State should reject effort to turn skatepark into historic landmark
Supporters of an effort to get a historic designation for the concrete skateboard park at Perry Harvey Sr. Park should be applauded for wanting to preserve something that makes Tampa unique. The 35-year-old skatepark, known as the Bro Bowl, is a destination for skateboarders and one of only a few in the nation dating from that era. But the Bro Bowl is in an area that pre-dates the skatepark by over a century and that represents a history rich in culture and intricately linked to Tampa. The area, off Central Avenue, is part of a city redevelopment plan that will honor and celebrate the African-American community that helped define Tampa.As part of that plan, the skatepark would be demolished and a new one built nearby. We think the state needs to recognize Central Avenue's significance and reject an effort by skateboarders to get a historic designation for the Bro Bowl that might protect it from demolition. Although the city's Historic Preservation Commission voted to support a historic designation for the Bro Bowl, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has joined with black leaders to stop the state from officially nominating the skate park for a place on the National Register of Historic Places. "From the Civil War era until the early 1970s, the Central Avenue area served as an enclave for African-Americans, where residents and business owner persevered through the most challenging of times to achieve a sense of unity in the midst of division," Buckhorn wrote to the state. "The nomination of Perry Harvey Sr. Skateboard Bowl has the unintended consequence of shifting the historic context of the site from its 150-year association with Central Avenue to a period far less significant and overwhelmingly less recognizable by the community." Anyone who lives in Tampa for any period of time eventually hears about Central Avenue. It was once a vibrant commercial and entertainment area that hosted such famed entertainers as Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway and Ray Charles, who lived for a time in Tampa. But the area was sacrificed for urban renewal in the 1970s, and freeway overpasses cut the heart out of the community. Efforts are already under way to honor that cultural history. The nearby Central Park Village public housing project is being turned into Encore, an urban community with residential and commercial space and an African-American museum. And plans for Perry Harvey Park renovations include a history walk that will recognize the people who contributed to Central Avenue's history. The state's National Register Review Board is scheduled to meet next week to consider whether to send the Bro Bowl nomination off to Washington for its possible listing on the National Register. Sadly, there were places along Central Avenue that might now be worthy of inclusion on the National Register. But they were lost for what passed at the time as progress. The Encore project, and the city's plans to renovate the park, are the best way for the city to honor the Central Avenue legacy. The state should follow suit and reject efforts to place the Bro Bowl on the National Register.