The ridiculous decision to place the concrete skateboarding bowl off Central Avenue on the National Registry of Historic Places shouldn’t deter the city from pursuing its plans to demolish the bowl.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is absolutely correct in calling the 35-year-old bowl “marginally significant” and unworthy of a designation associated with landmark structures.
But that didn’t stop local, state and federal preservation officials from granting an inflated historical status on what is known to skateboarding enthusiasts at the “Bro Bowl.” In the process, they have muddied plans to honor the area’s true historical significance. And that’s a shame.
Efforts are already under way to memorialize the Central Avenue district, which was the commercial and entertainment center of African-American life in Tampa for more than a century, until highways carved through the community in the 1970s.
On land at Perry Harvey Sr. Park where the Bro Bowl is located, the city wants to recognize the people who contributed to Central Avenue’s history by building a history walk with statues and displays. It’s part of a $6 million redesign of the park that fits with the nearby residential and commercial development known as Encore.
The city’s plans call for a larger, $600,000 bowl in another part of the park, but that didn’t satisfy the skateboarders who managed to persuade preservation boards that the Bro Bowl’s unique design is deserving of the historical designation.
The designation doesn’t necessarily protect the bowl from demolition. But the city must now devise a plan that mitigates any impact on the bowl. The possibilities range from keeping the bowl intact, to demolishing the bowl and commemorating it by embedding parts in a new bowl. A committee is now working on a mitigation plan, which requires state and federal approval.
All of this seems so unnecessary, and could lead to delays and to a diminishing of the efforts to honor Central Avenue’s history.
The committee needs to follow Buckhorn’s lead, and the wishes of the descendants of Central Avenue’s rich history, and recommend the bowl be demolished and commemorated with a plaque or have pieces embedded in a new bowl, rather than allow it to intrude in any way on Central Avenue’s legacy.
State and federal officials should then resist the urge to further complicate the effort and let the city pay tribute to the part of Tampa’s history that is truly deserving.