St. Petersburg Referendum Question Terminating the Michael Maltzan Lens Pier Design (August 2013)

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For more images of the proposed LENS project click here.

A St. Petersburg Referendum Question Terminating the Michael Maltzan Lens Pier Design ballot question was on the August 27, 2013, election ballot in Pinellas County, which is in Florida. It was approved.

This measure terminated a contract with Michael Maltzan Architecture to build a new St. Petersburg pier known as the Lens, costing an estimated $50 million. Michael Maltzan Architecture is a Los Angeles based firm "committed to the creation of progressive, transformative experiences that chart new trajectories for architecture, urbanism, and the public realm."[1][2][3][4][3]

The city council chose the lens design of Michael Maltzan Architecture over two other project finalist bidders: "The Wave" by Bjarke Ingels Group and "The People's Pier" by West 8 Urban Design and Landscape Architecture.[5] For images of the Lens project and the other two designs that were rejected, click here.

A yes vote on this referendum canceled the contract to build the new Lens pier. A no vote would have supported the city council's contract and allowed the Lens pier construction to go forward.

Election results

St. Petersburg Referendum
Approveda Yes 31,439 63.22%
These final, certified results are from the Pinnellas County elections office.

Text of measure

Question on the ballot:

An Ordinance Terminating the Michael Maltzan New Pier Design Agreement Based on The Lens Concept.

Shall an ordinance be added to the City of St. Petersburg's existing ordinances that would require the City to send a notice of termination, within five business days of the effective date of the ordinance, to Michael Maltzan Architecture, Inc. to terminate the existing architect/engineering agreement between the City of St. Petersburg and Michael Maltzan Architecture, Inc. which agreement was approved by City Council Resolution Number 2012-233 on May 17, 2012?[2][6]


"Vote Yes to Stop the Lens" campaign logo


  • Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg

Arguments in favor

Those in favor of the referendum believed that the LENS project must be stopped because it was hastily conceived and would burden the waterfront and the city's finances for decades while providing a structure that is inconsistent and incompatible with the city of St. Petersburg. The groups that gathered signatures for the petition that brought about the referendum were confident that voters would cancel the contract and vote against the LENS project. Fred Whaley, a leader of the Concerned Citizens group, said, "The thing we early on found out is that 70 percent of people agree with us that the Lens does not have the character, size and function for a pier for St. Petersburg."[7]


"Build the Lens: Vote No" campaign logo


  • Build The Lens

The St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce was a proponent of the Lens project. But when a petition was filed, it stopped supporting the project and sent a letter to the city council urging the cancellation of the contract. Wow Our Waterfront, a group that lobbied for the continuation of the Lens project, also ceased its activity when controversy swelled.[3]

Arguments in opposition

Those who remained adamant in opposing the referendum and supporting the pier project argued that the city should not be without a pier any longer. They also argued that since the LENS plans have already cost taxpayers about $3 million, the work on this pier plan should have been continued. Despite polling that suggested wide opposition to the LENS project, Build the Lens activists and others in favor of the Michael Maltzan design believed voters would change their position by the time they voted in August because they would realize that they would be left without a pier if they approved the referendum.[4][3]


The polling done before the vote indicated a large majority of voters were not pleased with the LENS plan and would likely approve the referendum to cancel the contract. A poll of 300 probable voters done in May by McLaughlin and Associates concluded that 62 percent of respondents viewed the pier plan as a "$50 million sidewalk." A poll conducted on June 17 contacted 1,524 registered voters, 63% of whom supported canceling the LENS project. According to StPetePolls, the organizer of the June poll, the margin of error for this study was 2.5%.[4]

Path to the ballot

The group Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg worked to gather 20,000 signatures in a petition to put a stop to the pier design. Faced with this abundantly successful petition, the city council decided on June 13 to put the design decision on the August 27 election ballot in a referendum question asking voters if they approve or reject "An ordinance terminating the Michael Maltzan new pier design agreement based on the Lens concept." There was also strong debate over the official ballot text and title. Some believed that it should include the term Lens and others thought it should be left out.[8][3]

See also

External links

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