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bobliocatt

Downtown Gets Greener

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By DAVE SIMANOFF

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TAMPA - Tampa is planting two parks along its downtown riverfront, hoping the new green spots - and the two- mile Riverwalk that will eventually run through them - will entice people to put down roots.

Parks and public spaces are vital if the city wants developers to build more residential projects downtown, said Brooks P. Byrd, vice president of Byrd Corp., a St. Petersburg- based development firm.

``At the end of the day, when you go to buy your house, you're going to look at what's all around you,'' Byrd said.

``If you're all alone, surrounded by commercial and business space, that's not an inviting environment.''

City crews have started construction of the parks at Ashley Drive, west of the 100 North Tampa office tower, and near the Tampa Convention Center.

The latest two parks, costing $1.7 million and expected to open early next year, are two more segments in the downtown Riverwalk project.

The pedestrian promenade is scheduled to be finished by 2010 and eventually extend from the Channelside district to just north of the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.

Byrd says the walkway and parks show developers that the city recognizes that downtown revitalization has a better chance if more people live there.

``I think if you look at any of the urban core projects across the nation that have been successful, they have all needed ... the city to be a catalyst, and to invest in green space and public space,'' he said.

Byrd's company has a hopeful outlook for downtown. It's developing a 250-unit condominium complex, tentatively named Downtown Channelside, next to the Channelside entertainment complex on Channelside Drive.

The project includes two 30- story residential towers, a grocery store, 12,000 square feet of additional retail space, and up to 30,000 square feet of office space.

Downtown Channelside is still in the permitting process; marketing and condominium sales should begin early next year.

Lee Hoffman, Tampa's Riverwalk development manager, said the project's intangible benefits, such as creating a more comfortable downtown, would translate into tangible results, such as increased interest and investment.

``When you've got green spaces and a way to move from one place to another, it generates a feel that this is a nice place, and people want to come back here,'' he said.

Hoffman said the city planned to hire a design consultant and engineer to develop plans and cost estimates for finishing the project.

The city expects to have a design consultant picked out by the beginning of next year. Hoffman said it would be premature to pin a price tag to the complete Riverwalk right now; part of the consultant's job will be to figure out exactly how much it will cost.

Reporter Dave Simanoff can be reached at (813) 259-7762.

This story can be found at: http://www.tampatrib.com/MGBT66GML0E.html

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