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Tampa's new neighborhood

A Times Editorial
Published November 6, 2005

The news that construction in Tampa topped $1-billion this year makes these heady times for city officials. After years of promises that came up short, construction cranes are hovering over downtown. A year from now nearly 7,000 condominium units will dot the city center, making the population of downtown almost three times as large as that of Davis Islands. While the look of downtown is changing rapidly, the flip side is that the city must prepare for an entirely new neighborhood. Mayor Pam Iorio has made a start, but the city still needs to invest more in parks, street safety, the library, schools, parking, mass transit and the arts.

People who spend a half-million dollars or more to live downtown expect an urban living experience. Yet downtown Tampa is stark, inhospitable to pedestrians and cyclists and largely empty and a bore from late Friday to Monday morning. Iorio is moving to complete the Riverwalk, but strolling a seamless waterfront is still years away. Flowers are planted more regularly in the medians but the sidewalks are cracked, narrow and blocked by utilities, signs and poles. The city has scheduled more events downtown but it overlooks the basics. The portion of the Riverwalk that already exists is not used for anything. No one is bringing University of Tampa students into the city center. A squat, gloomy library lacks the feel and capacity to serve a growing, metropolitan neighborhood.

The city plans to spend more on the small stuff, from landscaping to street designs that make it safer and more comfortable to walk. And not all the big expenses are the city's sole responsibility. But the mayor should get out front to champion city and county spending for amenities these incoming residents will need - a modern central library, new downtown schools, museums and a strong mass transit system. These things are what attract people to the downtown core. Having them will help Tampa continue to increase and diversify its tax base.

[Last modified November 5, 2005, 01:16:03]

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