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Sunday, Apr 22, 2018
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Time to end Central Avenue drama

You've got to be kidding, right? A concrete skateboarding bowl built 35 years ago has passed yet another hurdle on the road to being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. What's next, a nomination for the original Hooters in Clearwater? We have no problem with the skateboard park (or the original Hooters for that matter), but to elevate its status into the realm of historic significance is demeaning to sites and buildings that are truly representative of our history and culture. More importantly, the historic designation might intrude on plans to honor more than a century of African-American history in Tampa that unfolded on Central Avenue near Perry Harvey Sr. Park, where the skate park sits.
A recommendation Thursday by a state advisory board that the skate park, known as the Bro Bowl, be placed on the National Register will now be considered by Robert Bendus, the state's historic preservation officer. If he concurs, it will be sent to National Register staff in Washington for a final decision. Bendus should end this drama by rejecting the panel's recommendation. Supporters hope the designation will stop the city from demolishing the Bro Bowl as part of a master plan for redeveloping the area around it. The plans call for apartments, condominiums, a school, a hotel, a grocery and offices. An African-American museum is planned, along with a history walk in the park that honors African-Americans who helped define Tampa. The redesigned park will be the gateway to that new community, and the Bro Bowl is in the way. Keep it mind that skateboarding won't be extinguished in the area. Plans call for a larger skate park to be built nearby. Even if the Bro Bowl wins the historic designation, the city might still be able to proceed as planned. But the designation would certainly slow those efforts, and possibly force the city to alter its plans. The Bro Bowl is a cool amenity that appeals to youth in a state known more for its retirees. Supporters are passionate about its surfer-style design. There are only a few like it in the nation. That argument has won the support of the city's Historic Preservation Commission, and now the state's National Register Review Board. But the Bro Bowl was built in an area that has a history of far greater consequence and meaning to Tampa. And it's questionable whether a skateboard park built in the 1970s should be listed along with the Tampa Theatre, Ybor City cigar factories and other treasures that now grace the National Register of Historic Places. The skateboarders have managed to outmaneuver the city, and there is something entertaining about that. But the Bro Bowl's journey toward immortality needs to come to an end.
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