Let Kiley Garden grow

Tampa’s famed Dan Kiley-designed park gets no respect from city officials.

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Another Gasparilla Music Festival organizer, Phil Benito, echoes Funk, saying that he’s open to planting some trees around the perimeter of the garden, but adding anything more than that “kills the open space.”

Some Kiley advocates think it’s peculiar that the music festival organizers seemingly have so much clout regarding the ultimate decision about the park. They’ve used the park exactly once, and for all the concerns about how restoring Kiley will diminish Curtis Hixon, Parks and Rec. Director Greg Bayor tells CL that there have been a grand total of 11 events in Kiley over the past year, with six of them weddings held in the park’s amphitheater.

Recently, the Downtown CRA Advisory Committee has discussed using a structure, not trees, to provide shade in Curtis Hixon. Brenda Dohring Hicks, a Tampa appraiser and broker who owns a number of vintage buildings downtown, says that Karla Price with the Parks and Recreation Department is scheduled to come back with different options, such as giant triangular sheets that could be hoisted up by large collapsible poles.

City Councilwoman Lisa Montelione says she champions historic preservation. She says she’d like to find a balance between “how we can bring the garden to a semblance of Dan Kiley’s vision, but still have it be a place we can utilize for a city.”

Landscape architect Ron Still with Reynolds Smith & Hill was the man in charge of the restoration of Kiley that was completed in 2010. He says part of that restoration makes it safe to plant trees again without the fear of leaks.

But the question of what the city has planned for Kiley is what has advocates concerned. “They gave no reason why they want to preserve it,” Mary Mulhern complains. “I mean, give me a reason. Do they want to sell it, do they want to build on it? I have no idea what’s going on there. It makes no sense.”

Taryn Sabia says Curtis Hixon was designed to be a programmable space that is wide open, but in terms of a music festival, she doesn’t think Kiley is the best place

But Mayor Buckhorn says he wants to start using the park as much as Curtis Hixon.

“We do need to have some shade up there, but it needs to be reasonable and user-friendly.” That sounds like the makings of a compromise, perhaps.

“We’re going to make Kiley usable and attractive,” the Mayor says. “But we’re not going to restore it to what it was.”

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