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back October 10th 2017 back

You can have a say on one of Tampa Bay’s mega projects

TAMPA — Have you ever paid close attention to the support piers of an elevated highway? Probably not, but the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority still wants your opinion on what some new ones should look like.

From now through Friday, Oct. 20, members of the public will be able to choose between two designs for the piers supporting the 1.9-mile extension of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway from South Dale Mabry Highway to the Gandy bridge. The winning design will be announced Oct. 23.

“We were looking for an opportunity for the public to take part, and this is one of the areas where we could control that,” Bob Frey, the authority’s planning director, said Monday.

Workers have begun test borings for the $200-million extension, which will be built in the median of Gandy Boulevard and run past the $600-million Westshore Marina District project that simultaneously is getting underway.

The authority unveiled the pier designs Monday. The one dubbed Vivid has “vertical features that represent movement and fluidity” while the Estuary design evokes “a river delta or a canopy of cypress trees,” according to Aecom, the construction company.

An elevated stretch of Gandy Boulevard on the Pinellas County side of the bridge includes images of manatees, sea turtles and pelicans on its massive base. The narrower shape of the Selmon piers precluded that.

“This is more of an architectural design,” Frey said.

The extension will have one lane plus a shoulder in each direction 30 feet above the Gandy median. The authority has promised there will be no lane closures during rush hours and that the driveways to all businesses will remain open. The work is due to be finished in Fall 2020.

Orange cones marking the future site of the extension are just a few hundred feet from the new 25-foot towers flanking the main entrance to Westshore Marina District

“We call (them) ‘monument signs,'” said Beck Daniel of BTI Partners, the master developer of the huge waterfront project. “We are running gas to those for gas- lit lanterns at the top, and we’re excited that landscaping will come in right behind. We are improving our front door.”

BTI also begins taking reservations this week for Marina Pointe, a 16-story bayfront tower with condos priced from the $600,000s. The Fort Lauderdale- based company has sold other parts of the 52-acre district to various developers.

Related Group is doing site work for a 400-unit apartment complex and is assembling sections of the parking garage off-site, Daniel said. And Bainbridge and WCI Communities have issued notices of commencement for their projects — apartments and townhomes, respectively.

Due to be finished about the same time as the expressway extension, Westshore Marina District will have 1,300 residential units plus shops, a marina, at least one restaurant and possibly a hotel.