With bright colors and open views, Sparkman Wharf transforms Channelside

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It's artsy, eclectic, and industrial, a kind of throwback to something new. 

"I've never seen anything like it in Tampa," offered Chef Jeannie Pierola of Edison Swigamajig, which looks like a brightly painted food truck -- except it's in a shipping container.

It's one in a row of such food options at the new Sparkman Wharf in Tampa's Channelside District. 

"It's kind of like a food hall except we're taking advantage of the water," explained Steve McGlocklin of Whatever Pops and Bowls.  

Sparkman Wharf will open Friday, the first development  in Tampa's Water Street transformation by Strategic Property Partners, backed by Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.  It's on the site of the old Channelside Bay Plaza entertainment venue. 

"This is an unbelievable property," said Sam Stein of Strategic Property Planners. "It's right on the channel, closed off for so long. The minute we tore down this building and looked out the channel, we knew we had something special." 

The only holdover from Channelside is Splitsville Southern and Social. 

"We're real excited about having Vinik and Gates and what they're doing in all of downtown, and to be able to take Channelside and recreate it and reimagine it. We really just couldn't be more excited to be a part of it," said Guy Revelle, owner of Splitsville. 

Sparkman Wharf is named for Stephen M. Sparkman, a Tampa congressman who brought millions of dollars in federal spending to dig the deep channels in Port Tampa Bay in the early 1900's.

Sparkman may have never envisioned it, but his namesake wharf is about to bring a new vibe to Channelside. Developers have styled the new venue “industrial chic." It opens views to the port that Tampa used to build walls to hide.