July 2018 – Like many urban areas, Tampa’s downtown is undergoing a renaissance. With much of downtown Tampa on the waterfront of the Bay and Hillsborough River, these areas are being transformed. Mr. Shawn College, AICP, Executive Director of the Hillsborough River Interlocal Planning Board, recently joined a panel brought together by the Tampa Downtown Partnership (TDP) to discuss the activation of Tampa’s waterfront and the importance the Hillsborough River plays in development in downtown and the region. The panel, moderated by Mickey Jacob, FAIA, NCARB, BDG Architects and TDP Board Chair, also included Roger Germann, President and CEO of the Florida Aquarium and Paul Dial, City of Tampa Parks and Recreation Director.
Mr. College noted that continuous seawalls provide little in the way of aquatic habitat. These are increasingly giving way to enhanced or “living” seawalls that are better for both aquatic flora and fauna as well as water quality. In the past, the lower portion of the river was largely stagnate. Now, there is a regulatory minimum flow established for the lower river to ensure it will be a healthy estuarine environment.
Mr. College explained that many of the older areas of Tampa were built before modern stormwater regulations. “Vast areas of the river are surrounded by developed areas, like neighborhoods, where water washed from the roads finds its way into storm drains without treatment,” said College. “Little by little, the City of Tampa has been addressing this issue, but it’s a big issue to tackle.” One City program installs baffle box technology to help prevent stormwater refuse from entering the river. “There are great success stories for the river, but we still need to remain vigilant to prevent fertilizers and other contaminants from entering the river.”