Press ahead or press pause on St. Pete Pier Lens design?

2:10 PM, May 2, 2013   |    comments
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Update: St. Petersburg's City Council has postponed a crucial vote on the future of the city's pier.

A decision whether to pay $1.5 million to an architect for the next design phase of a proposed pier replacement was scheduled Thursday. But the Council delayed the vote for two weeks to give members more time to review a 400-page report from the architects.

In 2010, the council voted to replace the current pier, which is along the city's waterfront and near the middle of downtown. The 40-year-old pier is well known for its inverted pyramid shape. City officials say the current structure is unsound and have voted to replace it with a $50 million modernist structure dubbed "The Lens."

Some residents oppose The Lens. A group called Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg has gathered 21,000 signatures supporting a referendum to ask voters whether they want to cancel the city's contract with the architect.

Earlier Report:

St. Petersburg, Florida -- Should the City of St. Pete press ahead or press pause on its plan to build the new Lens pier? City Council members will decide Thursday.

The group Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg says it has enough signatures to force a public referendum -- a citywide vote -- on whether to keep or kill the sweeping new Lens design.

If that's the case, and voters will have their say most likely in August, should City Council keep funding the design work? Or should it put the project on hold? The council will decide Thursday.

People will gather at City Hall from WOW our Waterfront St. Pete ahead of Thursday morning's City Council meeting. They're supporters of the Lens design as a new icon for the city.

They argue key parts of the new pier are set to be designed in this next phase, like the Columbia Restaurant at the pier's entrance and the Columbia Grill out on the pier itself.

They contend those designs would help the public make an informed decision on whether to support the Lens in August.

On the other side, Concerned Citizens says it's irresponsible to give the architects more money if there's a chance their work will be shut down by voters in four months.

Concerned Citizens has not turned in its petition signatures yet, so the August vote is not guaranteed at this point.

A new poll done in the past 24 hours shows voters would kill the Lens pier design if the referendum were held today. projects about two-thirds of the people in the city (67.2%) would like to terminate the project, and more than a quarter (27.8%) want to go ahead with it. Five percent remain undecided.

The 40-year old existing "Inverted Pyramid" pier is set to close May 31st. The city could theoretically change its mind on that date as well.

However, the owner of the two main tenants at The Pier -- the Columbia Restaurant and Cha Cha Coconuts -- says there is far too much expensive building work that would need to be done to keep those locations open longer.

So those two spots are closing at the end of this month, no matter what.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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