It looks like The Lens will replace the iconic St. Petersburg Pier.
The St. Petersburg City Council voted Thursday to approve The Lens design and begin negotiations with Michael Maltzan Architecture to build the structure.
Last month, a panel of government officials and experts in architecture and design chose The Lens as the best design from three competing proposals. The final decision, though, rested with the city council, which gave its OK after a lengthy debate.
"One, we have to be fiscally responsible," said council member Steve Kornell. "Two, it has to be a marriage of design with functionality before we start construction. We need to know what we are going to use it for before we build it."
The city earmarked $45 million to demolish the existing pier and build The Lens. The city has an additional $5 million available for the project if needed.
The Lens design features two approaches that cross, resembling an awareness ribbon. For panel members, the appeal of The Lens included the chance to change it as more public input is gathered.
The team that submitted The Lens put the expense at about $45 million, but experts who reviewed the submissions said the cost likely will be higher. The price could be reduced with changes to the look and the length of the walkways.
The Lens was conceived with the idea of adding other features later, including an amphitheatre with a garage. The entire project could cost up to $160 million.
Councilman Wengay Newton said voters were left out of the process. Newton was the only council member to vote against the proposal.
"People should have had the right to vote on this one from jump one," Newton said. "We wouldn't be here. The situation you are going to run into is definitely going to be cost overrun. It's not going to be $45 million."
Some audience members recommended the city council rehabilitate the existing Pier to save taxpayers money.
The Lens was the most popular of the three designs according to public comments submitted through the process.