Downtown resident Jane Somers had never met City of Tampa mayor Pam Iorio. But upon completion of the Tampa Riverwalk however, it was not unbelievable to find that the two actually had something in common.
“I live right in those high-rises adjacent to Channelside,” Somers said. “I’ve been waiting for something unique to be put in downtown Tampa for a few years now. I’ve always thought it has been such a shame to not take advantage of the beautiful waterfront that is native to Tampa Bay.”
Now, thanks in part to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Somers dream is coming true. The City of Tampa has reshaped the face of Tampa Bay’s waterfront for all to enjoy by developing a continuous pedestrian walkway extending from the Channelside District to Tampa Heights along the east side of the Hillsborough River.
As a result, Bay Area residents now indulge in the picturesque landscape of native Florida while strolling past the number of retail shops, art museums, urban parks, unique restaurants and the St. Pete Times Forum. And Tampa Bay Lightning owner and governor Oren Koules was more than happy to make sure the team did its part in paving the way for the South Plaza entrance to the Riverwalk alongside Beneficial Drive.
“When the City of Tampa came and asked us about donating part of our VIP East parking lot for the project, the only answer was yes,” said Koules about contributing some real estate to the South Plaza project. “We are based in the middle of a wonderful downtown and the continued growth and development of our waterfront benefits our entire community. We were happy to help out the city and Mayor Iorio on this project.”
Koules and the team were able to participate in a special ribbon cutting ceremony this morning with Mayor Iorio and several other civic leaders. The Lightning’s contribution to the project is marked with a granite monument immediately east of the South Plaza. The inscription reads: “Land Generously Donated by Tampa Bay Lightning. This generous gift enabled the City of Tampa to construct this Riverwalk Plaza at the intersection of Beneficial and Channelside Drives.”
The Riverwalk’s final plan includes 2.2 miles of parks, bridges, museums, and living space. It starts near the Channelside area, wraps around downtown Tampa, and runs up north. Construction of the South Plaza was completed at the corner of Beneficial and Channelside Drive recently, linking the Riverwalk to the Channelside shopping and dining plaza, the Florida Aquarium, and the St. Pete Times Forum.