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'Lens' Public Meetings Set

Mayor Bill Foster announced today that the Pier meetings will be June 7, 12, 14 and 19.

Last week the St. Petersburg City Council , which will replace the Pier. Before the next step, the city and Maltzan will collect more feedback from the public on the refinement of the project

Friday, Mayor Bill Foster announced four public meetings on the Lens design:

  • Thursday, June 7:  6 p.m., Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N.
  • Tuesday, June 12: 6 p.m., Enoch Davis Center, 1111 18th Ave. S.
  • Thursday, June 14: 6 p.m. J.W. Cate Center, 5801 22nd Ave. N.
  • Tuesday, June 19: Lake Vista Center, 1401 62nd Ave. S.

According to the city, these meetings will be held in advance of Michael Maltzan's visit to St. Petersburg to meet with City Council and project and community leaders in August.

In this week's "Mayor Bill Foster's Weekly Forecast," Foster explains the city's thinking about why the new design is a better option than .

He talks about the weakening pier approach and pier head, which city engineers have said need to be replaced due to cracks in the foundation. 

Foster writes:

Even if the city were to replace The Pier approach and Pier Head, we would be left with a 40-year-old building, which drains city dollars through $1.5 million in annual subsidies and would require expensive renovations. Floors 1, 2 and 3, due to their awkward size and layout, cannot command sufficient revenue to be self-sustaining. 

And while we all enjoy dinner at the Columbia or Cha Cha Coconut's on floors 4 and 5, operating a restaurant 1/4 of a mile out into the water is not efficient.  calls for 6,000 sq. ft. of retail at the land's edge on The Hub, which is a more suitable place for a dining establishment.

Public support for the Lens is not strong. The group  says it is close to obtaining the necessary 16,000 verified petitions; organizers say they currently have more than 13,000, to force a referendum on the pier. 

At last week's council meeting, more than three-quarters of the citizens who spoke opposed the new design. Earlier this month, of a new poll that showed only 29 percent of respondents supported the city's selection of the Lens design. A majority of respondents, 58 percent, want the city to renovate the existing inverted pyramid. 

The Lens was the most popular selection during  to choose among designs titled Lens, Wave or Eye.

While the majority of those who voted online or at the St. Petersburg Museum of History were in favor of the Lens, the design included a draw bridge to the Vinoy, a water park and even an amphitheater. Those items, along with other extras, do not fall in line with the $50 million budget the city has for the Lens. Those extras, which the council said are not happening, would cost an additional $100 million. 

Bob Wilson May 25, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Bill H. - The current pier refurbishment costs depend on what you want do to the approach and the inverted pyramid building. One of the proposals the pier task force put out was to rebuild the pier approach, or bridge, as only 48 feet wide, instead of the current 100 foot wide. This option was $42 million, leaving $8 million for refurbishment of the inverted pyramid building. There was another option for a 150 foot wide approach that was around $83 million. The available $50 million was originally intended to replace the pier approach only, not for the total demolition of the pier and rebuilding of a new pier.
Bill H. May 26, 2012 at 03:36 AM
So, the Mayor is right? $50 Million will not be enough to renovate the entire pier. Maybe just take care of the approach for the money, but do people still want to subsidize to pier each year? Do all the things the building needs need to be done now? I know, we subsidize many things in the city. I am actually leaning toward the idea that we should sell it off and let private business run it. I wonder if someone could make a profit there?
Bob Wilson May 26, 2012 at 11:14 AM
According the the Archer Western proposal, $50 million is enough to renovate the pier. Also, the Mayor has not said that it can't be done for $50 million, his reasoning for wanting to demolish the pier is to lower the subsidy, but he hasn't said how much the Lens subsidy would be. Judging from the pier task force documents, the Lens will still need around $650,000 per year subsidy to cover 24-hour security and maintenance. So either way you have a significant subsidy, we just get substantially more economic impact and jobs out of the current pier than we will through the Lens Pier.
Christy H May 26, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Why was any architect allowed to present any plan that was in excess of the $50M the city had budgeted? Of course, the public would vote for a plan as beautiful (extravagant) as one that included a bridge to the Vinoy, etc. In reality, that plan as presented was never going to happen and was totally misleading in even allowing it to be presented. In essence, it's a "bait and switch" to get the vote and contract. I would be very surprised if anything to replace the current pier was done for less than $50M. In addition, if we do go over the budgeted $50M to building anything, aren't we subsidizing that by increased taxes or monies diverted from elsewhere in the budget? How is it different from renovating what we already have that's an icon to the area?
Jeannie Cline May 27, 2012 at 06:12 PM
The mayor has been quoted as saying that St Pete is being "rebranded"....this is what he and others in local gov't are trying to do....rebranding St Pete with the arts as the major draw for visitors and new residents. Good luck! Not going to happen! It would be much better to integrate St Pete into the region with a ferry service across the bay to Tampa and a real streetcar like real cities have......both mass transit lines can operate out of the present pier and building. Federal transit monies are available to offset the costs of rehabbing the structure and bridge. Just who is going to buy all this art that the mayor and chair of council are pushing so hard for? The museum scene here doesn't even compete on a national level, there isn't even a major art or music school here. They are speculating and using their power, or should I say, misusing.......all under the guise of leading the public into change, something that they all say, in local government, that us locals have such a hard time with. Boulderdash! The change they are promoting is not good and they are being selective with their statistics. Now, how about a review of the other subsidies in town?....the airport, Sunken Gardens, the Mahaffey? All three combined do not draw visitors to St Pete like this pier does. Anyone going to go out in this heat to experience the Lens? No way. Any shelter from a storm at the Lens? Nope. Why is the city getting involved in building retail on land? Not their role.

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