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.