Saturday, December 16, 2017
Editorials

Flexible, sensible Lens design gives city a pier to work toward

Friday's unanimous jury endorsement of an intriguing concept for St. Petersburg's next pier is another positive step toward creating a new signature landmark for the downtown waterfront. The Lens, with its sweeping, escalating walkways, is a design for the 21st century that fits well with fiscal realities. But its flexibility also provides extraordinary opportunity going forward for more suggestions from the public. Getting to this point has taken more than five years and involved countless ideas from public officials and private residents. The challenge for the City Council is to keep the momentum going.

After seven weeks of public vetting of the three submissions in the city's international design competition, the five-member jury's decision was strikingly quick and unanimous by both elected members — St. Petersburg City Council member Leslie Curran and Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch — and three design and architectural professionals. They emphasized they were not ranking an ironclad blueprint for construction, but picking the best concept to be fine-tuned for technical, fiscal, aesthetic and practical needs.

While most of the jury expressed enthusiasm for the Wave's aesthetic — a big, bold loop that would instantly re-brand the city waterfront — it was ranked second in part because of uncertainty over whether its interior space was commercially viable given the trouble filling the current inverted pyramid. Never seriously considered by the jury or the public was the Eye — a mushroom-shaped structure that lacked imagination.

The strength of the Lens' design is its focus on the journey over water, not in a destination building. Its looping boardwalks — one of which would have room for a motorized tram — are shorter in distance than the current structure's walkways and will be shaded in parts. Most significantly, the long-term plan calls for putting almost all commercial enterprise on the land at the base of the pier, which would make it closer to Beach Drive and less expensive to build.

Reflecting the continued ambivalence by some in the community, Welch expressed reservations about the council moving directly ahead with negotiations with the Lens team, Michael Maltzan Architecture of Los Angeles. He urged council members to continue to consider other options. But that would be a mistake.

St. Petersburg has been considering this question more than half a decade, ever since it became clear that the pier's roadway was reaching the end of its lifespan. A citizens task force spent more than a year with the help of consultants and experts vetting all possible scenarios, including salvaging the pyramid. All of that work ultimately led to Friday's decision and should inform the path forward.

Innovative public projects are almost always controversial. But progress depends on leaders making the tough decision. The council already demonstrated its willingness to lead in voting to demolish the existing pier. Now it should vote Feb. 2 to begin negotiations on a contract to more fully develop the Lens concept and let the future take shape.

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Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

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Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

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For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

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Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17