Sponge Docks facelift may be coming soon to Tarpon Springs
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02/13/12 Janelle Irwin
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Tarpon Springs Greek Heritage Museum.


photo by Janelle Irwin

Tarpon Springs’ famous Sponge Docks are in line for a makeover. Last week at a public planning meeting, residents gave their locals-only input to designers.

Residents love their Sponge Docks, but they want outsiders to love them too. So Tarpon Springs has set aside a million dollars to overhaul as much of the waterfront as the budget will allow. The project’s principal architect, Ed Hoffman, designed a rehabbed plaza around the docks that includes an amphitheater, shading and lots of seating.

“I would call it the keystone of the whole project. There are people on either end that says, you’re leaving us out, why are you putting all the money just in front of the sponge exchange. But, regardless, that is the keystone of the overall project.”

Visitors can access the docks in their cars right now, but Hoffman suggests that change. The 450 foot stretch, he said, could be used more if automobile traffic was taken out of the equation.

“People feel safe and secure, particularly with their children or with the elderly, that they’re not having to deal with the curbs that are there. The curbs are a real fight. People are tripping over those all the time. The safety issues of traffic going through there that really aren’t going anyplace that they couldn’t get to doing another route.”

One resident, Scott Brawley, owns the Sponge Exchange Ice Cream Parlor. He said the road floods frequently and every time it does his business takes a hit. He’s concerned a permanent closure would put him out of business.

“Basically what happens is, I have also noticed that when the arts and crafts festival occurs, which also closes down the streets and that’s the analogy in both cases, closing down the streets – it drains my business by about 30%.”

Brawley did like other components of the proposed renovations like a series of markers to help strangers find their way around. Hoffman envisioned tall towers, perhaps resembling ocean markers, that would be numbered in a similar way to mile markers in the Florida Keys. But Hoffman wants to add to that concept.

“Not only having, being able to see the marker as a visible thing to, as a way finding, but also say well, that has some historical information that is going to teach me something about the sponge docks; about what I’m looking at.”

Residents were asked to rate a list of eight possible projects to the waterfront. Rodney Chatman who is the city’s principal planner said since the one million dollar initial budget can’t pay for everything he wants stakeholders to weigh in on what they want most.

“We received a lot of diverse commentary, a lot of strong opinions about things people liked, disliked, never wanted to see, really thought were critical. I think Hoffman and his design team really did a good job of taking those comments, synthesizing those into a cohesive design that tried to hit on the major consensus points from all the stakeholders.”

Another public meeting will be held in about two months where the architect will present a plan most in line with residents’ comments. From there a recommendation will be made to the city commission.





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