Eyesore Morphing To Waterfront Park

From the Poe Garage to the convention center, we’re finally talking meaningful, positive change for the east bank of the Hillsborough River.

We’re also talking deferred gratification. The complete Riverwalk, for example, won’t be finished until 2010.

But something will be finished a lot sooner than that – and for anyone who travels the bridges on Platt or Brorein streets, it’s hardly insignificant. And it can’t happen soon enough.

We’re talking about that crumbling-seawall, trash-strewn, hell hole of a lot near the convention center. For too long, that off-putting, nasty view had been inflicted on Platt Street bridge motorists as they entered downtown. All that was missing was the “Welcome to Fallujah” sign.

But since late last year, city crews have been at work turning the high-profile Tampa eyesore into a lush public park. It was scheduled for completion this summer, but unexpected excavation problems — i.e., chemical and petroleum products — have delayed construction on the near half-acre parcel. (City crews also have been working on another similar-sized downtown waterfront lot near Washington Street.)

The front-end loaders are now gone, and the park-to-be has a clean bill of health, according to the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. Plans now call for it (and its companion parcel) to be finished by mid-October. It’s expected that the University of South Florida will be recognized in some fashion – likely with flags or sculptural elements. (The other park will be dedicated to MacDill Air Force Base with markers and a historical monument.)

For all the fanfare over bigger, sexier projects, the first tangible sign that, indeed, it is really happening on Tampa’s east bank, will be these two urban parks. Their importance is aesthetic and symbolic — but they’re also necessary amenities for downtown residential development to realize its potential.

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