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Thursday, Aug 21, 2014
South Tampa News

O’Neill: East Tampa scores with green projects


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Sure, Mayor Bob Buckhorn just returned from leading that high-profile trade mission to Brazil and work continues apace on the Riverwalk as well as on Le Meridien and Aloft Hotels. It’s easy to overlook lower-profile endeavors that put a premium on quality-of-life upgrades, not just direct, economy-impacting development. Endeavors that tend to be one-day news items that fill in between announcements about the Port Authority, TIA, MacDill AFB, the protean Channelside skyline and the next killer food-truck rally.

Recently, it’s been East Tampa making some news with a leafy new park and a lifestyle-enhancing exercise trail.

Then there’s Encore, the public-housing-replacing, planned-community complex going up on 28 acres north of downtown that is aiming for national certification as an environmentally sustainable, “green” community. Its selling points are more than the memory of the segregation-era Central Avenue business district and the memorialization of Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway and Ray Charles. Encore is being aggressively marketed for its ecofriendly design that includes rooftop solar panels and a storm-water vault that can collect and recycle rain water.

While it didn’t stop any presses, it was noteworthy that the city, which is ambitious but hardly flush, has purchased a bit more land in the growing Channel District community. In combination with a parcel donated by local developer Ken Stoltenberg, the near-acre will be converted to a park, the third such in the Channel District. Yes, the city wants residential infill here, but more importantly, it’s enlightened enough to realize that no amenity is better than nature for the 2,000 residents within walking distance.

And while there’s been a postponement until early next year, we were reminded this month that Tampa is gearing up for a bike-share program. Among the delay issues: finding a corporate sponsor. Among the candidates: banks, whose logos could be affixed to the bikes. Meanwhile, the city is adding bike lanes to streets, and a (federally funded) greenway is planned beneath the Selmon Expressway linking downtown and Ybor City.

Such scenarios couldn’t come at a better time. As we know, we have an all-too-well-earned reputation for being less than pedestrian-and cyclist-friendly. And as we also know, truly sustainable communities are no longer motor vehicle driven.

We’ve also seen addition by subtraction when it comes to Water Works Park. A synergistic complement to The Heights development, WWP will feature a bubbling spring and a build-out that will include a playground, a dog park and a floating boat dock. But, no, it will not provide room for parking. To add to the riverfront ambience, the city has eliminated any parking plans. This, we are reminded, is about urban green spaces and walkable, neighborhood destinations that create density.

And it’s that sheer density that encourages scenarios, dare we speculate, for light rail. It’s what big-picture, progressive cities do in their downtowns, even if they are still encircled by provincial, no-tax-for-tracks, downtowns-are-elitists-only-enclaves agnostics.

Sorry for the digression.

No, I’m not.

Taste rules at Halloween

Amble down most residential streets this week and you’re sure to notice that signs of late October are manifest. Halloween is now – finally – here.

There are ad hoc Potter’s Fields, massive cobwebs, gigantic spiders, images of witches, vampires and zombies, and vestiges of ghosts, ghouls and goblins. Those going old school still carve up a mean, if goofy, pumpkin. And some homeowners throw in sound effects and lighting worthy of community theater. Alas, every now and then you see – or read accounts of – homeowners who confuse tasteless with attention-getting and abuse the holiday spirit. Turning you porch into a veritable drug cartel crime scene isn’t appropriate, let alone family friendly.

One year, in (Evansville) Indiana, I can recall being costumed like a masked scarecrow and lounging lifelessly out front in a rocking chair, surrounded by similarly garbed, authentic dummies. Somewhere along the way, when the porch had that critical mass of the unsuspecting, I would move. Barely perceptible at first. Then more obvious. With a voice alternating between the Wizard of Oz and Sylvester Stallone as Rocky, I wanted to startle, but not freak out. I was also after, I acknowledge, cheap laughs and would comment on the kids’ costumes and award an extra Snickers to the best on the porch.

Over the years, I’ve noticed some costume patterns. Princesses and pop-culture icons never go out of style, and Harry Potter has remained a staple. But there are the envelope pushers and parental enablers. Here’s hoping, for example, that this Halloween doesn’t yield many – or any – twerking Miley Cyruses and uncostumed teens – and, no, a baseball cap, tank-top, shorts and a pillow case don’t count – looking for a low-maintenance, seasonal handout.

At that point, I start substituting candy corn for Snickers.

Recalling 2010

It’s still hard to believe.

The year was 2010. The Bucs were a resurgent 10-6 under Raheem Morris. Josh Freeman, 22, was living up to franchise-quarterback expectations with 3,451 passing yards, 25 TDs and only six interceptions.

The year was 2011. The score: USF 23, Notre Dame 20.

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