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Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014

Otto: 'Big Ugly' is coming to the river, like it or not

Published:   |   Updated: May 8, 2013 at 11:23 AM

At a special meeting of the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library Board on Monday inside the John F. Germany Library, board members listened as developers of a proposed downtown tower tried to explain how people would still be able to get into the library when the apartment project is completed.
 
The developers, who are planning a massive apartment building between the library and the river, will have to coordinate some big changes that include moving two streets and removing much of the skywalk that goes from the Poe garage with connections to the library and the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.

The concern at the meeting was over development plans that would no longer allow pedestrians to access the back of the library from the enclosed skywalk.

It's a sticky problem, but my guess is that sometime in the next few months they will work out the logistics and also figure out how patrons will get from the garage to the Straz.

What surprises me is that the library people were more concerned about a walkway than the fact that “Big Ugly,'' the proposed new apartment building, is coming at all.

In recent years, particularly during the runs of mayors Pam Iorio and now Bob Buckhorn, the realization that not only the river but what we build alongside of it are at the core of downtown redevelopment.

To our credit there has been a dedicated and thoughtful effort to build an arts and entertainment district downtown, particularly along the new Riverwalk and especially around the Curtis Hixon Park complex.


It has been a slow process and one that will continue to grow in increments as the Riverwalk is completed all the way to Waterworks Park, where the Gonzmart family of Columbia Restaurant fame is creating a new restaurant to anchor the park.

“KAWHUMMMP!''

That's the sound of a 36-story apartment tower rising along the river smack in front of the library and next to the Straz. The only drawings I've seen suggest it is going to be about as ugly as you might expect something that big in that tight a situation could be.

It is completely inappropriate, but then the city is already trying to jam a round peg of an arts district into the square hole of limited space, railroad tracks and no parking and doing about as good a job as possible.

And of course “Big Ugly'' will produce revenue for the city. That's not an easy thing to ignore, and it's why the thing will ultimately be built.



In an ideal situation what should happen is that we tear down the aging library and put the new apartment tower in its place facing Ashley Drive. Then rebuild the John Germany library in the proposed tower's site, adding all the electronic bells and whistles of a 21st century library.

Look, I just said in an ideal situation. Something like that, especially in today's tough economy, could never come to be. Unless, of course, we tried to do it by calling it the new John F. Germany Baseball Stadium.
and one that will continue to grow in increments as the Riverwalk is completed all the way to Waterworks Park, where the Gonzmart family of Columbia Restaurant fame is creating a new restaurant to anchor the park.

“KAWHUMMMP!''

That's the sound of a 36-story apartment tower rising along the river smack in front of the library and next to the Straz. The only drawings I've seen suggest it is going to be about as ugly as you might expect something that big in that tight a situation could be.

It is completely inappropriate, but then the city is already trying to jam a round peg of an arts district into the square hole of limited space, railroad tracks and no parking and doing about as good a job as possible.

And of course “Big Ugly'' will produce revenue for the city. That's not an easy thing to ignore, and it's why the thing will ultimately be built.



In an ideal situation what should happen is that we tear down the aging library and put the new apartment tower in its place facing Ashley Drive. Then rebuild the John Germany library in the proposed tower's site, adding all the electronic bells and whistles of a 21st century library.

Look, I just said in an ideal situation. Something like that, especially in today's tough economy, could never come to be. Unless, of course, we tried to do it by calling it the new John F. Germany Baseball Stadium.






 
 

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