Editorial: Fresh start for Temple Terrace

Published December 26 2014
Updated December 26 2014

The city of Temple Terrace is starting over on redeveloping its downtown commercial core now that its latest effort fell through. This is a moment to step back, be realistic and recognize what the city has to offer.

The City Council voted last month to settle dueling lawsuits and end the relationship with its developer partner, Vlass Temple Terrace. The move ends a five-year plan to build a Mediterranean-style office, shopping and residential complex along 56th Street between Bullard Parkway and the Hillsborough River in the county's northeast. The two sides disagreed on major issues, from the design of apartments to changing market conditions. By parting, Temple Terrace can start fresh with a new developer and finally get going on remaking a vital space and a gateway to the city.

Going forward, though, city officials and residents need to recognize that Temple Terrace has changed, even as its charm and location offer the same enduring appeal for a mixed-use development. Temple Terrace is no longer simply a bedroom community for young families and golfing enthusiasts looking for quiet. The University of South Florida and the nearby hospitals and technology scene have helped diversify the area. And that has brought demand for a new type of housing and retail and leisure experience.

Millennials, younger workers and employers are looking for more active lifestyle choices and a range of activities beyond the country club. A new complex of retail and multifamily housing at the downtown site could offer the best of everything — proximity to home, shops and restaurants all within easy walking distance from the city's traditional focal points, from the meandering golf course to the Hillsborough River.

The city needs to find a quality developer, sketch out the broad strokes of a redevelopment and then let the development team carry through the details. The city would benefit by dedicating a staffer in-house to oversee and manage the project and to keep officials and the public regularly updated.

Temple Terrace is a rambling and scenic community with great tree canopy, waterfront parks and a safe, small-town feel. It also is close to Tampa's major urban destinations. The city has a lot to offer any developer, and its charm would be a magnet to a new generation of residents. The trick is to balance the project's residential and commercial mix. Temple Terrace also needs to use its character as a selling point to meet the new market demand for walkable urban living.

Combining a good reputation and a valuable piece of property is a challenge most communities would envy. As it looks to start over, Temple Terrace should see that its options are as rich as its ambitions.

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