The city of Temple Terrace embarked on another gut-check last month over its long-stalled dream of redeveloping its city center. The frustration with the failed plans over the years and the fiscal pressure on the city to get something — anything — going certainly is understandable. But the city should step back and take stock of its vision, the assets it brings and the market in small cities for an urban experience. The city’s commercial district is irreplaceable and any project needs to complement the city over the long-term.
Temple Terrace held a series of meetings in January to give the public another opportunity to weigh in on the years-old effort to redevelop its downtown. The city has worked in fits and starts to transform a 22-acre stretch of property east of 56th Street and south of Bullard Parkway into a pedestrian environment of shops, offices, restaurants and residences. The latest idea — an uninspiring plan to build a new office building at the leading edge of the site — collapsed last year. Now residents, city officials and the business community are wringing their hands again, and debating whether to go fast or to go long in bringing a new plan to the table.
It’s time to hit the reset button, and to consider three key things:
•What is the city’s vision? One major problem all along is that the city has failed to think through and build consensus on a vision for the redevelopment. That reflects a divide between some older residents who see the Terrace as the quiet, oak-lined golfing community it has always been and newer blood that sees a more diverse character emerging in the area and new purpose and potential in the redevelopment. These two outlooks for the city are not mutually exclusive. There has always been plenty of depth in the residential areas to host a vibrant commercial core. And an active development at the city’s entryway would bring energy to Temple Terrace and encourage people to move and do business there.
•What assets does it bring? Too many to count. The Terrace has an idyllic setting along the Hillsborough River, with access to plenty of parks, playgrounds and public space and schools. It is a safe community with well-maintained streets and homes, conveniently situated to Tampa, Lakeland, the interstates and the University of South Florida. The city’s increasing diversity and its proximity to major employment centers makes it something of an undiscovered gem, even while it has all the conveniences that most residents and businesses need and seek. Temple Terrace has a history of providing quality municipal services and is known as a good place to raise a family. It is compact without being small, and healthy (26,000) in size.
•What’s the market? The city is looking to get an updated appraisal of what the property could be worth, in advance of seeking a new round of bids. That obviously will shape how idealistic or practical the city will be. But it should recognize the value in having such a huge piece of property. Cities nationwide are also seeing renewed interest by business and property owners in the urban core. Temple Terrace is perfectly situated to better serve the USF area, a massive market that could be drawn to a mixed-use destination of apartments, retail and entertainment. The city and university could team on housing, transportation, jobs and other initiatives that raise the school’s presence downtown. Students already shop here.
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