Downtown Tampa Bay

In this Downtown evaluation I included the traditional (Dwtn area north of I-618 ) and the sub districts Water Street and Channel Island between I-618 and the Ybor Chanel.

Given that Tampa Bay reached only 50K by 1920 and 100K by 1930 it’s not surprising that there are only a handful of historic mid-rise buildings. What is surprisingly is how little of Downtown’s pre-WII fabric remains. Post WWII Downtown Tampa Bay went all in with the Office Tower/Autocentric craze. Fortunately since the early 2000s civic leaders have focused on creating better quality park space and decent mixed-use housing and neighborhoods. This first began with a flurry of new construction in the Channel Island subdistrict and the Sparkman Wharf completed in 2018. More recently the Water Street district was revealed and is on course to finish the first phase by 2022. The new district is across 56 acres and includes 3,500 residential units, tons of office space and lots of new retail amenities. Revitalization efforts in the Downtown core have been slow and mainly one-off multi-family and mixed used developments. This has helped but the core of Dwtn still feels sleepy and bland. Lots of development activity occurring just north of Downtown in the South Nebraska neighborhood with the Encore! and GAs Worx Developments.

Once the above mentioned projects are completed, Dwtn Tampa will be a much more vibrant and 24 hour place filling in many of its dead spaces. But there is still much work to do in the core of Dwtn. Other areas of improvement needed for Dwtn include better retail amenities, more walkable schools, a more interesting skyline, direct transit connection to the airport, and need for more jobs. “

Click here to view my Downtown Tampa Album on Flickr. Click here for my Channel District Album. Here for Water Street.

URBAN STRENGTHS:

“* Overall very good ADA infrastructure especially in the traditional core of Dwtn.

  • Great bike lane system in the region and several dedicated bike lanes with Dwtn. Only Dwtn and a handful of inner city neighborhoods have dedicated bike stations.
  • Excellent economic diversity and solid racial diversity Dwtn.
  • Decent amount of affordable housing dwtn, especially along the north edge.
  • Excellent supply of for sale but on the expensive side. 1-bed condos sell between 250K- 550K, 2-beds 350-650K. Good amount of 3-bed supply but very expensive some sell around 600K but most around 1 M.
  • Good array of parks and recreational amenities including Lykes Gaslight Park, Courthouse Square, Fort Brook Park, Julian Riverfront Park, and Curtis Hixon Waterfront park- a solid and active civic plaza. Riverwalk trails outline most of Dwtn.
  • Dwtn has had a special improvement district in place since 94′
    *Much of the modern architecture from the 60s-90s is quite bland but the newer infill concentrated in the Channel Island and Water Street sub-district is pretty high quality.
  • Solid college enrollment Dwtn with just sky of 9K students at the University of Tampa (just across the River from Dwtn), 2K students at USF Health College, a couple other small satellite colleges, and several thousand students attending Hillsborough College & Brewster Technical College a couple miles from Dwtn.
  • Culturally a good # of restaurants, bars, and cafes, a decent # of theaters and a large historic movie house, lots of museums (i.e. Ship Museum, Aquarium, History Center, Art & Children’s Museum, and a couple local museums).
  • Dwtn also hosts a decent central library & post office, plenty of gov’t bldgs, a major convention center, but only the Hockey Area for Pro teams.
  • Retail amenities include 2 publics, several drug stores, tons of banks, some boutiques and creative stores, plenty of salons & barber shops, tons of dessert joints, some churches, and the Tampa General Hospital is nearby

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

“* Ok transit within Tampa Bay City limits. Very good dwtn and in a couple inner city district and fair transit connections throughout. Very limited transit options to surrounding suburbs and no transit access to the airport.

  • Only a handful of elementary schools located within dwtn but several quasi-walkable schools in adjacent districts.
  • Good supply but rental housing on the expensive side. Studios lease in the mid-high $1,000s, 1-beds ~ 2K, 2-beds in the 2 & 3Ks, and some 3-beds leasing btwn 3-5K.
  • Generally a safe dwtn but plenty of dead spots that make it feel unsafe.
  • The Skyline is pretty bland but a good concentration of verticality with 7 bldgs above 400 ft. Only a handful of mid-sized historic towers. The new high-rises in the Water Street sub-district is more interesting and will help with the skyline in the future.
  • Some nice historic arch dwtn but most of it has been torn down. Similar vibe to dwtn Houston here.
  • Vibrancy is not great, especially in the core of Dwtn but some pockets of vibrancy especially in Sparkman Wharf.
  • Culturally dwtn has a limited # of art galleries, live music venues, and some night clubs.
  • 70K jobs in dwtn Tampa (decent but not amazing for its metro’s size) Dwtn St. Pete prob reduces this jobs #. Office vacancy around 12%. Not bad.
  • No department stores.
  • Lots of dead spots and surface parking lots especially in the traditional core of Dwtn. With the massive Water Street development the urban fabric of the southern end of Dwtn will greatly improve. Even when there are bldgs with decent form, there is a lack of activity in many bldgs due to the office tower dominance. “

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