TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — In 2007, the Florida Department of Transportation partnered with the City of Tampa to build a new fountain under the new expansion of Interstate 4.
The fountain was envisioned as the “Gateway to a new Ybor”. The cost to build it at the time was $1.3 million.
The idea of a “Gateway to a new Ybor” never panned out, and the fountain soon became a problem.
“The sad thing is, obviously they had to enclose the fountain. We all know because the homeless population overwhelmed it, used it as their bathtub, shower, beach area if you would,” said Thomas Falahee, who owns the Stained Market Place across from the fountain.
The city put up a brick and metal fence around the fountain to keep the homeless out, but trash and leaves are still an issue.
The city says the fountain has also become very costly to maintain.
“Just general sight cleanup, chemicals for water quality, we’re spending over a hundred thousand dollars a year on this facility,” said Rory Jones with the City of Tampa Water Department.
There are other issues. Several trees around the fountain have fallen, cracking the pavers that make up the sidewalk and the fountain now has leaks.
“We have leaks in this surface, we have knee walls that are deteriorated,” said Jones.
The city estimates it could cost another $1 million to make repairs.
Travis Horn is a business owner in Ybor and the former head of the Ybor Chamber of Commerce.
“I love public art and pretty spaces in public, but there comes a time when you have to stop throwing good money after bad,” said Horn. “I think honestly, the money would be much better spent putting cops on the street over on 7th Avenue than pouring more money into a boondoggle over here.”
Now the city wants to wipe the slate clean and get rid of the fountain and put something else into the space.
“The future is turning this into something that’s useable for the community, that the community wants to see and they are able to use,” said Sherisha Hills, the head of the City Parks Department who is in charge of coming up with a new use for the space. “Our biggest thing is outreach to the community, so in the next several months we will talk to the community and see what they would like to see there.”