The Public's Space

Iorio commits to saving Kiley-designed park; St. Pete protest update.

click to enlarge BLOTTING THE SUN: Dan Kiley's creation in - downtown Tampa remains overgrown, despite recent trimming by city crews. - Wayne Garcia
Wayne Garcia
BLOTTING THE SUN: Dan Kiley's creation in downtown Tampa remains overgrown, despite recent trimming by city crews.

MILLER HOUSE: Dan Kiley's work is already on the National Register.City of Tampa Historic Preservation DepartmentYOUNG BUT HISTORIC: Preservationists want to see the NCNB Plaza Park added to the National Register of Historic Places in a category that also includes (L-R) the Texas Schoolbook Depository, the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Philip Johnson's Glass House and Dulles International Airport.POLITICAL WHOREBY WAYNE GARCIAMayor Pam Iorio has changed her mind about the Dan Kiley-designed park in downtown Tampa, and vows to save it from being bulldozed.Iorio said in an interview with the Planet that she is impressed by efforts of supporters trying to save the NCNB Plaza Park, which is known internationally as one of the best examples of late-20th-century landscape architecture. It was designed by a master, Dan Kiley, but has gone largely unrecognized in Tampa.

"I understand the significance of [Dan] Kiley," Iorio said. "The concept of Kiley [park] being a quiet and meditative spot that is well-maintained, I can endorse that. We're going to make every attempt to do it and save the park."

The mayor now views the park as a quiet oasis that would complement her plans for a busier, more active gathering spot at Curtis Hixon Park and the riverwalk that would join the two.

Iorio said, however, that she can't see restoring the unique reflecting pools and channels that were once the jewels of the park and were shut down after installation because of leaking and maintenance problems.

"We're not going to go back to the original water features, because those water features cannot be maintained and work properly," the mayor said.

Supporters - including preservationists, architects, landscape architects and City Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena - have rallied to save the park, which sits on the Hillsborough River between the Rivergate Center (popularly known as the beer-can building) and the Tampa Museum of Art. It was slated for demolition under the museum renovation plan designed by Rafael Viñoly, but when those plans were shelved, the horribly neglected park found new life. The campaign to rescue the park was chronicled in a June 2 cover story in the Planet.

Supporters are now trying to have the Kiley park placed on the National Register of Historic Places in order to protect it. About a dozen of them appealed to the Tampa Historic Preservation Commission on July 12 for a recommendation on such a designation. The commission did not take a vote but was very receptive to getting an application for preservation from supporters.

Getting the Kiley park on the National Register could prove tough. First, structures or places generally are not eligible for designation until they are 50 years old. The NCNB Plaza Park was built in 1988. Structures of recent importance can go on the list but must have "exceptional importance." Examples of such recently historic structures include the Texas Schoolbook Depository in Dallas and Lorraine Motel in Memphis (because of their roles, respectively, in the Kennedy and King assassinations). Kiley's creation certainly doesn't fall into that rather macabre neighborhood, but it does appear to have at least some kinship with others on the register under age 50: Dulles International Airport in Virginia, and architect Philip Johnson's International-style masterpiece Glass House in New Canaan, Conn. Kiley's own work at the Miller House in Indiana, completed in 1955, was placed on the National Register in 2000.

The commission's acting director, Dennis Fernandez, told members that state officials didn't believe the NCNB Plaza Park met the criteria for the National Register yet.

The larger hurdle, however, may be that Iorio doesn't support such a designation.

"I think our word should be enough, this is a city park and we're going to maintain it," Iorio said.

The city, however, wants supporters to create a private nonprofit group to raise money to help maintain the park once it is renovated. The city is awaiting an engineering report about the garage below the park before determining how to fix problems in the garage and renovate the park.

"We need help from the private sector," the mayor said. "What we needed from the group of supporters … is for a not-for-profit to be formed to help the city with the maintenance."

The Historic Preservation Committee likewise asked private supporters to compile a formal application for designation, something that city staff normally does itself. Sarasota landscape architect Sue Thompson, who compiled the data that landed the park on the National Trust's list of 11 most endangered public spaces, said after the meeting that she would work on the application.

The young architects' group YARD-OPS is also circulating its proposed work plan for the park. They hope to create a Kiley Gardens Volunteer Force and hold such events there as museum/gallery collaborations, block parties, concerts, garden parties and a skatefest.

BayWalk Barricades: The Battle of BayWalk continues to rage. You may recall that we wrote about how city officials and shopping district owners were discussing some way to limit access to protesters along Second Avenue N.E. (We incorrectly reported that it was Second Avenue S. in our June 2 edition.) City officials had turned down BayWalk's request to take ownership of the sidewalk in order to limit access to it.Now, peace protesters report they are being confronted with bicycle racks set up as temporary metal barricades on Second Avenue in front of BayWalk, in the spot where the protesters have gathered on and off for the past three years. On Saturday, June 16, protesters said, the metal barricades "were configured in a very confusing pattern, blocking the flow of pedestrian traffic in some areas and cutting off access to entire sections of the public sidewalk," said James Marvin of St. Pete for Peace. About 50 members of that group marched and chanted against plans to install them permanently.

"We are currently attempting to review the city's plans and have been in touch with our attorneys," Marvin said. "We are awaiting more information and details on the city's construction plans. However, if they decide to move forward with a design that impedes the rights of both pedestrians and protesters we would like your readers to be informed of the controversy."

City officials and BayWalk's owners have said the barricades are not designed to limit the protesters but instead channel traffic to crosswalks and prevent pedestrians from cutting across the street dangerously or loitering. Chief Assistant City Attorney Mark Winn said the barricades will mark a 60- to 70-feet-long "pedestrian movement" zone in which loitering or standing to protest will not be allowed. The zone would comprise only part of the southern entry to BayWalk.

"This is really a public safety issue," Winn said. "It's not about the protesters. We have a problem with other members of the public getting out there into the street. Our goal is not to dissuade anybody from communicating with anybody else."

But Marvin said the barricades "severely restrict" the space on the sidewalk and will force his group to gather on BayWalk property, making it subject to the private owner's rules.

"This would result in an end run around the property issue and ultimately limit our rights to assembly and free speech at the complex," Marvin said.

Winn said the city's plans will not seriously impact the protesters' ability to have their message reach BayWalk visitors.

Winn added that there are no plans to make the barricades permanent until the city sees how they work. The barricades are planned only for Friday and Saturday nights or on busy holidays, at the discretion of St. Petersburg police officers and BayWalk's management.

"At this point, it is an idea that we are trying, we want to see how it works," he said.

Political Whore can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or by telephone at 813-739-4805.

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