TAMPA — Long-delayed plans for a public park and community center in New Tampa may be coming to fruition thanks to action taken by Hillsborough County commissioners Wednesday.
Commissioners agreed to seek bids in July on a public-private partnership that will involve a trade-off: The winning developer will be able construct a commercial center on 81 acres of county-owned land on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, across from the Hunters Green subdivision.
In return, the developer would build a dog park on the property with trails, a children’s playground and picnic tables and shelters. Land also would also be set aside for future construction of a New Tampa cultural center and parking.
The land, though owned by the county, is inside the Tampa city limits. That means the city will have to agree to rezone the property, which is not currently zoned for commercial use.
Assistant County Administrator Tom Fass said the rezoning process could take four months. The chosen developer would probably not be able to start work until early next year, Fass said.
The county acquired the tract in 2004 as part of the widening of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. After it was determined the land would not be needed for the road work, Commissioner Ken Hagan won approval in 2009 to set aside 13.4 acres of the tract for a theater for the amateur actors in the New Tampa Players and for a hockey arena to be built by Tampa Bay Sportsplex Inc.
The commission declined to provide funding for the two buildings, however, and the two groups were not able to raise the money on their own. The reservation of the land approved by the commission in May 2009 ended this month.
The county held a public meeting May 5 to discuss future use of the site. Though there were disagreements among residents about the future use of the wooded property, a majority seemed to favor allowing commercial development in return for the park, according to a county staff report.
Commissioners agreed to have one more public meeting with nearby residents after the requests for proposals are received. The responses from developers will be due 30 days after bids go out.