TAMPA (FOX 13) - It's the biggest investment the city of Tampa has ever made in a park. Thursday afternoon, city council approved a $35 million plan to renovate Julian B. Lane Riverview Park.
The 23-acre park sits just across the river from Tampa's blossoming downtown. After decades of neglect, the park has fallen behind the sparkling, newly renovated spaces on the Hillsborough River's east shores. Mayor Bob Buckhorn's plan, an extension of the development through downtown Tampa, hopes to change that.
"I want the river to be the center of our urban experience," said Buckhorn after city council members approved the plan with a 6-1 vote. "It will be the transformation of a park that for years has been underutilized, under-served and often times dangerous and turn it into a place that the neighborhood is proud of. You heard it [in the city council meeting] a lot: this is the most money that's been invested in West Tampa, certainly in the last four decades."
Several city council members echoed this, saying a legacy project in West Tampa is long overdue.
"This is a great opportunity. Yes: $35 million is a lot of money, but if you look at West Tampa over the last 20 years, where not one dollar has been invested, then that community deserves the type of money that's been invested," said councilman Frank Reddick, District 5.
Not everyone, however, agreed.
"$40 million for a park within one mile of all these other multi-million dollar parks? No," said council woman Lisa Montelione, District 7.
The park, which is double the size of the new Perry Harvey Sr. Park, will include running and jogging paths and an extension of the Bayshore Blvd. trail, new tennis, basketball and sand volleyball courts, a new public boathouse and docks, a performance pavilion and green spaces for concerts, a multi-use regulation-sized field for football, lacrosse and soccer and new play areas, including a splash pad, for kids. Councilman Maniscalco says based on what he's seen in the wake of the renovations of Curtis Hixon and Waterworks parks downtown, he believes a revitalized riverfront park will be a catalyst for new growth in West Tampa.
"You go to waterworks and it's busy. You go to Ulele and it's busy. You go to Curtis Hixon and it's busy. You have people on the riverwalk. I see the community asset. I see the affect it's had on the area around it," said Maniscalco. "I believe in a project like this. I believe this is an investment spent wisely and it's going to pay dividends."
"You're already seeing investors start to flow into the North Hyde Park area," said Buckhorn. "[Julian B. Lane Park] will be the anchor for the redevelopment of the whole west river. As we go through and tear down North Boulevard Homes, an aging public housing project and rebuild that entire community, which is about 150 acres into a mixed-use community of 2,300 units, which will be a mix of subsidized and market-rate housing, we're going to create a whole new neighborhood. that park will be its linchpin."
The bulk of the park's $35 million price tag comes from the city's settlement with BP ($15 million of the $20 million windfall), following the gulf oil spill in 2010. Some will also be funded by a community investment tax.