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Developer Bill Bishop created "walkable communities"

Bill Bishop, who developed Highland Park and other walkable communities in Hillsborough County, died on Saturday.  [Credit: Times Archives]
Bill Bishop, who developed Highland Park and other walkable communities in Hillsborough County, died on Saturday. [Credit: Times Archives]
Published May 23, 2018

Bill Bishop was a developer by definition, but those who know him best considered him to be an artist whose canvas was Hillsborough County.

Among the communities he created from scratch are Pebble Creek, Westchase, Waterchase and Highland Park. He also had a prominent role in the development of FishHawk Ranch.

Mr. Bishop died on Saturday morning at age 59 in Durham, N. C., where he had lived since 2008, his ex-wife Sharon Bishop confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times.

His death is under investigation. Sharon Bishop told the Times he suffered a heart attack three days earlier, but Durham police wrote in a court record that he had been strangled.

DEATH SUSPICIOUS: Court record says Hillsborough developer was strangled in North Carolina home

"He'd want to be remembered as someone who loved people and the land and who enjoyed making the world a more beautiful place," Sharon Bishop said.

Common to most of Bishop's developments are neighborhoods that provide residents everything they need, from stores to schools, accessible by foot. "Walkable communities" is what he called them.

"Bill was a visionary," said his former business partner and current Tampa mayoral candidate Ed Turanchik. "Bill always focused on creating better places for people ... He thought big."

Even his failures laid the groundwork for the city's future, Turanchik said.

Along with Turanchik, for instance, Mr. Bishop sought to develop Civitas, a 157-acre community in the downtown Tampa area that included luxury and mid-priced condominiums, public parks, sidewalks and hip cafes and shop.

While it did not come to fruition, much of what is being planned in downtown today echoes Mr. Bishop's vision, say his friends.

"He was a brilliant urban designer who was ahead of his time," said friend Diane Egner, editor of the online 83 Degrees publication. "Things we commonly hear today — how people need to walk and bike and have access to food and gardens — he talked about 20 years ago."

In 2008, the Pittsburgh native moved to North Carolina to earn his master's degree in city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina. Realizing his expertise was beyond that of some professors, his ex-wife said, the institution allowed Mr. Bishop to skip ahead to the Ph.D. program.

A severe shoulder injury sidelined him from his studies for several years, eventually requiring reconstructive surgery. The righty even had to learn to write with his left hand, but he was set to graduate next month.

"A bright star has passed from the constellation of stars out there," said friend Turanchik. "It's pretty sad."

Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com. Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

This story was updated May 23 to reflect that William Bishop's death is under investigation.

Biography

William Bishop

Born: September 29, 1958

Died: April 21, 2018

Survivors: Sons Jefferson and Alexander Bishop; mother Mildred Bishop; brother Scott Bishop; sister Patricia Fairchild; and ex-wife Sharon Bishop.

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