TAMPA — State historic preservation officials have notified the city of Tampa that its plan to demolish the Bro Bowl and rebuild a replica nearby is sufficient, with some tweaks, to mitigate for the loss of the historic skate park.
That said, the state also is encouraging City Hall "to seriously consider" the option of leaving the bowl intact and in place on the western edge of Perry Harvey Sr. Park.
The city wants to tear out and rebuild the bowl, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in October, at the northern end of the park. That would make way for the addition of a range of new features designed to honor the history of the Central Avenue black business and nightclub district.
The city's plan to build a new skate park nearby "makes sense all the way around," said Fred Hearns, a retired city official and local historian who chaired a citizens advisory committee on plans for Perry Harvey Park.
"This is great news," Hearns said. "I've been saying since 2007 that's the best solution."
As a result of the state's decision, officials from the city, state and perhaps a federal advisory council on historic preservation must negotiate and sign an agreement that spells out exactly what steps the city will take to counterbalance the loss of the Bro Bowl. The city last week invited Hearns and skateboarder Shannon Bruffett, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, to take part in the discussion about developing the agreement.
The city has spent months talking to skateboarders, historic preservationists and black residents with connections to Central Avenue about four options for the bowl: leaving it in place, demolishing it, cutting it up and moving it, or rebuilding it elsewhere (the city's preferred option).
The consultation is required because Tampa plans to use $2 million from a $30 million federal Choice Neighborhoods grant to build the park, and federal rules discourage spending federal money on projects that disturb historic resources — in this case, the 36-year-old Bro Bowl.
The city wants the University of South Florida to do a laser-graded survey mapping the contours of the skate bowl, which would then be demolished and rebuilt in a new spot inside Perry Harvey Park.
Once demolished, the original bowl would no longer qualify for the National Register of Historic Places.
But city officials say skateboarders would get a replica of the 1970s-era Bro Bowl, plus new runs and features designed for modern skating. The city also would put up signs about the history of the Bro Bowl at the new skate park and would consider incorporating pieces of the original bowl in the new skate park.
That, city officials hope, could clear the way for Tampa's delayed $6.5 million makeover of Perry Harvey Park.
Further, they hope that as a result of holding an in-depth consultation with the community about the park project's impact on the bowl, federal officials would release the $30 million grant to help pay not only for Perry Harvey Park but the neighboring and much bigger Encore Tampa urban redevelopment project. The grant must be used by 2019, and none of the money will be released until issues around the Bro Bowl are resolved.
In a letter to Mayor Bob Buckhorn, deputy state historic preservation officer Timothy Parsons recommended that the city modify its plan to mitigate for the loss of the bowl. Parsons requested that the city:
• Put historic markers not only at the site of the original Bro Bowl, but elsewhere in the Central Avenue district, such as at the site where Meacham Elementary once stood and where researchers found the archaeological remains of an original Central Avenue storefront.
• Develop interactive materials or displays that make use of the laser-scanning done to create the replica of the Bro Bowl.
• Consider providing funding or space "for a museum interpreting the history, development and significance of the sport of skateboarding in Tampa."
Of the four options that the city has considered, state officials agreed that only leaving the Bro Bowl in place would avoid creating an adverse effect that would result in its removal from the National Register of Historic Places. Thus, Parsons encouraged the city to think about leaving the bowl where it is.
But city officials say leaving the Bro Bowl where it is would have a "serious and detrimental effect" on the larger park, Buckhorn said in a recent letter to Tallahassee.
"User groups for those areas will be in conflict even with the proposed buffer," an 8-foot landscaped screen, according to Buckhorn.
Tampa officials further say there is no guarantee that the bowl, if it didn't move, would remain a ride-at-your-own-risk skate park with minimal city oversight.
That's because thousands of people are expected to move to Encore Tampa in coming years, and many of them are likely to visit Perry Harvey Park. Plans call for the park to get custom artwork and sculptures, an interactive fountain for musical-water-light shows, a "History Walk" focused on the story of Central Avenue and an event lawn for concerts and festivals.
With a busy park and lots of people on site, Tampa parks officials would "take a more intense management approach" to the Bro Bowl, according to a Janus Research report that accompanied Buckhorn's letter to the state.
Consequently, parks employees would be at the Bro Bowl when possible, checking to make sure skaters had city rec cards, helmets and pads. The city would ban graffiti and close the bowl for special events at the park.
Richard Danielson can be reached at (813) 226-3403, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Danielson_Times.