For 26 years, the Tampa Downtown Partnership has brought together development industry insiders and local government officials to share their perspectives on the current state of downtown, progress and future obstacles.
After moving to an online format during COVID, the Downtown Development Forum was back in person again this year. At the May 6 event at the Tampa Hilton Downtown, several speakers said they relished the opportunity to connect face-to-face again.
Connections were, in fact, a recurring theme of the day.
Executives from Strategic Property Partners, developers of Water Street Tampa, described how the streetscape, public art and community spaces of their transformative $3.5 billion mixed-use project are helping to connect it to the rest of downtown.
Graham Tyrrell, senior vice president of property development company KETTLER, said Gas Worx, the 50-acre retail, residential and office project they are building in partnership with Ybor City developer Darryl Shaw , will fill the gap to link Ybor with Water Street and the Channel District.
“Mixing the urban fabric will create that sense of place,” Tyrrell said. “This continuum of an urban place makes a city successful.”
Vik Bhide, director of mobility for the city of Tampa, said that moving forward, connecting public transit to new residential developments in and around the urban core is a priority for developing viable transportation alternatives to the car and to help create affordable housing.
Almost every speaker who took the stage shared their excitement for the private and public sectors to come together to build on the current momentum and make Tampa a true downtown.
The executive director of the new Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority, Greg Slater, provided perhaps the most telling example of this phenomenon. Slater, who started with THEA in January, said the agency is expanding its reach beyond the Selmon Freeway to take on projects such as the Whiting Street extension which will feature a safer and more pedestrian friendly.
“We want to be a partner in connecting the downtown network,” Slater said. “We can’t treat everything like a highway…that’s a really different perspective and that’s what we focus on at THEA.”
Slater said THEA is also working alongside the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to activate more areas along the Selmon Greenway with public parks and bring in more public art.
Overall, the forum provided a dive into the city’s boom and some insight into some potential challenges that lie on the horizon.
“Tampa is Hot”
Tampa’s boom in recent years has drawn media attention to a slew of national outlets, including the No. 1 spot on Forbes’ list of the nation’s emerging tech cities.
“Tampa is hot,” said Dave Traynor, vice president of real estate firm Smith & Associates.
Speaking about The Pendry Hotel and Residences, a luxury project with 220 rooms and 207 high-end condominiums slated to open along the Riverwalk in 2024, Traynor provided insight into the demand for downtown condos. The luxury apartments that will occupy the upper floors of the five-star The Tampa EDITION at Water Street are already sold out. Of about 3,000 condo units in 17 downtown buildings, 21 were currently on the market, Traynor said. Meanwhile, the downtown market averages 20 sales per month.
“That means we have one month of inventory available,” Traynor said.
To the east in Water Street, the retail management team at Strategic Property Partners said Sparkman Wharf is 100% let and has seen a 60% increase in foot traffic over last year . Three restaurants that started in repurposed shipping containers along the waterfront have succeeded enough to move into permanent retail space.
For the overall development, David Bevirt, executive vice president of Strategic Property Partners, said Water Street Tampa has completed 4.2 million square feet of construction in its first phase of development. The full plan is nine million square feet of office, retail, residential, hospitality and hotel space completed by 2027.
Bevirt used a baseball analogy to share his overall view of downtown.
“Tampa is in the second or third inning of our growth, compared to Nashville, which is in the sixth inning, or Austin, which is in the eighth inning,” he said.
True to the baseball theme, Gas Worx is a powerhouse hitter in the on-deck circle — which could eventually include a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays. As discussions continue over this possibility, Tyrrell with KETTLER, says construction of Gas Worx is set to begin this summer with two residential developments that will combine to total nearly 700 apartments.
Gas Worx’s plan also includes transforming a large brick warehouse into a community center with restaurants, offices, and arts, community, and event spaces. Tyrrell said it will be a new downtown destination and a centerpiece of Gas Worx’s overall development.
Challenges to navigate
There was a consensus that both the private and public sectors must address some looming challenges, particularly in transportation and affordability, that loom to take Tampa to the next level.
“That (transportation) is our Achilles’ heel and we need to find better, more affordable ways to get around,” said Bhide, director of mobility for the city of Tampa.
Potential solutions underway include the planned expansion of the TECO Line streetcar, which recently reached a record monthly ridership of more than 100,000, north of Interstate 275. Bhide said the expansion could linking workforce housing to downtown jobs.
He also noted that the Tampa City Council is closing in on a final decision to reduce current parking requirements for downtown developments by 50%, a move that should help reduce construction costs and signal a ongoing policy change to develop additional transport options in the city centre. heart.
Hillsborough Area Transit Authority (HART) chief executive Adelee Le Grand said that as condominium and apartment development explodes downtown, some people are moving further afield in search of affordable housing. The challenge is to provide them with transportation to get to work. Le Grand says she is focused on using a business model to grow HART into a not-for-profit mobility agency that can generate enough revenue to feed back into her services and develop “a mix of modes” that give access to affordable housing. and employment centers.
To learn more about downtown Tampa, visit the Tampa Downtown Partnership.