Ybor City is a historic neighborhood in Tampa, Florida, that was founded in the late 1800s. Located in the heart of Ybor, 7th Avenue is well known for its rich culture and colorful history.
The vibrant and lively neighborhood has become a popular tourist destination and is home to the iconic 7th Avenue Archways. Originally installed as a temporary display for the city’s Centennial Celebration, the 7th Avenue Archways quickly became a distinct feature and were never removed. Over the years, many of the archway lights had become non-operational as many of the poles were in poor condition and in need of replacement. As part of the city’s economic development focus, it was decided that the arches would be removed and replaced with permanent structures that match the existing architectural features of the district while utilizing more environmentally sustainable technology.
For many years, Tampa Electric Company (TECO), Ybor City Development Corporation, Barrio Latino Commission, and the city of Tampa had discussed a desire to upgrade the lighting and archways along the approximately one-mile stretch of roadway, but the project faced several delays in its initiation.
Due to the area’s rich history and the archways’ significant impact on the surrounding neighborhood, the project required complex permits, significant community engagement, and several design approvals and modifications. In 2010, KCI’s surveyors began working with TECO to develop base mapping and 3D renderings for use in conceptual and preliminary design in addition to providing topographic surveys and terrestrial LiDAR. More than a decade later, Tampa Electric reached out to KCI to take the lead in providing full turnkey, in-house services including surveying, engineering, permitting, power distribution, lighting design and construction management.
“On the surface, this project seems simple—take the old facilities out and put the new ones in—but that was not the case due to Ybor City’s status as a National Historic Landmark. It was paramount that the work we performed be done with special care and consideration to respect the diverse local culture and flow with the architectural congruence of the surrounding features.”Kenji Plennert, Project Manager and Power Practice Leader
Needing to maintain the aesthetic character of the historic district, the project required comprehensive coordination with key stakeholders to evaluate design options. Our team conducted several presentations at various council meetings to obtain input and approvals, and community outreach meetings were held to coordinate with residents and businesses. Conceptual renderings created from photographs and the existing survey data were used during these meetings to help convey proposed recommendations.
Archway enhancements included 34-foot-long decorative aluminum archways with a “Y” medallion in the center supported by black, powder-coated metal poles. To remain consistent with the previous archway lighting and utilize more environmentally sustainable technology, soft white LED lights that use a daylight sensor and operate from dusk until dawn were installed on the archways.
For use in community outreach, KCI’s survey team produced a full 3D model of the street, using LiDAR data and high-resolution imagery. This was done to document the existing conditions above ground, the changes that were made to the streetscape, and showcase anticipated improvements. The proposed new archway lights were superimposed into the model to create a video drive-through display for city, county and public review.
To determine design and construction feasibility and develop an approach for the execution of the project, KCI completed an extensive street level evaluation of the existing site conditions. With safety of the community in mind, plans also included conversations with the City of Tampa Police Department to determine the best way to accommodate relocating existing security cameras. Using the data collected, our team identified where the new archway poles would be placed and which ones needed to be removed or aesthetically restored. In instances where new poles were being installed, KCI used ground penetrating radar to identify any underground utility conflicts.
Conceptual plans laid out 21 archways and 33 light poles along the one-mile stretch, with some placed in similar locations to the existing archway poles and others added in new locations. During the utility coordination process, special care was necessary for pole foundation placement to accommodate proposed new construction and clearance requirements with respect to existing pedestrian balconies. With many businesses offering upstairs seating options, new poles and associated power lines needed to be well out of reach of potential customers enjoying an evening on the second-story balconies. In one instance, the sidewalk was extended into the street parking area with new pavers to allow for the installation to meet proper clearance requirements.
Once the conceptual plans were approved, KCI completed the formal design development, submitted the necessary permits for approval, including detailed maintenance of traffic control plans, and worked with Tampa Electric Company to identify a construction contractor. Upon approval of the permits, our team worked to establish a schedule and sequence of construction. The archway installations were occurring at the same time as a 7th Avenue streetscape rehabilitation, KCI’s project manager was responsible for coordinating the timing of various tasks and identifying potential conflicts with Tampa Electric’s on-site construction foreman. Once construction commenced, it progressed much quicker than originally anticipated and was completed in less than half of the originally planned duration.
Following the coordinated renovation efforts throughout Ybor City, the archway modernization and renewal enabled the city of Tampa to preserve 7th Avenue’s original appearance while addressing the functional and aesthetic concerns that had arisen over time. Now complete, the treasured landmark will remain a symbol of the city’s rich history for future generations.