Advisory Services Panel – Downtown Tampa, FL

Date: October 9 – 14, 2011

Location: Tampa, FL

Sponsor: City of Tampa

Chair: Leigh Ferguson

Subject Area: Downtown Revitalization

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An ULI Advisory Services Panel with eight experts in the fields of real estate development, finance, transportation, design, and implementation spent October 9 – 14 studying the City of Tampa’s downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. Tampa was recently awarded a HUD Sustainability grant to look at connectivity and development in its urban core neighborhoods, and the panelists were charged with creating a framework around these issues for the more detailed planning activities that will take place under the auspices of the grant.

Like many urban core areas in the United States, downtown Tampa suffered a decline as metropolitan growth patterns trended outward. Tampa’s population began to decline in the 1970s as population centers within unincorporated Hillsborough Country grew along with job centers outside of the central business district like Westshore and University North. Westshore in particular is enormous competition for downtown businesses – it is one of the largest job centers in Florida with 11 million square feet of office space containing nearly 4,000 business employing nearly 100,000 workers.

The Panel offered a variety of recommendations designed to grow the downtown and make the entire city and region stronger with an eye towards building on the investments the City has already made and creating opportunity out of the somewhat weaker market conditions many places around the country are experiencing. One critical recommendation was to develop, with citizen participation, a clear vision of Downtown Tampa and its relationship and connection to the near-downtown neighborhoods and have it formally adopt those plans. The Panel envisions downtown and surrounding urban core neighborhoods like West Tampa, Tampa Heights, and Ybor City as a set of unique, vibrant communities connected by greenways, transit, and strategic investments in redevelopment.

Another important item identified by the Panel was the competition of Tampa’s Riverwalk, a linear park connecting downtown and its cultural amenities to the river and other green space. Completion of this important path would create a regional focal point. Panelist Byron Koste said, “This asset, when complete will exemplify all that is good about Tampa. Getting to it needs to be safe, obvious, and enjoyable.”

After the Panel’s Friday presentation, Mayor Bob Buckhorn said, “The expertise that the ULI panel brought was invaluable. It gave us a fresh perspective grounded in reality and provided us with a blueprint for our urban development. I couldn’t be happier.”

For more information, contact Annie Best.

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