The New Tampa Sensory & Autism Friendly Park, which originally was earmarked to be built on five acres of land behind the BJ’s Wholesale Club on Commerce Palms Dr. in Tampa Palms., is headed to a new site.

Now, the park will be constructed in the nearby New Tampa Community Park (NTCP).

 After concerns were raised by members of the Stafford Place community about parking and noise, Tampa City Council member Luis Viera, who represents New Tampa as part of District 7, began the search for a new site.

The sensory-friendly park has been one of Viera’s pet projects since he was elected to the council in 2015.

Viera, whose older brother Juan has autism, successfully fought to get $90,000 included in former Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s 2018 Tampa city budget for Phase 1 of the project, which was allocated for a study and design of the park.

Now, that design will be used at the NTCP.

Viera said he will make a budget request to finally have the park constructed. 

He estimates the cost at $1-1.4 million, less than he had originally anticipated.

 “There are sites located in the New Tampa Community Park that not only get the job done, but due to the presently available parking and other infrastructure, reduce the cost of this effort substantially,” Viera says. — JCC

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