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'Lens' Design Contract Approved by Council

The St. Petersburg City Council voted 7-1 to approve a design contract for the "Lens," with Michael Maltzan Architecture.

The St. Petersburg City Council has approved the design contract for the "Lens," with Michael Maltzan Architecture.

Despite opposition from a vast majority of those who spoke at the meeting and opposition released , the contract was approved 7-1.

The contract includes five design phases, including the most crucial phase, phase I, which is also called the basis of design. The  is for a refinement of the conceptual design. During that phase, the Maltzan team will have meetings with the public and the Council to solicit input. 

It is during those meetings where the design will take shape and pubic enthusiasm for the project will increase, according to Council Chair Leslie Curran. 

"Once people start understanding what it is and having input, they’ll realize that this is something that is going to be good for the community," Curran said. 

Council member Bill Dudley said that he is, "really enthusiastic and anxious and excited going forward beyond the contract, so we can start that process," of design refinement.  

While the vote was not close, enthusiasm for the contract and the design itself was lacking from a few "yes" votes on the council.

Council member Charlie Gerdes said he is not an "aesthetics person," but he supports the process that was put in place to choose a new Pier and he's not going to pull the rug out from under that process now.

"I don’t like the design. I’m not an aesthetic person," he said. "(However), in 2008 we set out on this course,"

Gerdes said the city defined the scope and budget, created a  task force, held 68 meetings and had public hearings. "This is the end result of what the process brought to us."

Council member Steve Kornell cautioned that this might be the last time he votes 'yes' on the "Lens." He took issue with a design that has changed and said he is afraid it might again.

Kornell said the public was shown  at the start when the city knew it only had a budget/plan for $50 million. He said he wants the details ironed out soon. 

"I will not pull the rug out form under it," Kornell said of the pier selection process."(But) I will tell you I won’t go any further with a shifting landscape."

After Thursday's contract approval, the design phases would follow as.

  • Phase I – Basis of Design - $557,687
  • Phase II – Schematic Design $875,818
  • Phase III – Design Development $1.19 million
  • Phase IV – Construction Document  $1.27 million
  • Phase V – Construction Administration $651,303

The only money the city is contractually obligated to pay at this point is for phase I. Otherwise it can pull out at any time. 

Phase I is scheduled to take five months to complete and will include a final public presentation to summarize Maltzan's findings and present the final design concept moving forward. 

Also during phase I the city will hire a construction manager to oversee maximum costs and a schedule of the project. It will also issue an invitation to bid for the demolition of the existing pier. 

Council member Wengay Newton was the lone 'no' vote on the council. He voiced his continued opposition to the new pier because he said the people should have the right to vote on the existing pier's future.

"I can tell you that we often get input mixed up with voting," Newton said. "Input didn’t get me reelected in November." 

Council member Karl Nurse asked City Attorney John Wolfe what obligation/risk the city has moving forward with the contract while there is a Vote on the Pier groups collecting petitions to have a referendum on the pier. 

Wolfe repeated what he has said in the past, that their specific petition collection process and question does not fall under any city charter or state law that would require the city to hold an election. 

The political obligation is another matter.

Council on Thursday agreed that if the group gets the 16,000 verified petitions it would hold an election.

"While legally not obligated to put something on the ballot," Gerdes said. "Personally I’ve said to the Vote on the Pier group and , if they were to get enough petitions that I would vote to put in the ballot. If we weren't going to put it on the ballot we should have told them along time ago."  

According to Tom Lambdon, organizer of Vote on the Pier, the group is roughly 3,000 verified petitions short of reaching the necessary 16,000 petitions to force a vote. He said the actual number of new petitions that need to be collected is around 5,000-6,000 because . 

"We are not stopping until we are done," Lambdon told the council Thursday. "You don't want to hear an outcome on the vote ... It deserves the vote of the people."

Kornell said in fairness Michael Maltzan Architecture and Vote on the Pier, he suggested that a deadline be created for the petition drive. That way, he said, the groups knows it has a certain amount of time to force the city's hand and the architecture team knows it has a project. 

One key component to be discussed during phase I will be the feasibility of the proposed underwater garden.

The council disagreed on the reality of that option. Nurse said he and the people he's spoken with do not believe the underwater garden is possible. He said with ever-shifting waters, it would be like trying to have air conditioning outside. 

"I don’t think it’s possible," Nurse said. "It’s absurd to believe you could do that." 

City architect Raul Quintana said that the underwater options would be thoroughly vetted during the design phase. He said if there were no belief that it was possible, they would not waste their time. 

Scott Bitterli May 18, 2012 at 01:04 PM
This whole process is disturbing to me. This will most likely be the the largest single public project in my life time, and the council does not feel it (or the people) worthy of a vote. WHY NOT?! Why wouldn't you want the backing of the people for such a public icon that is seen by the world to represent THE PEOPLE. This process needs to be stopped immediately before more of the peoples' hard earned money is squandered. Thank you Newt. PS To The Patch: In your 'survey' why is there no option for "Hold a Vote"?
Sierra Dante May 18, 2012 at 01:12 PM
This process is very disturbing to me and to many of the residence in St Pete who are going to have to pay for this. No vote, no voice! I would like to see jobs supported at the Pier (shops & restaurants).
Linda Lewallen May 18, 2012 at 01:31 PM
If you want a new youthful pier Rita, pay for it yourself. I do not want to pay for anything else new. As a native, I have watched this town be taken over by the mafiosi disguised as the mayor-ship of this town. Mayor Bill Fisher and cronies make at least 15 cents on every dollar that changes hands on every one of these new projects. I want it to stop. We have higher needs than a new Pier, water for example.
Linda Lewallen May 18, 2012 at 01:31 PM
If you want a new youthful pier Rita, pay for it yourself. I do not want to pay for anything else new. As a native, I have watched this town be taken over by the mafiosi disguised as the mayor-ship of this town. Mayor Bill Fisher and cronies make at least 15 cents on every dollar that changes hands on every one of these new projects. I want it to stop. We have higher needs than a new Pier, water for example.
Jeannie Cline May 18, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Rita....have you seen the redesign concept by architect Ken Kroger? It is so much better and it keeps the long-held tradition of St Pete intact.....a grand pier in which all people, all ages and abilities can congregate. This present pier attracts the youth, what are you talking about? The marathon and other races include this pier. No way will that happen at the Lens. The Lens is really that is geared toward the elderly. There's nothing to do there besides hang out. Isn't that what old people like to do? Hang out and talk? What activities do you anticipate at the Lens, Rita?
dave rogers May 18, 2012 at 05:20 PM
The Lens sucks! Terrible idea! No shops, places to eat, bars, retail. = nothing to support itself but just more of our tax dollars... get that mayor out of office now before they want to build more ugly structures around St.Pete... doesn't downtown look historic ...not like Star Trek! Idiots!
CJ May 18, 2012 at 06:04 PM
The first sentence from the article: ''The St. Petersburg City Council has approved the design contract for the "Lens," with Michael Maltzan Architecture. Did this surprise any of us? We knew it is simply what the City Council wants to do and has nothing to do with the majority of the citizens. It's been like this from the beginning. Quit voting for these people to stay in office.
Mary L May 20, 2012 at 01:52 AM
I ride the Looper a lot and there are many tourists aboard who are encouraged to visit the shops and restaurants and the tourists really seem to like that and it is so much a part of the scene in St. Petersburg that I cannot imagine a pier without shops and restaurants for all residents as well as tourists. Has the council really considered the appeal of the pier to visitors? I agree it needs to be updated, and more shops and places to eat...and with organic food also. It's wonderful looking at the water and enjoying dining on the pier. MJL
Jeannie Cline May 20, 2012 at 02:37 AM
Right, Mary L.....the council and mayor never, ever tell us how many people visit the pier every year.....and the economic impact it has on the city and the region. The Beach Drive restaurants and businesses feel that the Pier and their strip are complimentary. One study suggests that the economic impact from the Pier is over $70 million annually. All they talk about is the subsidy that the city pays. Well, guess what? All public spaces like the Pier are subsidized....just who pays for the upkeep and security for Central Park? Navy Pier in Chicago is subsidized. Some subsidies are unavoidable and are worth it. The City of St Pete also subsidizes Sunken Gardens, the Mahaffey, and probably Albert Whiited airport. There is an unacceptable communication, or lack thereof, from city council, except for Mr. Newton. They are not telling the whole story and facts so that we can make the decisions. They are being selective in their "facts", chief among this is the withholding of the information that other engineering firms have come up with renovation costs much lower than what the city is telling us. This is not representation, it is control, and we need to ask more questions and demand information. This is OUR public pier, not the council and the mayor's.
Linda Lewallen May 20, 2012 at 03:07 AM
Very nicely put Jeannie. Once again, the only way to stop Mayor Foster and his law firm cronies is to get a Federal Injunction against the City Council. While this may seem like an extreme move, the City Council certainly took an extreme vote 7 to 1 for the Pier. The city attorney does not feel that a petition signed by residents would be cause for the local government to allow residents to vote==>Federal Injunction as suggested by one of Mayor Foster's law firm partners.
Jeannie Cline May 20, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Whatever it takes in a legal framework, I say....full steam ahead. It is amazing what this mayor and 6 of the 7 council members are putting citizens through. As a citizen, I want them to compile data and facts so that we can make a decision, us citizens...and then our elected reps should do what they can to vote on OUR behalf....to the best of their abilities. They are being so very controlling right now. Now, just much is it going to cost to repair this present pier? What are ALL the studies indicating, not just the one that the mayor and majority of council keep saying is sacred. What are the facts? Is this such a radical thing to ask of our REPresentatives in city government?
Linda Lewallen May 20, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Jeannie, while I certainly appreciate your position of fair play and transparency (government in the sunshine laws) the St. Petersburg City Council has proven to the voting public of St. Petersburg that they do not intend to play by democratic rules --the vote was 7 to 1 despite over 100 people being present in the city chambers to state their opposition to The Lens. City Council will never give you data or facts so that you can make an informed decision. City Council has decided and it is too bad for you!! City Council (at least seven of the voting "REPresentatives" have proved to you that they are only beholden to Mayor Foster and his cronies . The problem is, a federal injunction may not be enough to stop them as they are well organized, very well funded and moving at the speed of light. I am not an attorney but if there is someone with the legal background to file for a federal injunction I would be only to happy to help.
Bill H. May 20, 2012 at 03:33 PM
The people should have a voice on this. Going back into history, the dome was never voted on. That being said, I'm sure the vote would have been to not build it and we would not have the Rays whatever you think about them. While I'm a big proponent of the waterfront parks system, I also wouldn't be opposed to privatizing the pier. Treat it just like Baywalk. All these things should be put to a people's vote.
Linda Lewallen May 20, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Good point, the dome was not voted on. The other side of that thought is that when the dome was built the economy had not tanked to the extent that we are living today. At the time the dome was built would be the beginnings of what has become what I call the St. Petersburg mafia running downtown St. Pete. Once again, please remember that Mayor Foster and his law firm make at least 15 cents on every dollar that changes hands on all of the waterfront buildings and projects. It has been a very well kept secret. I hope that the vote by city council on Thursday night opened the voting public's eyes.
Bill H. May 20, 2012 at 04:10 PM
@Linda Lewallen You say "Mayor Foster and his law firm make at least 15 cents on every dollar that changes hands on all of the waterfront buildings and projects." What evidence do you site, please?
Linda Lewallen May 20, 2012 at 04:16 PM
This is not the forum to divulge privileged information to someone who is known only as Bill H. My full name is on the site. Please contact me personally and we can talk
Jeannie Cline May 20, 2012 at 04:57 PM
This is exactly the dialogue we need, St Pete.....keep it up and support the petition drive to get a voter's say.....on the Pier. OUR pier. This is what differentiates the very valid comparison between the Dome and the Pier. While they both require public money, the Pier is PUBLIC. It is OUR pier. Why won't they tell us the facts and various studies being conducted about the pier? ....and why are they so closed minded about keeping the possibility of a water taxi service being established at the Pier? A transit station there could solve a whole lot of problems.......would increase business, open up additional funding sources if it is a municipal system....and, most importantly, get us back and forth across the bay to Tampa and vice versa instead of waiting for a train line to be build in the next decade. The City has been as closed minded about this as they are about the Pier. Two "wrongs" do not make a "right". This local government does not represent us. They vote on how they feel about something and that is so apparent and wrong. Get rid of this archaic "strong form of mayor"......Cuba is evolving, now how about St Pete?!!!
Linda Lewallen May 20, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Jeannie, even if there are 3 million signatures on 10 petitions, the city attorney has already told the voting public that he would not honor the petition and would not allow the residents of St. Petersburg to vote on the millions that Mayor Foster is going to unilaterally spend on the Pier. This is why I am strongly suggesting that the voting public, if they want to try to stop the current administration must move immediately to a Federal Injunction. Once again, this may seem extreme, I would really like to hear from even ONE attorney in St. Petersburg.
Jeannie Cline May 20, 2012 at 05:17 PM
in agreement Linda.....if the city is going to play hardball....well, grab your mitts everyone.......and throw 'em a curveball.........truly......keep going, Linda....I don't know any attorneys, believe it or not....as they seem to be everywhere!!!!...especially on TV!!!
Linda Lewallen May 20, 2012 at 05:26 PM
I threw away the television in 2005 Jeannie so.....What I am wondering is why no one with a legal background is willing to step forward. I am very sure they are not in any way afraid of the mafia. To my knowledge there is no longer a mafia in St. Pete, right?!! The petition needs to be directed to the voters to get the Federal Injunction moving forward. Petitioning city council is a wasted effort and once again the city attorney has said he will not honor it.
Jeannie Cline May 20, 2012 at 07:03 PM
hope someone steps up.....and, in spite of what the miserable city attorney says about the petition, the mayor, Charlie Gerdes, Karl Nurse said that they would listen to the people when the 16000 is reached. That is in addition to Wengay Newton who has been saying this all along. Don't expect Dudley or Kennedy to support the people and Kornell talks a big talk about listening to the people yet it is clear that he wants the Lens......don't know how many times he has been on the south side, his district, to learn what the people there want.....and, oh, Danner is aligned with Curran on this. They have made it totally clear that they think St Pete citizens supporting the refurbishing of this pier are having trouble with change. So very arrogant on their parts. People can simply object to a proposal because they don't like it. This Lens is geared toward the young and active. This is a total break of tradtion here. The Pier is FOR ALL....regardless of physical ability. This break of tradition is being done so easily on the part of the promoters. So very, very much a lack of a comprehensive view of all of St Pete, not just the waterfront crowd.
Bob Wilson May 21, 2012 at 02:11 PM
We did a thorough analysis of Mayor Foster's "facts" pier brochure, as well as a review of how we got here in the first place: http://billfosterwatch.blogspot.com/2012/05/fact-checking-mayor-bill-fosters-pier.html
Linda Lewallen May 21, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Excellent review of Mayor Foster's "facts". Sure wish someone would do a similar review of for all the construction along the water front i.e.--who was backing all these projects, who did the legal paper work who decided who the architects and contractors were. Could be an interesting study in how City Council and the Mayor's office work. Thanks again Bob, great job.
Jerry Kendall May 21, 2012 at 05:41 PM
It appears to me that only the City Council and Rita Frederick are for moving forward on the ill conceived Lens. I have yet to discuss this with anyone who is actually for this and yet we proceed. The Council is deaf to the plethora of negative opinions. Our option is to be deaf to their requests for re -election. Let's not forget.
Linda Lewallen May 21, 2012 at 05:59 PM
The problem with waiting until one can vote is that it will be too, too late. Mayor Foster will have the Pier demolished well before the next election. As has been stated above, the city attorney has declared that the city does not have to honor any petitions (even from thousands of residents). This is an issue that demands immediate attention on the part of the voting public. A Federal Injunction is the only way to stop Mayor Foster's unilateral decision making.
Bill H. May 21, 2012 at 06:35 PM
@linda Lewallen Okay there is my name. They have said if the petitions come through, they will put it on the ballot. Do you really think they would lie so openly? I don't.
Linda Lewallen May 21, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Thank you for identifying yourself Bill. I am not sure if you have had the time to review Bob Wilson's exhaustive review of Mayor Foster's "fact sheet". I have provided the link below. In the review, you will find Mayor Foster's facts and then reality. There seems to be multiple discrepancies, shall we say, between Mayor Foster's facts and reality. From your statement "Do you really think they would lie so openly?" Bill, you have obviously never seen an attorney stretch the truth, you have never seen a politician look the voting public square in the eye and fib, not even the President of the United States. I do believe the city attorney when he states that he would not honor the petitions, not very democratic but truthful. I am afraid the answer to your question is a very firm yes. One way to get the city council and Mayor's office back on track is with open forums like this one. It becomes more difficult to repeat the same discrepancies time after time after time. Please check out the site below. http://billfosterwatch.blogspot.com/2012/05/fact-checking-mayor-bill-fosters-pier.html
Bill H. May 22, 2012 at 08:49 PM
The attorney said they didn't have to put it a vote, not that they wouldn't put it to a vote. That’s a big difference. Mayor and members of council have said they would put it to a vote if the signatures are obtained. Call me naive if you will, and I saw the recall petitions put in a closet and not counted before, but I believe they would do the right thing. So, you're saying all the legal work done on waterfront building goes through his firm or what? Can't see legal work being 15%.
Linda Lewallen May 23, 2012 at 01:14 AM
Sir, you have made your own case "I saw the recall petitions put in a closet and not counted". You said naive, I feel that the entire city has been duped by City Council and especially Mayor Foster. Please check out the following link: http://billfosterwatch.blogspot.com/2012/05/fact-checking-mayor-bill-fosters-pier.html This is only a preview of what is to come from Mayor Foster. Whatever makes you think that he will change?
Bill H. May 23, 2012 at 02:26 PM
I can only go by what they have said. If the petitions come through, they will have an election. If you don't belive that, then that is your choice. I just don't see the horns sprouting from the Mayor's head that some of you seem to see. Yes, I looked at the "facts" when first posted.

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