens" as its top design choice.
Friday morning at City Hall, the five-member jury ranked the piers:
1. "The Lens";
2. "The Wave";
3. "The Eye."
City staff said negotiations with Michael Maltzan Architecture would begin almost immediately.
According to the jury, some of the benefits of "The Lens" design over the other proposals included the anticipated low public subsidy and the design’s flexibility.
Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, a jury member, noted that “'The Lens' is just an extension of our waterfront and our parks and trail system. It’s different than what the Pier has been.
"The Lens" pier design is "best for affordability, attractive for local residents and has lower subsidy,” Welch added. “That’s why I ranked it at the top of my list.”
Many parts of "The Lens" can be built incrementally, with the public having input at each step.
“There (are) enormous opportunities to have a constant engagement with the public with what 'The Lens' will become over time,” said Pier jury member James Moore.
“The fundamental question is: Are we prepared to change the functionality of the Pier to have this path versus a single destination?” Welch asked.
Pier jury members noted that the current Pier as a “destination” has not generated enough revenue over the years to offset costs.
Councilor Leslie Curran agreed with "The Lens" as the top choice but argued that the Pier’s functionality is not changing.
“I don’t think we are losing a destination or changing the functionality,” Curran said. “It will be a destination.”
Earlier this week, the Council of Neighborhood Associations gave its recommendations for the Pier. "The Lens" had the most positive comments in its report.
From those that responded to the city, those in favor of the new Pier swayed heavily toward "The Lens," the city said.
The city has $45 million for phase one.
In Michael Maltzan Architecture's original proposal for "The Lens":
- What you get for $44.9 million
- Above-water dive.
- Above-water pedestrian bridge.
- Pier promontory.
- Elevator Tower.
- Lens canopy.
- Underwater reef.
- What you get for an additional $95.5 million
- Amphitheater ($36.6 million).
- Welcome mat, which includes enhanced lighting, landscaping, retaining walls and water feature ($8.9 million).
- Civic loop & civic green, which includes a community garden ($11.8 million).
- Water park ($17.9 million).
- Hub, which includes a broadcast studio, enhanced landscaping and a pavillion ($10.7 million).
- Energy Flotilla, which includes concrete bath tubs and an island with 30 wind turbines. ($9.6 million).
"The Wave" for many, including Welch, was at the top at first, but concerns grew about cost and programming.
Pier jury member Moore said "The Wave" is “very much, here it is. Take it or leave it,” he said.
According to city staff, "The Wave" had the highest subsidy, though still lower than the current Pier. There were also a lot of unknowns with "The Wave"’s programming.
“I love 'The Wave,' ” said Curran. “That is just the most incredible piece of architecture when you really look at it.”
Other concerns about "The Wave" were the lack of downtown views from the structure, other than the rooftop viewing point. Jury members also did not believe the public would swim off "The Wave."
Before the jury took its final vote, it was clear "The Lens" and "The Wave" were the only two designs realistically under consideration.
“Anyone want to talk about the Eye?” Curran asked, which was followed by laughter in the audience.
“None of us favor that,” answered jury member Susan Fainstein.
While the jury has made the decision to negotiate with Michael Maltzan Architecture the details moving forward are far from ironed out.
On Thursday, Jan. 26, the Council will host a workshop to discuss the Pier jury’s decision. The following week, on Feb. 2, city staff is set to recommend approval of the jury’s report, which includes the pier rankings.
A second reading of the Pier selection is scheduled for Feb. 16.
At both the Feb. 2 and 16 meetings, the public will have an opportunity to express its opinions on the jury’s selection. Public comment is not allowed during the workshop.
The workshop will include discussions of the design input process, the demolition, scaling down the budget, the schedule, helpin current tenants of the Pier and phasing out the existing pier.
For Welch, getting public participation on the project is of the most importance.
“I do have a ranking, but after we end our duties (as a member of the Pier jury) I’ll still be here as a resident and taxpayer,” Welch said. “I don’t think that these three are the totalities of options out there.”
Curran said the public has had ample opportunities to comment to this point.
“This started in 2007,” Curran said. “I’ve read every single comment. I received every email, received phone calls. (The Pier) is on the minds of the majority of people in St. Petersburg.
“We need to let them to know that once this selection is made, they are the net step. We have to engage the public,” Curran said.
Pier jury member Stanley Saitowitz said, “budgetary issues are strengthening the process,” he said. “Refinements are going to take place. I think we have to pick something today.
“There are a million possibilities,” Saitowitz said of getting more input on pier designs. “We could start again and again every day.”
While the process going forward was not unanimous, the rankings were. "The Lens" will be voted on by the Council on Feb. 2.
“You are shaping … the brand for the St. Pete for the next 50 – 75 years,” Mayor Bill Foster told the Pier jury. “You know what (the Pier) means to the citizens of St. Petersburg. Now the fun begins.”