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Roundup 7-22-2016

July 22, 2016

Contents

Transportation – New Old Ideas

— And One More Thing

USF Med School – A Case Study

Regionalism – The Editorials

– A Little Something in Transportation

— And Then There’s Cuba

Transportation – Meanwhile, at the Airport

– More UK Flights?

— One More Thing

Transportation – The PTC is Back

Channel District/Bayshore – Updates

Rays – Pinellas Sites

Economic Development – Yeah, and . . .

Downtown/West Tampa – The Park

_____________________________

Transportation – New Old Ideas

When Go Hillsborough flamed out (twice) we noted that it was time for Hillsborough County to really get down to business and laid out some basic ideas: 1) see what money there is, 2) see exactly what needs to be done, 3) make a comprehensive, synchronized system in concert with the transportation studies that are to happen soon.  Since then, there has basically been crickets, until this week when we got an opinion piece from one commissioner – one who kept coming up with last-minute ideas that stood no chance of passing right before Go Hillsborough died.

Now is the time to overcome Hillsborough’s transportation challenge. It’s time for leadership at all levels to answer the call. 

Basically right expect leadership is a function of things that are done, not position.  Setting that aside, the piece then has some boilerplate about bold ideas, before we get this:

To this end, I have put forward a proposal for a dedicated funding source I call “Transportation New Revenue Growth Funds.” These funds would commit one-third of new growth in property and sales tax funds each year to fund transportation.

The new funds would grow incrementally into the base funds available for transportation each year. This could generate approximately $1 billion over the next 10 years that would be a serious down payment for transportation funding. And this approach would still allow us to fund growth and essential government services like sheriff and fire operations. With the increase in property values as reported by the Tampa Bay Times recently, it makes sense to use these new revenues for our roads.

No exactly a detailed proposal in the opinion piece.  We think she means the idea of basically doing a countywide TIF.  That is likely to go nowhere fast.  Targeted TIFs make sense, but a countywide dedication to transportation seems to hamstring the county for too long in many ways, including this:

A proposal to pay for Hillsborough County’s vast transportation needs through tax revenue growth could hurt the county’s stellar bond rating.

That’s one of several red flags County Administrator Mike Merrill raised Wednesday as he introduced his recommended budget for 2017.

The $4.9 billion budget projects a $49 million jump in tax revenues without raising the millage, thanks to increasing property values and growth in the tax base.

In the past, the board has directed a chunk of that money toward the county’s reserves, which must remain at 20 percent of the general fund expenses to satisfy the bond rating agencies and earn AAA status, Merrill said.

But county commissioners have indicated they plan to allocate new revenues toward transportation. That decision was made in lieu of a half-cent sales tax hike, which commissioners twice rejected earlier this year.

Depending on how that is accomplished, it could funnel money away from reserves. By next year, without any new money for reserves, that would put Hillsborough below the 20 percent threshold.

And this is just one of the issues in the proposal. (Unmet needs of more development are another.  And there are more.)  The real point is that, while the County needs to figure out what money there is for transportation, that does not mean that the County needs to rush into unvetted proposals.  There needs to be a sober assessment of all potential sources of funding.  That may include some manner of TIF or it may not.  We know that some are wedded to sales tax.  Some are absolutely opposed to a sales tax.  At this point, neither position is correct.  We need a full accounting so proper decisions can be made. If that takes some time, that is ok.  It is better than three years of dithering to come up with nothing (and the required transportation studies will not be done for a few years anyway.)

In any event, then the opinion piece gives us this:

The comprehensive Go Hillsborough process used community input to set a priority list of transportation projects that were approved by the County Commission. Although its proposed funding source of new taxes was rejected, and rightfully so, the proposed new revenue growth provides a dedicated revenue stream for transportation growth. Now we need leadership and teamwork to get the job done.

At the same time, the Florida Department of Transportation has funded a premium transit study/plan and a Tampa streetcar plan that will be completed within the next 24 months. They also have had conversations with CSX as they consider alternative forms of transportation.

As these long-term plans are completed, they should be integrated with the Go Hillsborough project priority list to create a comprehensive, multimodal plan that connects Hillsborough and its cities to the region. When FDOT’s comprehensive transportation plan is done in the next 24 months, we will have the opportunity to go back to the community to seek support for options to fund the plan.

Um . . . no. Aside from the sales tax, Go Hillsborough had numerous problems.  Let’s make a real plan rather than just fund a half of a half plan appended with some half idea which all ignores the TBX elephant in the room (amazing how the County Commission just ignores TBX) and all the transit studies. (And we need to know how much CSX may cost.)

It is definitely time to take stock of what we need and we have to pay for it – so kudos for that.  However, it is not time for gimmicks and the same old, same old.  And it is not time to rush into something that may be even more damaging.  Finally, all this would be much better done at a workshop than in the newspaper looking very much like a campaign ploy.

— And One More Thing

If you are like us, you have probably noted where the closest fire station is to your house . . . just in case.  And you probably thought, ok, that is close enough to get to me in case I need it.  Well, recently the Times had an article about EMS trucks in the County that got us thinking.

According to Jones, the vehicles cost about $300,000 but they require more than $1 million a year to staff and equip. Due to the expense, only 15 of the county’s 43 fire stations have advanced life-support trucks.

Fire Station 2 at 6726 Lithia-Pinecrest Road is among them. It received its truck in 2014 after 15 years of lobbying by the community. Residents argued that the vehicle is critical to saving lives in this rural, farflung section of the county stretching east to the Polk County line and south to the Manatee County line.

All fire stations in the county have fire engine companies manned by paramedics and equipped with emergency medical equipment, but they can’t transport patients to the hospital. Instead, they must wait for an advanced life-support truck.

So you will get help, but you might not get that trip to the hospital as quickly as you thought you would.

Chief Dennis Jones, appointed Hillsborough County’s top fire-rescue official a year ago, said he’s trying to maintain life-saving rescue services without busting his $145 million annual budget.

“It’s been very difficult to keep up with the growth,” Jones said, adding that county fire-rescue has seen a 24 percent increase in calls since last year. “We need a lot more units than we have now.”

Just one more thing the County has not properly provided (how does this not fall into the impact of development?).  And where will they get money for that, too? (Not to mention that services such as this are also easier to provide in non-sprawling neighborhoods, where stations can cover more people) It is time for a real, adult discussion of what the County is spending money on and where that money needs to go. All the more reason not to jump into TIFs right now.

USF Med School – A Case Study

The Times ran an interesting pair of items, one article and one editorial, on the USF Med School.  First, there was a fluffy article that we will not cover too much:

School leaders are designing a new downtown Tampa campus, a 11-story tower that will feature state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratories.

Applications are up from about 3,900 to about 6,270, as are accepted students’ scores on the Medical College Admissions Test, or MCAT.

And the school recently jumped to 63rd from 79th in the annual U.S. News and World Report ranking of best medical schools for research.

But Lockwood isn’t satisfied. He’s moving ahead with an ambitious agenda that he hopes will transform the school into a world-class institution.

“When we hit the top 20, I’ll accept congratulations,” he told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board last week. 

Fair enough.  The only thing of real note in the piece is this:

The $152 million project is expected to be completed by September 2019.

Remember, they are still designing it.

Now on to the editorial that speaks to a new mission for CAMLS – teaching students.  We are fine with that, but more interesting to us is this:

CAMLS opened in 2012 with the medical school dean at the time promising it would “reinvent the nation’s health care.” That never happened; its finances faltered as other centers opened elsewhere to provide professional training in lifelike settings. USF now says the entrepreneurial business model was doomed to fail because the medical market changed before CAMLS even opened its doors. Now the center, which already provided access to USF students, will expand areas for students to train in a clinical setting, even as CAMLS pursues other paying business to make fuller use of its extra capacity.

The fact is that anyone who looked at CAMLS, really even before it opened (we waited to say something but did at the end of 2012, see “CAMLS”), could surmise it probably would not meet the hype if for no other reason than there would be competition from similar facilities planned around the country. But, as we have noted before, that is the Tampa way: hype something before it happens, have it not meet expectations, leave other to run around trying to fix it.  We have nothing against CAMLS, but we have something against the recurrent practice of over-hyping almost everything in this area. (See “USF Med School – Rhetorical Rerun” ) That is our political DNA.

We hope that the USF Med School is successful, as well as the Lightning owner’s project. But we also hope that the hype fest stops, though we doubt it will.

So if we are not as enthusiastic about big pronouncements, it’s because we have seen this movie before. Once again, there are many interesting proposals (though transportation is still a mess), but, as has been shown over and over, we should only celebrate in actual accomplishments, not proposals or projections.

Regionalism – The Editorials

The Times editorial page had a couple of interesting columns this week about regionalism.

– A Little Something in Transportation

It seems that the unified fare system for local transit is getting closer to reality.

The $12.1 million project is already in the works despite some uncertainty about funding. Bus riders will begin to see the rollout later this summer of pilot technology allowing payment via phone app. The state has contributed nearly $2 million to the effort. HART and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority together put in $3.6 million, and the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority has kicked in $267,000. The remainder could be covered by a federal transportation grant. Eagan, along with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and HART chair Mike Suarez, spoke by phone this week with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to make the case for Tampa Bay transit. The federal grant would certainly be welcome, and it’s a positive sign regardless that so many agencies and local governments are united around an effort that will benefit the entire region.

Unity has not always been the way on big-picture issues, and none is more pressing in Tampa Bay than transportation. The regional fare system is a small but important step toward making the entire area better connected, and the cooperation to make it happen is a hopeful sign that there will be more to come.

Yes, it is good, and it is small.  Hopefully, they will coordinate their schedules, too – and someday we will have one system or at least a truly overarching system that connect them all (like the other Bay area).  The reality is that this area is still far to balkanized when it comes to the big issues.  Maybe the unified fare idea is the beginning of something, though on past history, it probably is the something.  We shall see.

— And Then There’s Cuba

Then there was an editorial regarding recently approved commercial Cuba flights:

It is heartening to see the Tampa Bay region come together for a cause and win, as happened this month with the announcement that Tampa International Airport will likely host daily commercial flights to Havana as early as this fall. The list of those who should take a bow is long. It includes more than 30 local people and institutions who wrote letters this spring to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the estimated 6,000 people who signed a petition.

But the campaign to win the flights was built upon broader local efforts that were years, even decades in the making, aimed at improving relations with a nation isolated from the United States but whose people never lost sight of their connections to Tampa.

Behind these efforts were people like Al Fox and his Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation; U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, the Tampa Democrat who has the ear of the White House on Cuba relations; and Steve Burton, the late chairman of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, who pushed for expanding international flights.

Indeed, and some others not mentioned.  And there is more:

But the campaign to win the Havana flights confirms that people on both sides of Tampa Bay see opportunity in Cuba. Many of the letters to the Transportation Department were submitted through Tampa International Airport and contain identical language as their argument. It starts with this: “Tampa Bay’s ties to Cuba date back to 1528 when the Narvaez expedition traveled from the island to what is now St. Petersburg, Florida.”

Pinellas County interests are well represented in the letter campaign, including St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Eckerd College. They share the boilerplate language with Hillsborough interests such as Port Tampa Bay and Moffitt Cancer Center.

Kriseman has also taken a lead role in the campaign to leverage the region’s Cuba connections by visiting the island nation, meeting with its officials, and wooing Southwest Airlines. There is no corresponding letter of support from Tampa’s No. 1 booster, Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who has embraced distant Switzerland, Panama and Germany as Tampa International launched new nonstop flights but somehow can’t get over the dictatorial rule in Cuba and “our friends and neighbors in Tampa who lost everything to Castro.”

Maybe Buckhorn should come around, as many of those friends and neighbors have, to Obama’s argument that opening rather than closing ourselves to this island just 90 miles off Florida’s shore promises better results in the drive to bring freedom and a better life to its people.

Yup.  We get that there are people who have been very harmed by the present government of Cuba.  But the reality is that trade is opening regardless of what anyone here does or doesn’t do, and we should not cut our noses to spite our faces.  Someone is going to get the flights, the trade, the port business, the consulate.  Why not us?  Why should it go elsewhere?

At least, most of the region gets it.

Transportation – Meanwhile, at the Airport

Speaking of Cuba flights, let’s take a look in at the airport, a facility in which almost everyone around the area (rightly) takes pride.  The Times had an article updating the construction of the rental car facility, Sky Connect people mover (aka train), and expansion of the main terminal.  You can read the whole article here. We just want to highlight one thing, which goes to a point about the airport that we have made before:

More than 20 new restaurants and retailers will open in the airport by the end of the year, including local favorites like Goody Goody, Kahwa Coffee and the Cafe at Mise en Place. More will open next year and in early 2018. By then, the new people mover and rental car facility will be open, freeing up new parking space in the airport’s longterm parking garage and offering a wider array of rental companies for travelers to choose from. By moving the rental car companies out of the longterm garage, airport officials estimate it will take 2.7 million car trips off airport roads and eliminate congestion at the main terminal. 

The relevant thing here is to note how many trips short, limited proper transit (with a decent level of service and frequency and proper design of the built environment to make use of it) can take off the road – and, everyone who has been to the airport knows, how willing people are to use the train (and how much more they like it than the bus to the economy garages). Yes, to some degree it is a captive market, but it still proves the concept.  It still works and no one complains. – in fact, the area celebrates it.

And this:

The airport is expected the stay under budget by the time the work is completed at the end of next year. Airport officials have budgeted up to $971.9 million for the project, and current estimates run around $956.4 million. That’s up from the $953 million estimate reported a few months ago. 

In other words, it is a (partially) transit project coming in under budget. This area can learn many lessons from the airport about how to run a public facility, how to plan ahead, how to market, and also about how transit can work (and has worked for decades).

– More UK Flights?

There was a Business Journal report had some interesting news:

Leaders of Tampa Bay’s tourism industry are in London this week to bolster the region’s attractiveness to British tourists and possibly increase flights between the United Kingdom and Tampa International Airport.

Visit Tampa Bay President and CEO Santiago Corrada, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater Executive Director David Downing and Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano, along with the airport’s director of marketing Chris Minner, met with representatives of British Airways to discuss opportunities to build further on the Tampa Bay region’s strongest international market. They also met with Virgin Atlantic to discuss the potential for new nonstop flights to Tampa Bay.

We know that the airport folks are always looking for more flights including from the UK and elsewhere.

In Pinellas County, British tourists represent an economic impact of $1.6 billion and 10 percent of all overnight visitors. For the last calendar year, the county hosted 660,000 overnight visitors from the U.K. St. Pete has been a favorite destination of British tourists for three decades.

In January, Visit Tampa Bay initiated its first major promotion in London.

“The United Kingdom has long been one of Tampa Bay’s most important source of international visitation,” Corrada said in an interview earlier this year. Approximately 17 percent of Hillsborough County’s 500,000 foreign visitors were British in 2014. That works out to 85,000 and they spend nearly $400 a day per visit.

London, Manchester, we don’t really care (though we would like Heathrow flights so connections to other locales would make more sense, like Lufthansa in Frankfurt).  However, do not necessarily expect anything to happen too soon with news like this:

Delta Air Lines has acknowledged it will cut a painful six per cent of its flights between the United States and Britain later this year because of Brexit and the slide in the value of the pound.

The giant carrier, which is based in Atlanta, made the announcement as it unveiled its latest earnings, which showed a 2 per cent drop in revenue across its network in the second quarter. Profits, however, were slightly ahead of expectations, in part thanks to low fuel prices.

“With the additional foreign currency pressure from the steep drop in the British pound and the economic uncertainty from Brexit, Delta has decided to reduce 6 points of US-UK capacity from its winter schedule,” the company, which holds a 49 per cent stake in Virgin Atlantic, said in a statement.

But you never know.  We wish them luck.

— One More Thing

Daily service to BWI on Spirit begins in November.  The more the merrier.

Transportation – The PTC is Back

Fresh off not producing a promised deal with ridesharing companies (and one Commissioner not following through on recommending that the PTC be disbanded), the PTC is now moving to fine rideshare drivers more, even though whether it even has authority to fine them in the first place is before an appellate court.   Apparently, the PTC functions under the “better to say you’re sorry (especially when its other people’s money) than ask for permission” theory.  Not really the model of good governance.

In the meantime, back in the 21st century, PTSA is partnering with Uber:

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority on Wednesday officially announced the name, launch date and details of a partnership with ridesharing giant Uber as well as the expansion of another.

The new partnership, named TD Late Shift, will offer late night and early morning rides to low-income residents in Pinellas County who have no access to personal transportation.

TD Late Shift offers free Uber rides for people who make $17,655 or less annually as a single person or $36,375 for a family of four between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Riders can use the service up to 23 times a month and have access to one subsidized daytime ride for qualifying circumstances for just $3. Situations that would warrant a reduced cost daytime ride would include things like a doctor’s appointment or picking a sick child up from school.

PSTA will also use United Taxi in the program as well as locally-based CareRide for disabled people.

And:

This isn’t PSTA’s first partnership with Uber. Earlier this year the authority partnered with Uber, United Taxi and CareRide to offer rides to and from the bus stop in Pinellas Park where first mile/last mile issues are particularly prevalent. Main bus lines there are often far from people’s homes. That program is called Direct Connect.

That program is expanding to 20 bus stops across Pinellas County. It offers half-price rides where PSTA will cover up to $3 of the total fare.

That seems a lot more productive than anything in Hillsborough County (and, notably includes Uber and a cab company). But, then again, though PTSA may be working on the first mile/last mile issue and letting lower income people get rides, Pinellas consumers do not have the benefit of the PTC.

Channel District/Bayshore – Updates

A couple of quick updates about projects in the area.  First, the Channel Club/Publix in the Channel District:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for facebook page

The developer of the project, Mercury Advisors, has started pre-construction work on the site, a vacant lot along Meridian Avenue, between Twiggs and Madison streets in the Channel district.

The pre-construction work includes tests and measuring to make way for a deep shaft foundation, said Ken Stoltenberg, principal of Mercury Advisors.

Stoltenberg said this phase can take four to six weeks, as the process is weather dependent. He said it was too soon to commit to a specific groundbreaking date

This has been threatening to start for years.  Maybe now is the time.  Many people are really interested because of the Publix (it can’t be for the pedestrian friendly design with awnings, especially on the west side), but we shall see. (And, while we are not big on rumors, there is a rumor out there that Encore still may be close to getting a grocery store.)

Then there is this about Bayshore:

The historic Colonnade restaurant on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa was nothing more than a pile of dirt and rubble Tuesday.

Demolition crews began breaking down the shell of the former restaurant, which was a Tampa staple for more than 80 years, over the weekend.

We’ll see how quickly that progresses, but there is much work to be done on that.

Rays – Pinellas Sites

Pinellas County, after talking to the Rays, has put together a list of potential sites in that county for a stadium.   We are not going to get too much into the list (which you can see here).   The few around the airport which are the most interesting in terms of being close to the middle of the market are also the most questionable because of height limits for a domed stadium (of course it will have a dome).  Additionally, basically all of the sites have a distinct lack of transportation connections – and we mean access from more than one major road/highway (though Gateway Express may change that for some).  Not to mention at least one having another project planned on it.

Anyway, due diligence is a good thing.

Economic Development – Yeah, and . . .

There are more businesses coming to the location where Bass Pro Shops is.

National arcade restaurant Dave & Buster’s this week filed a construction plan with Hillsborough County.

It will be located on a vacant six-acre plot next door to Bass Pro Shops in Brandon — another piece of the 150-acre development just west of Interstate 275 called The Estuary.

In addition, Carvana, a company that operates as an online used car dealership, will be building a facility within the Estuary project.

With the popular Topgolf facility and construction well underway for indoor skydiving center iFly, officials have painted the area as an entertainment destination for the Tampa Bay region.

And that is all nice, but taxpayers do not need to subsidize it.  As we have said all along, these companies would come here anyway.

“We don’t have anything like this in Hillsborough County,” said county commissioner Ken Hagan. “It fills a much-needed void in our community.”

Actually, there is an adult arcade in Ybor City https://www.gametimeplayers.com/ )though you can walk to and from it and it does not feature all the surface parking) and, while the car tower in the article is interesting, if not kind of tacky (though it would be a fitting symbol of the County Commission’s transportation policy):

From the Times – click on picture for article

Referred to as the “Amazon of car buying,” Carvana was found in 2013 and launched in Tampa earlier this year. A distribution center in Georgia stocks and delivers cars in its Florida markets, which also include Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville.

So, yea, we already have all this because this market is big enough to attract retail businesses without the government bribing them to come here.  And if they don’t want our business, so be it.  It’s a fine place, but how can a top 20 metro get too excited by Dave & Busters?

Downtown/West Tampa – The Park

Work began on the $35 million change to Julian Lane Riverfront Park.

“This place is historic ground, but this place is also hallowed ground,” Mayor Bob Buckhorn said at a mid-morning ceremony to kick of 18 months of construction at the park, which is just across the Hillsborough River from the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.

It’s the biggest city project in West Tampa in decades, one that’s aimed at creating an urban park as active and popular as Waterworks and Curtis Hixon Waterfront parks.

Officials also hope a re-energized Riverfront Park will draw new residents and investment to 120 nearby acres they are calling West River.

We are not sure what that first line means, but the park could use some cleaning up (though not necessarily that much money and note how the price tag was originally around $20 million.). And, of course, TBX will just cut the north side of the park off from any development to the north even more than the interstate already does.  But anyway.

More interesting was the coverage.  As regular readers will know, one thing about the changes to the park we really don’t like is the removal of vertical element from the park, which make it a unique place.  Of course, now that construction is about to start, the Times finally gives us this (apologize but we quote at length):

‘Earth sculptures’

But to make room for the new amenities, the city will scrape the park bare of the defining features of the last big experiment there — the large earthen mounds, berms and swales designed by renowned New York architect Richard Dattner.

So instead of using ceremonial golden shovels to break ground on the project, Buckhorn got behind the controls of a trackhoe, its large bucket painted gold, to launch the project by digging into one of the mounds.

We are not sure why the Mayor has such animosity towards the mounds, but anyway, the architect is much more interesting:

“I have heard about the replacement project, and am sad to see my park leveled,” Dattner, known for creating unorthodox, rough-hewn spaces for adventurous play, said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times before Monday’s event.

In the mid-1970s, the city brought in Dattner to do something creative at what was then a flat, featureless park. The project was being done as part of the Model Cities program created by former President Lyndon Johnson, but money was limited. Dattner said Tampa officials wanted the resulting park to draw together mostly black neighbors and mostly white downtown office workers on their lunch hour. At the same time, officials were concerned about visibility and safety within the park.

Instead of putting up new buildings, Dattner designed the park with a series of “earth sculptures” — exterior rooms, he said, that were “carved out of earth berms to preserve the entire park as a green, landscaped surface.” Enclosed within man-made hills of various heights were an amphitheater and adventure playground with a ropes course, tennis courts, outdoor pool, central courtyard and fountain, tennis courts, and storage space and maintenance offices under a circular landscaped berm.

To get people walking across the park, making it safer in the process, Dattner laid out two tree-lined diagonal promenades that cross at the center of the park.

Dattner said the most original idea at work was to treat the entire site as a large earth sculpture, not only creating a green park at a reasonable cost, but providing high spots in the park to give visitors good views of the river.

“On a flat site, despite opinions to the contrary, only people at the water’s edge can actually see the river,” he said. “The built park was beautiful. Kids loved the water fountain in the activity circle as well as the slide safely descending from the top of the highest mound — in kids’ imaginations a ‘mountain’ in overwhelmingly flat Tampa. On my few visits after its completion I found a diverse group of all ages enjoying the variety of activities purposely provided.”

In the years that followed, however, one of the mounds was bulldozed, and more conventional playground equipment replaced the forts. The shuffleboard courts and pool were taken out. It became a little-used space. Former Mayor Pam Iorio commissioned a study that recommended improvements such as new softball fields, but Buckhorn discarded that in favor of a complete do-over.

It’s too bad, Dattner said.

“It could have been treasured, maintained, and gently upgraded to meet current requirements,” he said, “rather than demolished — a landmark landscape gone.”

Setting aside the years of neglect, it could have been but that would not have fit the City’s current formulaic approach to park building (great lawn, history walk, splash pad, optional band shell) which, while providing some nice and popular features (we are all for the splash pads that kids love), is quite cookie cutter (yes, we know they are making a better boathouse, and we are fine with that but that does not require the vertical element to go.)

And, as we noted a few months ago, New York embraced vertical elements in a park on Governors Island (here and here) and San Francisco recognized the benefit of vertical elements. We had that idea decades ago on a smaller scale, but . . . nevermind.

In any event, we are all for fixing up the long neglected park.  Too bad it is not going to be done more creatively and with respect to uniqueness history as a park.  And too bad that, for no good reason, kids (and adults) will no longer have a unique view of downtown and the river.

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