Ad campaign pushes to build the Lens - FOX 13 News

Ad campaign pushes to build the Lens

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

The repeated political polling predicts the Lens is dead, or will be after the votes are counted Tuesday.

The proposed New St. Pete Pier has been the city's most controversial project in years, inspiring two citizens' petitions, the second of which succeeded in forcing a referendum on firing the Lens architect.

But in recent weeks, other citizens have banded together to save the concept.

"We are saturating St. Petersburg right now with information about why the Lens is the best option right now," Andrew Lee told FOX 13 News.

There are four :15 second TV/web commercials, door handers, yard signs and web-based advertising.

"We feel with our messaging and our targeting, we're going to reach the number of people to change this," Lee said.

In round numbers, perhaps 4,000 changed minds or unexpected votes of support could belie the polling.

In anticipation of voters rejecting the Lens, Mayor Bill Foster appointed a committee called the 8/28 Alliance -- a reference to the August 27th referendum. The group's final report is not quite finished, but the broad strokes include a different approach the next time a replacement pier is developed.

"This time, we're going to get to the design phase, hopefully get 30 of them, boil that down to 10 [design concepts], and then include the public in those 10," Fred Whaley explained.

Whaley is president of the group behind the "Stop The Lens" petitions, and co-chair of the 8/28 Alliance. The Lens arrived along a different path: Three design teams were selected based on their credentials, then they produced design concepts.

Whaley said the recommendations also include public participation throughout the process.

"Maybe even a straw poll-type vote so people can become aware of what it is," Whaley said. He thinks a new design could be in play within a year.

"I don't buy it," Lee responded. "I don't buy the new design in a year comment, because we've seen how long it's been to get to this point of the Lens."

It was a six-year process, and the Lens proponents' campaign emphasizes the risk of no downtown pier, or a closed and crumbling pier, for a similar amount of time.

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