TAMPA — The Friends of the Library of Tampa-Hillsborough County is concerned that Mayor Bob Buckhorn's vision for downtown Tampa could make it harder for patrons to get to the John F. Germany Public Library.
"Scarcity of parking has been an issue for the library and downtown area for many years," friends president and former County Commissioner Jan Platt said in a Jan. 25 letter to Buckhorn. "We feel the library deserves a place at the table to discuss how the development will affect its users."
Platt said Thursday she foresaw two potential problems looming for the library.
One is the planned 36-story apartment tower that developers Greg Minder and Phillip Smith have proposed building immediately behind the library's annex.
The City Council this month voted to sell Minder and Smith about an acre of city-owned land in front of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts for $4 million. Their plans call for an $81 million tower with 10,000 square feet of stores and restaurants on the ground floor, five parking decks with 600 parking spaces above that, and a tower with 350 apartments on top. Construction could be done by the end of 2014.
Parking is bad already, Platt said, and "that high-rise will only make the parking situation worse."
The second concern is for the annex itself. Buckhorn's recently completed InVision Tampa development plan for downtown mentions at one point that an early next step in the planning for the northern part of downtown should be to "examine the library annex as a redevelopment site."
Moreover, she notes that drawings included in the InVision plan portray another new skyscraper on what is now a parking lot at the southeast corner of Cass Street and Ashley Drive. That would squeeze parking even more, she said.
Tampa economic opportunity administrator Bob McDonaugh said the city is and will continue to pay attention to issues affecting the library as it considers plans for the proposed tower.
"This is not being done in a vacuum," he said. He said he met last week with Smith and several Hillsborough County officials to discuss the library.
Plans for the tower also include reconfiguring Tyler and Cass streets from one-way to two-way streets with slower-moving traffic and possibly on-street parking, McDonaugh said. That would provide more library parking.
McDonaugh also said the city does not have an idea for a redevelopment project on the site of the library annex. In a recent interview, Buckhorn likewise said, "We don't have any plans for the annex."
Platt, who wants the city to meet not only with the library's supporters, but with administrators at the Straz Center, Tampa Museum of Art and Glazer Children's Museum, said she remained skeptical.
"Why would they have put it in there if they didn't have something in mind?" she said.