West Tampa residents want say in park’s future
WEST TAMPA -
Tribune staffCompanies hoping to oversee the redesign of the Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park must submit proposals to the city by 2 p.m. today.
Those ideas will be scrutinized closely by people in West Tampa. One group with particular interest is the West Riverfront Neighborhood Crimewatch Association, which represents the community nearest to the park.
Last week about 15 members met to discuss the coming changes and how area residents can express their thoughts. They also want to speak with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
“I think he really does need to talk to us,” said Ruth McNair, the association’s president. “The only information we are getting is from the papers. He keeps saying he’s going to meet with the community but he never says when it is going to happen.”
Members completed forms detailing what they want to see happen at the park. Among the ideas was one from McNair, who said she would like a community center similar to the Barksdale Senior Center at MacFarlane Park. Another suggestion was for a swimming pool to replace one that was filled in years ago. The residents said they want to feel welcome in their neighborhood park. Among groups using the park for rowing, tennis or other recreational activities are the University of Tampa, Steward’s Foundation and Tampa Prep. Delphine Jones said residents who go to the park are “looked at like they don’t belong.” Despite the mayor’s recent statements that the community will be involved, Jones said, “They are feeling like they are not being informed.”
Last month the city requested bids for plans that include conceptual designs, cost estimates and thoughts from the public. The park’s makeover is expected to be a three-year, $10.5 million project. The park is one segment of the mayor’s plan – dubbed Invision Tampa – to reinvigorate downtown and surrounding neighborhoods including West Tampa.
The project emerged after an Urban Land Institute study suggested redeveloping about 140 acres stretching from Columbus Drive south to the Riverfront Park.
One recommendation was the razing of the aging North Boulevard Homes, located in the West Riverfront community across from Blake High School. Tampa Housing Authority officials already were planning to replace the apartments with a mixed-income housing and retail complex. They say it likely will be 2014 -- at the earliest -- before funding is available for such a project.
Other groups have suggested other ideas. Among them: The West Tampa Chamber of Commerce supports creating a special tax district for West Tampa.
Other groups whose members are expressing visions for West Tampa and the park include: the West Tampa Community Development Corporation, the West Tampa Community Group and the Westside Tampa Bay Community Cultural Society.
“They all seem to be working on similar things. It’s hard to get anything done,” said West Riverfront member Earl Haugabook. “You’ve got all these spinning groups. They all want to represent West Tampa. So it’s very difficult.”
Riverfront association members say the goal should be to have everyone working together to represent residents of West Tampa. The members worry government officials and developers will ignore the community.
The city “has plans for big things to happen here. What are we going to do?” said Riverfront association member Henrietta Williams. “Undercover there are things going on. We want to be heard.”