TAMPA — As mayor, Bob Buckhorn lives for the days when he can cut a ribbon at a new business. So six ribbons at six businesses all at once?
"A very good day," Buckhorn said Thursday, just before taking the scissors at three new restaurants, a coffee shop, a salon and an architects' studio in the Channel District.
The nonprofit Tampa Downtown Partnership held the event to underscore that businesses increasingly are moving in around the waterfront's apartments, condominiums and lofts.
That, Buckhorn predicted, will transform downtown Tampa in the coming decade.
"Young professionals like I see here are moving down here; my staff can't even find a place to live," he told business owners in the courtyard at Grand Central at Kennedy. "The beds are here. The heads are in those beds. The retail's going to follow. The restaurants are going to follow. The commercial demand is going to follow."
The businesses — Eleventwenty Bistro, Ragin' Grill, Seadog Cantina, Victory Coffee, The Salon 1.0 and the Twelfth Street Studio — all opened in the last four months, creating 78 jobs.
Seadog Cantina owner John Oraha, 40, has lived in the Grand Central building for 3 1/2 years and has seen the area "really come a long way."
Since opening the 80-seat cantina Dec. 19, Oraha said his numbers have tripled, with the biggest demand for his Mexican fusion cuisine on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
"A few times, believe it or not, we've had lines out the door," he said.
The openings will not stop at six, either.
BoConcept, a store selling contemporary design furniture, plans to move from WestShore Plaza to about 5,500 square feet in the Grand Central building by the end of May.
Owner Ray Priddle, 50, said the store had to move anyway because of H&M clothing's arrival at WestShore. Priddle said he was offered other space at the mall, but didn't like his options.
A move to the Channel District made sense, he said, because he gets more customers from that ZIP code than any other. (His No. 2 ZIP code is 33701, in downtown St. Petersburg.)
It's a good sign, Priddle said, that Related Development of Miami has broken ground on a $55 million apartment complex nearby. Related's buildings in Miami dazzled him. Here, the company's project is expected to open in about 16 months with 356 units, two parking garages and 4,800 square feet of stores.
So the dynamic that Buckhorn described reminds Priddle of something he saw happen in his hometown of London.
"Strategically, it looks right," he said. "It feels like it's about to happen here."