It's almost decision time for the Lens - FOX 13 News

It's almost decision time for the Lens

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

The City of St. Petersburg is occupied by roughly a quarter of a million people, all of whom were second in line behind the eight members of the city council. The elected officials were the first to see 21 high quality images and a video of the so-called Lens, the proposed replacement for the current St. Pete Pier.

The visual materials were carefully hoarded until they were displayed at a city council workshop Tuesday afternoon.

"First and foremost, the Lens is your civic icon," Los Angeles architect Michael Maltzan announced as he began showing the images in a darkened city council meeting room.

Last week, the city released 900 pages of material explaining the "basis of design" for the so-called Lens. That material was split between two books, but only offered bare bones, largely technical drawings.

City council members were given the first look because only they will vote on proceeding with the project. Thursday, they will hear the same presentation by architects and engineers, indulge Lens proponents and opponents in a public forum, then decide whether to spend $5.4 million on the next phase of design.

The vote will not be unanimous.

"What we have done to stay within budget is stripped out all of the amenities," councilman Karl Nurse complained Tuesday. "The public amenities that we actually get are three restrooms, four drinking fountains, three seating areas."

Nurse pointed out many of the components in Maltzan's original concept have been eliminated or, in the case of two proposed restaurants, left to private partners to build.

Councilman Wengay Newton has opposed doing anything about the existing Pier without a public referendum. But the majority of council members appeared inclined to vote "yes" Thursday.

The new images and video depict a very active structure filled with park-like activities, such as walking, biking and roller blading. The originally-proposed pleasure boat marina and clear water "underwater garden" have been displaced by a marina for non-motorized watercraft and an underwater light show.

Some of the images also show how the entire structure could be lighted at night. The video in particular displays the many intricacies of the double-loop design, which offers one path for trolleys and emergency vehicles and another for pedestrians. The Lens would be roughly as long and as tall as the current inverted pyramid, affording many different views of Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg skyline.

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