Buckhorn unveils new design for Riverfront Park

Acknowledging that not everyone is going to be able to get what they want in regards to the redesign of Tampa's Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, Mayor Bob Buckhorn today hailed the beginnings of the transformation of the underutilized park located on the west side of the Hillsborough River.

"We don’t get chances to re-imagine and redesign urban landscapes like this ever," Buckhorn said at a morning press conference inside the park. But he acknowledged that it will come at a substantial cost that he was unable to determine today. 

The almost-completed redesign has been led by the Denver-based firm Civitas, who has held three community meetings this summer and dozens of additional one-on-one discussions with representatives from the West Tampa area who have frequented the park since its creation in 1977. A final public meeting will be held tonight at Blake High School at 6 p.m. to discuss the design with the public (that's at 1701 N. Boulevard).

Buckhorn said that he had two major goals that had to be accomplished with the redevelopment of Riverfront Park: It had to pay homage to the neighborhood, and the community had to intricately involved in the decision-making process.

"We didn't start with an idea," emphasized Mark Johnson, a landscape architect who founded Civitas 31 years ago."The mayor told us specifically 'don't bring a bag of tricks.'"Johnson says there are unique aspects of the park that he looks forward to changing for the better, first and foremost being the removal of the large mounds inside the park that take away views of the river.

That's one reason why Susan Lane says she hasn't visited inside the park very often. The daughter of the man that the park was named for, former Tampa Mayor Julian B. Lane, Ms. Lane said her father would be pleased by the new design.

Those new design features include:

Adding two acres of park space gained by shifting Laurel St. North, allowing the existing multi-use field to become regulation size with added seating.

A half-mile loop trail with outdoor fitness stations as well as a new, regulation-size multi-use field with seating, renovated tennis courts, new sand volleyball courts, and new basketball courts.

A large splash pad similar in size to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park’s Louvre Fountain.

A play area with activity areas for children of different ages.

Upper lawn and performance pavilion to showcase the performing arts.

Large great lawn for special events and festivals.

A History walk celebrating Phillips Field, Roberts City, and the surrounding neighborhood.

The Boys & Girls Club located inside the park would remain. 

Construction of the new park is unknown at this time, and dependent upon financing. The mayor emphasized several times during the press conference that it will be a "significant amount of money," but couldn't calculate how much that would be. For reference, he said that Curtis Hixon Park had cost nearly $20 million to redesign its 5 acres. 

Riverfront Park is nearly five times that size, though he said it shouldn't be as expensive. The city has placed about $8 million in the current budget for the project, but Buckhorn said he's hoping that there could be money coming in from corporations getting naming rights to certain parts of the park, such as the newly proposed boathouse that will be controlled by the city (the boathouse in the park currently is run by the private Stewarts Foundation).

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