Downtown Tampa park will celebrate community’s past

Nestled in the shadow of Downtown Tampa, Perry Harvey Sr. Park will pay tribute to the city’s instrumental African-American figures.  “Some things are not recorded in the history books so therefore (people) are getting a chance to see history right before their eyes,” Harvey’s daughter, Dorothy Harvey Keel, said.

The park is located along Central Avenue, an area once vibrant with African-American businesses. It’ll soon have displays, statues and a history walk, honoring the area’s rich past. “Even though they may not have been recognized historically, we are going to recognize them and we are going to tell that story, and it is going to be a part of our fabric,” Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn said.

The park’s namesake, Perry Harvey Sr., was a well-known civil right icon and president of the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1402. Now the park, just a stone’s throw from the rapidly rising Encore development, which has condos, apartments, and hotel and office space, will be there for all to see.

“I am proud, and so are my friends. We are all proud. That’s why we came down here today, because we wanted to see this event. It is a good thing for our area,” Betty Bell from Tampa said.

Tampa’s police chief, who was born and raised in the city, believes the park will be a big asset to the community. “A lot of our youth don’t understand the history, and this is part of the education process. The more kids we get to visit the park and learn the history of the park, the more they are likely to benefit from it,” Chief Eric Ward said.

Work on the redevelopment of Perry Harvey Sr. Park will cost nearly $7 million. It’s expected to be finished next year.

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