Ask Tarpon Springs City Manager Mark LeCouris his response to the most recent potential design for the sponge docks, and he sums it up this way: "At least we've gone from Disneyland to modern."
The last time Hoffman Architects presented a concept for the sponge docks, the result was anything but magical.
Merchants and residents compared the ideas to the likes of Disney and other theme parks and were not on board for the changes, according to LeCouris.
“They were getting frantic,” remembered LeCouris. “So, we stepped away from the issue and went back to the drawing board.”
At Tuesday night's City Commission meeting, the response was more positive.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, residents and merchants commended principal architect Edward C. Hoffman and company for taking their wishes into consideration with the revamped design.
It was through multiple public workshops that Hoffman and his team were able to receive and consider feedback from residents and merchants.
A Tarponite himself, Hoffman pointed out that he wants the same things as so many others, which include improving the docks while keeping the rich history in place.
Hoffman presented eight additions on Tuesday:
- Element 1: an amphitheater and dock expansion directly across from the Sponge Exchange
- Element 2: a river-walk of connecting docks that would offer a different perspective of the sponge docks for pedestrians
- Element 3: observation platforms that rise above the area for a birds-eye view of the sponge docks
- Element 4: floating docks for kayakers and water recreation vessels
- Element 5: brick streets and landscaping to alleviate disconnect between merchants
- Element 6: an arched gateway welcoming visitors to the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks
- Element 7: landscape parking and empty lots along Dodecanese Blvd.
- Element 8: generate walkways throughout the sponge docks
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Other, smaller elements Hoffman proposed included lighting systems, benches and shelters for shade. Signage throughout the area was the icing on the cake for the proposal.
Although members of the public were more content with the current proposal than previous ones, there was still a sense of a desire to keep things the same.
"My business is located in a 100-year-old building, and my customers get so excited when they come in," Athena Tsardoulias said during public comment. "They say, 'This is it, this is why I came here, this is the real Tarpon.' "
Tsardoulias wasn't completely against the new design but wanted to be sure that certain historical elements would be preserved.
So What Will it Cost?
On the other side of the issue, Commissioner Townsend Tarapani voiced concern over what the city's budget would actually cover.
Currently, $1.3 million has been designated for a facelift on the sponge docks through the Penny for Pinellas program.
"If you spend $1.3 million in the middle of the sponge docks and nothing on either side of that center portion changes, to me, that's going to look a little awkward," Tarapani said.
LeCouris responded to Tarapani with an idea of focusing on element one, the amphitheater, first and then adjusting the addition so that other "extras" would still be in reach, like signage or lighting.
Hoffman declined to discuss exact numbers during the meeting.
Tarpon Springs Mayor David O. Archie added that the project is just an option among many the city can undertake with the $1.3 million.
"The easiest thing to do, as a party up here, is to do nothing," Mayor Archie said.
He added that his main concern with the new design was similar to Commissioner Tarapani's: bang for the buck.
"What type of finished product will we get for the $1.3 million?" Mayor Archie said. "To me, when everything is said and done, that's the bottom line."
Take a virtual tour of the updated design by clicking here: Animation of Proposed Conceptual Design.
What do you think of the new design, Tarpon Springs? We want to hear from you, so leave your feedback in the comments section below.