'Wanton Destruction'

Tampa City Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena called Iorio’s chief of

administration Darrell Smith to complain of the “wanton destruction”

without a plan or a contractor in place to oversee the work. Tampa

architect Chris Vela and his wife, Anne, were in the park Tuesday

afternoon as the cutting went down, in near disbelief. “I feel like I

was given a big ‘F you’” by the city, Anne Vela said. She made the

point that the Friends group (the Velas are co-founders) specifically

asked the city to spare the trees so they could be sold as a fundraiser

toward restoration efforts. The large crape myrtles were 20 years old,

and there are (make that were) more than 100 of them.

The park has been neglected since its creation in 1988. Earlier

administrations tore out the unique reflecting pools and shut down the

water fountains and canals as they leaked into the garage below. So

Kiley’s work is already damaged goods. It’s hard to imagine the latest

“renovations” will make it any more whole.

City crews on Tuesday began clear-cutting Kiley Gardens in downtown Tampa – known officially as NCNB Plaza Park to international landscape architecture fans who recognize Kiley_park_chopping

its creator, the late Dan Kiley, as its foremost practitioner in the last half of the 20th century – in a move that had preservationists hopping mad. The future of the park is murky, as Mayor Pam Iorio has cut a deal to remove it in order to fix the parking garage underneath. While Iorio has vowed to recreate part of the park as a tribute to Kiley, the city has not revealed exactly what that will entail.

Last week, the Friends of Kiley Gardens met with city officials and thought they had forged a good working relationship to help the city restore Kiley’s geometric, if underappreciated, masterpiece. Until the chainsaws started on Tuesday.

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