Buisness leaders discuss the future of downtown Tampa

06/14/13 Roberto Roldan
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A group of business leaders in Tampa are envisioning downtown’s future. The Tampa Downtown Partnership looked at development plans over the next ten years during their 27th Annual Meeting and Luncheon Thursday afternoon at the Tampa Convention Center.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has been a champion for revitalizing the downtown business district.

“We have done more in the last two years than has been done in the last decade. Think about what has been accomplished in the last two years. That Riverwalk that we broke ground on last week to where we are today – two years from now, a year and a half from now there’ll be two miles of uninterrupted stretch, anchored on one end by Richard Gonzmart’s restaurant in Water Works. Where a new federal courthouse in the next 18 months will be turned into a boutique hotel. Where just two days ago we broke ground at the Aloft Hotel on the corner of Kennedy and Ashley. Where you look at three towers that have been announced. I’m here to tell you, for the hand-ringers and the naysayers, density in downtown is a good thing and don’t let anybody tell you it’s not.”

The theme this year was “Downtown Fast Forward: A look at the last ten years and the future.” The cornerstone of the luncheon was the four person panel discussion made up of young business professionals who live and work in Downtown Tampa. Brian Seel, a Senior Project Engineer with the Beck Group, said he wants to see more economic development.

“Some things that I want to see happen in the next ten years: I don’t want to see another surface parking lot in Downtown Tampa, I want them to be developed into at least mid-rise to high-rise, mixed-use buildings. I want to see some form of mass transportation take effect at least between TIA and downtown. I’m not going to say what form that needs to take, but there needs to be some form of mass transportation between there. And I want to see a greater diversity of economic support in downtown. We need to be the strongest center of economic and creative activity.”

Senior Urban Designer Erin Chantry with Tindale-Oliver & Associates, said she believes the key to developing downtown lies in the uniqueness of Tampa’s Ybor District.

“The best thing, in my opinion, that Tampa has and the greater downtown area has is Ybor city. Ybor City represents that strong heritage and that culture that Shaun [Drinkard] fell in love with, that I fell in love with, that a lot of people have fallen in love with. The Cuban history and culture is something that is unique to us and that’s what we need to build on.”

The panel also discussed obstacles. Panel member Brandon Hicks, an architect with Twelfth Street Studio and teaches architecture at USF, said he thinks the biggest hurdle is attracting and keeping young people in Tampa.

“The challenges for me is, what I see yearly is, talent, talent, talent. About number one, how you develop talent, which we have figured out. We have incredible Universities and incredible programs. The second part is about keeping that talent here, which is a struggle and something we’re all trying to help with. The third part is encouraging that talent and promoting that talent.”

The Tampa Downtown Partnership is made up of over 40 member businesses who operate in the downtown area. The partnership is aiming to improve the collective downtown community by working with the private and public sectors.

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