Tampa, Florida Mayor Bob Buckhorn took the helm of a track hoe last week to break ground on the redevelopment of Riverfront Park. The ceremony marked the beginning of a major construction project in a neighborhood that, according to the mayor in a speech at the event, has been “underserved for decades.”

Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park was originally constructed in 1977 on the banks of the Hillsborough River. Since then the park has fallen into disrepair and disuse, and was overdue for a renovation. It’s set for a major one in the coming year, with a total investment of $35 million into revitalizing the community space.

This project has been in the works since 2014, when designers Civitas and W Architecture and Landscape Architecture began a community outreach process to determine the public’s needs. According to Civitas Project Manager Robin Rooney Norcross in a press release,“The public meetings were very well attended and influential through all design decisions… It became clear early on that the residents wanted their park back”

Among the considerations the project managers took were safety, accessibility, and access to the river. They are also revamping the most used features of the old park, including the basketball and tennis courts and the splash pad. The river itself is a key focus of the design, which will slope forward for ideal views of the waterfront. It will also include picnic areas, and a great lawn for activities.

River access will be available through Tampa’s first city-run boathouse, with kayaks, paddle boards, and dragon boats among the watercraft available for rental. The boathouse, a centerpiece of the design, will double as a community center with classrooms and a catering kitchen on its top floor.

The new Riverfront Park will also provide pedestrian and bike access to both the greenway trail in development on the west bank of the river, and the existing Riverwalk on the east.

The city expects the renovation to be completed by summer 2017. In addition to Civitas and W, the team includes City Architect James Jackson Jr., City Project Architect Kevin Henika, Parks and Recreation Director Greg Bayor, Parks and Recreation Superintendent Brad Suder and Parks and Recreation Landscape Architect Project Manager Karla Price Stantec, Moffatt & Nichol, Volt Air Consulting Engineers, Silman Structural Engineers, Arehna Engineering and Evans Engineering with Weller Pools.

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