Downtown Partnership reviews progress

05/29/08 Mark Anderson
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Last night, the Tampa Downtown Partnership hosted its third annual community review meeting. The Partnership was formed to expedite the transformation of downtown into a more livable central city, with a focus on residential, cultural and aesthetic improvements. The downtown partnership vision and action plan debuted in 2005.

Last night, the overall progress to date was reviewed and community feedback was solicited from the 50 attendees.

The overall message to the community is that significant progress has been made in the three key downtown improvement areas, but much more needs to be done, and the deteriorating state of the current economy and housing sector are providing fresh challenges.

Bringing more permanent residents to downtown is a key focus of the plan. To date, 2,500 new residential units have been completed in the core downtown and channel districts, and work progresses on the restoration of the Floridian Hotel building.

Still, some were frustrated that progress has not been made quickly enough, and that the worsening state of the economy and housing markets will slow down private sector investment.

Christine Burdick, president of the Downtown Partnership, agreed that the ailing economy may slow progress, but she was upbeat about progress to date.

Other methods of stimulating development were suggested, including tax incentives for renting or owning housing downtown and shifting overall spending from the private to the public sector until the economy gets healthier.

The expansion of downtown cultural resources provides an example of how the city and county are stepping up investment, as the private sector cools. The construction of the new Tampa Museum of Art and the Hillsborough Historical Museum are now under way, substantially funded by local government.

A third element of the plan is improving the vibrancy and aesthetic attraction of downtown Tampa. Public investment in the extension of the Riverwalk and reconstruction of Curtis Hixon Park were cited as key examples of how to attract residents and visitors to downtown.

The need to make consistent progress on both large and small scale initiatives in the uncertain economic climate was a consistent theme.

The Downtown Partnership will create a completely new plan for 2010. In the meantime, it will focus on residential and cultural and aesthetic improvements, both large and small.

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