The Tampa Riverwalk: 40 years from start to finish
A brief walking tour of one of Florida's most recent significant public waterfront investments: The Tampa Riverwalk
What is so exciting about a sidewalk? The Riverwalk project is so much more than a sidewalk. The structure is certainly a key aspect of this pathway along the river, but the other components like restaurants, retail, events, boat docks, murals, shade, bridge lighting, adjacent cultural amenities, the Portal, and interpretive displays create a wonderful waterfront environment that is becoming the “destination of choice.” The environment provides immediate and free access to the water’s edge, connecting people physically and emotionally to the water in this relaxing environment. In addition to leisurely strolls, it also provides a gathering place for large and small scale events and festivals that occur on a regular basis. All of this provides the potential for an economic engine for Tampa as it attracts citizens and tourists regionally, nationally and internationally. The potential for what it can do for our city is most exciting.
How long is the walkway? Is it continuous or crosses any busy streets? The walkway stretches 2.6 miles from North Boulevard Bridge (near Blake High School) down the Hillsborough River along Garrison Channel to the Channelside District. The Riverwalk avoids crossing busy city streets by passing under all of the 10 bridges along the walkway, with the exception of the Cass Street/CSX RR Bridge.
Will the Riverwalk connect to the Bayshore Boulevard Trail? The Platt Street Bridge currently connects the Riverwalk to the Bayshore Boulevard Trail. The Riverwalk Master Plan envisions a separate pedestrian bridge on the south side of Platt Street Bridge to link the two. The Riverwalk connects to the Meridian Street Trail at the corner of Beneficial and Channelside Drives, and also connects to the Selmon Greenway just south of Brorein Street.
What types of amenities will be along the Riverwalk? The public input forums held in 2005, and numerous other public input mechanisms, shaped the amenities that are provided. Commercial space, retail, restaurants, social gathering spots, and watercraft access are key components to a waterfront where people want to be. Specific destinations along the Riverwalk include the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, the Glazer Children’s Museum, the Tampa Museum of Art, the Tampa Bay History Center, the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, the Tampa Convention Center, the Sail Pavilion, the Tampa Bay Times Forum, and waterside restaurants. Numerous watercraft rentals off the docks at the Convention Center include eBoats, water bikes, and small personal craft as well as charters. The Channelside Bay Shoppes, Florida Aquarium and the American Victory Ship are located at the southern terminus. Segway tours of the downtown can be obtained in Channelside. The redesigned Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and the extended Cotanchobee Ft Brooke Park, as well as four other parks, line the waterfront in this urban setting. To keep the kids cool and entertained, children’s splash fountains are a found in Water Works Park, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and Cotanchobee Ft Brooke Park. Dog parks are located at Water Works Park and Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. Educational displays are found in the completed segments as well as an electronic Portal that displays art images with associated educational messages in the evening hours. The Riverwalk provides an excellent venue to host exciting outdoor events, performances, and art and music festivals.