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Core city's vibe needs steam and cream

Published March 14, 2007


On the surface, a question about the lack of a freestanding Starbucks in downtown Tampa may seem as fluffy as the white stuff you find on top of a double chocolate chip Frappuccino creme.

Yet having a Starbucks outlet amid the rising condos would be both symbolic and substantive.

In her State of the City address Monday, Mayor Pam Iorio spoke about how downtown is developing into a livable, walkable city.

"I think we're headed in that direction," Iorio said. "You know when you're in a livable city. You've visited them before. You walk around in the downtown core and you say, 'Wow, I can walk in this downtown, I can stop at this coffee shop, I can stop at this museum.' "

If we end up with only empty nesters in the high-priced condos, however, downtown may never achieve the vibrancy it needs. Yes, you can purchase Starbucks in varied downtown hotels, but this isn't about the product. This is about the kind of vibe a Starbucks helps create with WiFi connections, trendy music and the occasional conversation between strangers.

Iorio says both SkyPoint and the Element will have condos costing less than $200,000. And she joked that maybe getting a Starbucks in the core should be one of her initiatives for the next four years.

Actually, maybe it should.

* * *

On another note, can I tell you how much I cringe every time I read a story about County Commissioner Jim Norman's proposed $40-million sports complex?

Norman is talking about capping spending increases, the Legislature has proposed rolling back property taxes and elected officials are using the term "belt-tightening" more than a tailor.

And we're going to spend $40-million on a sports complex no one needs and few people desire? Norman says it's about the kids; but for a fraction of that cost, he could upgrade existing youth sports facilities all across the county. Disclaimer: I'm the secretary for the Brandon Cowboys and we could use a new press box.

If we have to - have to - build this complex, let me suggest this: build a smaller version at the University of South Florida, where the Bulls could host Big East Conference Tournaments, divide costs and share the fields with youth programs.

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper can be reached at or 813 226-3406.

[Last modified March 14, 2007, 00:53:56]

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