The Tampa Downtown Partnership can be a mysterious organization. They’re non-profit, in the business of attracting and cultivating businesses in the ‘CBD’ of Tampa’s urban core. They’re also charged with improving the quality of life downtown, where few have called home over the last half century, though that trend has recently reversed itself, locally and on a national level in other second and third-tier cities.
Thus, you’ll find that the TDP has its hands in many pots. Transportation, urban design, special events & promotions, as well as governmental advocacy on behalf of the people who live or work in the area.
My dad has been a member for years, and I now count several of its employees as close friends.
Forums, seminars, and conversations are another of the Partnership’s strengths. Topical issues, like urban Tampa retail, are impactful to everyone with a stake in the prosperity of a neighborhood, and such was the subject of yesterday’s Downtown Debrief series, a sunrise breakfast meeting.
Samantha David of WS Development, the owner of Hyde Park Village, joined Andrew Wright of Franklin Street and Ray Priddle, the local franchisee of BoConcept furniture, located in the bottom of the Grand Central Building in Channelside.
The panelists discussed Tampa’s market in entirety, compared to saturated markets like Atlanta and Miami, as well as the unique challenges of urban vs. mall retail and the nuanced hurdles ahead for Hyde Park Village and Channelside Bay Plaza, which is now managed by Franklin Street.
Each speaker expressed satisfaction with the City of Tampa administration, and with the forthcoming development to the urban vicinity, driven by many small to medium-sized multi-family projects as well as Jeff Vinik’s major realignment and complete renovation of the space between the Port Tampa Bay and the Tampa Convention Center.
My key takeaway from these three players: the buying market exists, and the vendors are interested, but there is always risk and uncertainty in being first. It is a delicate art to blend local with national retailers, types of bars and restaurants, and an ambiance that attracts shoppers. Access is critical too, not just by car, but on foot, by bike, or by public transport.
“If someone comes to one of our properties to buy an item, does that, and then leaves, then we have failed. They should be getting coffee, meeting a friend, or having a cocktail too,” Samantha David said in citing the unofficial WS mantra.
I already knew I liked WS and Samantha, but hearing these details again, along with the perspectives of the other panelists, piqued my excitement for Tampa, and reassured me that good things are happening.
And, the event was not under-attended. We’ve wanted robust urban retail for a long time, and have settled historically for very typical, very touristy boutiques that do not serve the resident or professional.
That looks to change, as bigger money starts to drop onto the handful of neighborhoods that are centric to Downtown Tampa, or just on its periphery.