Downtown Tampa needs activity, high-density growth, audacious vision, mayors say
Empty storefronts. Working-class neighborhoods bulldozed by urban renewal. Big rats running around on Ashley Drive.
Those were some of the old memories of downtown Tampa conjured up Tuesday by four past and present mayors of the city.
But after 25 years of work, there’s a lot of progress: the Florida Aquarium, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, the St. Pete Times Forum, new hotels, new condominiums, new parks and new museums for art, children and history.
“We have a downtown that’s secure and feels good,” former Mayor Dick Greco told a crowd of about 500 at the Tampa Downtown Partnership’s 25th anniversary lunch.
Still, the mayors said there is room for improvement: more high-density development, more activities around-the-clock, more business-friendly permitting.
The first time Greco served, from 1967 to 1974, federal urban renewal had demolished many areas north of downtown.
Greco doubled street lighting downtown so it would look different. He moved to create the pedestrian marketplace that was Franklin Street Mall (since given back over to cars). And he traded the old city-owned fairgrounds next to the University of Tampa for UT land north of Cass Street.
His second time as mayor, starting in 1995, Greco brought in the Marriott Waterside to complement the Tampa Convention Center. Other hotels followed downtown and in Ybor City.