All I seem to be saying about Tampa lately is how excellent it is becoming. That isn’t to say I am not excited to leave, but I’m excited to return at an undetermined time in the future, to witness a more drastic transformation.
In my lifetime and in many of yours, now (this year and next) may be the single-most formative time for urban Tampa since the arrival of Cubans, Italians, and Blacks, before the construction of the Interstate, when Tampa had miles of streetcar lines. Numerous players and forces are at work, moving toward a commonality: cultivating a uniquely Tampa brand of cool. Jeff Vinik, Mayor Buckhorn, and Richard Gonzmart, to name a few.
And what exactly is cool? It’s a rapidity of evolution. It’s progressive development, not status-quo. Leading rather than copying. It’s not only infrastructure, like the Riverwalk, or spaces, like Le Meridien Hotel, but also brands. Buddy Brew, TeBella, the Columbia. Cigar City. Oxford Exchange. Hyde Park Village.
Of course, Tampa isn’t Austin, or Portland. Nor Miami or Atlanta. It’s a curious amalgamation of all those.
What makes us special are a variety of factors. A relatively compact city limit (drive an an hour end-to-end on a diagonal from Port Tampa to New Tampa). A grid network of streets oriented to the cardinal directions. Distinct neighborhoods with different flavors and demographics, with a 50/50 mix of old and new. Our airport is close to the city center, as are essential services like the cruise port, multiple malls, regional hospitals, and millions of square feet of office space.
Between Downtown Tampa and the Westshore District is 2/3rds of the county’s employment (USF-area is the other 3rd), and centered around those areas are the city’s highest-demand residential areas, but low-, mid-, and upscale. In ten years, this corridor (roughly parallel to I-275) will be the busiest part of the city.
Once all of these sectors begin to hum again, like they did pre-recession, the cumulative effect is thrilling.
I started a map to visualize all the various completed and expected developments for 2015 and 2016, in residential, commercial, and retail for Tampa.
The Westshore area is growing more residential, especially around the intersection of Lois and Spruce. Three separate multifamily developments will be online soon, within walking distance of International Plaza, Cigar City Brewing, and the Walter’s Crossing retail center, which includes Home Depot, Total Wine, Target, Whole Foods, and Nordstrom Rack. Whether Spruce Street will be improved to make that trek more approachable is unclear.
South of Kennedy in the greater Hyde Park area, the most noteworthy changes are a restriping along the one-way pair of Platt and Cleveland, which adds on-street parking and a delineated bike lane. At Hyde Park Village, one of the area’s oldest continual retail complexes, Sur la Table and Paper Source will open. Richard Gonzmart has announced he plans to open a Goody Goody diner in the former Talbot’s space.
And Downtown, the most likely area to drastically transform (the process has already begun), nearly ten major residential projects promise to boost the density of the area and force rental rates downward. The plan is to better connect the Downtown core with Channelside, which are currently disconnected by the Selmon Crosstown and Meridian Avenue, both major through routes.
Sprinkled across town are new quality-of-life improvements, like the creation of the 12 foot greenway trail beneath the Crosstown between 19th Street in Ybor and Ashley Drive Downtown. Coppertail Brewing, across from IKEA in Ybor City, and the forthcoming 4 Rivers Smokehouse at the corner of MacDill and Swann in South Tampa, add options for dining and drinking, and further cement our area’s commitment to craft beer and southern cuisine.
Tampa’s second lululemon athletica and a new Restoration Hardware showroom will open at International Plaza this year, along with our first outpost of jeweler David Yurman.
Maybe most important of all, activities each evening and every weekend are sprouting and vying for Tampanians’ attention. Running clubs, yoga in the park, gallery openings, benefits, and book fairs. I get more invitations than I can keep up with, or care to accept. And that’s a good thing.
Are there any developments I’ve overlooked? What are you looking forward to seeing dot our skyline in the next two years?