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Lens Pier Debate: Up-close look at St. Pete's planned new pier

9:36 AM, May 31, 2013   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- Eating, kayaking, even getting married -- here's an up-close look at all you can do on the Lens, the planned new St. Pete Pier.

After it closes Friday night, the city is planning to replace the existing Inverted Pyramid pier with a new one. The new design, called the Lens, was chosen after an international design competition.

The new St. Petersburg Pier will be the first pier of its kind built in the 21st century anywhere in the world.

In terms of things to do, the new pier will offer just about everything the existing pier does. Plus, it'll add a lot of new ways to really connect with the water.

You can eat -- in a grill and bar out over Tampa Bay or at a new, modern Columbia Restaurant right where the pier meets the land.

You can paddle -- a protected marina will offer kayak and paddleboard rentals plus a place to dock your own boat.

You can sightsee -- the crossing walkways of the Lens offer sweeping views of the city and the bay.

City Architect Raul Quintana says the Lens design is much more open and airy than what's there now.

You can exercise -- pathways will carry bikes and pedestrians.

You can go to a festival, concert, or even a wedding -- day or night.

And you can fish -- areas will be set aside just for fishing.

The new pier aims to be an icon of St. Petersburg that links you with the water in all sorts of new ways.

Nearly everything that can be done at the current pier will be available at the new pier, but two uses from the existing pier are not part of the new Lens design.

The new pier won't have indoor, shopping mall-style retail spaces. Planners say that use has shifted to nearby Beach Drive, the shopping complex formerly called BayWalk, and other Downtown areas.

You also won't be able to drive your car out onto the new pier. There will be a tram to take visitors out to the end if they'd like, and fire trucks and service vehicles will be able to drive on it if needed.

There are opponents to this design. On their website, a group using the name "Stop the Lens" argues that the new pier design doesn't fit with the city and doesn't offer enough for people to do.

That group has paid for a drive to collect signatures for a petition. It's expected that petition will put the question of whether to continue with the Lens project on a citywide ballot in August.

The opposition group has not put forward an alternative plan to the Lens design.

If the Lens project is shut down, the city's waterfront will likely sit empty for several years after having a pier as its centerpiece for most of the past 125 years.

Follow 10 News reporter Grayson Kamm on Twitter at @graysonkamm as he travels Tampa Bay telling your stories.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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