Republican National Convention puts Tampa projects on the fast track

Six months to finish Tampa improvements for RNC

TAMPA - Tampa Bay's week in the international spotlight is just six months away.  Ready or not, 50,000 visitors -- including some 15,000 journalists -- will descend on the Tampa Bay area at the end of August for the Republican National Committee's nominating convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Being unprepared is not an option.  

"I'm not interested in excuses. I don't want to hear about the bureaucracy.  I don't want to hear about the delays. I want to know when you're going to finish this, because it's got to be done," said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

And there is a lot to do by August.  The Mayor wants improvements to Bayshore Boulevard completed and the derelict boat slips at the north end taken out.

The ambitious Riverwalk project, Buckhorn admits, will not be finished in time for the Republicans.  But the $1.2 million dollar transformation of Zack Street into the lofty-sounding "Promenade of the Arts" will be ready for promenading Republicans.

"We're not doing this purely for the convention. We were going to do this anyway. This is just a rationale to get it done a lot quicker," said Buckhorn.

In the private sector, there is a lot of buzz over the historic Floridan Hotel. It was once hoped renovations of the historic building would be completed for the 2009 Super Bowl.  Spokesperson Lisa Shasteen says she has no doubt they will be taking reservations for the convention in August.

"We're very excited about that. We're talking to a few groups about hotel rooms for that period and we're ready to go," said Shasteen.

RNC Host Committee President Ken Jones has to raise $55 million in private donations for the big party. He's being cagey about how much he has raised so far, not even willing to say if the committee is half way to their goal.

"I can't get into specifics because it potentially affects other fundraising efforts we've got going on. But we're doing very well," said Jones.

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