Editorial: St. Pete voters should reject Lens design
Should St. Petersburg voters reject The Lens?
Total Votes: 409
The Tampa Tribune
Published: August 9, 2013   |
Updated: August 9, 2013 at 10:26 AM
After months of acrimonious debate, voters in St. Petersburg will have a say Aug. 27 on whether to build the Lens as a replacement for the city's aging pier.
For a variety of reasons, the Lens has inspired more passionate opposition than vocal support. Its design has never been fully embraced by the masses, and many feel the public failed to get the final say it deserved on such a significant decision.
The passion is not surprising. No structure in St. Petersburg is more iconic than the Pier, standing a half-mile from shore along the heart of the city's beloved waterfront.
The city should have a public pier. But not the Lens.
Voters should vote “yes” to end the contract with the architect selected to build the Lens. Again, because of the potential confusion posed by the question, it bears repeating that voters wanting to defeat the Lens should vote “yes” on the ballot.
We find the Lens design to be out of place along the historic waterfront. Critics have raised valid concerns about its form and function. We are not convinced that its walkways and boat rental service, its restaurant, or its fishing spots, small amphitheater and ice cream shop would sustain the year-round traffic its supporters envision.
It's a long trek to the end of the Pier, especially in the summer, and an increasing number of tourists are finding what the locals have found: that the dining and entertainment options are much more convenient and interesting on Beach Drive and in the downtown core, where valet parking or a trolley ride aren't necessary.
Competition and location, not architecture, were to blame for the failing pier businesses.
Something simpler than the Lens needs to be contemplated, perhaps closer to shore. That's the beauty of having a second chance to get it right. All of the options can be reconsidered, but with a more informed sense of how to arrive at a mutually agreeable destination.
Unfortunately, several years and millions of dollars after beginning its quest to replace the inverted pyramid, the city is offering a replacement that doesn't fit the character of its waterfront and that has divided the city.
Building the Lens would be a mistake. Voters should hit the reset button on Aug. 27, then get involved in the effort to find a replacement that excels in form and function.