The Tampa Bay History Center held its formal ground breaking last week. Its impact was much more than the sum of its parts: from construction pilings already out of the ground, poet laureate James Tokley at the ready and Cuban sandwiches from the Columbia Restaurant to cherubic, performing children, glad-handing politicos and beaming, History Center movers and shakers.
It was the final step for a project this region, so often mired in petty parochialism and political in-fighting, really needs. Arguably, more than any other kind of museum. One that will graphically and interactively remind us all what we have in common – not in conflict. Before there was a Jamestown or a Plymouth landing, there were Panfilo de Narvaez and Hernando de Soto exploring parts of present-day Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
Take a well-deserved bow, Tom Touchton. He’s the former History Center Board Chairman who presided over much of the $52-million project’s challenging, 20-year gestation.
When the 60,000-square-foot center opens — and the target date is December 2008 — it will have made history, not just preserved, packaged and presented it. We’re talking 2.4 acres of land from the city of Tampa and funding from Hillsborough County and the private sector. We’re talking the sort of collaborative effort too rarely seen around here on anything.
And we’re also talking about a high-profile Florida building that gives more than lip service to the environment. Because of its serious inclusion of green elements in the design process, the History Center is pursuing the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the United States Green Building Council.
The new Tampa Bay History Center: truly historic.