University of South Florida (USF) Professor of Anthropology, Dr. Christian Wells, recently embarked on a large project funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through their Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Program to redevelop a local community park.
Working with the University Area Community Development Corporation, Wells’ collaboration focused on the University Area Community (UAC), a neighborhood adjacent (northwest) of USF on the northern edge of the City of Tampa, Florida. The UAC is an underserved community characterized by low incomes, high unemployment and poverty rates, and disproportionately high levels of child morbidity compared to surrounding regions. The area, known as a brownfield, is predominantly residential and commercial, and contains many vacant lots, some of which are perceived by residents to be contaminated by environmental pollutants.
Since 2017, faculty and students from USF have worked together with this community and other stakeholders to develop a brownfields area-wide plan and implementation strategy for the neighborhood.
The project builds on existing planning activities that the community has already developed for housing rehabilitation, new business creation, increased access to health services, and improved opportunities for recreation. The project focused on brownfields that are a major impediment to these redevelopment considerations, particularly the Harvest Hope Park site - in the heart of the University Area community.
Project activities included community engagement, local capacity building, an economic market analysis, and evaluation of existing planning documents along with social, health, and environmental data to determine the extent to which contamination impacts revitalization efforts. This data collection, which was completed in June, is available to the public on the project website. Key partners working with USF Department of Anthropology and the Center for Brownfields Research and Redevelopment include the Florida Brownfields Association, the University Area Community Development Corporation, Mort Elementary School, Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County, Florida Department of Health, Hillsborough County Economic Development, Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission, and three private consulting and social marketing firms (Cardno, Vistra, and BGW Associates).
Wells’ project is currently underway and thanks to he and his team’s work, Harvest Hope Park now boasts a playground for neighborhood children, a community garden, and a small building that is being used as a test kitchen for hosting cooking classes using the garden’s produce. The park is also currently undergoing development of a soccer field, a walking trail around the pond, and infrastructure upgrades for lighting, flood management, and other safety features.
The project is expected to be complete by October 2019. To stay up to date on the Harvest Hope Park’s progress, visit the park website.