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Architect releases new renderings of St. Petersburg Lens proposal

Changes to the Lens include staircases to provide additional access to scenic overlooks, which have been widened to 7 feet.
Published Jul. 4, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG — A few weeks after critics insisted that depictions of the Lens were inaccurate, the architect of the proposed Pier replacement has released nine new renderings to highlight changes that have been made to the $50 million project in recent months.

The new renderings come as City Council member Leslie Curran, a staunch supporter of the Lens, gets ready to hold an informational session Wednesday about the project as it heads to an Aug. 27 referendum.

"I think it's easier for people to see exactly what the design entails," Curran said after seeing the new renderings Wednesday.

Fred Whaley, chairman of Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg, said the anti-Lens group is not ready to comment on the new drawings.

"We will have our engineers review the last set of plans to see if we think that these new renderings do reflect the Lens," he said.

It's unlikely that the minds of opponents will be changed. Whaley said the late Randy Wedding, chairman of the Pier Advisory Task Force, had said that the Pier "is in the entertainment business and needs to address a primary, unfilled niche for family entertainment."

The Lens does not do that, Whaley said. Additionally, Wedding had advised that a new Pier should include 30,000 to 40,000 square feet of space for restaurants, entertainment and shops, he said.

"We think the Lens continues to fail the function for a St. Petersburg Pier," Whaley said.

The new renderings highlight the revised marina, which is now a circular loop instead of an oval and will accommodate up to 24 motorboats, along with human-powered watercraft. The architect has said the new shape is supposed to enable more efficient construction.

Explanations with the updated renderings also note that restrooms are located in the marina area and that the Lens will offer a larger Promontory Grill, which will be operated by the Columbia Restaurant. The Columbia is also planning to open a landside waterfront restaurant as part of the Lens project.

Also shown is the expanded Learning Steps, an amphitheater that will accommodate 285 people. The renderings indicate that staircases have been added for additional access to scenic overlook areas, which have been made wider.

In June, Bud Risser, a Concerned Citizens leader, criticized the outdated Lens depictions on the city's website and said residents could not be expected to decide how to vote "on a pretty picture."

City officials responded that a continued flow of updated renderings was not part of the contract with Michael Maltzan Architecture, the Los Angeles-based designers of the Lens.

Wednesday, though, city architect Raul Quintana said, "We were being asked to provide more accurate depictions, and the architect kind of felt it was needed."

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at wmoore@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2283.

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