TAMPA — The City Council on Thursday approved a $6.9 million construction budget to create a new Perry Harvey Sr. Park near downtown Tampa — and to demolish and rebuild the historic Bro Bowl skateboard park at a new location.
The council's vote was 5-0, with Charlie Miranda and Yvonne Yolie Capin absent because they are traveling in Cuba on separate trips. No one from the public spoke before the vote. The approval comes after at least nine months of delay related to the Bro Bowl's designation last October as the first skate bowl in the United States to be named to the National Register of Historic Places.
"This has been delayed for a long time because of one issue," Council member Frank Reddick said. "We need to move this forward."
The council's vote means skateboarders have less than two months to enjoy the original graffiti-spattered bowl. That's because city officials expect the contractor, Cutler Associates of Tampa, to fence the park in early September and begin construction a few weeks later.
The next opportunity for skateboarding will be mid-2015, when the larger park re-opens with a new skateboarding basin in a different spot. Part of the new bowl will be a replica of the existing Bro Bowl, which will be laser-scanned before its demolition. It also will include skating surfaces and features that have become popular since the Bro Bowl was built in 1978.
For Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Tampa's black community, the larger park means something much different.
"This park will pay tribute to the role of this area in the history of our African-American community and recognize some of the men and women who played a critical role," Buckhorn said before the vote.
City officials plan to make that statement right at the entrance to the park, which will feature 13- to 15-foot-tall sculptures of a couple dancing The Twist next to an oversized jukebox that will be wired for sound. Fountains in a nearby splash play area will be able to be programmed to move in time to the music for special events.
Why The Twist? Because the long and skinny 11-acre park sits over the old Central Avenue, once the beating heart of Tampa's black business and nightlife scene. Central Avenue attracted "Chitlin' Circuit" stars like Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, Ray Charles and B.B. King. The story goes that Hank Ballard wrote The Twist after watching kids dance on Central Avenue.
The new park also will have a "history walk" that memorializes places and events along Central Avenue, a statue of Harvey, a fearless Tampa union boss and civil rights pioneer, a "leaders row" honoring prominent community figures and a lawn for concerts, art shows and other events.
"I don't think there will be anything else like it south of Atlanta that celebrates black history," said Fred Hearns, an expert on the history of Tampa's African-American neighborhoods and the chairman of a citizens advisory committee on plans for the Perry Harvey Sr. Park.
Part of the funding is coming from a $30 million federal Choice Neighborhoods grant for the neighboring Encore Tampa urban redevelopment project.
Covering 12 city blocks, Encore is rising on the site of the old Central Park Village public housing complex. It is planned to have 794 apartments, hundreds more condominiums, offices, a hotel, a museum, a school and a grocery store.
Buckhorn said Encore has always been about rebuilding the historic Central Park area, restoring hope and creating new homes, and the new Perry Harvey Park will fit right in as "a place to play, to gather and to reflect."
Getting to this point, however, has taken City Hall much longer than planned.
Federal rules discourage the use of federal funds like the Choice Neighborhoods grant on projects that disturb historic places. As a result, the city has had to go through a lengthy process to evaluate whether there were alternatives to disturbing the Bro Bowl — city officials concluded no, and state historic officials agreed in May — and to plan ways to mitigate for the loss.
Re-creating the bowl is a central part of those plans, which are being written into an agreement between local officials and state and federal historic preservation officials.
The re-creation envisions transplanting the Bro Bowl's moguls at the new skateboarding park, but does not extend to re-spraying the bowl's skate-punk graffiti.
"That was never legal," City Attorney Julia Mandell said. "Just because we didn't clean it up didn't mean it was legal."
In other business, the council approved:
• Using $100,000 in federal homeland security funds to install four security cameras at the city dam on the Hillsborough River.
• Spending $38,515 to restore the geometrical but often overlooked Yaacov Agam sculpture Visual Welcome, which officials plan to move from low-profile spot between Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and Kiley Gardens to the median of Bayshore Boulevard. The sculpture is 10 feet tall and consists of nine panels checkered with contrasting squares and color blocks. It's designed to show viewers a changing array of patterns as they pass by, but since it's installation in 1995 it's never received the attention it deserved, council member Mary Mulhern said. Its new home near the Academy of the Holy Names on Bayshore will be better, she said, partly because the sculpture is meant to be seen as people move by and partly because of its unending stream of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. "Bayshore is a good place for art because it's so used," she said.
• Reimbursing $561,655 to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for unauthorized storm recovery expenses from Tropical Storm Frances in 2004. After the storm, one of four hurricanes to hit Florida that summer, Tampa received $6.3 million in storm relief. Of that, $4.9 million came from FEMA, nearly $1.3 million was from the Federal Highway Administration and about $99,000 was from the state of Florida. In a process that can take years, FEMA and the Florida Division of Emergency Management have scrutinized the city's expenses and the documentation to support them. Reviewers said Tampa has to refund double payments it received from FEMA and the Federal Highway Administration.
Contact Richard Danielson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times