State historic preservation officials gave the city of Tampa the green light this week to demolish the Bro Bowl skate park and redevelop Perry Harvey Sr. Park. The decision dovetails with Mayor Bob Buckhorn's preferred design for the site, which calls for building a new skate park at the northern end of the property and having large, open green spaces that will include tributes to Tampa's now-defunct historic black business district. Now the mayor should build consensus on an agreement that seeks to mitigate the historical loss of the Bro Bowl.
Built by the city of Tampa in 1978, the Perry Harvey Sr. Park Skateboard Bowl brought suburban and urban skaters together. It fostered a sense of community that eventually spawned its nickname, the Bro Bowl. The fracas over its future emerged amid plans to demolish the neighboring Central Park Village housing project. In the village's place, the city planned a $450 million mixed-income residential and retail development called Encore Tampa. It would be buttressed by a large park that could host concerts and festivals and pay tribute to Central Avenue, which ran through the heart of Tampa's black business district and was leveled in urban renewal projects.
The city wanted to dismantle the Bro Bowl and build a bigger, more modern skate park elsewhere on the 40-acre site. But skaters protested and last fall got the site put on the National Register of Historic Places.
Earlier this month, city officials presented state preservation officials with four options that would allow development to proceed. They could leave the Bro Bowl intact, demolish it, relocate it or build a replica elsewhere in the park. The state said leaving the bowl in place was preferable but that rebuilding inside the park was sufficient.
The fate of the Bro Bowl always has been about more than dueling historical landmarks. As the disagreement dragged on, displaced Central Park Village residents continued to wait for new housing. A residence for seniors has opened, and more units are set to open this summer. But a $30 million federal grant that could pay for additional work at the development cannot be released until officials resolve the situation with the skate park. Enough time has been wasted, and the city should move to make good on the promises it made to the residents of this economically depressed area.
The mayor should give Bro Bowl supporters a voice in determining what the new skate park looks like. Erecting historical markers throughout the renovated park and incorporating pieces of the old concrete bowl into the new design are solid places to start the conversation. Progress is often messy, but it doesn't have to exclude the past.