Christine Burdick, the former president and CEO of the Tampa Downtown Partnership and a longtime champion of Tampa’s downtown, has died.
Lynda Remund, the group’s current CEO, announced Burdick’s death in a memo to partnership board directors on Friday afternoon. No cause of death was immediately given.
“Christine was an iconic urban leader and contributed to enhancing the vibrancy, development and quality of life throughout downtowns across the nation,” Remund wrote. “Christine made an insurmountable impact on Tampa’s downtown during periods of unprecedented growth and change. The impact of her work in the community has brightened Tampa’s future for generations to come.”
Burdick led the partnership from 2002 to 2017, a period that spanned a near-total overhaul of Tampa’s downtown core, including new condominiums, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, the Riverwalk and the Tampa Museum of Art and Glazer Children’s Museum. She helped develop new transit options and facilitated planning for the 2012 Republican National Convention.
“Tampa truly is one of the next great downtowns,” she told the Tampa Tribune shortly after taking the job. “It really needs to be a 24-hour city.”
In an interview, Remund said that Burdick frequently worked with developers on getting people to move downtown. But she was also a champion of affordable housing initiatives and the arts, which boomed downtown during her tenure.
“She led us successfully for those 15 years, and through a recession, too,” Remund said. “She was able to do that and just keep us going and keep downtown going, and just had great relationships out in the community. She wasn’t just a business partner, but she was a true friend to so many, and I think that just resonates as to the type of person that she was.”
A former chairperson of the International Downtown Association, Burdick came to Tampa from Chicago, where she worked as an assistant commissioner for Mayor Richard M. Daley and served as a consultant to similar public-private agencies. She also worked in Miami Beach, where she worked on revitalizing the Lincoln Road Mall.
When she got to Tampa, former Mayor Bob Buckhorn said, “Downtown was still struggling with an identity. She in her own quiet, gentle way helped steer that, to see that we could be so much more than we were.”
Buckhorn called Burdick a “great partner,” saying that, when he was mayor, he and Burdick met every month.
“We would gossip, we would laugh,” he said. “But we were always focused on what we knew Tampa could become.”
Buckhorn said Burdick grew the Clean Team, an army of bright-uniformed downtown workers who keep the city clean and act as ambassadors.
”She was never one to toot her own horn,” Buckhorn said. “Always gave the volunteers and her board the credit. But she was a force.”
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Tampa City Attorney Andrea Zelman worked with Burdick when Zelman was on the board for the downtown partnership. They were also in a book club together.
”In both she was such a warm, gracious, intelligent, thoughtful person,” she said.
Zelman said Burdick “had a lovely home in Hyde Park and was a great cook” who made a memorable salmon in puff pastry.
”She wasn’t from Tampa,” she said. “Yet she quickly became part of the community.”
The Tampa Downtown Partnership has an award in her name, the Christine Burdick Downtown Tampa Person of the Year, given annually to a local leader who contributed to downtown Tampa’s growth over the past year.
“She really did leave that legacy,” Remund said.