TAMPA — Two months after handing the Sheriff's Office a surprise setback, Tampa's Barrio Latino Commission has approved designs for two Ybor City memorials — one for victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and the other for deputies killed in the line of duty.
On July 16, the appointed commission voted to deny plans for Fallen Heroes Remembrance Park after hearing complaints about the design from several Ybor City civic leaders.
Before that vote, some commission members worried that the layout could put pedestrians at risk, with one calling it "a disaster waiting to happen." Their decision stunned elected officials, prompting Mayor Bob Buckhorn to say, "You've got to be kidding me."
In response, sheriff's officials reworked the design, which uses part of an existing parking lot at E Eighth Avenue and N 20th Street, near the agency's operations center. They eliminated several parking spaces that originally had been left between the two memorials, re-routed the flow of traffic through the lot and widened sidewalks.
The Sheriff's Office had appealed the decision of the Barrio Latino Commission — a city board charged with reviewing development plans to preserve Ybor City's historic fabric and architectural integrity — to the City Council, but officials withdrew the appeal and decided to go back for a second commission hearing after meeting with community leaders.
"One of the things we said all along is we wanted community support," sheriff's director of risk management and facilities management Richard Swann said Friday.
They got it.
At the second hearing, several Ybor City business owners spoke Tuesday in favor of the revised proposal. No one objected.
That was good enough for commissioners, who praised the Sheriff's Office for working with the community.
"There were some comments out there flying around about this commission not wanting this, and nothing could be further," said commission chairman Elliott Wheeler, who represents the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce. "We've always wanted this. It's just, you know, we're charged with being certain that it's done appropriately and following the guidelines. That's why we're here: to ensure that that happens. We're wonderfully pleased and so glad that this is moving forward. It's going to be an excellent part of Ybor City."
One memorial is planned to feature a steel beam salvaged from the World Trade Center, plus stainless steel sculptures of firefighters, police and civilians killed in the attack.
The other will have a bronze statue of a sheriff's honor guard deputy in the center of a semicircular granite wall engraved with the names of 15 fallen sheriff's deputies.
In the middle — where the original design left a handful of parking spaces — there is now a small grassy plaza.
Together, the memorials are expected to cost not quite $500,000. Sheriff's officials hope to obtain permits within two weeks, start construction soon after and finish by May 2014. About $200,000 of the cost will be covered by public arts funding from the County Commission. County Administrator Mike Merrill donated an additional $50,000 to complete the project, sheriff's officials have said.
Private donations will pay for most of the cost of the law enforcement memorial.
"We think it's going a great venue for Ybor City," Swann said, "a family-friendly venue."
Richard Danielson can be reached at (813) 226-3403, [email protected] or @Danielson_Times on Twitter.