Sunday, June 17, 2018
Business

Sue Carlton: For a great downtown, build … with caution

The other night I got a bad case of St. Pete Envy.

We Tampa dwellers ventured across the bridge to downtown St. Petersburg only to come upon all these people — strolling, jogging, shopping, heading into restaurants, eating ice cream outside in the cool evening. They sipped wine at cafe tables and were uber-hip atop this new rooftop bar with spectacular water views, something right out of South Beach except with grownups who were fully clothed. Even dogs being walked on Beach Drive looked like they were posing for a Chamber of Commerce ad for what a great downtown looks like. And did I mention it was a school night?

Oh look, a St. Pete friend said, a new chocolate shop, as if it had sprung up overnight instead of being hard-fought and loudly heralded as is every resident-friendly addition downtown Tampa manages to score. When we took our table at a busy restaurant, there was former Republican and rumored gubernatorial guy Charlie Crist circulating at a political event. (So I got dinner and a show.)

I will arm-wrestle to the death over my belief that Tampa is the more interesting town, politically and otherwise, Crist notwithstanding. Tampa has come a million miles with projects like morphing the old federal courthouse into a charming boutique hotel and the lovely ribbon of Riverwalk. But you can't deny the St. Pete vibe that makes you think: Oh yeah, I could live here.

No one is more determined to make people say the same of downtown Tampa than Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who has had his moments of St. Pete Envy. This is why he dyes the Hillsborough River green for St. Patrick's Day, rallies food trucks and gamely jumps on a bike in shirtsleeves and tie to bolster safety in a place not known for it. It is why he is Bob the Builder, now pushing the plan for a 36-story residential tower on a patch of land between the river, the library and the Straz Center for the Performing Arts at downtown's northwest edge.

It is also why he is getting something he has seen little of as mayor: push back.

Because there are legitimate worries about the size and impact of this high-rise project, about traffic, about how it will block the river Tampa is only starting to fully enjoy. Critics, me included, see that piece of land and can't imagine all this there.

But even those who disagree with him have to know Buckhorn's heart is behind his city. He says he gets that it's hard for some people to envision this project, but that it's his job "to imagine what we could be, not what we have been." And that is classic Mayor Buckhorn.

For the record, two other downtown residences by the same group behind this one — the sleek SkyPoint and Element — are each worthy of some Tampa envy. They are also infinitely more appropriately located.

The City Council already agreed to sell the land for the new project, so what's left are rezonings and traffic matters. Concerns about the impact of the 380 apartments, 620-space parking garage, 10,000 square feet of retail to make up Residences at the Riverwalk were enough to get council members to table it until August. Taking a breath to really consider your city's future is a good thing.

No question, downtown Tampa needs that residential vibe to be all it can — alive, vibrant, a place you want to live. But not in haste. And in the right place.

Comments
Your barista is a robot. Should it be friendly?

Your barista is a robot. Should it be friendly?

SAN FRANCISCO - The cold, steely arm of Fernando the Barista swirled the foam of my matcha latte, set it down gently, and waved goodbye from inside a glass case. San Francisco, 2018. Where you can get robot pizza and robot salad, and now, a robot mat...
Published: 06/16/18
St. Petersburg home becomes finalist in HGTV contest

St. Petersburg home becomes finalist in HGTV contest

ST. PETERSBURG — A house in St. Petersburg’s Old Northeast is a finalist in HGTV’s Ultimate House Hunt contest. Built in 2007 in the Mission Revival style, the 4,000-square-foot home a block from Coffee Pot Bayou is among 12 nationwide in the "curb a...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Extending Albert Whitted’s runway could help Innovation District take off

Extending Albert Whitted’s runway could help Innovation District take off

ST. PETERSBURG — Albert Whitted Airport wants to extend its main runway. But what would benefit the airport could also benefit the St. Pete Innovation District.Moving the runway would ease building restrictions around the airport, allowing the Univer...
Published: 06/15/18
Updated: 06/16/18
Florida’s unemployment rate drops to 3.8 percent

Florida’s unemployment rate drops to 3.8 percent

Just when it seemed like Florida’s unemployment rate couldn’t get lower, it did. According to the state figures out Friday, Florida’s jobless rate dipped to a near 18-year low of 3.8 percent in May after holding steady at 3.9 percen...
Published: 06/15/18
Florida’s first not-for-profit coding school is opening in St. Petersburg

Florida’s first not-for-profit coding school is opening in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — Filling in a hole that was left by The Iron Yard’s exodus last year, a new computer coding school will open its doors to its first class in downtown St. Petersburg on July 23.The Academy at Suncoast Developers Guild will operate thro...
Published: 06/15/18
Tampa-based Robbins Property Associates pays $43-million for Boynton Beach apartment community

Tampa-based Robbins Property Associates pays $43-million for Boynton Beach apartment community

Tampa-based Robbins Property Associates, has bought Aventine at Boyton Beach, a 216-unit apartment community, for $43 million.Aventine, garden-style apartments that are 95 percent occupied, will be renovated and renamed "Verona at Boynton Beach."It i...
Published: 06/15/18
Florida craft beer guild: Big Beer is pushing us out of Publix

Florida craft beer guild: Big Beer is pushing us out of Publix

The national battle between Big Beer and local craft breweries is playing out on the shelves of your neighborhood Publix — and some favorite Florida brewmakers are losing.The guild that represents Florida brewers says at least 12 small breweries have...
Published: 06/15/18
Accused of racial profiling, Lowe’s ends policy of checking customer receipts as they leave

Accused of racial profiling, Lowe’s ends policy of checking customer receipts as they leave

Memorial Day weekend was supposed to bring three productive days of home improvement for Will Mega, a dean at a North Philadelphia charter school.He’d go to two Lowe’s locations near his home in Philadelphia’s Wynnefield neighborhood for a grill and ...
Published: 06/15/18
McDonald’s to test alternatives to plastic straws in U.S.

McDonald’s to test alternatives to plastic straws in U.S.

NEW YORK — McDonald’s said Friday it will switch to paper straws at all its locations in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and test an alternative to plastic ones in some of its U.S. restaurants later this year.The burger chain and other fast-food comp...
Published: 06/15/18
Strange brew? Tampa Bay group hopes to grow hops and medical marijuana in the same spot

Strange brew? Tampa Bay group hopes to grow hops and medical marijuana in the same spot

ST. PETERSBURG --- Among topics that stir passionate interest, two that rank high are medical marijuana and craft beers.A group of Tampa Bay entrepreneurs has ambitious plans to profit from both.They are leasing a vast warehouse space in St. Petersbu...
Published: 06/15/18