At least The Tampa/St. Petersburg Tribune is reflecting the residents’ majority opinion in calling for a serious pause on The Lens proposal. Yet, let’s put some of the issues into perspective that were raised in the editorial “Time to blink on The Lens” (Our views, April 17).
The Lens does not reflect the desires and needs of the community as put forth by the Pier Advisory Task Force. The choices we residents were given were deficient, at best, and limited in design style; they were all contemporary. There was no option for refurbishment, nor was there a traditional design presented. Although there has been some exciting new architecture built in St. Pete, we are nothing like Miami/South Beach, where contemporary design dominates and rules.
There are more deficiencies with The Pier process, too. Not one mention was given to the proposal to integrate public transportation into this pier, which would defray rehab costs significantly. A municipal ferry line is proposed along with the resurrection of the authentic streetcar that would emanate from the lands end portion of The Pier. Public transit stations add a real vigor and excitement to cities, and Seattle’s Pike Street Marketplace is a model of this success to emulate in our downtown/waterfront district.
Regarding the statement, “The maturation of Beach Drive as a dining and entertainment destination and the overall vitality of downtown leaves few reasons for visitors to make the half-mile trek out to visit The Pier’s shops and restaurants.” First, Beach Drive is not on the beach, and there is no view of the water on the majority of the short strip due to a gargantuan and outdated red sculpture in Straub Park on the south and a nondescript, boring addition to the art museum on the north. There are diverse dining experiences at The Pier, too, that cover all income levels, not just upscale. The view afforded on the spectacular fifth-floor veranda is truly world class and full of that magic that only the tony condo owners on Beach Drive can afford.
Beach Drive doesn’t hold a candle to the diversity of events held at The Pier, either — car shows, dances, live bands, Thriller on Halloween, the Jingle Run. People fishing or renting surreys and bikes to stroll throughout town for that true Florida experience lends to the uniqueness of a pier verses Beach Drive inland.
The tradition of the St. Petersburg Pier jutting well out into the bay and offering a multitude of entertainment, civic gathering and dining options (something that isn’t even considered with The Lens proposal) is worth preserving and continuing. The fundamental reason that tens of thousands of residents, young and old, signed petitions to stop it is not necessarily due to the style of The Lens; it is due to the attempt to stop the hallowed and unique tradition of our Pier experience.