ST. PETERSBURG – Lots of questions were expected from City Council members Tuesday as they were to discuss the controversial replacement for the city's 1973 Pier.
Michael Maltzan Architecture, creators of the new pier known as the Lens, were to present a tweaked design based on residents' suggestions at a council workshop that was to begin at 1:30 p.m.
Residents were not to be allowed to speak today, but many are expected to head to the podium Thursday as council members get ready to vote on whether to proceed with the $50 million project.
The council will consider a resolution to approve $5.4 million that would permit Maltzan to finalize the design and Skanska USA Builders to continue preconstruction services.
Tuesday's workshop should provide clues on the council's next move. Several council members have said they are pleased with the design adjustments, but need clarifications about some aspects of the project.
"I want to know about the durability, the longevity," said council member Leslie Curran, an unabashed admirer of the Lens design.
Other city leaders are mulling their decisions in the context of a well-financed and organized campaign against the Lens by the organization known as Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg. The group opened an office this week to promote its Stop the Lens effort.
Council member Charlie Gerdes, a supporter of the new pier, said he believes that Concerned Citizens will be successful in its petition drive to force a referendum on the issue.
"Do you authorize $5.4 million of more spending toward the Lens, when it looks pretty certain that they will be getting a referendum question on the ballot next year?" he pondered.
Gerdes said he is leaning toward authorizing funds for work that would not be wasted if the project is halted.
Council member Bill Dudley, another Lens supporter, also is teetering in the face of the well-heeled opposition. The changes made by Maltzan indicate that the architects have listened to the public, he said.
"All that does is makes the situation a little bit difficult. I listen to both sides and I have not formulated my decision yet," Dudley said.
"When I walk in Thursday, I'll have my mind made up."
So will council member Wengay Newton, who has opposed the project from the beginning.
"It's going to be a big mess," he predicted of Tuesday's meeting.
"It should be fun."
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283.