ST. PETERSBURG — One group trying to stop the Lens from being built will get a chance next week to publicly question the local designer.
City Council Chairman Karl Nurse has scheduled a public workshop for 3 p.m. April 4 so architect Lisa Wannemacher can answer questions about building materials being used on the project.
Members of Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg have questioned the decision to use aluminum panels instead of the initially proposed concrete for the canopy of the new structure replacing St. Petersburg's Pier.
Nurse wants answers before the council votes next month to award several million dollars to Los Angeles architect Michael Maltzan, the lead designer behind the Lens.
"There are no engineers on City Council," Nurse said Wednesday.
Wannemacher said she looks forward to answering questions, adding: "I think it could be a positive thing."
Maltzan will not attend, but Wannemacher said she expects city staffers to participate.
Concerned Citizens wants the chance to ask questions in a workshop instead of a formal City Council meeting, said president Bill Ballard.
"It would have been nice if the schematic design would be available," he said, adding that the council should examine the project from a risk-reward approach. "It will provide an opportunity for council members to have discussion among themselves."
St. Petersburg will close the Pier on May 31. The approach, which opened in 1973, is deteriorating. The city plans to tear it down and replace it with the $50 million Lens project.
Councilwoman Leslie Curran learned of the workshop in an email late Tuesday.
Concerns over building materials are valid, but a workshop isn't needed, Curran said, adding: "I don't know what he is trying to do with this."
Mayor Bill Foster could not be reached for comment. Nurse said he told Foster about the workshop but didn't ask permission.
Nurse acknowledged that the workshop won't halt the petition drive by Concerned Citizens to kill the project. He expects residents to eventually cast ballots.
He said he asked City Attorney John Wolfe for guidance on how the city can avoid spending $250,000 on a special election if the petition drive is successful.
"That's the one thing I hope to get worked out," Nurse said.
Mark Puente can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at twitter.com/markpuente.