Friday, August 30, 2013

The RNC one year later: Permanent improvements in Tampa

Posted By on Fri, Aug 30, 2013 at 4:00 AM

Bayshore beautification project palm trees 08-10-13

Forty date palms were planted along Bayshore Blvd. as part of a $617,000 project to spruce up key parts of the city. The wooden braces that kept them in place for nearly a year have been removed and the ground cover that accompanied them has matured.

Many were critical of the millions of dollars spent by officials in the Bay area to spruce up key parts of the city and to purchase surveillance and security equipment prior to the 2012 Republican National Convention. Given the state of the economy and the narrow focus of the expenditures, it is easy to understand those concerns. But spend it they did, beautifying parts of the city and purchasing a trove of state-of-the-art technology and equipment for law enforcement. We went back to see what was left a year later. Here are some of the residual benefits of the Republicans coming to town last year.

Bayshore Boulevard

Bayshore before the new median

Bayshore Boulevard median June 4, 2011 prior to improvements

Bayshore beautification 08-10-13
Bayshore's median enhancement was part of a larger $735,000 landscape project combined with the county's $1.3 million to repave the the surface between Rome Ave and Gandy Blvd.

County accelerated repaving Bayshore between Gandy and Rome Ave
Plans for repaving parts of Bayshore were already in the works. However, the county accelerated the work between Gandy and Rome Ave. because the road was considered a gateway to downtown. Image June 6, 2012


City Hall
City Hall 08-12-12

City Hall gets a facelift with an RNC banner in its shadow. The improvements to the structure, once known as the Municipal Building, were already planned prior to the convention, but the rehab was expedited for the city's international exposure. Photo August 12, 2012

City HAll Top 08-10-13
The improvements to the exterior of City Hall are bright against a blue sky on August 10, 2013, with the clock known as Hortense still ticking.

Aqua Luces

Aqua Luces

Tampa Electric donated $300,000 for Aqua Luces, a project by Chicago-based lighting artist Tracey Dear to permanently light nine bridges crossing the Hillsborough River into downtown before the GOP arrived. The lights still glow brightly today.

Zack Street Promenade of the Arts
Zack Street Promenade  07-30-12

The Zack Street Promenade of the Arts project was a $1.2 million undertaking meant to link Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and the old shuttered federal courthouse (slated to become a boutique hotel).

Zack and Ashley 08-22-13
The three-block overhaul added new pavers, benches shaded with sculptural sails, trees, and a display by Tampa glass artist Susan Gott. The courthouse transformation into a hotel is underway.

Sandra Freedman Tennis Complex
Sandra Freeedman Tennis UnfinishedOfficials suspected that some of those attending the convention would want to play tennis (on public tennis courts). The closest facility was the Sandra Freedman complex on Davis Islands. But the fountain in front of the facility no longer worked, creating an aesthetic problem. In this image from 07/18/12, workers from the city begin a transformation.
Sandre Freedman Tennis Complex Zen GArden 08-09-13 Today a zen garden is in place at the Freedman Complex, with the decrepit fountain now filled with sand and other simple materials. Repairing the fountain would have been too expensive, so the decision was made to spend $5,000 for a simple fix following a petition by island residents.

Surveillance Cameras
Curtis Hixon Riverwalk camera

One of the most controversial purchases made during the RNC, especially for civil libertarians, was the $2 million spent on closed-circiuit television surveillance cameras that were installed around the city, like this one in Curtis Hixon Park. Long after the convention the cameras remain, much to the consternation of some City Councilmembers and at the insistence of Mayor Bob Buckhorn . According to a spokesman for the Tampa Police Department, of the original 60 cameras purchased, 18 are permanently placed around the city, and others are on mobile units like the ones seen below.

Bayshore and Platt Street
One of the 18 permanently placed surveillance cameras at the intersection of Bayshore Blvd. and Platt Street.

CCTV Cameras keep an eye on the 2013 Gasparilla Day Parade
A mobile CCTV camera being used at the 2013 Gasparilla Parade.

Safariland/Kona Patrol Bikes

Safailand-Kona bicycles used during the RNC

Two hundred Kona bicycles were purchased for $319,000. They were equipped with lights, sirens, special tires and frames, as seen here during the Labor Union March on August 29, 2012. Security forces in this image are wearing some of the $516,000 in cotton uniforms and $1.9 million in protective gear bought for the convention.

Bicycles in use in Ybor 08-17-13

Tampa Police Department still uses the bikes for patrols in Ybor City. They have also been seen recently at protests, including the Rally for Trayvon Martin in downtown Tampa.

Fire Hydrant Locks
Fire hydrant lock across from Tampa Police Station 08-11-2012Fire hydrant locks were used to prevent any threat of protesters opening the valves to flood the streets during the RNC.

Fire hydrant across from Tampa Police Station 08-09-13

The locks in downtown have been relocated to neighborhoods where water theft has been a problem, says the mayor's office.

Things unseen

The media room

According to a recent report from the RNC Host Committee, AT&T, Sprint, Teco Energy and Verizon spent $291.5 million on infrastructure improvements to upgrade equipment in and around the convention center and Forum. In this image from inside the convention center on August 30, 2012, the media take advantage of some of the enhancements.

The Host Committee also says they are committed to giving over $3 million to local charities. The recipient organizations have yet to be determined.

Next: The RNC one year later. Misfires, gaffes, and blunders.

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