Tuesday, Nov 25, 2014

Councilman wants St. Pete to abandon outdated Lens images

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Published:   |   Updated: July 3, 2013 at 06:39 AM

A link on the City of St. Petersburg's website launches an idyllic two-minute virtual tour of the city's new pier, complete with the sounds of gently-breaking waves and images of people jogging and walking under soft blue skies.

Glossy renderings of the pier, known as the Lens, have also been on display in city libraries and recreation centers and at a display booth at events such as last weekend's St. Pete Pride festival.

Lens opponents gearing up for a citywide vote on the project's future have already cried foul, saying the slick marketing gives residents an inaccurate picture of the $50-million project.

Now, City Council Member Wengay Newton is accusing city officials of using taxpayer dollars to mislead voters with out-of-date marketing and is calling on the city to scrap those materials ahead of the Aug. 27 referendum.

Next week, Newton plans to ask the City Council and Mayor Bill Foster to direct staff to remove out-of-date images of the controversial pier design from the city's website, marketing materials, TV station and from city buildings.

"The conceptual drawings are from almost a year ago," Newton said. "We have an obligation to be honest and truthful with the taxpayers' money."

The renderings date back to December and are based on the original design. City officials said the drawings convey the basic structure of the Lens but recently added a disclaimer to their website that the images "may not completely replicate the current design."

"I don't think the images are misleading," said Beth Herendeen, the city's director of marketing and communications. "They show design intent, and that's what they're supposed to do. As the design evolves and we receive updated renderings, we'll update the images."

Michael Maltzan Architecture's original design, which won an international design competition, included concrete panels for the crown-like canopy of the pier. The company later switched to aluminum and galvanized steel to reduce the cost.

Critics of the Lens say that will change how the pier looks. They also want to see other changes reflected in renderings, including the widening of the approaches and the addition of extra columns to support the canopy.

"Had they generated renderings along the way, maybe they wouldn't be as pretty as the original," said Lens critic Howard Taylor, a retired stockbroker. "I don't care how pretty they are: We need to know what it is."

The city is expecting to receive updates of about half a dozen renderings, possibly as soon as this week, said City Architect Raul Quintana.

City officials also argue that it's a normal part of the construction cycle for renderings to change as design becomes more detailed.

"My position has always been that the concept hasn't changed and that the details have worked themselves out in the normal process of engineering," said City Architect Raul Quintana.

Councilwoman Leslie Curran, a Lens fan who served on the Pier Task Force Advisory Committee, plans to hold several town-hall meetings to address voters' questions about the pier beginning with one at the Sunken Gardens on July 10. Information for voters should be up-to-date, but so far only minor changes have been made to the pier, she said.

"If there was some substantial change that would make the entire project look different that's a completely different story," she said.

codonnell@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-7654

Twitter: @codonnellTBO

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