At the heart of Tampa’s downtown, the new Water Street Plaza is the first phase of a district wide master plan vision. The design was generated with input from multiple stakeholders and in collaboration with a cross-disciplinary design team including architects (CookFox) and civil engineers (Stantec). The design of the plaza reacts to the architecture, the program, and micro-local conditions while logically embracing its location within the Florida ecosystem. The plaza structures and harmonizes the public space between a University of South Florida medical school building, offices, residences, and shops to create an engaging and vibrant urban plaza that reveals important aspects of its ecological context. Nestled between Wetland and Upland ecologies, Water Street Plaza features constructed systems typical to the conditions of the Coastal Floodplain and the islands of native hardwood trees, called Hardwood Hammocks. A curvilinear runnel meanders through the plaza recalling the flow of water from the upper regions of the city to the Channel at Tampa Bay. As it captures and conveys rainwater, the runnel also defines a sculptural edge of benches along its meander, and forms the eastern edge of the floodplain plantings. The rigid, linear western edge of the plantings recall the constructed channel and docks of Tampa Bay.
Visually compelling and typical of Floodplain Ecologies, Bald Cypress trees provide significant shade protection in the sun-drenched southern edge of the plaza - an immersive outdoor respite in the Florida subtropical climate. The Bald Cypress are also used to announce the plaza within the circulation choreography - strategically, they supplant the street oak trees that line the streets in the rest of the district. In the elevated portion of the plaza, the Hardwood Hammocks area, live oak trees define the circulation, providing focal points along the path while casting cool and welcoming shadows across long contours of benches.
The plaza provides for an ecologically diverse and engaging urban space for both visitors to Tampa and the several distinct user groups who live, work, and learn in and around the surrounding buildings.