Adios, VinikVille! Hello Water Street Tampa.
Okay, so maybe the at-long-last name chosen for Jeff Vinik-Cascade Investment's $3 billion, 50-plus-acre redevelopment isn't quite brimming with 21st century pop. No "CoolSpace 2.0" or "BoltsTown" names for this mammoth project.
It's a far more sedate Water Street Tampa.
Well, it's certainly dignified.
It's definitely historical, named for Old Water Street. That's the street that runs through what will be the retail core of the project, right in front of the Tampa Marriott Waterside and the Tampa History Museum. That is the key street Strategic Property Partners (the Vinik-Cascade joint venture heading the project) wants to transform into what it calls "the new heart" of downtown Tampa, connecting people from the current downtown to the waterfront.
As the SPP folks envision it, given enough time, marketing money and (most of all) some compelling place-building, the ambition of Water Street Tampa is to evoke the same connection of Old Water Street to downtown Tampa as other great streets are celebrated in other great cities.
Think Broadway in New York, Michigan Avenue in Chicago or Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
"We believe that great cities are made of great streets — and that those streets can become an identity for a larger neighborhood," SPP spokesperson Ali Glisson explains.
In December of 2014, I attended Jeff Vinik's press event that unveiled the Tampa Bay Lightning owner's vision for the area around Amalie Arena. At the time, Vinik used phrases like "vision plan" and "world class" to describe his plans what was then a $1 billion, 40-plus acre (now $3 billion and 50-plus acres) project. He informally called it the "Waterfront District" back then, always saying a formal name would soon be forthcoming. He took quick exception to the media's use of "VinikVille" as a project nickname in the absence of any official title.
Even on day one, this project — backed from the start by billionaire Bill Gates' money — was not just another urban real estate deal. It was a potential game changer for a city's downtown in true need of an urban renewal on steroids. When Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn praised and then introduced him on that December day, Vinik received a standing ovation from 400-plus invited business and political leaders.
While awaiting the formal project name — who knew it would take more than two years? — the Tampa Bay Times asked its readers to share their own ideas. What project name best captures the spirit of a major redevelopment potentially capable of reinvigorating all of downtown Tampa?
By early 2015, hundreds of readers had responded with names. They ranged from the unorthodox "LiWoPla" — a compression of the "Live, Work, Play" phrase Vinik then used in his stump speech about the new project — and "LoDo" (for Lower Downtown) to the wacky "Via Kiniv" (Vinik spelled backward) to classy mainstream names like Gasparilla Plaza. One USF architecture class voted for Brooketown to salute the old Fort Brooke military post that once stood nearby.
Water Street Tampa clearly lands in that camp, tipping its hat to local history and offering a name, it should be noted, that smartly includes the reinforcing word "Tampa."
With a destination name now in hand, a tougher task begins: Branding those three little words to the rest of the world.
Contact Robert Trigaux at email@example.com. Follow @venturetampabay.