1. News

New details emerge about St. Petersburg's controversial Lens project

ST. PETERSBURG — More details have emerged about the city's proposed $50 million Pier.

Michael Maltzan Architecture, the Los Angeles firm that created the design known as the Lens, offered additional insight into its plans Friday in a more than 400-page report. Many changes were anticipated, some are new.

The schematic design document also seeks to quell concerns about construction materials for the Lens' iconic canopy.

The materials for the canopy, which had been changed from the more expensive and heavier concrete panels to aluminum panels over galvanized steel have been questioned by those opposed to the project. They have said that the materials are an unsuitable combination in a saltwater environment. The Maltzan report enlisted experts who have endorsed the materials and the way they are being used.

Tim Williams of the Maltzan team and Raul Quintana, the city's architect, will present the report to the City Council on Thursday.

Highlights of the report include changes to accommodate the Columbia, which is negotiating with the city to operate one of its signature restaurants on the pier approach and a more casual-style operation at the Lens itself. The design has been tweaked to allow larger spaces for both. The location on the Lens has been changed so that it can be enclosed and offer more shelter.

The marina is now circular instead of oval, a change that is supposed to enable more efficient construction.

The presentation Thursday will come amid a confluence of conflicting issues – the city's accelerating plans to close and demolish the current Pier and opponents' efforts to force a vote to stop construction of its replacement.

Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg leader Bud Risser said Friday that the group had vetted 16,000 of the more than 21,000 petitions it has collected. The organization only needs 15,652.

"We are going to keep going until we get to 17,000. We want to be certain," Risser said.

City Council members must decide next week whether to proceed with the Lens and spend an additional $1.5 million for the next phase. Concerned Citizens hopes to prevent the authorization of additional money, Risser said, but he doesn't know when the group will submit its petitions to the city clerk.

Late last year, council members approved a resolution to appropriate $4.7 million for Maltzan to continue designing the Lens and for Skanska USA Builders to continue its preconstruction services. After a prolonged debate and input from opponents and supporters of the project, the council decided to release only $1.7 million of the sum and ordered city staff to return for authorization to spend additional money. The contract with Maltzan allows the city to suspend or terminate work at any point, but it would have to pay the costs and fees already incurred.

The inverted pyramid is slated to close May 31, with demolition of the 1973 structure scheduled to follow in late summer.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at