Building Downtown Hope

The recently concluded architectural exhibit at the 400 Ashley Drive “cubes” was a bittersweet experience.

The ambitious, urban-design vision for downtown Tampa by talented University of South Florida architectural graduate students was holistically impressive. Its focus ranged from eclectic variations on a residential theme to open spaces to the razing and relocating of the undersized convention center.

The bitter is that this is 2002, not 1962. That there is a Poe Garage on the riverfront. That Fogarty wants too much money for its Channelside property. Etc.

And yet it’s a reminder that downtowns must never venerate the status quo. Money and politics will always impact — and typically drive — development, but somebody has to articulate a vision beyond expedience and fight the good downtown fight. The Torontos and Portlands didn’t happen by accident.

Here’s hoping USF Professor Trent Green and his architectural proteges can build some momentum as well as visionary models.

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