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The Urban Land Institute Visit – Haven’t We Seen This Movie Before?

October 14, 2011

As Tampasphere noted earlier this week, the Urban Land Institute sent some folks to check out downtown Tampa “to offer suggestions on how to redevelop the city’s urban core.” Tampasphere predicted “the recommendations will include such perennial hits as walkable environment, downtown residential, rail, street retail, things to do, etc.”

Well, the reports are in.  According to the Times, the ULI folks presented the following recommendations:

So Koste and his colleagues said the city should make immediate cosmetic improvements: Put in better landscaping, especially at entry ways to downtown. Got an ugly, empty lot? Get creative. Bring in a farmer’s market.

There’s more:

• Finish the Riverwalk, and allow food carts and restaurants near the Hillsborough River.

• Steer new housing toward three areas: Tampa Heights, the area around the Marion Street Transit Station and a redevelopment of the North Boulevard Homes public housing complex.

• Re-engineer roads like Ashley Drive to be less daunting to pedestrians. Think fewer lanes, more trees and lower speed limits.

• Ban new private parking lots as well as parking lots on street corners, convert some existing lots to parks or housing and increase on-street parking.

• Improve transit. Look at expanding the TECO trolley up to Tampa Heights and west of the Hillsborough River. Consider changes, like a fare-free zone, to make bus transit more attractive.

Well, that was pretty obvious.  [aside from the silliness regarding Ashley Drive – though the recommendation is predictable enough] As Tampasphere noted:

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.

As the article noted:

Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the report gives the city a “road map” for its next step: using a $1.18 million federal grant to create a master plan for downtown and areas like Ybor City, the Channel District and Tampa Heights.

“Now,” he said, “we need to take this and go execute it.”

Yup.  Couldn’t have said it better.  Except . . . the thing is, as evidenced by our predictions, most of this stuff is so obvious  that the real question is why anyone should think that it will be done just because the ULI recommended it.  Why would there be the will to do now what was obviously needed – and not done – before?   (At least the info can now be stored electronically so it won’t take up any more shelf space with all the other reports)

We hope things will get done, but we feel quite justified in having our doubts. In the mean time, Tampasphere will be happy to prepare another consultant report of obvious recommendations for the urban core for half the price the City of Tampa usually spends on the reports it does not implement.

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