In what may not come as a big surprise, St. Petersburg residents are not fans of the design chosen for the new St. Petersburg Pier, according to a Tampa Bay Times-Bay News 9-WUSF Radio exclusive poll.
Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg, sponsor of the Stop The Lens campaign, collected more than 20,000 signatures to force a referendum. Residents will decide Aug. 27 whether The Lens gets built or city leaders have to look at other options.
Of the 810 registered voters in St. Petersburg who were polled, the majority do not want the Lens to be built. When asked if the election were held today, 55 percent said they would support a ballot measure to stop construction of the Lens.
Thirty-seven percent of those asked want the Lens to be built, 7 percent didn’t know and 1 percent refused to answer the question.
The city estimates it would cost $70 million to restore the current inverted pyramid Pier for public use. Only 37 percent of those polled said they favored that idea, while the majority, 54 percent, said they preferred an alternative to both the Pier and the Lens.
Five percent weren’t sure, 3 percent said "other" and 1 percent refused to answer.
The issue has really pitted residents against each other. St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, a longtime Lens supporter, has said it’s been the most divisive issue since the building of Tropicana Field.
If residents vote against the Lens in August, Foster said he’d fully support giving residents another option that competed with the Lens.
Foster has created a task force to study the proposed Lens project. The 828 Alliance, considered ill-conceived by critics, is made up of Lens supporters and opponents, downtown stakeholders, members of the marine science community and others.
He said the group will work for the next two months to make sure that on the day after the election, the city will either move forward with the Lens concept or be ready to outline a different process to design and build a new Pier.
The Pier, built in 1973, closed May 31. Pieces of the iconic structure were sold at auction last month.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District has approved the city’s environmental resource permit, allowing for the demolition of the existing Pier and the construction of the Lens.
The 828 Alliance asked city staffers to find out how much it would cost to reopen part of the Pier's pyramid building, but Foster quickly shot down that idea, saying there's no money in the city budget for operational costs. Visitors are allowed to fish, bicycle and walk along the Pier approach, and portable toilets have been brought in.
The majority of those polled, 77 percent, have lived in St. Petersburg for more than a decade.
Races for mayor and four council seats will also be on the Aug. 27 ballot.
The telephone survey of 810 registered St. Petersburg voters was conducted July 13 through 16 for the Tampa Bay Times, Bay News 9, and WUSF Radio. The poll was done by Braun Research, a national polling firm based in Princeton, NJ. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.4 percentage points overall.