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New St. Pete Pier: City Council set to sign contract deal for new "Lens" pier design construction

8:40 AM, May 17, 2012   |    comments
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St. Pete Pier design proposal: "The Lens" by Michael Maltzan Architecture (image courtesy City of St. Petersburg)



St. Petersburg, Florida -- After years of debates and proposals, St. Pete is set to approve the contract build a new pier based on the "Lens" design. But some in the public will push against it.

Expect members of the St. Petersburg City Council to confirm they can cap the cost of the new pier project at the budgeted $50 million before they sign off on a contract to build it.

The council has been nearly unanimous in its support of moving forward with demolishing the city's decades-old inverted pyramid pier, then designing and building a new pier based on the contest-winning "Lens" concept.

Photos: St. Pete pier finalists' design proposals

But many members of the public continue to want something else: keeping the existing design or removing the pier and leaving nothing in its place.

Several people are expected to weigh in at Thursday's 3 p.m. City Council meeting at City Hall.

The proposed cost to build the new pier isn't set in the contract that council members will consider Thursday. The new project and its price tag will be scaled up or down depending on what's left in the budget after the existing pier is removed.

Designers and city planners say the new pier is still much more of a concept than a blueprint, and the final details will be shaped by several sessions of public input over the next several months.

The undersea garden that was a highlight of the initial plan is not included in this contract. Some marine scientists have come forward and said the idea wouldn't work. It could be added back in later at an added cost.

The contract does include fees to designer Michael Maltzan Architecture of $4.7 m, spread across five phases of work. There will also be an independent construction manager who will watch the work and keep it within its $50 m budget.

There is evidence the many people in the city are not convinced the sweeping walkways of the Lens design are the best plan for the pier. At the start of May, a poll by of 2,670 registered voters in the city asked:

Do you support the new Maltzan Lens Pier design, do you support remodeling the existing inverted pyramid pier or do you think the city does not need a pier at all?

It found:
Build Lens Design: 29.6%
Remodel Inverted Pyramid: 58.6%
No Pier: 11.8%

Keeping the existing design would be extraordinarily expensive, according to city staff. The building is in a decaying state structurally. Just replacing the wide pier that leads out to the building would take the whole $50 m budget.

And the current pier loses money -- costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

There's also an ongoing petition drive to put the question of what to do with the pier as a referendum on a ballot for city voters to weigh in. That drive is organized by

The city's timetable for the pier project calls for closing the existing pier a year from now, and starting construction on the Lens in 2014.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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