From ice skating at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park on one end of the Riverwalk to the festive lights of Water Street on the other, downtown Tampa is in full holiday mode.
But for users of the busy 2.6-mile recreational path along the water that connects restaurants, hotels and museums, there’s a temporary glitch: Walkers, runners and partiers are finding themselves routed off the Riverwalk and onto busy Ashley Drive between MacDill Park and the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway where a new waterfront luxury tower is being built.
The detour ends soon: A tunnel along the Riverwalk to protect pedestrians during construction is expected to open Dec. 8.
“They’re ahead of schedule,” said Debbie Herrington, transportation right of way engineer with the city’s mobility department.
The less-than-a-monthlong closure will be significantly shorter than a prior Riverwalk reroute along another busy downtown thoroughfare during the $38 million expansion of the Tampa Convention Center. There, gates blocked the waterside for a year and a half before it reopened this summer.
This time, the break is part of the construction of the 37-story Pendry Tampa luxury hotel and condo high-rise on the Hillsborough River, currently being built on the site of what nearly two decades ago was envisioned for Trump Tower Tampa. That project promised to be “so spectacular” it would redefine the city’s skyline, but was doomed by construction costs and lack of financing.
City officials said the Pendry developer wanted to close the stretch of the Riverwalk for three years during construction, but the city declined. The Riverwalk closed at the Pendry site Nov. 13 while they construct a tunnel along the Riverwalk, said Jennifer Holton, the city’s development and economic opportunity communications coordinator.
“The big thing is the city wanted to protect the Riverwalk experience,” Holton said.
It will be similar to scaffolding seen in New York City that enables pedestrians to keep using walkways during construction. The Tampa tunnel will have overhead protection and lighting inside.