A visually and cartographically explicit narrative blog about Tampa's built history and development.
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Monday, June 17, 2013

The Bro Bowl is a preservation first in Tampa!

After almost 3 hours of passionate pleas and speeches from both sides of the Bro Bowl preservation battle, the City of Tampa's Historic Preservation Commission voted 4-2 to recommend the Bro Bowl for historic status!  Shannon Bruffett, the man who submitted the historic preservation application for the bowl made a powerful and fact heavy plea for the bowl that I believe resonated heavily with the commission.  You could see it in their faces that the commission was truly dealing with something unique here.  But something truly significant has been lost in the reporting of this story.  If the Bro Bowl receives historic designation it would be the first such structure in Tampa to do so before it reaches the 50 year threshold. This could open up a whole new dialog for the preservation of buildings and structures from the recent past.

Sign for the City's Parks "Department" office in Lowry Park (photo provided by Mr. Jake Tremper
After the end of the public comment portion there was almost dead silence as the commissioners looked at each other wondering what to do next.  Members of the commission openly discussed how he was conflicted with the task that was put before him.  Opposition came from both the City, the Tampa Housing Authority, the local skating community and historian Fred Hearns.  I was wondering why the individuals who fought so hard just to get a skating into the plans for the redeveloped Perry Harvey park were opposed to historic status for the bowl.  Is it because they are under the impression that if the bowl stays, then their newly designed skate park will be ripped from the plans?  Fred Hearns, who was a member of the original design committee, made it clear that if the Bro Bowl is designated historic then it is back to the drawing board to replan the park.  A representative from the City Parks Department showed plans from FDOT for a future widening of Orange Avenue that would cut into the bro bowl.  But a representative from FDOT was later called up and she explained that those plans were 15 years old and that there hasn't been any funding for the widening of Orange Ave and these changes are not slated for the future.  Shannon Bruffett and the other supporters of the historic designation made an impassioned case showing that the Bro Bowl was one of 3 bowls from the 1970s left in existence, with the Bro Bowl being the only one unaltered.  Ultimately the facts spoke for themselves, and there was no good reason why the Bro Bowl couldn't be recommended for historic status.  Now onto the next stage!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

It's too late to bury the bowl

In St. Petersburg the battle over the Pier continues to boil, with the bumper stickers, yard signs and social media pages battling for the hearts and minds of the city and its politicians.  Over here, on the other side of the bay, its been years since we have seen any preservation fights as big or controversial as the Pier / Lens fight.  The fight to preserve the Tampa Gas Company tower in 1993 was one of Tampa's largest and bitterest preservation fights.  2006 was also a rather big year with citizens waging a similar battle to get the City Council to vote against demolition of the Maas Brothers building.  That same year marked start of a battle over a city park, more precisely a skate park.  Today the fight over the Perry Harvey, Sr. Park "skate park", more affectionately known as the Bro Bowl has been resurrected. 

Plans to redevelop Perry Harvey Park, where the bowl resides, have set on the shelf for almost 6 years until the City finally received the funding last year to go ahead with the redevelopment.  Back in 2005 / 2006 when the redevelopment of the former Central Park Village and the adjacent Perry Harvey Park first started taking shape, there were no plans for the skate bowl or a skate park.  Local skateboarders came out to park planning meetings in droves hoping to save the Bro Bowl and eventually winning a bigger and more modern park at the far Northern corner of the park, out of sight.  Tomorrow the Bro Bowl gets one last chance for life.  A group called the "Skateboarding Heritage Foundation", out of Delray Beach, FL, has put forth a request to get the Bro Bowl on the National Historic Register.  While not necessarily a saving grace, it is a necessary to step to achieving local landmark status which would preserve the bowl.

The Bro Bowl's only issue is age and desire.  Built in 1978, the bowl is only 34 years old (one year older than me).  It's 16 years shy of the National Historic Registers eligibility of 50 years old.  However, a structure can overcome this by conveying extraordinary historical significance. The bowl is one of the first original purpose built skate bowls in the country.  I posted a documentary that was made about the Bro Bowl a few years ago (http://tampaniatampa.blogspot.com/2011/11/bro-bowl-doc.html) it gives a pretty good overview of the history of the bowl.  While over a thousand people have signed the Skateboarding Heritage Foundation's petition on Change.org, https://www.change.org/organizations/skateboardingheritage.  Many others are happy to see the Bro Bowl die.  Rob Meronek of the Skatepark of Tampa posted this entry on the Skatepark's website today stating his desires, along with some pictures of the design of the new skatepark to built on the Northern end of the site: http://skateparkoftampa.com/spot/a.aspx?ID=1948.  I doubt members of the original park advisory are happy about this either.  The Pam Iorio appointed committee, which is made up of descendants and family members of the owners of businesses from the historic Central Avenue black business district, gave their opinion on the matter years ago.  I agree that this historic and tragically demolished district should get the full recognition it deserves.

The former Tampa Gas Company building, demolished amid controversy in 1993.
However, I cannot see any reason for the City to completely erase the one bright spot out of the tragic urban renewal program of the 1960s.  If it was a choice between the Bro Bowl and the new skate park, then I could see a reason to let the Bro Bowl go.  But, looking at some of the few published plans for the park redevelopment online (see picture at top), it seems to me that once the bowl is demolished the area will just become a plot of grass and bushes.  I know I'm coming to the fight pretty late in the game here, call it me a Monday morning (or late night) quarterback if you will.  But what is the harm of keeping the bowl?  Are we destined to keep falling into the same preservation trap, allowing something to be destroyed only to have nothing of value put back in its place.  The sites of the Tampa Gas Company building and Maas Brothers sat vacant for years after demolition.  The Maas Brothers site eventually became a parking lot. It would seem like a slap in the face for the city to demolish the Bro Bowl, claiming it as an eyesore that doesn't fit the historic context of the redeveloped park.  Only to have them sod over the site and erect a plaque.  Why waste more of our money?  Let the Bro Bowl stay.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

How does Tampa stack in U.S. parking stats?

A recent infographic has been circulating the interwebs that clearly compares parking requirements across major US cities, http://graphingparking.wordpress.com/.  Tampa is unfortunately one of the few cities on the list to boast a minimum number of required spaces for offices built within the central business district.  No wonder our downtown is awash with surface parking lots.  It is nice to see all four of the major Florida metros represented for a intra-state comparison.  Tampa is the worst of the four in office vs. parking space, third in dining vs. parking, and shown as first in residential vs. parking.  However the residential space graphic makes it appear as though Miami has a flat across the board requirement for residential parking spaces, while Tampa sets different standards for spaces allotted based on the number of bedrooms.


The City of Tampa boasts on its website that it is responsible for "11,372 off-street spaces and 2,097 on-street spaces" (numbers vary depending on which part of the city website you land on).  Searching through the City's code (linked to through the graphing parking website) I see that the only entity not beholden to parking requirements are restaurants located within Downtown's central core.  How generous our City fathers are.  If our city is densify and become a more pedestrian friendly place it is time that we really start to examine our parking requirements and make some changes to reflect our ideals.

Looking from the top of one parking garage to another in downtown Tampa.  A rare scene.

Now, if someone could devote the time to creating a similar infographic that shows the proportion of surface parking to vertical parking in the city, that would be much appreciated.