New public space is “crown jewel” of city’s waterfront revitalization.
Acting as a “front lawn” to the new Tampa Museum of Art and Glazier Children’s Museum, a new nine-acre park by renowned landscape architects Thomas Balsley Associates has transformed the city’s downtown waterfront district. Described as the “crown jewel” of Tampa, the new Curtis Hixon Park is the centerpiece of a plan for the area that fuses recreation, urbanism, culture, heritage, and entertainment, all in the city’s outdoor “urban living room” along the Hillsborough River. The firm’s bold planning and design have replaced the old museum and parking garages that blocked access to the river with a sparkling new civic park.
Says designer Thomas Balsley, “Successful 21st century urban parks must balance creativity and innovation with proven recipes for design programs. For [this project], we’ve created spaces ranging in scale from large open lawns to small intimate overlooks and garden rooms, able to accommodate large or small events.” Sculpted topography includes lawn panels stepping down from the museum terraces and garden promenade; the southern edge consists of a series of park and garden overlooks and a linear park pavilion with restrooms, café, and a visitor center.
Located along the river are a contemporary play area and urban dog run which take their sculptural cues from the Museum of Art. Louver jet and mist fountains at the park’s key plazas are child-friendly displays designed to capture the public’s imagination while cooling its feet. Timber lawn “rafts,” lounge chairs, and picnic tables with distinctive swivel loungers make up the innovative array of park furniture that is critical to the park’s success and a hallmark of Balsley’s design-as-public-amenity approach.
Masses of spartina and tree groves make up a large portion of the park’s native plantings. Lawns and garden areas as well as the fountains operate on a reclaimed water system. Distinctive LED fountain pavement lights and others throughout the park extend its nighttime curb appeal and downtown activity.
More than becoming the city’s cherished space to play and celebrate, the park’s place-making powers have made it a new landmark for Tampa and re-energized the city’s sense of civic pride.