Driving in downtown Tampa used to terrify me when I became a resident almost nine years ago. Being from a smaller town in Florida, I never had the experience of driving through large skyscrapers, one-way streets, or alongside impatient drivers. Now that I have several years under my downtown driving belt, Tampa’s downtown is actually pretty simple and small compared to other mid-sized cities. But it also seemed to be missing something that other downtowns are known for: “city life”.
When I first became a Tampa resident, I remember how sad it was to drive by gorgeous brick abandoned buildings, empty sidewalks, and vacant parks. Tampa’s downtown seemed dead after businesses closed for the day and a place people weren’t interested in spending time in on the weekends. I’m happy to see that in the last few years that perception of downtown Tampa is now far from the truth. Downtown Tampa has become an urban community hot spot; a lively place where people bring their kids to play at the Tampa Museum of Art children’s park, or ride their bikes on the completed extension of the Riverwalk. In fact, it’s now booming with restaurants, new condos, events, and most importantly it’s beginning to cultivate a strong Tampa community.
The revitalization isn’t going to slow down for downtown Tampa, either. If you are a Tampa resident and haven’t been in the loop, here are several additions our downtown will see over the next decade:
- Tampa Bay Lightning owner, Jeff Vinik, has big plans for downtown. One billion dollars worth of plans in fact. Prepare to see the development of a new urban medical school, more corporate headquarters, condos, hotels, stores, and restaurants all to be developed near the Channelside and waterfront areas. Even the desolate Channelside Bay Plaza is getting a makeover, and plans are still coming together on what businesses will occupy the space.
- The real possibility of a grocery store has been proposed. The stretch between Channelside Drive and Ybor – also known as the old TECO Peoples Gas site – may be getting a grocery store, retail spaces, and condos. It has been rumored for a few years now that a grocery store will be coming to the urban neighborhood, but so far nothing has stuck. If these plans pass, downtown residents may finally get their wish.
- The Portico, an up-and-coming community gathering place, has plans over the next several years to house a coffee shop, be a flex space for events (such as weddings and receptions), a rental space for businesses, all in addition to what they are already offering the community. There’s no other space quite like this in the downtown area that offers such a unique mix of community activities all in one location.
- The TECO Line Streetcar may extend more throughout downtown and into the Tampa Heights area. With projections of more urban residents living in downtown Tampa over the next several years, there will be an increasing need to provide better public transportation.
Every time I drive through downtown on my way home from work, I find myself admiring the liveliness that has sprung up over the years. I can’t wait to see the continued transformation over the next 10 years. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll get to see the Tampa Bay Rays actually get a home in Tampa. A Rays’ fan can dream, right?