TAMPA — Empty and aging, Tampa's city marina on Bayshore Boulevard looks little better than a shipwreck.
The timber pilings are split and weathered, the sidewalks sunken, the security fences crooked and rusty. A breeze pushes the doors of an electrical meter box open to reveal the sneakers and musty jacket of some homeless guy's improvised closet.
"It's an eyesore right now and it's dangerous," Mayor Bob Buckhorn says of the marina and its 36 boat slips. "Our waterfront is our best asset, and we need to make sure it's something we're proud of."
To do that, City Hall is getting ready to put out a request for proposals from companies or other organizations interested in demolishing the marina, building one and running it.
The city doesn't have money to fix the marina itself, but Buckhorn could see leasing it to someone ready to take on the repairs.
"I'm looking to see what the private sector thinks they can do in partnership with the city," Buckhorn said.
The mayor said he'll listen to a variety of ideas on structuring the arrangement and could be open to expanding the marina.
The request could go out late this month or next month, though no one can say what kind of response the city could get.
Whoever takes on the project could be looking at a substantial capital investment, city chief of staff Santiago Corrada said.
The city has considered its options for the marina several times in the past, but Buckhorn re-energized the conversation, Corrada said.
Only three of Bayshore's slips are occupied. Because of their poor condition, city officials have relocated vessels from Bayshore to the Marjorie Park Yacht Basin on Davis Islands, where they have compatible space.
"Right now, we're not actively recruiting people for those slips," parks spokeswoman Linda Carlo said. Rent at the marina is $7 per foot of boat length per month.
The city has 32 monthly slips with seven vacancies at Marjorie Park and 27 slips for temporary docking at the Tampa Convention Center.
Any proposed agreement would have to go before the City Council for approval.
Council member Harry Cohen, whose South Tampa district includes the marina, said Tuesday that the administration hasn't briefed him on the idea, but he's open to exploring anything with the potential to save money or improve efficiency.
"Any time you're operating something that is outside your core competency, you ought to look at whether you're going to be the best operator for that," he said.
Richard Danielson can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403.