Rows of shops, bright lights, crowds of people, walkways across a serene turquoise river. These are the images presented in the artist’s renditions of Lightning owner Jeff Vinik’s plans for downtown Tampa.
As a lifelong resident of Tampa, I see one major flaw with these renditions and Vinik’s plan to revitalize the area around Amalie Arena: the projected image of the Hillsborough River — crystalline, blue and shimmering in the sun.
The real river is a deep, muddy brown that one can’t clearly see into. Oil, foam and trash float on its surface and wash up against the edges of the downtown Riverwalk when boats go by.
Of course, I would like to see the best in this region. But the reality is the river is nothing like the image presented in these artist’s renditions. However, what is so frustrating is that it wasn’t always this way.
People in Tampa used to be able to fish in the Hillsborough River and not catch garbage. Locals used to be able to kayak on it and see the reeds growing on the river bottom and the fish swimming beneath its surface.
To be fair, in some remote areas, these activities are still possible, but the section of the river that flows downtown is not one of those lucky locations.
“Tampa Bay is the largest open water estuary on the Gulf of Mexico, yet it is assaulted by more than 4 billion gallons of oil, fertilizer ingredients and other hazardous materials each year,” Environment Florida reported on its website.
Not to mention the abundance of sewage currently plaguing the Bay.
I’ve watched the river change and I haven’t liked what I’ve seen. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the downtown renovations are projected to cost $1 billion. Some of that money will go toward building a boardwalk and providing more access for recreational water usage, according to the Times.
However, with all that money, it’s hard to believe none of it will be spent on making downtown’s aquatic centerpiece look anything like it does in the artist’s renditions or anything like how longtime Tampa natives remember it.
Yes, tourists will flock to downtown Tampa. But without major cleanups, they unquestionably will not be here for our waterfront.
Abby Rinaldi is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.