Friday, July 20, 2018
News Roundup

Tampa opens Water Works Park, looks for big things to follow (w/video)

TAMPA — Construction crews worked until 10 p.m. Monday, but 12 hours later Water Works Park made its debut on a Tuesday morning steamy enough to make the adults in the crowd wish that they, too, could cool off at the new splash pad.

"This is a day I have wanted for a very long time," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. "Not just one year or two years, but 20 years."

The city spent $7.4 million to transform Water Works Park — long closed to the public and partly used as a police fuel depot — into 5 acres with something for everyone.

There's a dog park, an extension of the Riverwalk, picnic areas and a playground with a rope climb like a ship's rigging. The centerpiece of the splash pad is a huge yellow water bucket that tips over about every two minutes to soak everyone below.

"It's larger than I thought it was," said the Rev. Bruce Moore, who walked to the park from his home in Tampa Heights with his three children, ages 5, 3 and 2. "They've put a lot in 5 acres."

The park also has a festival lawn for art shows and food festivals, plus a performance pavilion set so that the audience sees downtown Tampa's skyline beyond the stage. Already, activities are scheduled on 14 weekends from mid September to early December, officials said. They include outdoor movies at sunset, a 5K run, the River Rock Craft Beer & Music Festival on Nov. 15 and the Tampa Heights Music and Jazz Festival on Nov. 22.

"When this park is discovered and people realize what's down here and how family-friendly it is, I think this place will rival Curtis Hixon (Waterfront Park) in popularity," Buckhorn said.

As part of the project, Ulele Spring was restored to its natural freshwater flow of 2,000 gallons a minute. There's an opening to the Hillsborough River and a big pond where manatees can swim in and relax. In June, a mama and her calf did just that.

The park also is designed to spark the area around it, attracting both activity and investment so it's less a lonely outpost and more a busy hub in a growing neighborhood. That starts with the park's location, overlooking a sweeping bend in the Hillsborough River.

"The potential is huge," Buckhorn said, but people have to "see beyond what existed two, three years ago and recognize what could exist …"

Consider what's coming next.

On Aug. 26, Columbia Restaurant owner Richard Gonzmart opens Ulele Native-Inspired Food and Spirits in the city's old 1906 Water Works Building next to the park, with a menu reflecting local history.

The renovations have cost Gonzmart $5 million, but he said he, too, thinks the area is poised to take off. "I want to be part of that dream," he said.

Buckhorn expects more.

A couple of blocks north of Ulele is what city officials hope will be Tampa's next big urban reclamation project. It is starting with a renovation of the historic trolley barn — a big red brick warehouse that says "Tampa Armature Works" across the top — and is expected to continue with the development of 49 acres once known as the Heights.

Developers Adam Harden and Chas Bruck have engaged the architect for the Oxford Exchange to redesign the trolley barn as an event space with restaurants and offices, and scaffolding surrounds the structure. Also in place: approved zoning for 1,900 multifamily apartments or condos, 100 boat slips and 260,000 square feet of offices, stores and cafes.

"It'll be nice for this area to build up," Riverside Heights resident Charles Fox said as his 6-year-old daughter, Mirabel, played in the water. They have been going to the city park at Ballast Point, but Water Works is close enough to walk.

Over the past few weeks, 50 to 70 construction workers toiled seven days a week to finish the job. One of main challenges was removing all the tainted dirt on the site and replacing it with clean fill. Along with the city's police fuel depot, part of the site once was home to a shipping company and was contaminated with petroleum coke.

About $6.5 million of the construction funding came from Hillsborough County's voter-approved community investment tax, which pays for schools, roads and other projects. The Southwest Florida Water Management District provided additional money.

City officials say there's more to come, features to connect Water Works Park not just to the surrounding neighborhood but to the river. Once permits are approved, the city will install a kayak launch, eight boat slips and a water taxi stop.

"We created an anchor on that end of the river that will stimulate private development," Buckhorn said. "The investment that we've made in this park will trigger tens of millions of dollars of private investment that will take place, that will add to the tax base, that will create jobs, that will create a destination.

"But it took the ability and vision to see what it could be," he said, "and not just be content with what it was, which was nothing."

Comments
17 killed when duck boat sinks during storm in Missouri, police say

17 killed when duck boat sinks during storm in Missouri, police say

The duck boat was coasting through the waters of Table Rock Lake on Thursday night when the weather began to pick up. It had been a nice summer day in southern Missouri, recalled one person who was on a nearby boat, before the storm suddenly moved in...
Updated: 12 minutes ago

State record of $321 million in unclaimed property back to residents and businesses

More than $321 million was returned to Florida residents and businesses from the state’s unclaimed property in the past fiscal year.Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis took office in July 2017 and said this year’s total broke last year’s rec...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
Biletnikoff Award sleeps on USF’s Tyre McCants

Biletnikoff Award sleeps on USF’s Tyre McCants

Since USF's transition (or demotion, depending on one's perspective) to the American Athletic Conference, screams of Power Five bias steadily have resonated throughout its fan base.In some cases, the outcries are warranted. In others, they ooze whini...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Top 5 at noon: Rays dream big but follow trend in plan for smaller stadium; Pinellas parking lot argument leads to possible stand-your-ground fatal shooting; and more

Top 5 at noon: Rays dream big but follow trend in plan for smaller stadium; Pinellas parking lot argument leads to possible stand-your-ground fatal shooting; and more

Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com:RAYS DREAM BIG BUT FOLLOW TREND IN PLAN FOR SMALLER STADIUMThe new ballpark design the Rays unveiled two weeks ago will have room for just 30,842 spectators, making it the smallest venue in t...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
Where do Mullen, Taggart rank among college football’s offensive masterminds?

Where do Mullen, Taggart rank among college football’s offensive masterminds?

With offensive-minded head coaches taking over Florida and Florida State, we wanted to know how the recent offensive successes of Dan Mullen and Willie Taggart rank among their peers.After crunching thousands of numbers, here's our answer: Not as hig...
Updated: 27 minutes ago
Pinellas parking space argument leads to possible ‘stand your ground’ fatal shooting

Pinellas parking space argument leads to possible ‘stand your ground’ fatal shooting

CLEARWATER — The car was still idling Thursday when Michael Drejka approached it wearing dark-tinted sunglasses.He told the driver, Britany Jacobs, she was parked in a handicap spot and needed to move. She said she would as soon as her boyfriend and ...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
Tampa Bay Rays dream big but follow trend in plans for smaller stadium

Tampa Bay Rays dream big but follow trend in plans for smaller stadium

TAMPA — When it comes to filling a ballpark, the Tampa Bay Rays are Major League Baseball’s perennial bottom-dweller. The team has finished last in average attendance the past six seasons at Tropicana Field. As of the All-Star game, the ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Carlton: Rotary Clubs support no-women-allowed dinner. What year is this?

Going "stag" sounds so old-fashioned — boys night out, sans the gals. But it’s not so outdated in certain Rotary clubs in the Brandon suburbs and still rural Plant City. There, the decades-old no-women-allowed tradition of the yearly sta...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Watch: Florida woman brought to tears upon realizing she left her 8-month-old son in a hot car

Watch: Florida woman brought to tears upon realizing she left her 8-month-old son in a hot car

A Volusia County woman was brought to tears on Tuesday after she returned to her car to see her 8-month-old son still alive and healthy after she left him inside with the windows closed.Accompanying her baby, however, was a Volusia County deputy.Meag...
Updated: 1 hour ago
NFL, NFLPA freeze anthem rules amid backlash to Miami policy

NFL, NFLPA freeze anthem rules amid backlash to Miami policy

The NFL’s two-month old national anthem policy is on hold. Hours after The Associated Press reported that Miami Dolphins players who protest on the field during the anthem could be suspended for up to four games under a team policy issued this week, ...
Updated: 2 hours ago