TAMPA — The City Council on Thursday approved leasing about 4 acres of private parking for use as a protest area during the Republican National Convention.
The property is on the east side of Nebraska Avenue, a block north of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the site of the convention.
Once fenced in and equipped with a stage and sound system, the grassy lots will serve as the largest of the three protest areas the city plans to establish for demonstrators. The other two will be on parking lots under the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway on each side of Jefferson Street.
The lease will cost the city $57,500, which city officials expect will be covered by a $50 million federal grant that Congress appropriated for securing the Aug. 27-30 convention.
In a separate vote, council members agreed to spend $24.85 million from the federal security grant to pay local and out-of-town law enforcement officers to work during the RNC.
Of that, $4 million is earmarked for city salaries. The other $20.85 million will go to 3,000 or more officers from 63 different agencies around Tampa Bay and the rest of Florida.
In a third RNC-related vote, council members gave their initial approval to a proposal to allow pedal buses on city streets during the convention. Humana wants to bring a free pedal bus service to Tampa then as part of its Freewheelin health awareness and free transportation program.
Humana plans to bring in 20 pedal buses, each capable of carrying up to nine people in three rows of seats. Under the city rules approved Thursday, the buses would be allowed to run from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 24-30, but only on designated roadways and only in the lane closest to the curb. They also would have to load and unload passengers only at authorized pickup and dropoff locations.
Tampa officials have identified one pedal bus route between downtown and Ybor City, though Humana says it is discussing others with the city. That route would go from the northern end of downtown — between the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts and Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park — along Tyler and Cass streets east to Nuccio Parkway, north to E Seventh Avenue and into Ybor City. The pedal buses would turn around near Centro Ybor for the return trip to downtown.
A final vote on temporary rules for the pedal buses is scheduled for July 19.
Richard Danielson can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3403.