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Art Museum In Old Courthouse Opens Vista Of Possibilities

The Tampa tribune Editorial
Published: Apr 24, 2005


It takes a moment to reorient the mind away from building a stylish new Tampa Museum of Art along Ashley Drive, but if you step back and look at what's happening downtown, you'll see the possibilities that come from converting the old federal courthouse into a new home for the museum.
At the moment, two ideas are percolating to replace the extravagant Vinoly design scrapped in March because the museum couldn't secure the bank loan needed to build it.

One proposal would be to build a new but scaled-down museum in Kiley Gardens, immediately adjacent to the NationsBank ``round building'' on the river.

At present, this rundown park of overgrown trees and concrete squares looks more like a cemetery than a place where people would enjoy the outdoors. Clearly, it needs a fresh face.

But placing the museum at Kiley Gardens would isolate it from foot traffic in a city center that is sprouting condos in new and redeveloped buildings. It's worth noting that the lack of pedestrian traffic at the museum's present site has hurt attendance.

Also, the round building's underground parking garage, which lies below the garden, would have to be preserved, which means increased construction costs and approvals from the building's new owners.


Resurrect A Relic

The second proposal - to gut the old federal courthouse and reshape it in the likeness of a museum - is far superior, with one condition: The city and museum board must ensure the stately 1905 building, vacant for seven years, won't become a money pit.

A previous inspection of the old courthouse, which the city acquired two years ago for $1, raised concerns about asbestos and mold. Mayor Pam Iorio and museum board chairwoman Cornelia Corbett were right to order a thorough inspection before proceeding with discussions.

One cost estimate runs between $20 million and $25 million for repairs, plus $10 million to make the building suitable for museum use. A price tag in the ballpark of $35 million doesn't touch the $368-per-square-foot price attached to the $76 million Vinoly project.

The museum could use the leftover money to buy more art, which, after all, is what drives museum attendance. The mayor is right to ask the museum board to focus equal attention on growing an endowment - initially $10 million - to attract exhibits and grow its collection. The museum presently has little money for acquisitions and is running in the red because of poor attendance.

For the project, the city is committing $20 million, less than before because it already spent $6.7 million with Vinoly. Half the money would go to refurbish the museum, the other half to build a nearby parking garage.

The mayor also plans to lower the city's annual subsidy from $2 million to $1 million, which makes sense for a smaller building in a city with many needs.

Still, some members of the museum's board are having trouble getting over the loss of the Vinoly project and are resistant to moving forward. After accusing the mayor of being too cautious, now they say she is moving too fast and cares more about the city than the museum. They also point out that the history museum didn't want the building, which was too big for its needs.

Angry eyes have made some of these well-meaning folks shortsighted.


More Potential For Riverfront

There is much to like about this proposal.

First, the courthouse is a beautiful, stately building reminiscent of classic museums in Northern cities. The building would double the size of the museum and give it a prime spot in an urban neighborhood on the rise.

Within a two-block radius, six condo projects are in the works. And last week the new owner of the nearby Floridan announced plans to restore it as a high- end hotel.

Second, the proposal would open the Ashley vista to the minarets of the University of Tampa. The current building, a modern design that hasn't withstood its 26-year test of time, would be torn down. So, too, would its underground parking garage, which elevates the land and blocks the street-level view of UT.

In its place would be an expansive park that at its heart should have something not yet discussed: a statuesque fountain with a public square and wading pool. Done right, a grand fountain could become a Tampa icon and a gathering place for people celebrating events such as the Bucs' Super Bowl win.

Third, the proposal would wrap the Poe Garage with low-rise buildings housing restaurants and shops on the ground floor, condos up above. The city would lease the land to developers and use the money to build the park and, depending on how much is left over, re- create Ashley into a grand boulevard and Zack Street into an avenue of the arts.

Commercial development around the Poe Garage, an idea first raised by a citizens group that developed a plan for the Ashley area, is essential to the success of the Riverwalk, a project that will create a 2.5-mile ribbon of sidewalk along the Hillsborough from the Channelside area to the North Boulevard bridge.

Without nearby restaurants and shops, the Riverwalk will have a hard time attracting users. For proof, look at who now uses the green space along Ashley: hardly anyone, except for a few homeless people.


Fill Board Vacancies

It's time for the museum board to move beyond emotion and get down to business. The mayor is right to appoint an interim director who can bring focus and create a positive relationship with the city.

The board, for its part, should move quickly to fill its seven open seats. That means changing arbitrary rules about making appointments only in October. And it should eliminate the $1,500 entry fee to join the board. Such a requirement may be affordable to those members who live in Avila, but it excludes people from most city neighborhoods.

The courthouse proposal isn't about putting the city above the museum. Visionaries can see that this is not an either-or choice. It's a win-win opportunity that would place the museum in a grand building in a bubbling part of downtown and give a huge boost to the heart of the city.
 

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I actually like the idea of a unique "signature" fountain for Tampa mentioned in this article.

There's a park in Kansas City, MO on the Plaza about the same size as Curtis Hixon would be (minus the current Art Museum) and they have a beautiful classic fountain that looks like something you would find in Rome or Madrid - http://www.americaswonderlands.com/images/KC/PAN20_22mod3-FilteredMODSharp-web.jpg

Chicago has some interesting fountains at Millenium Park and Grant Park. Atlanta has the interactive Olympic Park fountains built into their Olympic "rings." These are not only tourist draws, but also gathering spots for locals to soak in the sun, read, play with the kids, etc.

A riverfront fountain in DT Tampa could add interest to the planned Riverwalk and both projects could play off each other, along with the planned Children's Museum next door. This could really be a nice addition to downtown if some effort, planning and money was put into it.
 

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well..a riverfront fountain can also end up being a giant bathtub, so you can gaze out from your room at the four star floridan onto bums showering.
 

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Oh, yea of so much faith- there will be no "classic" fountain for Tampa, just some silly fountain made by some artist who is fashionable today and whose work will be dated five years after it is enstalled.

They have never learned that you need a basis of art in a language people understand and instinctively like and relate to before you toss in a bunch of allegedly avant-garde stuff or else it looks like the set of Logan's Run.
 

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Trivia - they are planning to do a remake of the crap-o-rific 70's sci fi cult classic next year. Bryan Singer, director of the first two X Men movies, will be directing.

Maybe they'll let Farah reprise her role....
 

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Ah, this is exactly what they need to complement the chicken - You know they will choose this thing

 

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Flhawk -- so that's confirmed as SInger's next project after Superman?

I thought he was in pre-production of Logan's Run when Warner came calling and he went running -- dropping both Logan's Run and X-3 from his schedule.

Sorry to take this off topic :-/
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
smiley said:
Ah, this is exactly what they need to complement the chicken - You know they will choose this thing

I still have no clue why people call that thing a "chicken". It looks NOTHING like a chicken IMO.... I had to write a paper about that sculpture last year for school (well about DT public art). I feel that it looks like a horse more than anything... The whole point of the sculpture was to simply be organic in form, to counter the stark geometry of the Collonade's atrium and tower. I think it worked wonderfully.
 

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Dale - Jenny Agutter, who went on to play the love interest/nurse in "American Werewolf in London." (great flic)

John - I've read that Singer did drop X3 when he accepted the job on Superman, but he's still attached to the Logan's Run remake.

I'm sure I will be disappointed later, but I'm holding out hope that this will turn into a nice park (Curtis Hixon/art museum area) that more than just Tampa's downtown homeless population will use and enjoy. Hopeless optimist, I guess.
 

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Fountain

I'd like to see a grand fountain similar to what you'd see is Chicago, Paris, Rome, even DC. Something with some classic style..NOTHING MODERN. While all of these cities have modern fountains they also have classic versions as well. I'm thinking concrete and bronze with the statue in the center at leat 30-40 feet high. I'm picturing a bronze Pam Iorio on a chariot of fire leading the City of Tampa into the promised land ( :jk: of course but something of that nature).

The fountain should be in the waterfront park at the end of the Arts Blvd. As you come down the Arts Blvd. looking down the canyon of buildings (we can only hope), the fountain would be the focal point like the white tower you see when you look east on Market Street in San Fran.

Instead of spending millions on crap that will need to be dismateled in 10 years lets do a classic centerpeice that will never go out of fashion.
 

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I think you need to put the "exploding" in front of chicken to get teh reference . . but anyway, it is all subjective.

I too would liek to see a classic fountain - I don't care what refernce they make in the sculpture - Teddy Roosevelt, Dolphins, whatever . . . jsut a classic item.

And here is a thought - email the county commission and mayor. I have put the links a bunch of times, but will put them here if I need to - let me know.
 

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How about The Donald pay to put a statue of that apprentice in the fountain and then pay him $250k to clean the thing. Or would this be too much for him? Seriously, a classic and timeless fountain would be great!
 

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Iorio sees courthouse at the end of Arts Avenue
In the mayor's plan, even garbage cans will have an artistic edge, and Zack Street would get a new name.
By JANET ZINK and BILL VARIAN
Published April 29, 2005

MAYOR'S MUSE: A rendering of Pam Iorio's idea to house the Tampa Museum of Art in the old federal courthouse building and creating an "arts avenue" that extends to the riverfront. The view shown is from steps of the courthouse, looking out onto Florida Avenue.

AVANT GARDE OR STOLID? Can the old federal courthouse become a museum? Tampa Museum of Art board vice chairman Alan Ciamporcero says, "The real question will be, can you make that old building into an interesting avant garde art space?"

TAMPA - Mayor Pam Iorio on Thursday presented to City Council her idea for housing the Tampa Museum of Art in the old federal courthouse and creating an Arts Avenue with the museum at one end and a waterfront park at the other.

In the weeks since financing problems dashed plans for a $76-million museum on Ashley Drive, Iorio said she has visited Curtis Hixon Park dozens of times.

"It is one of the most desolate, unattractive and unfriendly pieces of public land I have ever seen," Iorio said. "We have the ability to transform this desolate and unused waterfront into a spectacular park for our public."

The plan calls for turning the old courthouse into an art museum, building a 500-space parking garage on the southwest corner of Florida Avenue and Polk Street, and putting landscaping and public art on Zack Street all the way to the river.

Iorio said she'd like to consider changing the name of Zack Street, which honors U.S. President Zachary Taylor, to Arts Avenue.

Iorio sees an area where everything from the new parking garage to the street lights, sidewalks and garbage cans have an artsy edge. "We can take the mundane and turn it into something special," she said.

The avenue would lead to a river walk planned to extend from Tampa Heights to the Channel District and provide a link between the art museum and the Hillsborough River, downtown's biggest natural asset.

Razing the existing art museum would create an unobstructed view of the river and the University of Tampa minarets from downtown.

While city officials complete a 30-day study of costs to turn the old courthouse into a museum, administrators will prepare a request to developers interested in building residences and shops at the edges of the riverfront park.

Mark Huey, the county's economic development administrator, estimates selling off development rights on the fringes of the new park could raise more than $20-million. That money could be used to create a premier park ringed by sidewalk cafes to make over Ashley Drive, one of downtown's main gateways.

"Just imagine all of that open, and the vista down to the University of Tampa," said Huey on a recent walking tour, pausing to do some imagining. "Stunning."

Iorio said she'd like to see a development proposal incorporating the new Children's Museum, fulfilling a city promise to give its backers a home there and also masking the ugly concrete wall of the Poe parking garage.

Private-sector investment is key to the plan's success, Iorio said. Developers already have shown a keen interest in building homes downtown.

"It's transforming right before our very eyes from a business and government center to a neighborhood where people will live," Iorio said.

Iorio said she wants to change Zack Street and other downtown thoroughfares into two-way streets to slow traffic.

The city has $20-million for construction of a new museum, and the museum's previous fund-raising efforts generated $47-million.

Iorio said the city will contribute $1-million to operating costs of a new museum, half of the previous commitment. However, she said, the museum could use revenues generated from a new parking garage and rental of its ground floor retail spaces to help offset the cut.

"It's important for every nonprofit to be able to deliver their services to the public without government support," Iorio said.

City Council members returned Iorio's enthusiasm Thursday.

"I hear the passion and excitement in your voice and it excites me, too," Mary Alvarez said.

"The courthouse is a perfect place for the museum," said Rose Ferlita.

"We're with you 100 percent," said chairwoman Gwen Miller.

Tampa Museum of Art board vice chairman Alan Ciamporcero was less effusive.

The demise of the previous museum project after years of planning "was a real difficult moment for the board. They worked very, very hard for a very, very long time," he said after the mayor's talk.

Putting that same energy behind the courthouse idea will depend on what can be done with the building.

"The real question will be can you make that old building into an interesting avant garde art space," he said. "We've got to turn it into something people can get jazzed about."

Supporters of a new Tampa Bay History Center have previously explored the possibility of using the old courthouse for its home. But backers quickly concluded that it didn't have enough parking, enough foot-traffic for spontaneous visits and might cost too much to bring up to museum standards.

History Center backers are working with a more modest budget of $17-million to build a new home on land donated by the city at Cotanchobee-Fort Brooke Park near the Channel District, part of the original settlement of Tampa.

"Under our present agreement, we have perhaps more resources at hand than they did at the time," said museum board chairwoman Cornelia Corbett. "We've got to go through this study to see if the courthouse can be brought up to museum standards."

[Last modified April 29, 2005, 00:48:13]
http://www.sptimes.com/2005/04/29/Hillsborough/Iorio_sees_courthouse.shtml
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
The Mayor's office is completely off thier rocker.

The concept is nice, but it's looking like the details and eventual execution of this would be a total letdown. The plan as it relates to the Poe garage, park, courthouse and the Collonade's parking structure sucks.
 

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That's cool - I couldn't decide between the plethora of threads.
 
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