The Built Environment – The Basics, Part I
Yesterday, there was a post about economic development. As was noted, one of the matters that needs to be considered in attracting and retaining solid companies – and their employees – is the built environment. Tampasphere is well aware that reactions to the built environment are subjective, but we maintain that there are some basics. Moreover, we are well aware that talking about the built environment can, especially in a poor economic environment, sound like simply bitching. On the other hand, like we said, there are some basics that should always be kept in mind, especially in a place like Tampa Bay, where we are striving to create (or recreate, if you consider what was demolished over the decades) an attractive, working, urban, built environment. After all, even buildings built during an economic downturn are supposed to be around for a long time.
To wit: In downtown St. Pete, there is a workforce housing project called The Portland. It looks like this:
(There is a better picture on the developer’s website [goto projects, workforce housing]). No need to get into detailed aesthetics. It is urban, reasonably dense, with a garage. Makes sense walking around it. No problem.
There is Metro 510 in Tampa. Not as dense as Tampasphere would like and not so happy about having a parking garage open to the street as people walk by, but, given the location and purpose, we understand.
On the other hand, there is the Encore project in Tampa. Now, Tampasphere really likes the idea behind the Encore project, and we are happy that it is getting under way and creating jobs and workforce housing downtown. That is all good and, we really like and support the general concept. What is not so good is the design of one of the first buildings – Trio. Originally this particular building seemed perfectly acceptable. Then, the design was apparently revised. You can see a video on the Encore website, but it is hard to find, so here is a still shot [building at the right of the picture – it is rather large so please click on the link to see it] (There is an old rendering of Trio on the Encore website, but the Encore facebook page has the newer photo).
Tampasphere cannot figure out how a large, open surface lot facing a park and the main access street from the interstate and main connector street to the rest of downtown got into the project. Aren’t we trying to get away for this? Does anyone want to walk by a surface parking lot? Is that “urban?” There have been a number of apartment buildings built in the area where the parking is enclosed in the building and not visible from the street. It is just a sad lost opportunity in such a generally positive project. [By the way, this office building would be totally ridiculous downtown. How is that urban? Where is the interaction with the street/pedestrian traffic? How is this connected to the rest of downtown?] Tampasphere hopes the design changes again before the building is built.
Tampasphere has issues with some other recently proposed projects, like the Related Project in Channelside (4 stories? – built it taller and leave more open space – or space to fill in later with more density. This is the heart of Channelside.) It will likely be approved, and we understand why, but, in its present reported layout, it brings little excitement.
In any event, Tampasphere is well aware there are economic considerations for some matters of height, density, and some layout. Tampasphere also understands that exposed, surface parking lots are not urban. Really, we can think of no reason for that design. (If there is one, let us know, and we will consider its validity) We don’t think Tampa Bay should settle for just “ok” when “really good” (or even “excellent”) is just as easy to do.