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New Station Square park joins in downtown revival

A rendering shows the look of a new downtown park on what was the site of the Station Square Park.

A rendering shows the look of a new downtown park on what was the site of the Station Square Park.

The old downtown Station Square Park — right off the newly revitalized Cleveland Street — looks like a construction site.

Grass has been replaced with sandy dirt and tire marks. A few empty paint buckets and a bundle of packaged bricks are scattered around. There's also a large yellow crane parked where visitors used to eat lunch, watch poetry events and listen to music.

But city leaders say this is about to change.

They began eyeing the park after finishing the massive Cleveland Street project, a $10-million initiative to create a new winding roadway with sidewalks and manicured landscaping.

Now they hope to rehab the lot, linking it to Cleveland Street in an effort to create a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere to lure new visitors and businesses.

The park, a 24,000-square-foot parcel between a rising condominium complex and the Bank of America building, has been closed since summer 2006.

"The thinking has always been to have a good gathering place for people in downtown, but the way (the last one) was initially designed wasn't as good," City Manager Bill Horne said. "We want to open this up more and discourage the kind of use we were getting from the transients."

The park closed so construction crews working on the 15-story Station Square retail-condominium complex could use it as a staging area. The $90-million tower, which will feature 126 condos, 100 public parking spaces, several storefronts and two restaurants, is set to open some time in October and most of the construction is complete.

That means St. Petersburg-based Angle & Schmid Inc. can begin re-creating the park sometime in the upcoming months, possibly weeks. It should take roughly 180 days to complete.

Once finished, the park will feature a decorative archway at the entrance with a clock on top of a pillar, as well as removable furniture, such as tables and chairs. Additionally, it will have an entertainment stage, new landscaping and a three-tiered fountain on a raised pedestal. Trees will provide shade and the sandy dirt will be replaced with ivory shell stone and grass.

The city hopes to lure a hot dog and coffee vendor and use the park for the small monthly farmers market, which is now held in front of City Hall. The city also plans to use the park to host events, such as Christmas lightings and concerts.

The park — initially built in 1991 for $300,000 — also will be closed at night, mostly likely around dusk. It will no longer include the large semicircular fountain many homeless people used for a bathtub.

The project will cost a little under $1.3-million. Roughly $500,000 will come from Penny for Pinellas sales tax money and another $800,000 from a fund that's made up of taxes generated within the city's designated Community Redevelopment Area, which includes the park. This money can be used only for redevelopment projects in this area.

Not everyone, however, is impressed with the plans.

George Kelly, co-owner of Cleveland Street's Downtown Newsstand for 16 years, said the city should put in a few benches and that's it.

"Who's going to use it? A couple of people from the Bank of America," he said. "What is the goal here? To blindly spend money for the sake of spending money?"

Instead, Kelly said, the city should use the money to repair damage to the concrete in front of the Bank of America building he says was caused by skateboarders.

"Instead of looking up, maybe they should be looking down," he said.

New Station Square park joins in downtown revival 06/24/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 26, 2008 4:57pm]
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