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Politics

Tampa council OKs plan making river the center of downtown

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Published:   |   Updated: December 19, 2013 at 06:47 PM

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TAMPA — The Tampa City Council this morning formally adopted Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s InVision plan for remaking downtown Tampa.

The action lets city officials begin making changes to Tampa’s land-use rules to make possible the changes envisioned by InVision. Those changes go to the City-County Planning Commission in mid-2014.

By adopting the plan, the city will also show it’s serious about redevelopment when it competes for federal grant money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said Randy Goers, urban planning coordinator in the city’s Planning and Development department.

The InVision project began last year with the goal of reinventing downtown in a way that integrates the central business district with the neighborhoods that border it.

Buckhorn has describes InVision the project as a way to make the river the center of downtown, not the western edge as it has been for more than a century.

Some parts of the project are already taking shape. Earlier this year, the city restriped Ashley Boulevard to add on-street parking and bike lanes as a way to slow traffic and make the street safer for pedestrians.

But Invision hasn’t met with universal approval.

Separate but related to InVision, Buckhorn has a plan to redevelop areas along the west bank of the Hillsborough River now occupied by North Boulevard Homes, Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park and a city public works yard. That plan calls for demolishing the 73-year-old housing complex and redesigning the park.

Some West Tampa residents and landowners remember when that piece of riverfront was Roberts City, a working-class neighborhood.

Roberts City was demolished to make way for Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park.

Andre Hill, whose grew up in the area near the park and attended Blake High School, urged Tampa City Council members to scrap InVision. He declared it a government-sanctioned effort to push blacks out of their traditional neighborhood in the name of gentrification.

City Councilman Frank Reddick, whose district includes the North Boulevard Homes area, said later that Hill has a point.

“Most of them won’t have an opportunity to move back,” he said.

The city’s plans to create a community redevelopment district encompassing much of West Tampa will help maintain or even improve many of the minority-owned small businesses along Main Street and Armenia Avenue.

Hill told council members InVision needs to take account of black-owned business and culture between Main Street and the riverfront.

“I believe an Afro-centric West Tampa culture can be sustained in this area and produce income for the City of Tampa without our history being totally eradicated by the City of Tampa,” Hill said.

kwiatrowski@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7871

Twitter: @kwiatrowskiTBO

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