This week was relatively quiet on the news front, so we are going to devote most of the Round Up to our culture. No, not the arts, culture.
Culture – ULI meet Hillsborough County
The Urban Land Institute paid their visit to Hillsborough County this week, which was oddly mostly ignored by the papers. We did not see the final presentation live, but the PowerPoint is available here.
For the most part, it makes for the usual ULI reading – some good ideas, some fluff, not much actual urban design ideas, and implying need for rail in the long run (or as they say, among a number of light rail trains “Plan for modern transit system.” P. 41).
Then, on page 49, when talking about planning requirements, they provide this foreshadowing: “It’s not the requirements it’s the way things operate.” Which leads to page 52:
We believe Hillsborough County is faced not with a land use problem but a cultural problem. This requires that you address healing the relationships between and among institutions and citizens by improving;
First, Hillsborough County does have a land use problem, but that stems in large part from the cultural problem. We are not going to get in depth on all the ULI recommendations to fix our culture. Frankly, like the rest of their work, some is good, some is fluff, and little is urban.
The key take away is that a bunch of outsiders sat down for a week with people from the area, and their key impression was that the government does not function properly and the culture is unproductive. It is that obvious. Now, do something about it.
Culture – What Region?
Any reader of ours knows we are all for developing the regional identity of the Tampa Bay area. Thus, we were quite disappointed that this week the Times had an article this week about “America’s Got Talent” focused on this:
The omission has St. Petersburg officials miffed, considering that the show held April auditions of the NBC show at the Mahaffey Theater and then included shots of the city’s landmark Salvador Dalí Museum during Monday’s show.
It didn’t help that show producers instead spotlighted Tampa, which hosted a prior set of auditions in November. Shots of downtown Tampa’s skyline were included in the broadcast, the headlines of video clips and photos said Tampa, and host Nick Cannon rallied a crowd of flag-waving fans where a Tampa Fire Rescue truck could be seen in the background.
“I was disappointed,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster. “St. Petersburg wasn’t mentioned once. But for the fact that I recognized the (Mahaffey), I would have thought that it took place in Tampa.”
We did not watch the show but we are willing to accept that the show blurred the lines of what city they were in and could have been clearer. And we expect the hyper-sensitivity from the Mayor of St. Pete, who seems to go out of his way to harden regional divisions. But this is not blurring anything:
What is wrong with that? Either St. Pete is part of the Tampa Bay area or it is not. Does it really help to play up divisions?
Culture – The Rays
Playing up divisions is especially unhelpful in the case of the Rays and their poor attendance. Interestingly the Times ran a column on the Rays the day after it ran the story on “America’s Got Talent” that said the following:
We agree. It is a tired topic and an important topic. It is also very much an issue of location of the stadium, which requires a regional approach. Why help the supporters of division, even indirectly?
Culture – Things we liked
Just to be clear, we are not picking on the Times. In fact, they ran an editorial on Hillsborough transit we thought was quite good.
Without covering the whole piece, the editorial concluded with the following:
As communities across the country have shown, only a broader mix of revenue — from sales and property taxes to grants and fare collections — can sustain these systems and turn public transit into an economic driver for private investment. Having the ability to do without a car in the Tampa Bay area can save a household one-fourth of its earnings. Public transit is also key to breathing new life into Tampa’s urban neighborhoods, the university area and the West Shore business district. County leaders need to work with the city on reviving a transit plan; the status quo will not enable this region to compete.
Sounds familiar, and it should because it is exactly right and acknowledges the connection to the region as a whole.
Culture – St. Pete is right on this
And we are not picking on St. Pete. Among the things we like about St. Pete is that, at least downtown, they are getting the idea of an urban building.
This is an agenda item from the city regarding altering a project downtown. If you look towards the end (page 28 and after), it shows that this is a proposed 14 story building on a small sliver of land between other buildings. It even has some street interaction. (In fact, this is a proposal to shrink what was previously planned, but it is still dense). The only thing we don’t like about the proposal is the surface parking in the back.
We do not know if the city will give final approve this modification. However, we like the basic idea of it (save the surface parking). This is how cities are built – piece by piece with a number of dense buildings building up blocks-not 4 story “stick frame” buildings spread out over large lots. Cities are not built by just land banking lots waiting for megaprojects that may never come.
Tampa could learn a lot.
Culture –A Bit of a Stretch.
Last week we discussed the West Shore district. Among the things we noted was the elasticity of the boundaries of West Shore. We acknowledge that for marketing purposes, it may be useful to have that elasticity, but when really assessing the market, the area, its potential and how it should be developed, we need to speak clearly. This week, the Tribune, in an article on Panera drive-thru lanes said this:
This is a bit broad. There is a Panera at the corner of Westshore and Kennedy – that is the West Shore district. West MLK is either West Tampa or Drew Park. Why can’t they have a Panera, too? (We won’t even get into whether they need a drive-thru.)
Culture – Yes, The Arts
We saw this interesting article about the genesis of the Atlanta arts scene.
We don’t recommend copying every aspect of the effort (especially the plane crash), but there are organizational ideas to consider.
List of the Week – At Least You Look Respectable
This week’s list comes to us from Travel & Leisure and rates “America’s Worst-Dressed People”. And, yes, we wondered what qualifies Travel & Leisure to rate how people dress. In any event, the only Florida city on the list was Orlando, at #4.