Saturday, December 16, 2017
Business

Carlton: Can the downtrodden USF area innovate? Believers already believe

Every city has its nominees for ugliest major street. Fowler Avenue is definitely a Tampa contender.

It stretches wide and pedestrian-unfriendly, running east to west between the sprawling University of South Florida and car-clogged Interstate 275, a vista of fast-food joints, strip malls and pawnshops fronting bleary neighborhoods. It's been this way as long as I can remember.

But take a ride down Fowler and surrounding environs with former Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe and he does not see this. Or maybe he's just trying to get everyone else to picture what he sees next.

It is no surprise to find Sharpe — possibly the wonkiest, most wired person to hold local office, a man once caught texting under his program at a funeral — at an autonomous vehicle summit in Tampa this week. (He sounds particularly excited about his upcoming ride in a driverless Tesla.) Sharpe left office two years ago and became executive director of the Tampa Innovation Alliance, with its rather lofty goal of transforming this university area into a more vibrant, happening place.

So where you see blight, believers picture a thriving center for research and medical tourism. They see more restaurants and craft beer pubs and hipster coffee shops. They see a place people not only want to work, live and play — those current buzzwords — but also to study and stay. Such innovation districts, I am told on our ride, are hot.

And, here? Really?

Sharpe points out that USF already has a lot of the interesting stuff that comes with a big college campus, like the Moffitt Cancer Center and its big plans to expand. Medical tourism? Families who travel here will want places to go and things to do, he says. The new owners of the once-downtrodden University Mall are pumping bucks into the place, and new outparcel restaurants are bustling. There's the Yuengling Brewery and also Busch Gardens already bringing in millions of tourists a year. People said World of Beer was crazy to take a chance here, but they did.

And how about the potential for that prime Museum of Science and Industry site when MOSI moves downtown, or that tantalizingly underused property off I-275, and by now Sharpe is talking really fast.

Credit him with walking the walk: A South Tampa devotee, he now has an apartment amongst the new ones sprouting just south of campus.

It feels like something really may be building here.

The Alliance had four members when Sharpe got on board and now has more than 200, including some muscle like Tampa Electric and GTE Financial. A recent community event — held in the mall, by the way — drew Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, USF president Judy Genshaft, Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and County Administrator Mike Merrill, who said the county is committed on this. Richard Florida, an author considered a voice on cool cities, spoke.

And they recently scored a $1.25 million state grant to look at how to transform Fowler, the road that runs through it.

Sharpe says he wants this to be "a place where the best and brightest come together to solve the world's problems." Even if you are still dubious, it is clear he believes, and maybe a lot of other people are starting to, too.

Comments
Taxpayer subsidies of Tampa golf courses are on the rise as struggles continue

Taxpayer subsidies of Tampa golf courses are on the rise as struggles continue

TAMPA — For the half of the year that Harry Nichols lives in Oldsmar, he plays 18 holes several times a month at Rocky Point Golf Course. On a good day, Nichols said he shoots close to par on the Dana Shores course. And if he’s really lucky, it’ll on...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

When Brenda Terry was 16 and living in St. Louis, she was a hostess and food runner at a sports bar where female employees wore cute, little cheerleading skirts. One night, she said, a patron grabbed her crotch. She ran to her management team and the...
Published: 12/15/17
Pigs can be therapy animals too. So can horses and rats and cats and llamas and … (w/video)

Pigs can be therapy animals too. So can horses and rats and cats and llamas and … (w/video)

Shrieks of laughter echoed off the walls of the hospital as Thunder the mini pig flopped onto his side and the children huddled around him, scratching his pink, hairy belly. He and his wet-nosed partner, Bolt, drew patients in wheelchairs and bandage...
Published: 12/15/17
Vology landlord challenges property tax assessment

Vology landlord challenges property tax assessment

LARGO — Eight months after paying $10.15 million for the office building that houses IT services company Vology, a New York company is suing the Pinellas County Property Appraiser and Florida Department of Revenue contending its $5.5 million tax asse...
Published: 12/15/17
Florida’s $1.1 billion Hardest Hit Fund winding down after some hard knocks

Florida’s $1.1 billion Hardest Hit Fund winding down after some hard knocks

In 2010, Florida was in the throes of an unprecedented housing crisis. One in every eight homes was in some stage of foreclosure. Today, the foreclosure rate is one in every 83. Because of that enormous drop, Florida’s Hardest Hit Fund will s...
Published: 12/15/17
Report: Rich will get still richer unless policies change

Report: Rich will get still richer unless policies change

By ELAINE KURTENBACHTOKYO — Global inequality has stabilized at high levels in recent years, a report said Friday, despite gains among the poor in China and much milder disparities in incomes and wealth in Western Europe. The World Inequality Report ...
Published: 12/15/17
How the Disney/Fox deal will shake up Hollywood

How the Disney/Fox deal will shake up Hollywood

Associated Press NEW YORK — After years of tremors, the earthquake that had long been predicted finally shook Hollywood. Disney’s deal to purchase most of 21st Century Fox ends the era of the "Big Six" major movie studios, toppling one ...
Published: 12/15/17
St. Petersburg’s Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement set to be complete in 2019

St. Petersburg’s Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement set to be complete in 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — The Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, under construction since 2015, is scheduled to be complete by the summer of 2019.The five-story, 137,100-square-foot building will house businessman and collector Rudy Ciccarello’s...
Published: 12/15/17
Obamacare enrollment ends today, but some can get an extension

Obamacare enrollment ends today, but some can get an extension

Today is the day that open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act will close for most people. But those affected by the slew of hurricanes that pummelled Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and other states earlier this year can take advantage of a two-week ...
Published: 12/15/17
Pack your bags: 107.3M Americans to set holiday traveling record

Pack your bags: 107.3M Americans to set holiday traveling record

A record-breaking number of Americans are expected to travel this holiday season.The American Automobile Association projects that 107.3 million Americans will pack their bags and travel more than 50 miles by planes, trains, automobiles and other mod...
Published: 12/14/17