St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman wants more community engagement in choosing new pier

05/01/14 Janelle Irwin
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Tags: Rick Kriseman, St. Petersburg, the pier, The Lens


A large poster depicts how Mayor Kriseman envisions a new pier design process.

photo by Janelle Irwin

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman announced a plan Thursday that would give residents a chance to weigh in on what to do with the city’s downtown waterfront pier.

“We are still finalizing the process, but what we’re envisioning is something where, over a week to two weeks period of time, the public will have an opportunity to actually go and cast a vote for the three designs they like the best.”

But residents won’t necessarily go to the ballot box. It’ll likely be more like a survey, perhaps on the city’s website. Once that’s done a team of professionals – no elected officials – will pick a winner.

“Those designs will then be studied for feasibility to make sure they can be built within budget, that they do what the public want it to do, that it can be permitted and that there aren’t any features that are being proposed that we simply cannot build.”

It’s not too far off from the process the city used in selecting the Lens. Residents weighed in on three designs during a series of community meetings in 2011 and a selection committee ultimately chose a design. But Kriseman says his plan is different because it centers on community engagement on both the front and back end. Over the next three months, a team of stakeholders will hold a series of community meetings to find out how people want the pier to function.

“We’re not interested at this point in time in what it’s going to look like. We want to be very clear on what the community wants the pier to do. How does it function programmatically.”

The Lens was voted down in August after a massive petition drive forced a referendum. That design would have given the city an open air walk way, but no retail space. Critics nicknamed it a sidewalk to nowhere and argued about a lack of shade and whether or not the design was sustainable for the city to maintain. Kriseman doesn’t want to see that happen again. Another difference in the process he chose is giving residents as many as 15 designs to vet before narrowing it down to five to eight.

“When you only have three to choose from and you’re asked to choose one – we want to get a feel for what the community likes. So, we’re trying to give the community as many options as we can.”

Another critique in 2011 was that residents were being sold designs they weren’t going to get. The original Lens proposal included an amphitheater and numerous uplands developments that would cost more than they city’s budgeted $50 million. That’s also something Kriseman says isn’t going to happen this time around.

“No, because we’re going to be very clear on the amount of money that we have to spend. This is not going to be built in phases. This is a one phase project.”

The pier budget is down to $46 million because the city had already spent some money on plans for the Lens. There will be some expense coming out of that budget to begin the design planning that would include a stipend to architecture firms. Kriseman says he’s not sure how much that figure will be, but plans to keep it as low as possible. He expects the city to open its new pier, whatever it looks like, by 2017.

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