InVision presents its plans for Downtown Tampa

06/20/13 Roberto Roldan
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At their meeting Thursday Tampa City Council discussed what the Tampa might look like years from now. Representatives from InVision Tampa spoke about their organization’s hopes for the future.

Randy Goer with the Planning Division presented InVision Tampa’s City Center Plan. That’s the development plans for the central business district and the surrounding neighborhoods. Goer said the plan for downtown Tampa is less focused on business and more on residents.

“We’re still going to have people working in downtown, but there’s going to be a lot more family, a lot more children, a lot more college kid’s, a lot more people just coming to look for things to do, more seniors, more people on bikes and alternative modes of travel, and even more dogs.”

In order to keep up with changing demographics, Goer said Tampa needs to change its approach to urban planning. He said much of the plan focused on the development of the properties around the Hillsborough River.

“Trying to create a more active and more inviting waterfront to get people down to the waterfront and actually get them in to the water. Look for places around the water that we can retrofit, places where there is no activity today where we can maybe create a new restaurant in an area where people can actually get down into the water.”

In the next few weeks, InVision plans to ask Tampa City Council to adopt the City Center Plan, which Goer believes will help secure funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Council member Mary Mulhern warned the group and council about the possible pitfalls of developing the riverfront.

“You know, you talk about the Riverwalk and the riverfront, but I think – and I’m sure this was a topic of discussion – that one of the great advantages St. Petersburg has over Tampa is that they protected their waterfront land. It’s all owned by the city and I think it’s protected as park land. I think this would have been a good opportunity for us to encourage us to do that, rather than continuing as we did, and we regret all the time, building, building, building on the water instead of having the public access on the water and then the buildings just beyond that.

Some of the other changes outlined in the InVision plan were stronger urban neighborhoods, a stronger pedestrian environment and more transit options.

Also at city council, Tonja Brickhouse, the director of Tampa’s Solid Waste Department and Environmental Program management reported on the department’s budget. Brickhouse said the 12% residential rate increase that was approved by the council a year ago, has helped put the department’s budget back on track.

“A bleak picture if you look at FY2012 before the rate increase and you see that we were headed to be in the hole $25 million in the fund balance. As you look at the rate increase and the impact of the fund increase you will see we are getting healthier in the fund balance.”

The solid waste department spent $67,000 last year on finding and collecting illegal dumping. The cost is down from the previous year, but Brickhouse said that the problem could be further improved by fixing city codes that are currently on the books.

“One thing that irritates me about illegal dumping, if I could be candid, is that the process that we follow is because that’s the way it’s structured in the code. The code is written in such a way to allow the citizens the opportunity to remove it before the city does anything. So we are doing some code revisions.”

Those revisions, Brickhouse said, can be expected to appear before city council some time this year which would shorten the time citizens have to retrieve trash that has been disposed of illegally.

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