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Oct. 4, 2013

Tampa Council Approves $6.5M Restoration of Long-Closed Water Works Park

By Balazs Szekely, Associate Editor

Water Works Park, tucked away just north of Interstate 275 on the edge of downtown Tampa, is soon to be reopened after decades of neglect.  The City Council voted in late September to move ahead on a $6.5 million plan to restore the park by the spring of 2014.

According to The Tampa Tribune, work could begin in October. Mayor Bob Buckhorn hopes to have the park done by the time Richard Gonzmart’s new Columbia-chain restaurant, Ulele, opens in the spring, or at least to get to a phase where the developments don’t interfere with the restaurant’s activity. As reported by the same newspaper in May, Gonzmart will lease the city’s old Water Works Building for $1 a year for 20 years, with the option to renew for up to three additional 20-year terms. He plans to invest more than $4 million in the nearly 10,000-square-foot building. Gonzmart’s restaurant in the Water Works Building “and us investing in Water Works Park will help to energize and stimulate the redevelopment of Tampa Heights, which will pay huge dividends in terms of property tax revenue,” Buckhorn said. The property is also expected to complement a planned redevelopment of Tampa Heights.

Once it reopens, Buckhorn hopes the park will be as popular as it was after World War I, when the spring was surrounded by a lily pond that was a fashionable spot for Sunday picnics. The 5-acre park already has plenty of oak trees and a view of the Hillsborough River. The City of Tampa plans to complete the project with a further section of the Riverwalk, playgrounds, an event stage, public boat slips, restrooms and a restored spring. The spring, originally named after 19th century Tampa judge James T. Magbee, has been known as Ulele Spring since 2006, when a the City Council changed its name to honor the daughter of a Timucuan chief who is said to have saved the life of a young 16th century Spanish explorer.

The renovation will be carried out by Belleair-based Biltmore Construction. One of the major expenses of the the project is a $976,000 property cleanup. The property was previously used as a fuel depot for the Tampa Police Department.

Photo credit: City of Tampa

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