ST. PETERSBURG — Public discussions on a new pier start tonight, almost a year after voters shot down the Lens concept.
The public is invited to a 90-minute meeting at 7 p.m. at Childs Park Recreation Center, 4301 13th Ave. S., to express their views on replacing the landmark inverted pyramid on the city’s downtown waterfront.
Opponents of the failed Lens proposal said a lack of public input resulted in a California firm designing a concept that many locals found unappealing. The ensuing drama culminated in a divisive citywide referendum.
The meeting tonight is one of many planned, as city officials hope to prevent another fight regarding what should be at the end of the St. Petersburg Pier, a once-popular tourist attraction that has been shuttered since late last year.
“This is citizens’ second bite of the apple,” said Ben Kirby, a spokesman for Mayor Rick Kriseman. “It really has to start from scratch. People felt like they didn’t have say in the last process, and that’s the reason it fell apart.”
Kriseman assembled a 21-member group last month representing a wide range of interests, from the Chamber of Commerce to activists who had opposed the Lens, to gather input.
At this point, all options are on the table, including refurbishing the inverted pyramid structure that’s been there for more than 40 years.
The focus first will be on function, be it retail, dining, nightlife, arts or even something like a Ferris wheel. Once there is a consensus on the functional attributes, the city will call upon architects to submit designs, and then invite the public to choose from seven to 10 possibilities.
“It’s not a bunch of city staffers sitting around a table,” Kirby said. “These are the people of St. Petersburg.”
Kirby said although it’s not likely everyone will agree on a design, the open process will prevent it from going to a referendum.
One of the Lens’ most strident opponents, Bud Risser of Stop the Lens, said he doesn’t see it getting to that point again, either. “That will never happen,” he said.
The Lens concept was designed by a California architect whom Risser said had little to go on when the city called for new Pier renderings, and what resulted was impractical, especially during the rainy summer months.
“He came up with a pretty cool idea,” he said. “It didn’t match our history; it didn’t match our culture.”
He said he hopes to see a diverse crowd at each of the upcoming workshops.
“I’ll be disappointed if they don’t come out of the woodwork.”
Other public meetings scheduled are:
◆ 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N.
◆ 6:30 p.m., June 26, Roberts Recreation Center, 1246 50th Ave. N.
◆ 6:30 p.m., June 30, Lake Vista Recreation Center, 1401 62nd Ave. S.
◆ 6:30 p.m., July 2, J.W. Cate Recreation Center, 5801 22nd Ave. N.
Those who can’t attend but would like to contribute are encouraged to offer input via StPete.org.