TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn is still no fan of the Bro Bowl, but he has come to recognize that its spot on the National Register of Historic Places could delay a project that he and black community leaders care about a lot more.
To avoid that, the city asked an engineering firm whether it's possible to move the skateboarding bowl out of the bigger project's way. The answer is yes, with the move costing an estimated $115,000 to $125,000.
But now Buckhorn has another problem. Historic preservation officials in Tallahassee told the city that moving the Bro Bowl would be an "appropriate compromise," Buckhorn said. They've also said it would trigger another review process — the third in a year.
That's because federal regulations say that changing the boundary of a site on the National Register means that a new nomination must be made to keep it on the list. And the new review would take at least nine months.
That, city officials say, would further delay a $6 million project at Perry Harvey Sr. Park, where the Bro Bowl is located. City Hall has spent years planning to transform the drab 11-acre park into a memorial to the history of Central Avenue — once a vibrant black business and nightclub district.
"The overriding issue for me is to get the park done sooner rather than later," Buckhorn said. "If moving the bowl to the north end of the park accommodates that, then I'm willing to do that."
On Thursday, Buckhorn sent a letter to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner asking to bypass the third review.
(The first review was the nomination by skateboarders to put the bowl on the National Register, which took place in October. The second is known as a "Section 106" review, which is now under way. Because the city plans to use $2 million in federal funds on Perry Harvey Park, it is required to come up with a plan to avoid or mitigate the project's impact on the historic site.)
Instead of going through a third review, the city wants to enter an agreement with the state as part of the Section 106 review to move the bowl while keeping its place on the National Register. City Attorney Julia Mandell said similar agreements have been used when houses in historic neighborhoods were moved to make way for interstate expansion.
In a four-page report to the city, Kimley-Horne and Associates outlined what it would take to move the Bro Bowl from the center of Perry Harvey Park to its north end, about 1,000 feet away.
Built in 1978, the bowl covers about 6,800 square feet and is made of concrete about 5 inches thick. It has a downhill ramp about 10 feet wide and 100 feet long that ends in a bowl about 45 feet wide and 5 feet deep.
Because concrete tends to crack when lifted, Kimley-Horne recommends moving the Bro Bowl in pieces measuring up to 20 feet by 20 feet.
That means the bowl itself might have to be moved in about 10 pieces, and the ramp and an area at the top of the hill might be moved in 12 to 15 pieces.
When reassembled, the edges might have to be closed together with a little fresh concrete or ground down slightly to make sure they're ridable.
The chief spokesmen for the skateboarding and African-American communities on this controversy could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.
Buckhorn said he has spoken to Fred Hearns, the leading advocate for the plan to honor the history of Central Avenue. It's also the mayor's understanding that state officials have reached out to skateboarders. Based on what he's heard, both sides are okay with the plan.
City officials aim to start the redevelopment of Perry Harvey Park early next year. It is already a couple of months behind schedule. With work expected to take 18 months to two years, Buckhorn doesn't want to wait.
"Once we get this resolved," he said, "we're going to start work."