Tampa considers enlarging Gadsden Park
TAMPA - For eight years, city officials have had their eyes on a piece of land at the south end of Himes Avenue as a possible addition to Gadsden Park. City parks officials approached the owners, Albert and Debbie Baker, in 2004 hoping to buy the land and the warehouse on it. The Bakers, who were leasing the land to Case Plumbing, turned the city down. But Case's lease expired in August, prompting the Bakers to give the city a call. On Thursday, City Council members will consider buying the Bakers' land for $280,000.Parks director Greg Bayor said the property would be added to Gadsden Park to support the city's planned South Tampa Greenway, a bike trail running from the south end of Bayshore Boulevard to Picnic Island, skirting the northern boundary of MacDill Air Force Base in several places. Adding the Bakers' property to Gadsden Park would let the city vacate Himes Avenue south of West Marcum Street, city officials say. Bayor said the city would keep the structure on the half-acre parcel to use as a maintenance garage and for storage. Water and sewer connections there would help the city provide bathrooms and water fountains for trail users, Bayor said. The purchase price is more than double the $127,500 that the Hillsborough County property appraiser established as the property's market value. City Councilwoman Lisa Montelione has complained about the city overpaying for other properties. She said this week that the private appraisal of the Bakers' tract came in higher than the county's estimated market value. She declined to quantify the appraisal because the deal wasn't closed. But that doesn't mean she's ready to vote for the sale. "I just have a difficult time because it's a quarter of a million dollars," she said. "I may talk to Mr. Bayor again to see how necessary this piece is."
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