If downtown Tampa’s immensely popular Riverwalk has a glitch, it’s near the Cass Street Bridge between the Straz performing arts center and the Tampa Museum of Art.
That’s where the 2.6 mile ribbon of concrete that ferries pedestrians, runners and partiers along the east bank of the Hillsborough River seems to briefly end. There, Riverwalk users find themselves no longer on the waterside path, but on the street at a busy city crosswalk, where it can be confusing for some to figure out how to get back to the Riverwalk proper.
Downtown boosters think some big, splashy art will help.
Starting today, crews begin painting a bright mural called River Arts Crossing on the roadway where Riverwalk users cross Cass Street. The art features what Shaun Drinkard, interim president of the Tampa Downtown Partnership, calls “directions in disguise” — including triangles that look like arrows within the painting “that will help everyone know they’re still on the right path.”
It’s the same subtle psychology, Drinkard said, airports have long used with everything from light patterns to carpet colors guiding people where to go.
Though at other points the Riverwalk passes seamlessly under car-traffic bridges that cross the river, railroad tracks alongside the Cass Street Bridge kept that from happening when the Riverwalk was built.
“The lack of height of that CSX bridge was an engineering challenge that would have halted progress on the Riverwalk at the time,” said Ashly Anderson, an urban designer formerly with the Downtown Partnership.
The mural, created by artists Jay Giroux and Anthony Freese and done in street paint that’s expected to last years, includes multicolored crosswalks at Cass and Tyler streets. It’s also intended to help cue motorists to slow down and is connected to the protected biking path called the Green Spine.
The intersection will close at 5 a.m. Friday and is expected to reopen to traffic by 5 p.m. Saturday.
Tampa’s Riverwalk is one of downtown’s most popular draws, with more than 100,000 people using it monthly to walk, run, attend events from Lightning hockey games to festivals and stroll between bars and restaurants with a drink in hand. It placed second on USA Today’s 2023 readers’ choice list of the 10 best riverwalks in America.