Lens Pier Design Changes Again
An updated design includes more shade structures, restaurant spaces and wider walkways. New renderings were also released.
A new set of renderings of the "Lens," the proposed structue for replacing the city pier, already is drawing controvery from opponents on the City Council.
Architect Michael Maltzan showed the City Council on Tuesday some additional changes he made to the design, including more shade structures, spaces for restaurants and wider walkways.
Maltzan said that like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Lens will provide a "literal" view of the city but will also enable the public to envision what St. Petersburg may be like in the future.
“That’s what I believe is fundamental when we talk about it as an icon,” Maltzan said. “It’s a place to come and connect to the extraordinary landscape of the bay. Also, a place to see the city now and to see the city as it will (continue) to evolve in the future.”
But concerns by two council members raised Tuesday were grounded in the economic realities of 2012. Wengay Newton and Karl Nurse questioned whether the new renderings accurately depict the $50 million proposed structure.
Both already voted in the minority for allowing a citywide referendum on the future of the pier, which the council defeated.
On Tuesday Nurse said it is dishonest for the Maltzan team to show renderings (pictured above) of completed restaurants and activities that do not fit into the $50 million budget for building the pier. He noted that the images shown would entail additional spending.
“I voted for this a couple times along the road,” Nurse said. “Council, I thought, was really remarkably clear that $50 million is what was available, and you can see that the design has been downsized by about 20 percent to get within the budget.”
Nurse said the restaurants on the proposed Lens are just shells with plumbing and electrical hookups. He said what the public actually gets for $50 million are sidewalks, restrooms, drinking fountains, shade structures and seating.
“It’s not much for $50 million bucks,” Nurse said.
He said the Maltzan team is assuming a restaurateur will come in and build a restaurant on the Lens or at the Hub. The Hub is a structure that is part of the "Lens" design near the entrace of the pier just south of second street.
Chris Ballestra, manager of city development, said Nurse was correct but that the city is not in the restaurant building business. Bollestra said it is best to provide business owners the opportunity to come in and make the space their own.
In February, the city is scheduled to issue a “request for proposal” for the restaurant spaces.
The city has “had people knocking on the door for months wanting to be in those spaces and build in those spaces,” Ballestra said. “It allows the restaurant community to come to us and say ‘Here’s what I would like to do.’ ”
Newton called the design a “pipe dream.” He said the public was sold one design, with the inclusion of an underwater garden, and now those amenities are not happening. “The garden is gone, (but) the price is still the same,” Newton said.
Council members Bill Dudley and Charlie Gerdes said the design was slated to change all along. The council, they said, voted on a concept and knew that the design would change during the process of its development with public feedback.
In the past few months thousands of people have seen presentations about the Lens given by Lisa Wannemacher, local architect and member of the Maltzan team.
From those meetings, suggestions and concerns were addressed and changes to the design were made.
For example, Wannemacher said before public input, there was no specific space on the “Lens” for fishing and no restaurant spaces and now there is.
“I really have a genuine appreciation for the fact that you did listen,” Dudley said of public suggestions. “It is evident by the changes that you (made).”
Pier a Part of the Waterfront Master Plan?
A new petition group, Stop the Lens, has been collecting signatures for a few months in hopes to stop the Maltzan design. One of the key arguments is that the new waterfront master plan needs to be completed before a design is selected a new pier built.
Mayor Bill Foster said the pier and the development of the waterfront master plan are two independent items.
Since the late 1800s, Foster said, St. Petersburg has had a pier and no waterfront master plan. Creating one now, “is not going to change that … we are going to have a pier.”
“We can argue or discuss the waterfront master plan vs. pier,” council member Jeff Danner said. “The reality is, they are both going forward at the same time.”
While he does not agree with the organizers of Stop the Lens, Foster said he welcomes the critics and the concerns of opponents. He said it makes for a better pier, a better St. Petersburg.
“It forces us to address any flaws or deficiencies,” Foster said. “Keep it up.”
What was presented Tuesday was the "basis of design," which will be voted on Thursday by City Council.
"The real heavy lifting comes after this," Ballestra said. "This is really just the beginning of the design."
The Council will vote Thursday on whether to accept the "basis of design" report.
If approved, the report will allow "the Maltzan team to proceed with the design of the new St. Petersburg Pier and Skanska USA Builders to continue providing pre-construction phase services and geotechnical services."
The basis of design report is designed to shore up costs of the design. If approved, the next phase is the schematic design phase. That, according to city documents, "will provide a comprehensive design and preparation of construction documents for use by Skanska in providing a guaranteed maximum price and constructing the new St. Petersburg Pier."
Proposed Pier Timeline
- May 31, 2013: St. Petersburg Pier Closes
- Fall 2013: St. Petersburg Pier Demolished
- Winter 2014: Construction on the "Lens" Begins
- Summer 2015: "Lens" Completed
Today, the future of the Lens could be in jeopardy pending a court hearing between the city of St. Petersburg and VoteOnthePier.com petitioners. Representing the 16,000-plus petitioners is former mayoral candidate Kathleen Ford.
Stay with Patch for updates about today's court hearing.