Members of city council spoke openly Thursday about their skepticism of the 828 Alliance recommendations for St. Petersburg to select a process to choose a new St. Petersburg Pier.
The 828 Alliance was tasked in June by Mayor Bill Foster to develop a set or recommendations for Aug. 28, the day after the public would vote on the contract to build the "Lens" pier.
On Aug. 27, St. Pete soundly rejected the "Lens" and now council members are wondering if the "what's next" plan suggested by the alliance will develop any new results.
Council member Leslie Curran said the 828 Alliance was "an ill conceived idea from the beginning ... I think it’s a shame. I think this report is unfortunate."
Curran said she was not criticizing the members of the public who served on the alliance, just the process itself.
"What's the difference between what we just did" and what was just proposed, council member Bill Dudley asked.
"We already did that process," he said.
Matt Florell with StPetePolls has offered up his company's services to survey the public about the St. Petersburg Pier and future designs.
Foster said the new process would be about building consensus.
"It involves conducting a survey immediately to make sure we solicit significant public input so we can really gauge what it is that people want," Foster said.
Foster said it will be important to know that the new design has features the public wants, such as retail, restaurants, air conditioning.
"It’s a process that really hasn't been tried in competitions elsewhere, very much a hybrid," Foster said.
Foster said he still has a lot of questions for the alliance after reading the report and his next step will be meeting with the architecture community to get their input on the feasibility of the "hybrid" process the alliance recommended.
One of the first goals, Foster said, will be convince the architecture community that St. Petersburg is friendly to outside architects.
"I want to engage the architectural community to give us some feedback on the effectiveness of what is being proposed," Foster said. "To make sure the process going forward actually entices world-class architects."
Foster said there is no specific timeline going forward and the city is still going through the permitting process for the demolition of the St. Petersburg Pier.
That, he said, could hit a snag based on discussions in Tallahassee about a potential historical designation of the inverted pyramid.
Council member Jeff Danner said this new process would likely lead St. Pete to the same results; a shuttered pier and a design the majority of the public does not like.
"You cannot do design by referendum," Danner said. "You are either going to get something bland that nobody hates, or there has to be some leadership that this is what we are going to do in the future.
"I can’t figure out how you get design by referendum unless (the design) is so boring that nobody hates it," he added.
Council member Charlie Gerdes said the first step the city should take immediately is to see if there is consensus from the public about refurbishing the pier.
He said he doubts more than 50 percent of the public wants to refurbish but if it does, then it makes the city's job much easier.
"It's a threshold question that we could address right away and dispose of one way or another," Gerdes said.
A refurbishment of the pier, Foster said, would be difficult based on budgetary constraints and new FEMA regulations a renovated inverted pyramid would be required to meet.
Foster said a refurbished St. Petersburg Pier would not look like the pier that is in Tampa Bay now. He said the square footage would be cut, retail would have to be cut and the approach would drastically change.