Perry Harvey, Sr. Park
The Central Park community established itself just north of downtown Tampa, and has played an important part in the history of the City of Tampa. Formerly known as "The Scrub", the area was first settled by freed slaves. Over the years, the neighborhood developed a vibrant business district and became a cultural mecca of sorts for a number of African American musicians, including Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, and Ella Fitzgerald. Band leader Hank Ballard even discovered a dance on Central Avenue; he then wrote and recorded, "The Twist." The area was booming until the shooting of a local African American youth, which resulted in three days of rioting, and the beginnings of a downturn. In 1974, the last of the buildings along Central Avenue, Henry Joyner's Cotton Club, was closed and demolished.
Five years later, in 1979, Perry Harvey, Sr. Park was developed at the request of local youth, looking for a place of their own to recreate near their homes. It was named after Perry Harvey, Sr., who served as the president of the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1402 and was a local civil rights leader.
Honoring our history
In the early 2000s, the City of Tampa, Tampa Housing Authority, and private stakeholders began to explore ways to rebuild this historic neighborhood, restore hope and secure housing in area residents, and reshape the urban landscape. Thus, the ENCORE! Project and concept of recreating Perry Harvey, Sr. Park were born.
In fall 2006, the Perry Harvey, Sr. Park Advisory Committee met monthly for a year to come to an agreement on the names of prominent local business and cultural leaders from the Central Park/Central Avenue community, national influences, and significant events to be celebrated in the new park design. The list was to be used developing meaningful outdoor cultural and musical history displays throughout the new park design. At the end of the process, the Committee approved a list of names and dates of important people and events that warranted special recognition in the park redevelopment plan.
The Public's Input
The City of Tampa, in conjunction with the Tampa Housing Authority, held public meetings in the Fall of 2006 to get community input into the future redevelopment of Perry Harvey, Sr. Park. Public meetings were held to gather input and come to an agreement on future park improvements. At the first two public meetings, opposition was voiced regarding the removal of the skate park. A number of comments and emails were received by Parks and Recreation staff on the status of the skate bowl (nicknamed "Bro Bowl"). Working closely with both groups, and taking into account the conceptual plans for the ENCORE! Redevelopment Master Plan, a conceptual plan was developed to honor both the history and cultural influences of the Central Avenue community, and to build a new skate park within another location of the park. The plan included a replication of the skate bowl, and added modern skating amenities. The remainder of the park would be dedicated to celebrating the history of the former community and Central Avenue.
At the final meeting, the conceptual plan was presented, and all involved agreed that a consensus was reached. The understanding was that the historic and cultural aspects of Central Avenue and the community would be celebrated throughout the park, and a new, free skate park similar in style and spirit to the "Bro Bowl" would be created within another location of the park.
Where we are today
In 2012, the City of Tampa hired a consultant team to assist in developing the conceptual plan into a built reality. Through a lengthy process of meetings, reviews and discussions, the team developed a Master Plan which was approved by the City Administration in February 2013. The plan shows improvements to occur with funding that is currently in place to proceed with construction.
In December 2012, a $30 million Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant was awarded to the Tampa Housing Authority for the building of ENCORE! and redevelopment of Perry Harvey, Sr. Park. The park project was reviewed and approved by the HUD as part of the grant award. Included in the redevelopment plan is a replicated skate bowl and modern skate park. This was a result of an agreement with the State Historic Preservation Office and HUD, after the skate bowl was nominated to the National Register in October 2013. The project has been reviewed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of the grant award.
In April of 2016, Perry Harvey Sr. Park opened to the residents of Tampa. The park features one of kind sculptures, interactive fountains, and a winding sidewalk that serves as the time line for Central Ave and the Park, and a leader’s row that features members of the African American community who helped to shape the neighborhood around the park.