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St. Petersburg City Council hears about latest changes to Pier plan

ST. PETERSBURG — Michael Maltzan and his team gave a progress report on their controversial Pier design to the City Council Thursday.

The presentation included a few tweaks that were made in response to public criticism of the project.

"What I want to do today is give you a sense of where we are and get your comments," said Maltzan, whose team flew from Los Angeles for the special workshop.

There will be plenty for people to do at the new Pier with its looping bridges and soaring crown, he said. Visitors will have places to eat, dock their boats, fish, bike and take in sweeping vistas of Tampa Bay and the city. There will be restrooms, shaded areas and transportation back and forth. The new Pier, which is known as the Lens, also will comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The much-questioned underwater garden is now being referred to as an underwater feature that Maltzan and his team are calling "a new learning opportunity on the bay."

And at the landside approach, designers promise a "community porch," a public square that will be available for community events. The area called the Hub on the uplands will offer retail space and a waterfront restaurant.

"I'm excited," Council member Steve Kornell said.

During Thursday's presentation, Maltzan and his team, which included local representative Lisa Wannemacher of Wannemacher Jensen Architects, tried to regain ground in the heated public discussion that has been dominated by opponents to the $50 million project.

Council member Wengay Newton, who has been against a new Pier from the beginning, asked Maltzan whether he was aware of opposition to the project, including a legal challenge. "What happens if the project is stopped? Will you sue the city?" he asked.

"I would hope the project is not stopped," Maltzan answered.

"This has been a laborious process," Mayor Bill Foster said, emphasizing that the project is moving forward.

It has brought disagreement within his own family, he said. His parents, who graduated from St. Petersburg High School in the 1950s, do not want the Lens.

"They hate everything about this," Foster said, going on to say they loved the precursor to the current 1973 Pier, a structure "reminiscent of a simpler time and place."

The Lens is the new brand for St. Petersburg, he said.

The most debated component of the project has been the proposed underwater garden. Tom Leader of Tom Leader Studio, also on the Maltzan team, had proposed the nearly $900,000 component in which oysters in wire mesh bags would be placed in trays attached to the old Pier's pilings to filter and clarify the murky water. Local marine scientists said the vision for a crystal-clear underwater garden was unrealistic.

On Thursday, Leader touted the potential of a reworked underwater feature, with technological tools such as underwater cameras that would let the component become an educational destination. The design team has been working with the scientific community "to create a feature that is very memorable, to create a feature that is exciting," he said.

Council members had a number of questions about the overall project.

"There are several places in the design where the structure touches the water and it's pointed out to me that stuff grows barnacles," Council member Charlie Gerdes said. Are there coatings to minimize such growth, he wondered.

Maltzan said his team is looking at specific materials that would significantly reduce maintenance.

Gerdes also asked about the planned reuse of the cassions that now support the inverted pyramid, structures that he said have been given another 12 to 15 years of life. Would they be renovated, he asked. That also is being researched, Maltzan said.

In answer to a question about permitting, Raul Quintana, the city's architect, said it appears there will be no major roadblocks to the project. The city has applied for a joint permit with the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to demolish the inverted pyramid, the city's current Pier.

Quintana also answered questions about environmental issues posed by council member Bill Dudley. The new Pier will shade 35 percent less of the bay than the inverted pyramid and use fewer pilings, an environmental plus, he said. The old Pier also will not be demolished through blasting, but instead dismantled and its material disposed of offsite or recycled.

The Maltzan team will give another presentation in a few weeks. They will have to get council approval before beginning the monthslong final design process.

Demolition of the current Pier will likely take place sometime in late summer next year, a process that is expected to last about six months. Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2014 and be complete in mid 2015.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at wmoore@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2283.

St. Petersburg City Council hears about latest changes to Pier plan 09/13/12 [Last modified: Thursday, September 13, 2012 11:49pm]

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