Vision Plan Targets Tampa Renaissance

Since the 1980s, Tampa has periodically unveiled revitalization plans for downtown only to shelve them all — save one.

That was obviously the one that recommended hodgepodge development and discouraged connectivity and critical mass.

Now all the others have been dusted off and some of the better ones actually incorporated into a 10-year Downtown Vision and Action Plan put together by a team of consultants headed by Hunter Interests Inc. The nonprofit Tampa Downtown Partnership and the city jointly underwrote the $130,000 plan.

The recommendations and suggestions were rolled out recently at a well-attended public forum at Tampa Theatre. The focus was on a major makeover, such that downtown would be more than a skylined Potemkin sans residents, shoppers, diners, imbibers and arts patrons.

A key goal, underscored Hunter, is “to re-establish downtown Tampa as the core area of the Tampa Bay metro area.”

Critical catalysts include the formation of aggressive public-private partnerships; an emphasis on affordable (and workforce) housing; establishment of a downtown development corporation with enough seed ($5 million) money to jumpstart (retail) tenant leases; revitalization of downtown’s “waterfront edge;” and implementation of a marketing strategy to better target – and expand – the meeting and visitor markets. Specific elements include a rejuvenated North Franklin Street (“café district”) corridor and a metamorphosis of iconic eyesores such as the Floridan Hotel and Maas Brothers’ building.

Some Vision Plan observations — and candid asides — from Don Hunter, president of Annapolis, MD-headquartered HII:

*“Let’s ride the residential wave – but provide for different income groups.”

*(Civitas) was a good plan. The plan, itself, had merit. The problem apparently was the process.”

*“Make the North Franklin Street area the place you go before going to the Performing Arts Center or the (Times) Forum.”

*“The art museum park could be a ‘Central Park on the Water.’ It could be a peaceful, signature destination for downtown.”

*“You need an expanded convention center to remain competitive.”

*“Downtown Tampa needs to grab more of the seasonal visitors to this area.”

*“The Floridan is a great old building, but it’s very hard to make the numbers work. The owner has an unrealistic view of its value. The building is worth $1 million. No more.”

*“The Floridan’s future is in “moderate-rate rental apartments. But it isn’t going to happen without public-private sector participation

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