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JIM SHIMBERG

Chairman, Tampa Downtown Partnership

Q. Boosters have talked for years about making downtown Tampa like a big city downtown. But there's still lots of empty office space, only a few hundred people living there and almost nothing happening on nights and weekend. What would help most to fix that?

I'm not sure there's one silver bullet. The new art museum would be a benefit to downtown. It would be great if we could get a major corporation to move a major division or its headquarters downtown. And I think residential's going to come downtown, not one major project but a number of smaller projects.

There are a lot of amenities here: the St. Pete Times Forum, the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Channelside _ and Ybor City is so close. More and more people want to live in a convenient location where they don't have to deal with traffic issues.

Q. But developers say downtown land costs are so high it's impossible to build anything approaching affordable housing there. How do you get around that?

There are a lot of places we need to look at west of TECO (headquarters). But if it's going to become a neighborhood, it can't just be $250,000-to-$500,000 units. The city will have to incentivize the area. But you can't just have one area.

If a certain property owner has an inflated idea of what his property's worth, you've got to go to the next properties. We need a couple of pioneering projects. Every time I see (Mayor Pam Iorio), she seems very focused on this area.

Q. Your law firm, Holland & Knight, remains downtown but, like many others, is moving to a new building and leasing less space. How can building owners fill their empty space? Is it realistic to focus on a big corporate relocation?

I'd like to see some significant new tenants, not just businesses moving around. A lot of the problems now are economy driven. There aren't a lot of those (big) prospects. I don't think we ought to be looking for a new building downtown, not spending a lot of effort to bring in a million-square-foot tenant. We ought to try to fill up the vacancies we have.

_ STEVE HUETTEL, Times staff writer

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