Tarpon commission updated on Sponge Docks project
By Eric Horchy | Suncoast NewsTARPON SPRINGS - Two weeks removed from a contentious proposal to set up kiosk venders along Dodecanese Boulevard, the mood surrounding Tuesday night's Sponge Docks-related agenda item was far more positive.
Published: February 21, 2013
Published: February 21, 2013
Ed Hoffman Jr. of Hoffman Architects presented Tarpon Springs city commissioners with an update on the status of the Sponge Docks redevelopment project aimed at revitalizing the town's economic engine, both aesthetically and functionally.
Hoffman gave an hour PowerPoint presentation that concluded with a brief animated video that showed a finished product.
Developing the project began in 2011, first with $1 million in Penny for Pinellas sales tax revenue set aside to fund the effort that now stands at a $1.3 million total.
Hoffman Architects has been developing and tweaking the overall plan while receiving periodic input from public and business interests at a series of five workshops and open houses held since November 2011.
The aim has been to "pull everybody into this project," Hoffman said, and the last public gathering was an open house on Feb. 11.
Hoffman's presentation Tuesday displayed the most recently adjusted plan after receiving the latest feedback.
Some of the most commonly suggested improvements include adding more trees and shaded areas, creating a new floating or permanent dock, not exacerbating already existing drainage issues, creating a "gateway structure" that provides a sense of entrance, installing more landscaping for beautification, increase informative signage and more lighting options.
Remaining as part of future plans is an observation deck at the western end of the Sponge Docks. Speaking with a display of an artistic rendering of a nautically inspired tower showing on PowerPoint behind him, Hoffman said the concept could help coax people toward the lighter-trafficked areas near Roosevelt Boulevard.
Other artistic renderings pictured a small amphitheater area along the Anclote River, different entryway design options and an information marker with signage.
Not all in attendance were thrilled with Hoffman's plan and some of the modern-looking improvements.
Some merchants and residents voiced concerns that the redevelopment may go too far. Sprucing up the tourist attraction is one thing, but beautification efforts shouldn't go too far to where it lessens the Sponge Docks' historical value and original essence.
"You're whitewashing what should really be down there," said former Mayor Anita Protos. "People come to see the old."
While addressing some of the concerns, Hoffman cautioned audience members to realize the animated, digital pictures and video may appear a little more "slick" and modern than how things will actually appear. Improvements will be done in such a way that "enriches" the docks' appeal, he said, adding that nostalgia is also a "matter of perspective with how we feel something has a wonderful old richness to it."
Through previous workshops, the "do nothing" option has been routinely rejected, Hoffman said.
In other city news, the first 30 minutes of Tuesday's meeting was dedicated to a number of Sunset Hills Elementary School students. Commissioners were informed of the various community service projects K-5 students had been working on this year.
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