Design Week pop-up in Tampa: Marion Street abuzz with activity

In the midst of downtown Tampa’s redevelopment surge, Marion Street remains a road with unrealized potential.
Next week, the fifth annual Tampa Bay Design Week aims to give the public a glimpse of the bustling, pedestrian-friendly corridor Marion could be.

On Friday, April 12, the Move on Marion Downtown Tampa Pop-Up Party will bring food vendors, retailers, music, artists, games, and activities to Marion between Kennedy Boulevard and Madison Street. It will be the largest public event during the Tampa Bay Foundation of Architecture and Design’s (TBFAD) annual weeklong celebration of design.

The pop-up party itself is put on by the Sun Coast Section of the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association, the U.S. Green Building Council’s Tampa Bay Chapter, the Tampa Downtown Partnership, and the TBFAD.
Sean Baraoidan, the chair of the Tampa Bay Branch of the U.S. Green Building Council and the Young Planners Group of Florida Sun Coast Section of the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association, says the idea for this year’s pop-up started with an architecture studio class he took while pursuing his master’s in urban and regional planning at the University of South Florida.

“We studied public places in downtown Tampa and Marion Street came up a lot as an area with a lot of potential, but not a lot going on,” Baraoidan recalls. “Marion Street has brick pavers and wide sidewalks. It’s closed to vehicle traffic so there are no cars flying by at 50 mph like on Kennedy. There are giant street trees with beautiful shade. It’s really a beautiful street and it should be a focal point of our downtown, but there is really no reason to be there right now. There are no storefronts that face it to bring people there. There are no food vendors and activities along the street to give people a reason to hang out there. The idea is for a couple of hours we are going to bring a bunch of activities, food, music, and games to this spot so people can envision what this would look like.”

Tactical urbanism shows promise

The Tampa Downtown Partnership has also had its eye on unleashing Marion Street’s pent-up potential for some time. Rachel Radawec, the placemaking and community engagement manager for the Tampa Downtown Partnership, says the organization once applied for a Transportation for America grant to transform unused Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) bus shelters on the block between Jackson and Kennedy into affordable food vending options.

The pop-up event is an example of tactical urbanism, a low-cost, temporary change to a city’s built environment intended to show an area’s promise as a community gathering place.

“The idea is you find a public space like a park, a plaza or a corridor and show its potential,” Baraoidan says.
The pop-up party is just one of several public events intended to showcase the design achievements that surround us in Tampa Bay.

“When we talk about design for design week it is not just architecture,” Radawec says. “It is design across the spectrum. The thought behind Design Week is to bring design to the general public. We want everybody to feel design is accessible to them. We have very easy to understand programs. We want people to say, ‘Wow this is really cool,’ and understand it’s everywhere in their everyday life.”

The schedule of free public events begins with a walking tour of the public art in Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park on Sunday, April 7. The massive park improvement project that wrapped up in 2018 included the addition of sculptures, ornate mosaic tiles, murals and other artwork that celebrate the park’s connection with the Hillsborough River and tell the history of West Tampa and Roberts City.

Full week of events

The level of detail includes a plaza floor with cement ceramic tiles that match the color scheme of the cigar labels of the F. Garcia & Company Cigar Factory, an old cigar company that opened in 1899 on land that is now part of the park.

“The artwork really completes the park,” says Robin Nigh, Tampa’s arts programs manager. “It’s inseparable from the park. None of it is pop art. It’s all integrated within the heart of the park. The palate, the color, it’s kind of the heartbeat of the park.”

Public tours and events will continue on Monday, April 8, with a tour of BUILT, a custom furniture design and fabrication studio.
There will be a tour of the historic Tampa Theatre, with a $10 admission price, on Wednesday, April 10. Then Tampa Bay History Center will lead a  free tour of the Armature Works building on Thursday, April 11.

In addition to the events for the general public, the week will begin on April 6 with the TBFAD’s inaugural gala, “The White Party,” and end with the American Institute of Architecture Students annual Beaux Arts Ball on April 13.

Here is a link to the full week of events.

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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