St. Pete voters to decide on The Lens Tuesday. If they turn it down, then what?

A Lens defeat opens up new issues for city


Tuesday is decision day for voters in St. Petersburg. Not only is there a mayoral primary, but residents in that city will also be deciding on the future of the pier.  Will The lens be built, or will something else replace the iconic inverted pyramid on the city's downtown waterfront?

For the last forty years, the St. Petersburg Pier has been a popular attraction.  But over the last year and a half, with it's future up in the air,  the Pier's probably received more attention than the previous four decades. 

St. Petersburg City Council Chair Karl Nurse thinks some of that has to do with people taking The Pier for granted all those years.

"We've just sort of assumed that it was there," he said. 

The only certainty in Tuesday's vote is the existing pier will be replaced with something.  Remember, a no vote actually means support for The Lens;  while a yes vote is opposition to The Lens.  Either way, only one side can declare victory.

"It does mean that we're going to have to be nice to each other.  And, understand that there's going to be hard feelings," Nurse said.

If voters approve The Lens, construction would likely start in the spring, after several months of demolition of the old pier, and take approximately two years to build. But if The Lens is defeated?

"There's such a fractured opposition, there's no direct plan for the future to move forward.  This building here will be out here for five to seven years if we do not move forward tomorrow," said Lens supporter Marcus Martin.

But the 828 Alliance, formulated by Mayor Bill Foster, is made up of people on both sides of the issue.  The Alliance is ready to spring into action should the Lens not win voters approval.

"So that we can move straight into bringing in bringing new ideas and designs for the public to review," explained Fred Whaley, who opposes The Lens.  

If new designs and bids are sought, at least the city won't be starting from scratch. Much of that groundwork has already been laid; although it could likely add years to the project.

"That's probably a years worth of work that is sort of in the pipeline that works for us,"  Nurse said.

More than 27,000 St. Pete residents have already cast their ballots through early voting.  Polls are open Tuesday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. for the election that will likely help shape the downtown waterfront for years to come.








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