Mayor Bill Foster’s Pier propaganda – round 3

By on June 6, 2012

Today, the City of St. Petersburg awkwardly launched a fancy new website dedicated to the new Lens Pier design, and wouldn’t you know it, a few of Foster’s misleading “pier facts” and some new revisionist history appears(and then was deleted) on the new website too. We say “awkwardly launched” because they didn’t check to see that the new website was working before announcing it, so for the first couple of hours, people that went to the new website only saw these two words “Under Development”, and they even managed to send everyone five copies of the City’s weekly email newsletter today which also announced the website, just another PR stumble for the Mayor we guess. Also, it looks like they removed the link from the city’s website to the original pier competition page, so we’ve included that link for you here so you can go look at the critique and analysis of how their Lens Phase 1 proposal was over budget and inadequate in several ways. Also, if you haven’t already read our other postings on Mayor Foster and the Pier, here is a list of all of those articles so you can catch up if you haven’t been following along:

Now on to our analysis of the new Lens Pier website:

The website is really just a series of pages that you follow straight through, starting with “The Current Pier”(We find it funny that the page titled “A History of Pier Traditions” is actually named “save_the_old_pier”). The first two pages go over the history of old St. Petersburg piers and what is wrong with the existing pier structure, everything that has already been covered in our last two articles, and really nothing that anyone is arguing about. But on the third page we see some Foster “facts” that we have problems with:

“Due to its unusual layout, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd floors of the inverted pyramid are virtually unusable and have limited potential to generate revenue”
We covered this thoroughly in our last pier article, it is ridiculous to consider the first three floors of the Pier by themselves, just like it would be ridiculous to consider the Mahaffey Theater concession stand by itself. Neither operate by themselves, and neither can cover the costs of their subsidy or infrastructure requirements of the whole structure. It makes no sense, and shows how much Foster is grasping at straws to try to make his argument.

“Renovating the Pier does not solve design inefficiencies that cost approximately $1.5 million in tax subsidies per year.”
This is what the Mayor really cares about, reducing the subsidy. Eliminating over-water buildings and drastically reducing the square footage over the water will do this, in effect, shrinking the pier and moving all retail to land. This also has the effect of reducing the amount of time that people spend on the pier, reducing the number of people that go to the pier and drastically reducing the economic impact of the pier on downtown over the long term.

“Restaurant space is the only retail use that currently works at The Pier – but it would work more efficiently on the uplands leading to The Pier.”
Again, Mayor Foster ignores the other successful retail operations on the pier, and the fact that the Pier is 100% leased, even now when it is less than one year from demolition.

“The logistic complexity of reconstructing a new ground floor below the overhang of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th floors would make renovation and new construction cost prohibitive.”
The Mayor provides no numbers for this, and the fact is that the Archer Western renovation proposal does not include rebuilding the current first floor retail building under the overhang at all. In fact, we have not seen anyone seriously propose rebuilding it, so we don’t know why he even bothers to bring this up.

The next section of the new website is titled simply “The Lens”, with the first page being about “The Hub”, an undefined generic “retail village… which can grow over time”, they say that because there is not much money for it in the budget, and at only 6000 sq ft, it won’t have much room at all compared to the 52,000 sq ft of retail space on the current pier. It is also a long way from the 30,000 to 40,000 sq ft of retail that the pier task force recommended(which this website conveniently does not mention). There are a few more pages with loose descriptions of each section of the Lens pier and what possible additional enhancements could be added if we had the money to add them. Also mentioned is the “spectacular light show” feature which is marked as optional and is not included in the basic budget. If we end up paying for that one we wonder if it would soon meet the same fate as the current Pier’s old laser light show.

The last section is “Public Input”, which covers the hastily announced public comment meetings that will be happening over the next 2 weeks only(the first one is at the Coliseum on Thursday). Why the city only gave 2 weeks notice for these meetings and did not spread out the public input sessions out over a longer time period is unknown, especially in light of their supposed desire for public input.

The pictures on the website showing the Lens pier by itself are a slight improvement over the previously released pictures because they have removed all of the non-Phase-1 development, but they are still highly misleading because the following optional(or impossible) items that will not be included are still shown and should be removed from the pictures on this website if they do not want to be misleading:
- the Reef
- the Intertidal Path
- the Docent Theater
- the Bike Path
- the Tower structures
- the Wood-like decking on the bridges(will actually be bare concrete)
- the Bridges’ steel railings(which will actually be a solid “concrete curb”)
- the additional 6000SF of Promatory space
- the Lighting package(showing the Lens Pier glowing at night as well as underwater lighting)

In addition to what is shown that should not be there, there are dozens of boat navigation markers and signs around and within the Lens that will be required and are not shown in the renderings or budgeting because, “Existing pier support piles that are not removed during demolition and remain exposed above the sea bottom present a navigation hazard and will likely require navigation markers or signs” – MOFFATT & NICHOL

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this website is what was removed from it earlier today. There was a section referring to the demolition and replacement of the Pier being planned back in 2004(it wasn’t slated for demolition until Mayor Foster pushed for a council vote on demolition in 2010), and there was a section referring to how much the Lens plan conforms to the pier task-force recommendations, these recommendations had been “revised” to make them more Lens-friendly, and most of the real task-force recommendations were left out entirely. Now what you notice as you go through this website is that there are some sections that seem not to flow as well, or some pages without much text content at all, it seems that it was hastily removed earlier today in response to a number of comments on the city’s facebook page. We only wish we had taken pictures of these pages before they removed all of this text.

So round 3 of Foster’s Lens Pier Propaganda assault is over, and we must say it was a rather poorly planned and stumbling effort by the Mayor’s team that left them looking worse than if they had done nothing at all.

Cross-posted with permission of Bob Wilson of the Bill Foster Watch.

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