Monday, May 21, 2018
News Roundup

The groups behind the future of the St. Petersburg Pier

ST. PETERSBURG

It has been one of the hottest topics across the city. Should the quirky inverted pyramid that has been St. Petersburg's landmark Pier since the 1970s be saved or sent the way of the 8-track tape?

Those craving a certain international savoir faire have latched on to its proposed $50 million replacement, while others panned the design, hoisted their clipboards and marched out to collect petitions to end the folly.

An eruption of Facebook unpleasantness has ensued, including name-calling, digitally altered photographs of the mayor and City Council chairwoman that portray them as hapless monarchs and a rendering of the planned new Pier made to look like a toilet seat. Amid it all, there's the spin.

For those on the outside, here's a chance to catch up.

THE NEW AND THE OLD

The 1973 Pier

The Pier, which opened in 1973, is known as the inverted pyramid. Its approach, or bridge and area around it, dates to 1926. Engineers say there is structural deterioration. The foundation directly supporting the five-story inverted pyramid was built in 1970, and the city says it will reach the end of its lifespan in 2020. Then there is the money. Between 2005 and 2010, an average of $250,000 was spent annually for structural repairs, with an average of $300,000 for plumbing, heating and air-conditioning and other elements of the aging building. Additionally, there is an average annual operating subsidy of $1.4 million.

The Lens

Looping bridges and a tiara-like canopy are the attention-grabbing features of the proposed replacement for the inverted pyramid. It's the brainchild of Michael Maltzan Architecture of Los Angeles, whose St. Petersburg partner is Wannemacher Jensen Architects. The city says taxpayer subsidies will be lower with the Lens, since the bulk of its retail and restaurant space will sit on land, and projects an average annual 10-year operating and maintenance subsidy of about $670,000. thenewstpetepier.com.

FOR AND AGAINST

Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg

The slogan is, "Stop the Lens." This group has the clout of prominent residents. Fred Whaley, a director at Raymond James, is chairman. Other key figures include Bud Risser of Risser Oil Corp.; retired construction and banking lawyer William Ballard; restaurateur and investor Dan Harvey; engineer Bud Karins; and accountant and former St. Petersburg Yacht Club commodore Skipp Fraser. The group has opened an office near downtown, armed itself with T-shirts and signs, and is collecting petitions to force a vote to stop the project. The members' reasons for blocking the Lens include cost, unsuitability for the city and lack of programs to draw return visits. Long-term, the group says it wants a cohesive waterfront plan, which it says the Lens does not offer. stopthelens.com; Facebook: "Justsaynotothelens."

WOW Our Waterfront

The pro-Lens group was started by Anthony Sullivan, a St. Petersburg resident recognizable as a TV pitchman for OxiClean and other As Seen on TV products. He organized a free rock concert to support the Lens; T-shirts promoting the cause declare, "Make Lens not war." Sullivan says that the modern Lens design will enhance the city's image worldwide. Facebook page: "Wow Our Waterfront St. Pete."

Voteonthepier.com

Headed by Safety Harbor businessman Tom Lambdon, the group proposed a plan to save and refurbish the current Pier and amassed more than 20,000 petitions in its attempt to give St. Petersburg residents a vote on the waterfront landmark. City Council members rejected the group's initiative. voteonthepier.com; Facebook page: "Voteonthepier.com."

Kathleen Ford

The former City Council member and mayoral candidate sued on behalf of herself and voteonthepier.com petitioners to force the city to hold a referendum. The suit also seeks a temporary injunction to halt demolition of the inverted pyramid pending the court's ruling and outcome of a vote. A judge has ordered Ford and the city to mediation.

CITY HALL

Mayor Bill Foster

He continues to support the project. "My marching orders are clear as directed by the City Council, and unless the petition drive is successful and there is a referendum or a court orders otherwise, my desire is to proceed," he said. His parents can't stand the Lens.

City Council

City Council chairwoman Leslie Curran sat on the Pier Advisory Task Force and was a member of the jury that selected the Lens. Colleagues Jeff Danner, Steve Kornell, Charlie Gerdes, Jim Kennedy and Bill Dudley also support the Lens.

Wengay Newton was the lone council member opposing the project and was the first to sign the voteonthepier.com petition. Karl Nurse recently joined him in opposing the Lens and has thrown his support behind Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg.

FOLLOWING THE MONEY

Lens budget

$919,484 predevelopment costs

$5.7 million project design

$1.9 million permits, inspection, tenant fit-out, project administration

$3. 1 million demolition

$37 million construction

$500,000 geotechnical services

$1 million contingency funds

$50 million total cost

Financing

Tax increment financing, or TIF, a combination of city and county property tax dollars, is being used to finance the project. The property taxes are generated in the Intown Redevelopment District — within the city's downtown — and earmarked for capital improvements there. Projects funded by TIF include renovation of the Mahaffey Theater, construction of the municipal parking garages and various streetscape enhancements.

$3.7 million: Transferred from TIF funds since 2008 for such items as public visioning sessions; the Pier Advisory Task Force; the international design competition that selected the Lens; and recent, continuing design services for the new Pier.

$1.9 million: paid out from available TIF funds since 2008

$42 million: amount of the project to be financed with bonds or bank loans.

THE SCHEDULE

May 31, 2013: closing of the inverted pyramid

Late summer 2013: demolition

Early 2014: construction begins

Mid 2015: the Lens opens

Comments
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Sunday’s Rays-Angels game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Sunday’s Rays-Angels game

* It's always interesting to think of how many amazing plays you see made in a game, then often a simple one — such as the fourth-inning comebacker to Rays RHP Matt Andriese — gets messed up and costs teams heavily, as that led to two run...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays journal: Pitching plan works, until Sergio Romo leaves in second inning

Rays journal: Pitching plan works, until Sergio Romo leaves in second inning

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Doubling down on their innovativeness and starting veteran reliever Sergio Romo for a second straight day worked out fine Sunday for the Rays.It was the less-effective pitchers who followed, plus the ineffectiveness of their h...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Expansion Vegas advances to Stanley Cup final

Expansion Vegas advances to Stanley Cup final

WINNIPEG — The Vegas Golden Knights are going to the Stanley Cup final — with a chip on their shoulder."Everybody on this team has something to prove," forward Ryan Reaves said. "We call ourselves 'The Golden Misfits' for a reason. We're ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
What a long, strange and winning road trip it was for Rays

What a long, strange and winning road trip it was for Rays

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The nearly Yanny-vs.-Laurel level national debate over their latest pitching strategy innovation of starting relievers isn't quite as entertaining today. The In-N-Out burgers in the clubhouse after the game weren't as tasty. T...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Chief US hurricane forecaster: Education key to storm prep

Chief US hurricane forecaster: Education key to storm prep

WEST PALM BEACH — The new U.S. National Hurricane Center director says learning about specific storm hazards is key to preparing for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season. Ken Graham leads the U.S. government’s hurricane forecasting hub in Miami. At...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Unveiling for

Unveiling for "Fortune Taylor Bridge" marker rained out, but celebration continues indoors

TAMPA — There’s a saying that everyone dies twice, Tampa City Council member Guido Maniscalco said Sunday: Once when they take their last breath. And again the last time someone mentions their name.So in this case, he said, the name "Fortune Taylor" ...
Updated: 7 hours ago

TALLAHASSEEFlorida districts fight charter school lawEleven school districts in Florida are refusing to give up their legal battle over an education law that steered more money to charter schools. A Leon County circuit judge in April threw out the la...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Taggart delivers a bolt to area

Taggart delivers a bolt to area

TAMPA — After spending four years as USF’s football coach, Willie Taggart knows what to expect this time of year in the area, so it’s no surprise how he began a chat with reporters Sunday before a booster stop at Armature Works."Go Lightning," he sai...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Willie Taggart: ‘Pretty cool’ to be back in Tampa as FSU coach

Willie Taggart: ‘Pretty cool’ to be back in Tampa as FSU coach

TAMPA – After spending four years as USF's football coach, Willie Taggart knows what to expect this time of year in the area, so it's no surprise how he began a chat with reporters Sunday before a booster stop at Armature Works."Go Lightning," ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Venezuela elections draw protests

Venezuela elections draw protests

Photos by Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesMarcos Carbono, center, joins with others in front of the Consulate General of Venezuela in Miami to protest the Venezuelan elections taking place on Sunday. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro seems to be set to win ...
Updated: 8 hours ago