Neighborhood groups plan to transform murky Swann Pond into oasis
Neighbors and architects have finished their plans for a $750,000 re-design and cleanup of Swann Pond. The city has agreed to match what neighbors raised for the project. Project leaders will present the plans this month and expect construction to be done by early next year. They are adding benches, lights, wider sidewalks and landscaping. CLIFF MCBRIDE/STAFF
HYDE PARK - Right now, Swann Pond is nothing more than a murky retention pond for runoff from the nearby Lee Roy Selmon Expressway.
But by early next year, neighbors hope it will be a scenic, pedestrian-friendly oasis across Swann Avenue from Hyde Park Village.
After several years of fundraising and planning, volunteers now are able to move forward with their plans to cleanup and redesign the area around Swann Pond.
"We want to convert it from something that's essentially a blight to something that's an attribute," said Brian Funk, a Hyde Park resident and the volunteer who has been leading the project.
New benches, covered structures, sidewalks, fences, bike racks and a fountain are included in the plans, which Funk estimates will cost about $750,000 to complete.
"Right now, it's not a very safe or welcoming area," he said.
Funk said the designs will be submitted to city officials by the end of the month and then will move into the construction phase. He hopes the entire project will be finished by early 2014.
The city has agreed to match the money raised by the Historic Hyde Park Neighborhood Association and Hyde Park Preservation, Inc., Funk said. The group in March received a grant for about $250,000 from the F.E. Lykes Foundation that made it possible to finally move forward with the cleanup, Funk said.
The pond, located at Swann and Rome avenues, is owned by the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority but maintained by the city. It will still function as a retention pond after the cleanup, said Kathy Durdin, president of the Historic Hyde Park Neighborhood Association.
"The idea is to create a green space there and make it a positive park atmosphere versus the eyesore it is today," Durdin said.
She said Hyde Park neighborhood associations have worked in joint partnerships with the city for the past few years, combining forces on projects such as the redesign of Bern's Park on Howard Avenue and the cleanup of the area under the expressway overpass on Swann Avenue. The pond project will be done in the same spirit.
The neighborhood associations have been fundraising for Swann Pond for a while, using the proceeds from the annual historic home tours and patrons' party, Durdin said.
The ultimate goal is to make the historic and highly-populated area more pedestrian-friendly to encourage people to visit on foot rather than by car, Funk said.
He has been working on the project for about four years, and said it has been a gratifying experience.
"I think it's going to be something that will help the neighborhood and help the city," he said.