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2012 Award of Honor - Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park
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Project Category:  Open Space

Project Name:  Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

Project Location:  Tampa FL 33602 

Date of Completion:  2010

Landscape Architect:   Thomas Balsley Associates: Lead Designers

RS&H: Landscape Architect of Record - (

Owner:  City of Tampa - Parks and Recreation Department

Greg Bayor – Director , Karla Price, ASLA – Project Manager 

Project Contractor:  Skanska USA 

Landscape Contractor:  ValleyCrest


At a major gateway to the city, this 6-acre park sits at the crossroads of river, downtown commercial and residential, and a cultural district. Flanked by Kiley Park one storey above grade, two new museums, the Riverwalk, and Ashley Street corridor, the park enjoys a supremely strategic location for civic placemaking.


Through a series of public charettes and stakeholder committees, a new urban design vision (remove the old museum and parking garage), along with program and park design emerged. This meaningful public outreach and participation has invested the citizens of Tampa in their park and will ensure its sustained success.

The Park

It is a park filled with activities, but also spaces into which one can retreat. Expansive lawns, terraces, and slopes are filled with people. At the park’s center is the Great Lawn.  Framed by trees and scaled to accommodate large and small events, it is anchored on either end by distinctive fountain plazas that can become venues for larger festivals. The design carves into the slope to reveal terraced lawn panels that spill down from the museum terraces and garden promenade on the north edge. The southern edge is activated by a linear park pavilion with restrooms, offices, café, and a visitor center.

At the water’s edge, a future restaurant will command unparalleled views of the park, river, and Kiley Park.  Located along the Riverwalk and taking their sculptural cues from the Museum of Art are the contemporary play area and urban dog run. The louver and mist fountains at either end of the park, designed to capture Tampa’s imagination while cooling its feet, are both interactive but can be shut down for park events. Innovative lawn rafts, timber lounge chairs, swivel concrete loungers, and picnic tables reflect a commitment to 21st century comforts beyond the conventional bench. 


This project is a perfect example of the full range of sustainability measures (social, economic, environmental, and cultural) available to landscape architects. Here, the team has adopted familiar measures, such as the use of native plantings, greenwall, dark-sky initiative lighting, low-emission interactive water feature, locally harvested building materials, pervious paving, and high albedo paving; but also used the project as the city’s first pilot for a reclaimed wastewater reclamation and treatment program. The team has demonstrated that downtown parks can reverse the forces of sprawl into our natural environment.

Special Factors

The designer overcame skeptical stakeholders whose memory of the failed site was fresh. Careful research and sensitive client education was required to push the visions and possibilities beyond the ordinary. The team embarked upon an extensive reshuffling of program and urban context to maximize the park’s active nature. The park’s success came with the designer’s fusion of rich design concepts and complex urban design initiatives.


Why is this space so special? It has touched the lives of thousands and become the "center” in which they meet and celebrate and to which they point with pride. The power of this place is that it can be many places; pastoral lawn and intimate seating niches one day, concert or festival for 10,000 the next, all while being Tampa’s "here”. It has sparked the public’s imagination and even caused enough envy to inspire neighboring cities like St. Petersburg to do the same. This can be the prototype for other low profile small to mid-size urban centers to nurture their citizens with a new sustainable lifestyle and with landscape architects at the lead.


Lead Designer:  Thomas Balsley, FASLA - Thomas Balsley Associates 

Executive Landscape Architect:  Ron Sill, ASLA  -  RS&H

Owner’s Representative:  Pete Karamitsanis - Lighthouse Advisors Inc.

Landscape Contractor:  Andy Johnson - Valley Crest

Architect of Pavilion and Park Comfort Station:  Albert E. Alfonso, AIA - Alfonso Architects

Architect of Children’s Museum:  John J. Curran, Jr., AIA - Gould Evans Associates 

Lighting Designer:  Barbara Cianci Horton - Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design Inc. 

Civil Engineer:  Hamid Sahebkar, PE - Stantec 

M/E/P Engineer:  Adriel Mercado - TLC Engineering 

Structural Engineer:  Richard Temple, PE - Walter P. Moore  

Marine Engineer:  Jessica McIntyre - Moffatt & Nichol 

Geotechnical Engineer:  Nodarse Associates 

Architect of Tampa Museum of Art:  Stanley Saitowitz, AIA

Stanley Saitowitz / Natoma Architects, Inc.

Construction Manager:  Chuck Jablon - Skanska USA

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MISSION STATEMENT Leading, educating, and participating in the careful stewardship, wise planning, and artful design of our cultural and natural environments.