ST. PETERSBURG — As debate about the city's new Pier intensifies, designers of the proposed waterfront icon have come up with changes in a bid to quell widespread criticism of artistic indulgence.
They've listened to the concerns, said Lisa Wannemacher, local partner of the California-based Michael Maltzan Architecture team that conceived the design known as the Lens.
"What we heard is, give us opportunities for food, shade and shelter. And so what we have tried to do is to provide multiple opportunities for food, multiple opportunities for shade and multiple opportunities for shelter," Wannemacher said.
There also will be more seating, especially along the looping bridges detractors have labeled a sidewalk to nowhere. More robust wave attenuation panels are also proposed to make the inner harbor safer. Plans are being offered for the area in the uplands known as the Hub, with a waterfront restaurant, a large public square to accommodate a temporary market, community events, food truck rallies and other programs. There also will be a boardwalk. The Pier itself will have a larger area for food and entertainment.
The modifications follow intense discussions between the design team and city staff.
The changes come at a crucial time. A group against the Pier is close to accumulating signatures to try to force a vote to stop the $50 million project. City council members will discuss the referendum issue Thursday. Meanwhile, earlier this week, a city committee selected Skanska USA Building to manage the construction project.
Wannemacher began selling the evolving design this week, speaking to the Council of Neighborhood Associations Wednesday evening, the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce the day before, and with more engagements to come.
Chamber president Chris Steinocher said he was impressed.
"From a personal standpoint, I was really blown away," he said. "Overwhelmingly, people said, 'I understand it. I get it. Now I can advocate for it.'"
Ed Montanari, vice chair of the Pier Advisory Task Force, attended the CONA meeting.
"I think it all looks positive. I like the fact that they have listened to the community and are open to making changes," he said.
At the Pier itself, for instance, where plans for a gelato stand had been met with derision, the design now envisions space for more activities under the structure's giant canopy, which will be expanded east and west.
"In doing that, we create a large, flexible, multipurpose gathering space to be used for everything from a beer garden, dancing or special events or hanging out. There will be restrooms. There will be sheltered space for a grill for light food services," Wannamacher said.
The final design is still months away, she said. All the proposed changes will require approval by the city council.
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2283.