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    Commission has high hopes for park

    Safety Harbor officials expect a 14-foot-tall fountain and observation deck to bolster downtown.

    By LEON M. TUCKER

    © St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000


    SAFETY HARBOR -- The Mayberry of the 21st century.

    That's the image Safety Harbor Mayor Pam Corbino envisions when she thinks of how the $812,000 Marina Park project will change her city.

    Bidding on the project opens next week.

    "I think this is going to be beautiful," she said. "The whole vision is to bring people downtown."

    By summer's end city officials expect a 14-foot-tall, 30-foot-wide fountain to anchor the 2.5-acre site on Bayshore Boulevard that now sports a few benches, a couple of picnic tables and an aged wooden pier.

    In addition to the fountain, the park will feature a 25-foot-high observation deck on the water, three new covered picnic tables, a new pier and a veterans memorial plaza.

    And despite some opposition from residents at the Oct. 2 commission meeting, the two motions to go forward with the bid process passed by 4-1 and 4-0 votes.

    Tom "T.K." Ronald said because of the large size and scope of the project, the park improvement plan has been split into two phases that will receive separate bids. It is possible two companies will split the work.

    The first phase of the project calls for construction of the fountain, plaza and park landscaping. Phase two will involve the construction of the observation deck and veterans memorial plaza as well as replacing existing shelters and renovating the fishing pier.

    "We'll probably advertise it on (Nov. 10) and the 17th," Ronald said. "We're looking to receive the bids before the end of the year and look to after the first of the year to award the contracts."

    Commissioner Neil Brickfield cast the only vote opposing phase one, siding with a band of residents who cited the projects' size, price tag and lack of notice as their main concern for the project.

    "It's too much stuff in too small a place," Brickfield said. "I've heard repeatedly from our residents that there is no real call or justification for it. My fellow commissioners feel otherwise, but that's why we vote on these things."

    Corbino disagreed.

    "We have been discussing this park and its improvement for over two years and it has been in every local newspaper we have," the mayor told audience members during the Oct. 2 meeting. "It has been up for discussion for much longer than some of the other projects we're building in this city."

    Walter Loick, a North Carolina resident, owns 2.5 acres across the street from the park. Loick, 73, said that although he does not agree with the city's initial plan to revitalize the park, it may have potential.

    "In my mind it did not represent the best use of the city's money," Loick said from his home near the Blue Ridge Mountains. "If they're doing something that's going to enhance destination traffic that's probably a positive -- provided they don't create an eyesore."

    Loick said he plans to sell his property to Tampa real estate developer Brian Taub if the first phase of a 75,000-square-foot mixed use village proved successful.

    Success, Taub says, entails selling the six condominiums in the development's first phase. With the sale of two of the six units in the village pending, Taub said the deal could be sealed in the coming weeks. He said he views the new marina park as an additional amenity for future tenants there.

    "That's a shot in the arm for us," he said. "There won't be anything built up to inhibit the view of the condominiums and will do nothing but enhance our value and viability of the project. It's an amenity that I am happy to have across the street from us."

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