Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Fountain Blah

There's a fountain being built in Ybor City as part of a major beautification project. It's being built by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and when completed, will become the responsibility of the City of Tampa. This fountain is huge (nearly 29,000 square feet) and the total construction is going to cost about $1.3 million once it's done. The upkeep is expected to cost between $3,000 and $5,000 a month.
Now, as long as hospitals success rates aren't 1000% and crime rates aren't 0%, there are going to be plenty of valid arguments against spending millions of dollars on things like fountains. But we all know they're still going to get built and now we're stuck with this one so there's no point in bringing any of those arguments up now. Don't get me wrong; as far as fountains go, this is truly a beautiful fountain. It's as nice as any you're likely to come across. The problem is you're not likely to come across this one.
It's located between 21st and 22nd avenues underneath the I-4 overpass, right across the street from a McDonalds, which is what FDOT spokesman John McShaffrey refers to as a "gateway" to Ybor City. If you don't associate that particular vista with screaming "scenic view!", but more like just regular screaming, well, you're probably not alone. I'm pretty sure that's not one of the gateways to Ybor that Paul Catoe and Norwood Smith of the Tampa Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau tout to out of towners.
It doesn't help that the entire thing is surrounded by a eight-foot high iron fence with locked gates. That's right, you can't (legally) get near it. It seems there are concerns about people misusing the fountain for purposes other than which it is intended, such as a bathing or, um, restroom facility. Now, I'm not making judgements about the people who live in or frequent Ybor City, I'm just following the path being laid here to it's logical conclusion. That being if that's really a concern, then maybe a fountain was never the best thing to put there in the first place. I mean isn't that kind of like getting your kids a puppy but you know they're too irresponsible to care for a pet so you take it to the taxidermist before you give it to them?
At any rate, the best place to actually view this magnificent fountain is from up on top of the I-4 overpass itself. Simply look for the McDonald's sign, then pull over and stop (illegally) in the inside breakdown lane, get out and lean over the retaining wall and look down. Voila! Gateway fountaintastic!
Of course, all this grousing about the fountain is pointless anyway, since the the city has already said that because of water restrictions and budget concerns, they're probably just going to shut the whole thing off once they take control of it. "I don't know of any reason why it should be running," said Elias Franco, spokesman for Tampa 's Water Department.
Oh. Never mind.

(Cross posted at Sticks Of Fire)

1 comment:

Denise said...

I am, in most normal cases, strongly in favor of public beautification projects. Yes, tax dollars should be spent on improving infrastructure above anything "pretty" - but a little attention paid to the green spaces around new roads and road improvements when they are first built would make future projects to simply maintain these areas both cheaper and easier. Tampa is a wonderful city - the one true love of my life - but I do believe we've lagged far behind our subtropic and neotropic neighbors when it comes to maintaining attractive spaces. Orlando with it's landscaped, classy, well planned entrance into the city proper with it's name welcoming you from an overpass is an excellent example. Simple, meaningful, and stylish - it doesn't even hint at the gaudiness the theme parks and tourist traps just outside it's limits include. How about we turn to an example in South Florida with something even more simple but just as beautiful when maintained? Those rows of palm trees in all of the medians! In residential areas and business districts alike, rowed palms remind you constantly, "we're in Florida and we're proud of it!" These trees are hardy and in areas that should already be receiving regular attention from landscapers so it seems like such a simple solution - and one I'm particularly fond of.

And then there's our new fountain. Hidden away, locked up and expensive - no one can see it, no one can USE it and I'm guessing maintenance is going to be pretty pricey. Also, and I'll admit I haven't don't much research into this aspect of the project, but it seems a little silly to build a huge water feature in an area that is under heavy-duty watering restrictions most of the year. All-in-all it seems like a huge waste. So, while I'm thrilled someone thought it was a good idea to add a little bit of "pretty" to a busy roadway in Tampa, I can't help but wonder how many palm trees we could have stuck in the middle of Dale Mabry with that money.