Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Ford puts heat on Lens design

ST. PETERSBURG — Opponents of the Lens design for St. Petersburg's Pier knock it as a "sidewalk to nowhere," a functionless structure lacking important amenities of the retired inverted pyramid. Take, for instance, the ability to eat food above water in cool air.

"Folks, there is no air-conditioned restaurant at the Lens," mayoral candidate Kathleen Ford declared at Tuesday's Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 mayoral forum. "Let me just clear that up for you. … There is no planned air-conditioned restaurant out on the Lens."

Ford and others have argued against the Lens for a host of reasons, including the lack of a restaurant. Voters get to decide to cancel the project or not on Aug. 27.

The inverted pyramid Pier, which closed May 31 but has not been demolished, had a few restaurants, including the Columbia Restaurant. The new plan for the Pier, with its looping, futuristic, open-air design, does not allocate nearly the same amount of space for restaurants as before.

Instead of a full-size restaurant topping the water, Lens designers opted for a new restaurant strategy, in part to cut the taxpayer subsidy for the Pier. They planned a small, open-air cafe run by the Columbia Restaurant on the Lens structure's "promontory," which overlooks the water.

Meanwhile, a new Columbia Restaurant would anchor a waterfront location at the approach to the Pier known as the "Hub," which is currently the Pelican parking lot. Columbia owners say it will have about 8,000 square feet of air-conditioned space as well as outdoor and rooftop seating.

Richard Gonzmart of the Columbia Restaurant Group said the Lens cafe would be different from traditional fare at the Columbia, featuring a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian seafood and an open bar.

Would it have air conditioning? It's hard to say, as final planning stages have not yet begun.

Enclosing the cafe space would take away from the intended experience, he said, adding he sees himself enjoying a glass of sauvignon blanc at the water's edge in casual Florida wear with his German shepherd Rusty. His company is testing out a fan misting system at its cafe location at the Tampa Bay History Center in Tampa, he said.

Still, the looming referendum makes brainstorming ideas for either location with the California-based architects very difficult, he said. Much is left to be determined, and the City Council has not yet approved a lease with his restaurant for either space.

"We'll have to come up with a way to cool it down," Gonzmart said. "I will investigate what we can do to make it comfortable."

City architect Raul Quintana said the nitty-gritty of the design will only be worked out if the project survives the public vote.

"There's no 'yes or no' answer," Quintana said. "Could (the cafe) be air-conditioned? Absolutely, if that's what Gonzmart wants."

Two more parts of the promontory — a small ice cream parlor and bathroom facilities — will be air-conditioned, said Lisa Wannemacher, the associate local architect for the project.

Lens opponents, including president of Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg William Ballard, have criticized the design for not including 26,000 square feet for a restaurant, one of the recommendations of the 2010 Pier Advisory Task Force report.

Wannemacher said there was not enough money to meet all of the task force's recommendations and a land-based restaurant helps reduce ongoing costs.

Two leaders of the task force also defended the plan for the upland restaurant and promontory cafe, saying while it's not exactly what the group had in mind, "It does substantially address the task force's identification of a restaurant-based program as a focus."

So Ford's specific wording — "There is no planned air-conditioned restaurant out on the Lens" — is technically accurate. But it ignores the fact that there are two places to get food on the Lens campus: An air-conditioned, waterfront restaurant on the approach and an open-air cafe at the structure's endpoint.

Her statement needs additional information. We rate it Mostly True.

The statement

"There is no planned air-conditioned restaurant out on the Lens."

Kathleen Ford, Tuesday, in a mayoral debate

The ruling

PolitiFact ruling: Mostly True
The latest designs envision an open-air cafe at the endpoint of the Lens. The Columbia would also operate a separate air-conditioned restaurant on the approach to the Lens and have a waterfront view. We rate Ford's claim Mostly True.

Ford puts heat on Lens design 08/08/13 [Last modified: Thursday, August 8, 2013 11:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Maria: Clearwater Coast Guard plane aids rescue near Puerto Rico


    Eight minutes. That's how long it took the Petty Officer 3rd Class Darryn Manley of the Coast Guard said it took him to spot the boat that capsized off a Puerto Rican island on Thursday.

  2. Mom of girl who died looking for candy seeks to keep husband away

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Eight days after her 4-year-old daughter died in the care of paternal grandparents, pregnant Lizette Hernandez sat in a Hillsborough County courthouse Friday, attempting to seek full-time custody of her 19-month-old son.

    Lizette Hernandez, 22, completes paperwork Friday for a motion for protection from domestic violence against her husband, Shane Zoller. Their daughter, Yanelly, 4, died in a reported gun accident at the home of Zoller's parents Sept. 14. She alleges that her husband hit her and caused her to fall on a grave marker at their daughter's funeral Thursday in a tussle over their remaining 1-year-old son. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  3. New owners take over downtown St. Petersburg's Hofbräuhaus


    ST. PETERSBURG — The downtown German beer-hall Hofbräuhaus St. Petersburg has been bought by a partnership led by former Checkers Drive-In Restaurants president Keith Sirois.

    The Hofbrauhaus, St. Petersburg, located in the former historic Tramor Cafeteria, St. Petersburg, is under new ownership.

  4. Ed Sheeran coming to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa


    Let it never be said Ed Sheeran hasn't given the people of Tampa what they want.

  5. Editorial: Once more, homeowners are let down by state housing agency


    Once upon a time, the federal government created a program called the Hardest Hit Fund. Its goal was admirable, and its mission important. The fund was designed to aid Americans in danger of losing their houses after the Great Recession had wreaked havoc on the economy. Unfortunately, the folks in Washington erred in …

    The Hardest Hit Fund was designed to aid Americans in danger of losing their houses after the Great Recession. Unfortunately, the folks in Washington trusted Florida to get that money into the hands of people who needed it most.