Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn remembers how underutilized, underappreciated, and unattractive the city’s waterfront was when he first arrived in 1987.
The blocks of offices and surface parking lots located downtown, near the confluence of the Hillsborough River and the bay, provided few reasons to come downtown beyond work.
“The city had turned its back on the water,” Buckhorn says. “At the time, the waterfront was filled with broken-down wharfs and was more industrial than pedestrian. There was no Riverwalk, and Harbour Island, a neighborhood now home to 10,000 people, was a phosphate-dumping pit filled with weeds and rats.”
Today, Tampa’s waterfront is a magnet for investment: The city’s downtown has become the locus of a wave of construction projects that will bring an estimated $13 billion on investment to the Tampa region through 2022, according to Dodge Data & Analytics.
Its centerpiece, the new Water Street Tampa, is a $3 billion, 16-block mega-development, which recently broke ground on a new JW Marriott hotel and the $164.7 million University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute, a new facility that backers hope will become the centerpiece of an emerging medical-tech cluster.