[re]Stitch inspires upgrades at Hillsborough River

The Hillsborough River and its surrounding areas will become more accessible and pedestrian-friendly for USF students, Tampa residents and tourists who love to kayak, hike or spend leisure time there, and ideas from a USF competition could have an influence on the changes.

The City of Tampa contracted AECOM, a global firm that provides management and support services in areas including transportation, urban planning and water, will produce a master plan for a central portion of Tampa, said Tampa Councilwoman Lisa Montelione.

The master plan will incorporate many of the social, ecological, economic and spatial themes from the USF [re]Stitch Tampa Competition, which was held from September 2011 to March 2012. The competition was designed to form the basis of a long, green linear pedestrian path through the city that connects the Hillsborough River with other walkways.

Though no specific ideas will likely be taken from a USF submission, Randy Goers, urban planning coordinator for the City of Tampa, said AECOMM consultants will examine the [re]Stitch Tampa Competition as a source of information for the master plan.

What we learned mostly from [re]Stitch is by looking at all the submittals and trying to get an idea of what were some of the consistent themes that the students and applicants were trying to make, he said.

Shannon Bassett, assistant professor of architecture and urbanism at USF who helped coordinate the competition, said Tampa placed highway systems in the 1950s and 60s, especially along the river, which ripped up the fabric and separated the neighborhoods.

Theres a lot of challenges, she said. In terms of the city really wanting to activate their riverfront or river walk, its very difficult to cross (North Ashley Drive) in places because people fly off the highway at 60 miles an hour. Its difficult to walk across that.

Additionally, biking conditions by the river are dangerous because of the heavy traffic and there is a general lack of shade for bikers and pedestrians, she said.

Storm water management, she said, is another problem.

Now, the storm water from the streets just gets shot off into the Hillsborough, so if the city is trying to make that an economic engine for the city, people dont want to sit next to a sewer, Bassett said.

Goers said some of the other important ideas that AECOMM is considering from [re]Stitch include making the river a central place for activity and enjoyment in Tampa by connecting the river to downtown on both sides and redeveloping certain areas along the river. Redevelopment might include reconfiguring blocks and building new activity areas.

AECOM is currently wrapping up its meetings with the general public to get feedback on what needs to be included in the Tampas master plan before starting to work on it, Goers said. The firm hopes to finish the plan by September or October of this year. Changes will then be implemented in the next several years, depending on funding for the different projects.