TAMPA — City officials will break ground Wednesday morning on the reconstruction of Water Works Park in Tampa Heights.
The $6.5 million project will rebuild the park surrounding Ulele Spring, Tampa’s original water source.
The park project is part of a broader effort, led by Mayor Bob Buckhorn, to reinvent the city’s riverfront between downtown and Columbus Drive. Over the next few years, a combination of private and public effort will convert hundreds of acres on either side of the Hillsborough River to new residential, commercial and recreational uses.
“We are expecting really, really great things to happen at this point,” said Lena Young-Green, past president of the Tampa Heights Civic Association.
The work has already started at the northeast corner of Water Works Park, where restaurateur Richard Gonzmart is turning the century-year-old water works building, a former pump house that once drew water from Ulele Spring, into a chophouse named after the nearby spring under the long-term lease with the city.
Gonzmart expects to open the restaurant in March. City officials say they hope to have much of the park renovation done around that same time.
The plans for Water Works Park envision a marina, canoe launch and playground with a splash pad. The park will also be the northern terminus of the 2.4-mile Tampa Riverwalk.
Water Works Park will become the northern sibling of Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park in Channelside, Buckhorn said.
“That singular project will lead to the transformation of the Heights neighborhood,” Buckhorn said last week.
On Oct. 24, Tampa City Council will take up a rezoning request from the developers of The Heights, a planned mix of residential and commercial development on 37 acres at the bend of the Hillsborough River just north and west of Water Works Park.
The developers, SoHo Capital of Tampa, hope to work on their project toward the end of the year. They’ve said they plan to invest up to $350 million building 1,000 homes, a boutique hotel, a grocery story and a waterfront park.
The Armature Works, a historic brick warehouse on the Heights property, will be preserved and featured as part of the development.
Across the river from The Heights, Buckhorn has begun work on a longer-term redevelopment of 140 acres running from Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park to Columbus Drive.
The property includes the Tampa Housing Authority’s 44-acre North Boulevard Homes, the city’s oldest housing project. A city public works yard is also due to be relocated at a cost of several million dollars.
Leroy Moore, chief operating officer for the housing authority, said the agency will unveil the master plan for the entire 140-acre parcel early next month. The housing authority will seek federal funding next year to begin relocating North Boulevard Homes residents, demolishing the 70-year-old buildings and laying new infrastructure for the future growth.
The redevelopment plan calls for building a mix of affordable and market-rate housing along with shops on the riverfront land.
“It all hinges on when we’re successful at getting funding,” Moore said. “If we get it, you’re looking at a kickoff in 2015.”