Future of the St. Petersburg Pier a big issue with voters in upcoming election

Mayoral candidates have similar plans for pier

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The futuristic "Lens" design to replace the aging inverted pyramid on the St. Petersburg pier was intended to reflect St. Petersburg's emerging identity as an sophisticated, art loving and fitness oriented urban oasis.

Mayor Bill Foster was an advocate for the $50 million design, but lots of people just hated it.

A "Stop the Lens" movement gathered enough signatures to put the project  on trial for being weird  and useless. Voters found the Lens guilty on all charges.

"That was a mistake and I own that" said Mayor Foster.  

The mistake Foster admits to is not spending enough money explaining and promoting the Lens to a skeptical public. If he's reelected, Foster says he'll  support a different approach.
 
"It was all about form, and then we jammed in function. That's the way the process was set up.  We're going to flip that upside down. We're going to talk about function first and then build the form around it" said Foster.

Challenger Rick Kriseman agrees.

"We went about the design backwards where we came up with  the form before we came up with the function" said the Democratic former state lawmaker.

Though Kriseman's position on the pier going forward is essentially the same as the Mayor's,he accuses Foster of being wishy washy.

"Take a position one way or the other. You're either supporting it and then marketing and advocating for it, or you're opposing it and stating why.  But you got to be decisive about it" said Kriseman.

Meanwhile the inverted pyramid sits on the horizon vacant and deteriorating.  There's some support for restoring the 40-year-old structure, but both candidates are skeptical   it can be done affordably.

And while both mayoral candidates have taken similarly vague positions on the pier, Tampa Bay Times writer, Mark Puente says the issue could determine who gets the job.

"In the recent poll we did, that was the biggest issue voters have over who the next mayor is the pier," he said.

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