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Tampa sets March 27 celebration for Riverwalk opening

TAMPA — After four decades, six mayors and millions of dollars, the end of construction is in sight on a high-profile piece of the Riverwalk.

Tampa officials have scheduled a March 27 grand opening for a long-desired but expensive-to-build section of the downtown trail.

Expected to join Mayor Bob Buckhorn at the 5 p.m. ceremony are former Tampa mayors Pam Iorio, Dick Greco, Sandy Freedman and Bob Martinez.

And a sixth mayor is sure to be remembered, too. Bill Poe, who started work on the Riverwalk in 1975 when he was mayor, died last May 1.

The section of the Riverwalk now nearing completion goes 1,460 feet from MacDill Park north under the Kennedy Boulevard bridge to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

In addition to linking together older lengths of the Riverwalk, the new section will feature underwater lights that will change color as pedestrians pass by. It also will offer shade under several canopies about 35 feet wide and 35 to 75 feet long.

This stretch of the Riverwalk is being built on pilings over the river because the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel and other properties are built to the seawall. Complications sinking those pilings into the bottom of the Hillsborough River contributed to delays that pushed the opening months past the original goal of Thanksgiving. (Getting a crane-like drilling rig snagged on the Kennedy Boulevard drawbridge a couple of months ago didn't help, either.)

The project has cost about $9 million. A $10.9 million federal transportation grant is helping to pay for the work, as well as a future section of the Riverwalk going north from the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts and a 1.7-mile trail now under construction along the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway.

Once the new segment is open, the Riverwalk will offer about 2.6 uninterrupted miles of waterfront walking, jogging and cycling.

Still to come: a section going north from the Straz Center to Water Works Park.

City Hall is waiting for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue a permit for the project, according to city spokeswoman Ali Glisson. Once it does, the city will forward that to the Federal Highways Administration, which is expected to green-light awarding the bid for construction. Construction is expected to take about 12 months once the city gives the contractor the notice to proceed.

Contact Richard Danielson at or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times