St. Petersburg's new landmark could be the Lens, pending St. Pete City Council approval.
Michael Maltzan's Lens design got voted number one by the Pier design jury during its final meeting Friday morning. The Wave, by BIG, placed second and West 8 Urban Designs placed last. The jury received over 5,000 comments from the website and exhibit at the St. Petersburg Museum of History.
In Friday's discussion, the jury found that the Lens project would have the lowest subsidy cost for maintenance and greatest flexibility for design elements. According to city officials at the meeting, the current cost to maintain the pier is between $1.3 and $1.5 million. The Wave had the highest potential subsidy, but also the highest potential revenue.
Jury member and Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch noted that the Lens would change the future use of the pier.
"The Lens is at the top of my list," Welch said. "But in my view, it's a departure from what the pier has been. It’s been a destination and the lens is more an extension of waterfront... It's different than the pier has been over the years."
St. Petersburg City Council and jury member Leslie Curran disagreed.
"Sure it's been a destination, but to do what?" Curran said. "To walk out, ride out, view the water, fish, feed pelicans. I don’t think we are losing a destination or changing functionality. The concept of the Lens will be a destination."
Stanley Saitowitz, principal at Natoma Architects and architecture professor at UC Berkeley, has been a heavy proponent of the Wave's aesthetic punch. But he has also favored the Lens in discussions.
"The difference between lens and wave is a difference between path and place," Saitowitz said. "I don’t want to say which is first and second, there are possibilities where both projects are very powerful."
West 8 Urban Design's "The Eye" was unanimously ranked third by the jury, and essentially thrown out.
"Does anyone want to talk about the Eye?" Curran asked.
"I think we haven't talked about it yet because none of us favor it," Fainstein said.
Moving forward, Welch recommended more emphasis on public input, specifically public hearings.
"The public wants to weigh in and I'm concerned there is no public hearing before the final decision is made," Welch said. "What I'm hearing in the community is that they want to be heard."
Curran believes there has been public input.
"I've heard from the public since 2007," Curran said, via hearings and other opportunities. "Once a decision is approved by City Council, there will be a procedure with how we engage the public. We won't be able to do this without public input and they will be engaged."
There are currently no public hearings scheduled before City Council makes its final decision on Thursday, February 2. After that meeting, there will be a 12-14 month process of finalizing the design. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the current pier could close as early as October 1.
"To members of the jury, you are shaping an iconic brand for the city of St. Petersburg... Thank you for your expertise and willingness to serve on the jury. Now the fun begins. You will have a significant place as we keep writing the history of St. Petersburg," Foster said in closing.