Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Politics

828 Alliance meets to discuss Pier options

The 828 Alliance has been tasked with developing plans for two scenarios regarding the Aug. 27 referendum about the future of the Pier: Voters rebuff it and the Lens project moves forward; voters support the referendum, and the Lens project is scuttled.

During a meeting Friday in City Hall, Mayor Bill Foster's committee — composed of local experts in marine science, architecture, business, finance and urban planning — proposed recommendations for both outcomes.

Should voters decide to accept the Lens plan, the Alliance is developing ideas of how to build community-wide support for the avant-garde, $50 million Lens design, which has divided residents since inception. Among the group's recommendations:

• Better educate the public on the project by adding more detail to the Lens website, offering clear explanations for why the inverted pyramid can't remain and why the city chose the new design.

• Survey the public for ideas on how to change or add to the current Lens design.

• Seek input from local experts, including USF's department of marine science, which could recommend new ideas that could appeal to children (including, perhaps, a high-tech fountain or light show).

• Explore concepts directed at family entertainment, including a water park, playground and gardens.

• Designate a portion of the $1 million contingency available in the Pier budget for marketing and public education.

The latter scenario — a voter rejection of the Lens — would command a far more complex response, because the city would suddenly be left without a pier concept.

A subcommittee has been formed specifically to develop a plan. Among its recommendations to the Alliance:

• Seek public opinion. Do people want restaurants, public transportation, ferries, family entertainment — or something else?

• Solicit bids. Alliance members have recommended a modified design selection process as opposed to the international design competition that led to the Lens.

• Have the mayor establish a selection jury of city staff, design professionals and residents (perhaps including one council member). After seeking public comment, the jury would then rank the group from 1 to 10 and send the list to the mayor, who would make the final recommendation to the City Council.

The final steps would be tricky and, perhaps, time consuming. The subcommittee proposes only contracting with the winning firm to develop an initial, detailed design that would, again, be offered to the public for approval.

Under the revised approach, 10 firms would be selected and given up to $15,000 stipends to sketch new designs. Those designs would then be presented to the public, and residents could submit comments anonymously. A committee of city staff members, "technical" members and five residents would select the three top firms for the mayor's approval.

Only after that vote would the city and jury proceed with a full contract. If officials don't enter into a contract with the top firm, they could then negotiate with the second-ranked firm under the same process — which, presumably, would require another vote of approval from the public.

The Alliance is scheduled to meet again Monday to approve the recommendations to Foster in the event the Lens is rejected.

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