Malio’s And Alessi Mean Downtown Credibility

Projects such as the Tampa Museum of Art, the Children’s Museum and the Riverwalk are obvious keystones of any downtown-revitalization scenarios. Complementary pieces include, for example, the new Embassy Suites Hotel, the under-renovation Floridan Hotel and the nearly completed SkyPoint condominium.

Museums, condos, hotels and 66,000 workers, however, don’t make a neighborhood – and that’s what Tampa says it wants its downtown to be. A vibrant in-town where people also live, dine and hang out. It’s a formidable, if not daunting, undertaking for a city where The Hub too long defined nightlife.

But then last year there developed an incipient Franklin Street restaurant corridor with the Thai Corner, Office Café & Grill and the artsy-vibed Fly Bar & Restaurant. In April, the new Malio’s Steakhouse — with chocolate-colored walls and burgundy columns — will open in the lobby of the 31-story River Gate (Beer Can) Tower. Now Phil Alessi is negotiating to open Alessi Bakery Café next to the Colonial Bank at Kennedy Boulevard and Tampa Street.

In and of themselves such enterprises, of course, hardly constitute an extreme makeover. More like food for thought, however, because they do signal a vote of confidence by those steeped in tradition and business savvy who want in as urban infill starts unfolding.

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