NEW TAMPA CULTURAL CENTER DEBATE AT CITY COUNCIL-Andrew Stelzer

09/02/04

The Tampa city council discussed the possible construction of a cultural center in new Tampa—the contentious discussion brought out issues of neighborhood favoritism, the renewal of downtown Tampa, and suburban sprawl. WMNF’s Andrew Stelzer has this report.

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ACT “If new Tampa can truly support a 5 or 6 hundred seat theatre, why should we not support that.’

City council member Shawn Harrison represents new Tampa, a rapidly growing area north of temple Terrace, largely consisting of wealthy residents in gated communities. For years Harrison has been helping area residents in a campaign to have a cultural center built; Graeme Woodbrooke, president of the new Tampa cultural center board told the council why there is a need.

ACT “Right now we are having up to 4 or 5 hundred people attending a community performance, if we cant sell it out, or if its too large..�

But the size of the center became an issue when other council members expressed concern that if the auditorium in new Tampa was too big, it could draw events funding and attendees from the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center downtown. Councilman Dingfelder suggested that the center, if its built should be limited in size.

ACT ‘I think the entire movement needs to be limited in scope—25-300 should be limited, i’m very worried about competition, but I have a competition between government entities…ice palace, then fairgrounds built and now they compete and that’s not good for government

Councilman white said that he hoped the new cultural center could draw people from southern Pasco County; he also said that competition is good and would be happy if the new cultural center competed with the performing arts center. But Dingfelder disagreed, saying that the concept of building something on the outskirts of town undermines all of the efforts of the last two years to revitalize Tampas downtown.

ACT “We spend money on the streetcar, we redevelopment, we want downtown to be vibrant, its counterproductive to urban renewal..the folks out there are gonna want to stay out there, why should they what to come downtown if they could do it there its self defeating in terms of urban renewal….heres the worst case scenario, someone gives you 20 million and you can build thats not a god thing, not good for that neck of the woods and Pasco but not for the bugger community, not good for Tampa or Hillsborough.�

Council woman Ferlita also expressed concern that the New Tampa cultural center board was asking the council for 21,000 dollars to study how much money could be raised to build the center—they claimed that the results of the study would determine how big it could and should be.

Ferlita ACT “Were sending the wrong message to the remainder of the community---Harrison has done great, Ms Alvarez could come back and say we ant a sports theatre in tamp, could you fund a feasibility study and what’s fair for one is fair for all..�

An initial study suggested that the wealthy community could raise 25 million dollars on the center, but councilman Harrison defended the idea, saying that there was no reason to be concerned about competition, and agreeing that the study should be for a smaller facility.

ACT “No one set about to do a 25 million dollar project…but e did a study and that number got blew out of proportion..thats not what we want to support. That’s the only thing we have to hang our hats on….IS THIS GONNA RIVAL…NBO…IT’S A GLORIFIED AUDITOORIUM, DANCE RECITALS, NOT PROFESSIONAL..fledgling acting troops�

Graeme Woodbrooke, president of the new Tampa cultural center board, added this

ACT if we don’t feed arts at the community level, we wont have arts on the large scale.. “

Councilwoman Ferlita was the only one who voted against spending the 21,000 dollars to fund the feasibility study, there was a stipulation inserted that the study should focus on a 300-350 seat theatre. However, any plans drawn up would have to include plan to expand if needed.

Also at today’s meeting, The city council voted to approve plans to demolish the Tampa Bay Mall and build a practice facility for the Tampa Bay bucs on that property, between MLK and Ohio, and between Himes and Macdill. HARTLine still has to complete their negotiations it the Bucs about how to move a major bus station, that must be done before the council gives its final approval

And lastly, the council received recommendations about where to locate transportation hubs, which would likely be the locations for light rail stations, if and when the voter approved light rail train is built. The recommendations were to locate the hubs across Nebraska avenue from Tampa’s Union Station, located at 601 N. Nebraska Avenue, and as a second choice, east of the state office building at 820 north French—this site would include a jail that is being demolished. If the light rail train is vote down this November, these locations would still serve as hubs for various modes of transportation.

For WMNF news, I’m Andrew Stelzer

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