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Have a seat with Greco

TAMPA — Curtis Hixon has a park. Bill Poe has a plaza and a parking garage. Nick Nuccio has a parkway. Now another former Tampa mayor, Dick Greco, will have a piece of downtown named after him — complete with a statue in his likeness.

Greco Plaza will be the new name of the streetcar stop across from the Tampa Convention Center. It also will be the home of a bronze sculpture of Greco, portraying the famously chummy mayor sitting on a bench with an outstretched arm. People will be able to sit next to him.

The statue by local sculptor Steve Dickey, paid for with private donations, is to be unveiled in the next 30 to 45 days at the glass-domed streetcar station, which until now has been called the Southern Transportation Plaza.

The board of Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, which built the streetcar plaza, voted Monday to rename it for Greco, honoring him for his two stints as Tampa's mayor.

"It's kind of weird, really," Greco joked in an interview. "Usually this kind of stuff is done when somebody's gone."

Located at the streetcar's western turnaround site, tucked between the Marriott Waterside and Embassy Suites hotels, the landscaped plaza also has park benches, a bus stop and taxi parking.

Greco, whose legacy as mayor includes pushing for the streetcar line, redeveloping the Channel District and luring the Marriott to boost business for the Convention Center, chose this spot for his statue.

"It's kind of a nice place to be sitting," he said. "It's right in the middle of a bunch of things that we had a part in and that I feel great about."

Friends of Greco's like longtime associates Ron Rotella and Jack Weisser and City Council member John Dingfelder came up with the idea of a statue. The first time Greco heard about it, he thought it was a joke. But his friends say hundreds chipped in for the $50,000 sculpture.

"This was the easiest money I've ever raised in my life," Rotella, executive director of the Westshore Alliance, told HART's board members Monday.

"I wish it were a better likeness because the statue, it's a lot better looking than he is," Rotella joked.

Greco, 74, was mayor from 1967 to 1974 and 1995 to 2003. The statue portrays him in his 50s, about halfway between his two terms in office.

A plaque beside the statue will display a tribute by Tampa poet laureate James Tokley.

Greco has found the whole experience to be surreal. The first time he visited the sculptor's studio, he encountered a clay likeness of himself — "My head was on a stick."

Later, after he underwent anti-aging treatments at his wife's clinic, another visit to the studio prompted the artist to remove wrinkles from the sculpture.

Dickey has sculpted several statues of Tampa legends that are displayed in Ybor City.

Greco suggested the bench for his statue, and Dickey tried to capture his subject's famously warm personality.

"When you sit down with him, it's a good time. There's kind of a little bit of a twinkle in his eye," Dickey said Monday. "The bench lends itself to that. He's approachable, and he still wants people to come up and sit down next to him — forever."

Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3435.

Have a seat with Greco 04/07/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2008 8:54pm]
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