Streetscaping vision for Hyde Park historic district in Tampa

Tampa’s Hyde Park Local Historic District is known for its late 19th- and early 20th -Century revival and bungalow-style homes along tree-lined streets.

The Historic Hyde Park Neighborhood Association (HHPNA) wants to maintain that distinctive feel and look and fill gaps to expand it throughout the historic district.

To get there, the historic preservation-focused civic association commissioned Tampa landscape architecture and urban planning firm Wide Open Office to prepare a streetscape vision plan with a focus on West Swann, South Howard, West Morrison and South Willow avenues, and South Boulevard.

“We wanted them to look at the historic district, see the commonalties we have now and see what we can do to improve the streetscape and public spaces to continue the look we have in the historic district and delineate the historic district,” says HHPNA President PJ Summerville. “We have a long-term vision of how we would like it to look.”

The latest version of the vision plan points out that the district is characterized by its charm and architectural character but roadways at the periphery often lack it. That’s something the streetscaping plan seeks to address.

Describing Swann as Hyde Park’s “outdoor living room,” the plan proposals for the north side of the road include parallel parking, minimizing curb cuts and driveways, moving surface parking lots to side streets, and encouraging existing businesses and requiring new developments to “activate the public realm.”

On the south side, the plan is to improve mobility and safety -- pedestrian and bicycle-friendly improvements are a recurring goal throughout the document -- with an elevated bike trail, brick crosswalks and reduced roadway width where possible. Proposed aesthetic improvements include burying power lines to make way for more canopy trees and installation of historic light fixtures.

On South Howard, recommendations include underground power lines, contemporary lights and signage, planting cabbage palms, new paver sidewalks, and parallel parking where possible that doubles as ride share drop- off spots.

On South Boulevard, the plan envisions filling out the oak canopy, market lights in trees north of Swann, five-foot bike lanes, improved brick crosswalks, and historic light fixtures.

For Morrison and Willow, the goal is to increase the continuity of the historic character through public artwork and adding to the tree canopy.

The streetscaping plan was first Brian Cookrecommended by a 2010 study of the district conducted by the University of Florida School of Architecture. In the streetscaping plan, Brian Cook of Tampa says he and Joshua Frank of Oldsmar, his fellow principal at Wide Open Office, worked “to understand what they had already and see where we could fill in gaps and identify opportunities to create a cohesive vision for their neighborhood, with the streetscapes as a significant part of that.”

"How can we create a cohesive feeling and what should that feeling be for the Hyde Park Historic District?” says Cook, who has taught landscape and urban design at the University of Colorado Boulder, the University of Georgia and now at the USF. “What we recognized is Hyde Park has a special character with historic smaller-scale buildings and an amazing tree canopy in some areas. The feeling Hyde Park identifies a lot with is a tree canopy. One of Joshua Frankthe big parts of the vision was to extend the tree canopy into areas in the district where it was lacking and to fill out its pedestrian and neighborhood character.”

Summerville points out that the plan is a long-term vision and a “working document” that has been changed based on public input and may see more changes.

“This is not one big thing we’re going to seek to have done all at once,” she says. “We’re going to work with local government authorities and business owners to prioritize projects and work for buy-in from everyone.”

Cook sees the plan as another positive step away from strictly auto-centric development to create pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods and destinations.

“It seems like it has created some energy and excitement about reclaiming streets within Tampa,” he says “So much development is built around driving around in the car. People are starting to move around on their own two legs again. You want to change it from something you are supposed to drive through and turn it into something you go to.”

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Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry is a freelance writer living in Clearwater. Chris spent more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys our local music scene, great weather and the wealth of outdoor festivals.
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