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Sponge Docks upgrade ideas get official thumbs up, but some criticism from residents

TARPON SPRINGS — At the Sponge Docks of the future, you might enter Dodecanese Boulevard under a sail-shaped gateway and amble along shaded, red-cobbled streets.

You could stroll down a floating dock that juts into the Anclote River and then rest on seating at a waterfront amphitheater.

Then you could continue west to a three-level observation tower, where you could watch fishermen unload boats behind the seafood markets.

That vision was presented Tuesday to Tarpon Springs commissioners, who gave project architect Ed Hoffman permission to create construction drawings and ask companies for bids on $1.3 million in Sponge Docks upgrades.

The proposals came after three workshops over 15 months in which residents, boaters and business owners said they want to maintain the Greek village atmosphere and working waterfront of the Sponge Docks. They also want trees for shade, better lighting for nighttime visitors and way-finding signs for tourists.

Most construction would be scheduled for the tourism off-season, Hoffman added.

"We are a tourist location, but also what makes us special and unique is we are a working waterfront," Hoffman said. "We're trying to balance the needs of the people at the docks with the community needs and the tourist needs."

City Manager Mark LeCouris spoke warmly of the plans. And for the most part, commissioners did, too.

But some commissioners, including Townsend Tarapani, expressed concern the proposals might be too ambitious for the allotted money. He'd be more comfortable approving a plan that includes estimated costs. Then the city can prioritize if necessary, he said.

"We don't want to get to $1.3 million and not get one main component we want to have," Tarapani said. "I would like to see some of the costs associated with these elements."

Hoffman said he had calculated preliminary costs but wasn't prepared to discuss them Tuesday. Rather, he wanted the city to approve the broad ideas so he could move to the next steps: drawing specific designs and getting firm cost estimates.

"I would never give anybody the expectation we can do this whole project now," he said after the meeting. "That's why I refer to it as a master plan, because it's what could happen over a period of time."

Not everybody was pleased with the proposals.

Three people criticized the proposed changes as too modern. Most fired up was former Mayor Anita Protos.

Arms waving, Protos warned commissioners their grandparents were rolling over in their graves. In Greek, she told them they should be ashamed.

"For God sakes, value what you've got here! Value what the families have done," she said. "(Tourists) come to see the old and there's nothing wrong with it."

Contact Brittany Alana Davis at 850-323-0353 or bdavis@tampabay.com.

Sponge Docks upgrade ideas get official thumbs up, but some criticism from residents 02/20/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 7:50pm]
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