The City of Tarpon Springs is moving ahead with plans to seek bids to refurbish the historical sponge docks in this Greek-style seaside village along the Anclote River.
Bids are expected to be reviewed before the end of March. If the city's Board of Commissioners agree on the scope and cost of the project, construction likely will begin by summer. About $1.3 million is projected for a budget that will pay for a small oval-shaped amphitheater, a floating dock for visitors including kayakers, an 8-foot wide wooden riverwalk, benches along the seawall, Florida native landscaping, wooden directional and historical markers and brick elements along Dodocanese Boulevard and around the docks.
Wood and brick are historically accurate features for the sponge docks, according to Ed Hoffman, Jr., president of Tarpon Springs-based Hoffman Architects
. "We're putting the docks back in the sponge docks
," Hoffman says. "Right now, it's just a concrete wharf, a concrete platform."
The goal is to make the sponge docks more pedestrian-friendly and create a shaded, landscaped area where people want to gather for Greek dances, special events or just sit and enjoy the docks, Hoffman says.
Hoffman gave commissioners and the public an update on the project at a December city commission meeting. The project has been under design for about two years with public input gathered during several workshops.
Funds for the project are from the Penny for Pinellas sales tax revenues. Changes are slated for publicly owned land; no private property is involved. Construction bids will be a guide on how much of the project is affordable.
"What we want to do is try to enhance what we have there," says Tarpon Springs
Mayor David Archie.
Still, some residents and business owners are skeptical and worry that the authenticity and quaintness of the docks will be lost. "It's too modern for what we have down there," says former Tarpon Springs Mayor Anita Protos.
The project is unanimously supported by city commissioners.
"I can't wait to see the finished product," says Tarpon Springs Vice-Mayor Susan Slattery. She anticipates the amphitheater, in particular, as a field trip destination for young children who will learn about the city's history and the legacy of the Greek sponge divers who came to Tarpon Springs in the 1890s. "I think that's a great opportunity for children," Slattery says.
Commissioner Townsend Tarapani says the project "looks toward the future. Without a doubt, at the end of the day, this is something everyone is going to be proud of."
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Susan Slattery, Anita Protos, David Archie, City of Tarpon Springs