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Roundup 10-13-2011

October 13, 2011

Once again, we present a round up of regional news:

Brain Drain

The Mayor of Tampa is asking USF students not to leave the area.   Indeed, the local brain drain (and failure to attract talent from other areas) is a serious problem, though we have not seen a serious discussion of the problem or possible solutions.  As we pointed out in the last roundup, tech companies have a hard time getting investment, so they leave.   Additionally, we wonder if it is reasonable to expect people to wait for the Tampa Bay area to create a real urban environment with a large community of what is often called “the creative class.”  The question that needs to be asked is “Why should they wait?”

As the mayor said:

“We need to have a city that’s hip, that’s cool, that’s progressive,” he said.

He acknowledged the city has work to do. One of its biggest competitive disadvantages with other cities, he said? Its lack of a rail system.

Buckhorn blamed Gov. Rick Scott for declining billions in federal stimulus money for high-speed rail to Orlando. He also cited the failure of the light-rail referendum in Hillsborough last year and encouraged students to fight for it the next time it comes around.

“We’re going to have to go back at it at some point,” he said.

While Tampasphere likes the idea of rail, we acknowledge it is not a panacea. (And if the effort is as ham-handed as last time, it will fail again) The failure of rail referendum was a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself.  (And we are also not sure what “progressive” has to do with it – we are more concerned about where is the music scene, the art scene, the non-binge drinking entertainment scene, the interesting movie scene [other than pay-per-view] and why is there no neighborhood that can really be identified for any of those things.)  More to the point, the complacency and lack of foresight in planning, development, the economy, and so many other areas, is the problem.  We say again – tell them why they should wait.

Cuba Flights

One area where finally there is some vision and planning is in international flights.  Happily, Tampa is getting more flights to Cuba, including to a second destination after Havana – Holguin.  Well done.  The airport is once again an example of what the Tampa Bay area can do with vision and action.

Urban Land Institute

On the other hand, there is news that the Urban Land Institute will be visiting the area “to offer suggestions on how to redevelop the city’s urban core.”  That is fine.  However, once again, the problem is not knowing what to do, it is doing it.  We predict the recommendations will include such perennial hits as walkable environment, downtown residential, rail, street retail, things to do, etc.

Tampasphere is all for getting ideas about how to improve the area, but if they are just another report sitting on a shelf, it is really irrelevant.  We are curious what the follow through will be.

Encore

We are pretty sure that downtown residential will be on the list. It would be helpful is Tampa could get more downtown residential without hitting speed bumps, but the Federal Government has chosen not to give another grant to the Encore project.  We are told it will not kill the project, which is good, but Tampasphere cannot but think it will slow it down.

HART

In other news, HART carried a record number of passengers last year.  This is both good and bad.  First the bad – it is a sign the economy is still hurting.  On the other hand, it shows that the area will try transit.  Of course, there will be those who point to the figure to say that rail is not necessary and that buses are fine, but the reality is that we cannot build a real city with only buses – not to mention the fact that buses will always fail to attract a decently sized segment of the community that just will not ride them.

Back to the Future

Tampasphere came across an interesting website http://www.tampachanging.com/ We thought, given we are talking about downtown and urban development as well as retaining the young, educated workers, we would show the following photos (for whole website page see here) and ask, where would rather be?

Franklin Street, 1956

Franklin Street, 2010

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