Columbia restaurant announces plans to build a new restaurant as part of the new St. Petersburg pier

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - During a news conference in front of the soon-to-be-demolished St. Petersburg pier, Mayor Bill Foster announced a big boost for the controversial new pier project.

The Columbia restaurant has signed on to build and open a new restaurant at the Hub of the Lens design.  According to a website for the new pier, the Hub will be the primary retail and restaurant destination for the landmark and will be located on land, at the base.  It will also include an elevated walkway along the water's edge to offer unparalleled views.

Mayor Foster said the new building will be about 7, 500 square feet.

The owners of the Columbia will invest $3 million for the new project and are expected to create over 100 jobs.

Richard Gonzmart, part owner of the Columbia chain, said that the new restaurant will have a modern-day concept and offer an amazing view for people to celebrate life and weddings.

Reporter James Jackson was at today's announcement.  He will have more on this story, on ABC Action News at 5pm.

On December 6, 2012, the St. Petersburg City Council voted to move forward with the first payment of $1.5 million to draw up an official schematic design for the future of the Pier.

They were met in a packed room at City Hall and heard from groups that both supported and opposed The Lens design.

More than 50 people took turns speaking at the podium.

"Please stop this process!" shouted Carol Cowan. "I'm not against building a facility. I'm against this awful design."

Cowan and others affiliated with the group "Stop the Lens" plead for council members to slow down a process that started years ago, and for some, feels like it will never end.

"Failure to move ahead on the Pier project would lead to a padlock gate leading to a desolate building at the end of a long road on our prized downtown waterfront," said Willi Rudowsky. "Is that really the image we want visitors to see when they come to St. Petersburg?"

After nearly 6 hours, council members finally voted in favor to start paying developers $1.65 million to begin working on schematic designs for The Lens. It's the first installment of $5.4 million to developers in order to begin construction on The Lens.

Those fighting for the referendum addition believe any move to pay for construction immediately is a grave mistake because voters may choose something different next year. The expense would then turn into a million dollar waste of tax dollars.

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