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Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park Spurs Hope Of Redevelopment

The newly renovated Julian B. Lane Riverfront park opened on the west bank of the Hillsborough River over the weekend to a lot of fanfare.

The opening celebration saw live bands, food trucks and dragon boats. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn even hosted a "Mac & Cheese Throw Down."

Rose Singleton was at the park early Saturday morning, painting the 25-acre landscape in her sketch book. The South Tampa resident said she was impressed by the amount of green space in the park, even if she wished there was a bit more shade.

"It's really for the young people who aren't concerned about the sun and the shade, who think they are going to live forever," she said.

There were no shortage of kids playing on the new playground, basketball court and splash pad. The $35 million park was built in part with money from the BP oil spill settlement. It also has a boat house and community center on the water.

The new park borders West Tampa and North Hyde Park, two neighborhoods the city has been trying to redevelop for years.

Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn said he hopes the park will be a catalyst for a new West Tampa.

"It's going to be a completely different neighborhood, that will be safer, that kids will have a chance of succeeding instead of becoming statistics," he said. "I'm not the mayor who is going to finish it, but I'm happy to be the one that starts it."

Buckhorn said the park can be an anchor for new businesses and homes in what the city is calling the West River Redevelopment district. Just last week the city broke ground on the newly redeveloped North Boulevard Homes, mixed-income apartments for seniors that used to be public housing.

Sakina Howard, a former West Tampa resident, says she thinks the park will give access to the kind of quality sports facilities kids can't find at other public parks in the area, but she's wary of gentrification.

"The young kids especially will enjoy the park," she said.  "They've really transformed it with the bout house and green spaces, I just hope it becomes an inclusive part of the city."

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