One of Downtown Tampa’s most popular and prominent features, Tampa Riverwalk, has recently proposed expansion plans. The proposed project includes that the Riverwalk will extend north of its end at Armature Works. Once finished, the path will stretch an additional 9.6 miles, making Riverwalk an entire 12.2 miles separate from automobile traffic.
According to Channel 10 Tampa Bay, the plans are escalating to the federal Department of Transportation. The City of Tampa is applying for a $24 million grant through Better Utilizing Infrastructure to Leverage Developments (BUILD).
“We have so much that is going on in the west Tampa area,” said Tampa mayor Jane Castor in a press conference regarding the grant. “We’re bringing west Tampa back to life.”
The proposed map shows the Riverwalk segments on the west side of the Hillsborough River across from Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in downtown to connect to the new Julian B. Lane Park. Meaning, the Tampa Riverwalk would connect to The University of Tampa’s riverfront campus at Henry B. Plant Park.
The entire proposal revolves around the ideals that the mayor has been promoting since her election: redeveloping certain communities will create a more diverse city with better access to areas to live and work. This proposal comes as the Tampa Bay Convention Center begins its own nearly $40 million renovation and expansion project in October.
Students at UT are some of the Riverwalk’s most regular users. With the campus right across the river, there is easy access to get to Armature Works and other downtown restaurants through the Riverwalk.
“I think it’s a great idea to expand the Riverwalk,” said Sophia Eldemire, a junior International Business major at UT. “I go running [there] a lot and if they expand it, I can run longer or even skateboard.”
There are also proposed extensions along the river north of Howard W. Blake High School to North Rome Ave and West Columbus Dr. The east side of the river would feature the Riverwalk extensions past its end at Armature Works.
But Lisa Brachna, the project manager of design & construction services at UT, claims that no one from the university has been informed that the Riverwalk will be expanded along the campus through this proposal.
“UT has not been given any information on the expansion of the Riverwalk. The only thing I know is what I read in the Tampa Bay Times,” said Brachna.
While James Houlahan, junior advertising and public relations major at UT enjoys the Riverwalk as a commuter student who lives downtown, he has strong opinions about the city’s decision to spend so much money on the Riverwalk’s expansion.
“Instead of investing in the Riverwalk, the city should be investing in more and better public transportation,” said Houlahan. “As a major city in the US that is focusing a lot on infrastructure right now, Tampa has not made any improvements to [public transportation], outside of the bus system.”
Others share the same opinion with Houlahan, that the city has better uses of the money.
“If they wanted more mobility for lower class citizens, they would increase public transportation. Instead this is just increasing gentrification,” said Houlahan.
The expansion is expected to begin in September of 2021 and not be finished until September of 2027.