The Lens: City May Waste $5.4 Million To Hire Architect It May Be Later Forced To Fire!

f3d3f9653ed121f3b39b88d26b2aaebcThe City of St. Petersburg will be deciding on whether to approve an architectural contract with Michael Maltzan to build a replacement for the Pier in St. Petersburg this week called “the lens”. On Thursday morning, a public hearing will be held in downtown St. Petersburg to determine whether the City of St. Petersburg should spend $5.39 million to hire an architect to create the final designs for the lens (with borrowed money). This is on a project that a large percentage of city residents don’t want, will cost far more than the $50 million budget assigned and will have many of the same problems of the current pier while losing many of the benefits of the current pier.  Citizens from “Stop the Lens” have been gathering petitions to force the city to abolish any contract with Michael Maltzan to design the lens.  So the city may be in the position to terminate the contract with Michael Maltzan, after it has agreed to pay the architect $5.39 million. This will mean a loss of taxpayer money that could have been avoided and perhaps some costly legal battles with the architect to ensure they will be paid.

 City Council Meeting regarding Pier/Lens.  Come say “NO” to $5.39 million Michael Maltzan contract.  The city should wait till the petitiion drive is done.  Thursday 12/6, 8:30 a.m., 175 5th St. N.
There is also a workship, where not testimony will be taken, today at 1:30 pm at City Hall.

 The approach to the pier certainly needs replacing. It is rotting from the inside due to decades of Saltwater exposure. Yet, mystically, the city wants to alter the building materials of the lens canopy from reinforced concrete to aluminum clad steel.  The Tampa Bay Times reports that the materials can only be guaranteed for 20-30 years, and then only with costly maintenance.  The city is already to “go cheap” on construction because they realize there is no way to build the lens for the projected $50 million.  Thus the city will build a substandard structure that will be more costly in the long wrong while a majority of citizens who are actually paying the bill and live in St. Peterburg oppose it.

The lens will also have a restaurant at the landside that will need to be built since they have only the foundation slab and utilities being installed. Will a restaurant want to build there when they can only have a 5 year lease on the water?  Will they also be subsidized for rent at the current tenants are?  One of the selling points of a new pier is that the annual approximate $1.2 million subsidy for the pier is too much for taxpayers. Yet the city still has not revealed the full subsidy required for the pier, but admit it will be at least $600,000 (according to City staffer Dave Goodwin).  With the new maintenance costs for the aluminum, new restroom facilities and the like, what will the TRUE subsidy be?  Certainly over a million dollars. In addition, they do not include the costs of city workers to maintain the structure, run the restroom and  other duties that will certainly arise.

The city is barreling toward a great mistake with the Lens concept. A better solution would be to lease the rights to the entire site to a private company for about 25 or more years and let them pay 100% of the cost. They would also be required to have a percentage of the structure available for public access. To do anything sensible like this or any other proposal, they will first need to put the brakes on and not commit $5.9 million in BORROWED money to pay for an architect we may fire next year and a project the voters may cancel.  It is time for leadership and common sense on the city council relating to this issue; something that has been sorely lacking for years.


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