St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce calls for immediate cancellation of contract to build “The Lens”

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The St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce has called for the canceling of the Lens contract immediately, so that the city may begin a new process and allow the $3 million invested in the current design to compete fairly in a competition with other options for the pier.  This position — the same one I took in a June 16 blog post — would expedite the rebuilding of the pier while avoiding unnecessary politicization of the process.  It would also, as I wrote, allow the upcoming mayoral election to be about who is the best choice for Mayor, rather than which candidate is closest to the “Stop the Lens” movement.                     

“A pier in our city is an important tradition in our community and one that should unify, not divide our community…” wrote Chris Steinocher, Chamber president and CEO, “We cannot afford a long hot summer of divisive dialogue and uncertainty.”

Ultimately, Steinocher and the Chamber feel that this proposal will provide residents with a new spectrum of choices rather than the all-or-nothing approach that has been considered up til now.

In the Chamber’s letter to Mayor Foster and the City Council Members, Steinocher writes that the St. Pete Pier has always and should always be a symbol of the city’s aspirations and a reflection of its heritage and values. To return to this tradition, they ask that a new process be initiated that begins with the immediate canceling of the Lens contract, consistent with what the referendum calls for and what the petition signers have requested.

From there, the Chamber submits, a new process should begin immediately to avoid a blighted waterfront.  The current proposed design would be one among many finalists presented to the citizens who would vote, and move forward.

“We believe this proposal allows for a shared victory for all,” the Chamber letter concludes. “We foresee the inevitability of another vote on the horizon when a new design process is created…let’s get started today building a certain future – together.”

Here is the letter from David Punzak, chairman of the Chamber:

Honorable Mayor Foster and City Council Members,

On behalf of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Governors, I write to you today offering a proposal allowing our city to move forward with a new process for the pier.

As you are aware, our Chamber’s position on the new pier has always reflected 3 key elements simply put:

“Stay on budget, stay on the timeline, and follow the agreed-to process”

We have honored the process that selected the current design and we have urged you at every meeting to stay in budget and keep moving to maintain the timeline. We thank you for your continued leadership and understanding on the importance of these key business principals.

Additionally, it’s our belief that the St. Petersburg Pier has been and always should be a symbol of our city’s aspirations as well as a reflection of our heritage and values.

Most importantly, it should serve to unite our city and guide us as we move forward. Today, however, we find a city divided and a future uncertain.

We ask for your leadership to reshape this conversation immediately.

We ask that you create a new process for a unified community with the following steps.

1.  Cancel the Lens contract immediately. It’s what the referendum calls for and what the petition signers have requested.
2.  Start the new process immediately – the current pier is closed and in disrepair – we must continue to move quickly to ensure we don’t have a blighted waterfront. We urge the city to conserve all current resources allocated for this project until this process is designed.
3.  Allow the current proposed design (lens) to be one of the finalists in the next competition – afterall, we’ve spent $3 million dollars on a sound design with many supporters – allow this design to compete with the other options created in the new process.
4.  Finally, allow the citizens to vote – on a new pier…providing them more than one option…knowing all have been heard, all have had the vote, and at the end, we have something to build.

We believe this proposal allows for a shared victory for all. It’s been said by many that this city “can do better”…this proposal accepts that challenge. It does so in an expedited manner which should be important to everyone.

We foresee the inevitability of another vote on the horizon when a new design process is created…let’s get started today building a certain future – together.


David Punzak, Chair

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.