World association

Downtown Tampa gets another long-delayed moment in the spotlight


Thanks to a Super Bowl and a trio of championship boat parades, the downtown Tampa skyline has, in the past year, recorded as much global airtime as ever.

“We were on the world stage and people saw what we were doing,” said Lynda Remund, President and CEO of the Tampa Downtown Partnership. “I think it was to our advantage.

Members of the urban development community, however, have been watching downtown Tampa for even longer.

The city’s waterfront parks, Riverwalk and burgeoning Water Street Tampa have garnered so much attention two years ago – long before the Bucs and Lightning started winning titles – the International Downtown Association announced that Tampa will host its next annual conference, a meeting of city leaders from downtown areas around the world.

After going virtual last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, this conference finally arrives in Tampa on October 20, giving around 600 attendees a glimpse of how downtown Tampa has evolved – not only since 2019, but even since the postponed rally from last year.

This isn’t the first big convention to come to Tampa since the pandemic. But it could be one with significant long-term impact, both here and abroad.

“I think this will be one of the most important leadership gatherings for our industry in decades,” said David Downey, president and CEO of the International Downtown Association. “For the first time in almost two years, we will be able to bring CEOs across the country to connect outside of their daily lives to truly envision the future of downtowns, downtowns, main streets and high streets. urban neighborhoods. The success of this conference is largely dependent.

Related: Coronavirus pandemic darkens future for downtown Tampa Bay

The pandemic has raised questions about whether city centers can continue to exist as they did in a new era of Slack calling and Zoom meetings. The “significant changes” that Downey said downtowns face will be at the forefront in Tampa, with the host city serving in some ways as a model for discussion.

“Like good city planners, we like to go out and kick buildings, kick tires and see what happens,” Downey said. “Whenever this community of professionals comes together, they will openly share their feedback, ideas, comments to the host city, to the staff of the host partnership, so that they understand it through the lens of someone who lives and breathe the same way. work every day in cities across North America.

Often times, they will influence what the host city could do better. This year, Remund is counting on it.

“One of the tours we’re going to be offering is along Franklin Street and Marion Street in downtown Tampa,” she said. “We’re going to ask for feedback from these experts who come to visit us and say, ‘Hey, what do you think we need to do? It is a good opportunity for us to get positive and sincere feedback.

Related: As inventories rise, Tampa Bay office market sees a rebound

A focal point of the convention will be Water Street Tampa, the $ 3.5 billion development by Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment. Water Street developers, Strategic Property Partners, have been presenting International Downtown Association events for years, so many members are already familiar with the scope of the project and the first wellness initiatives of their kind. Vinik is one of the keynote speakers for this year.

Related: Bill Gates divorce highlights his investment in Water Street Tampa

Another sign of Tampa’s transformation, the pandemic delay has meant that some projects that would not have been completed last October are now open for business, including the Tampa Marriott Water Street, an office tower, two residential towers and a Publix GreenWise Market.

“So many other cities have stopped everything they were doing, and we haven’t, so things have progressed all this time,” Remund said. “People have had a window into what’s going on downtown for over a year now.

The conference includes breakout sessions on other areas, including Ybor City and downtown St. Petersburg, as well as bike tours, parks, and public art. While on the move, attendees can even see an aspect of downtown Tampa life that has been absent throughout the pandemic: Port Tampa Bay will see its first cruise ship in 19 months this weekend, with another, Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas, departing October 21 – right in the middle of the conference.

For downtown leaders who arrive in the city, the more activity, the better.

“They want to experience what will be, for many, the first time they see Tampa,” Downey said. “What it would have been like last year, they will have no idea. But they certainly can’t wait to see it in its current state.

International Downtown Association

Following a launch event on October 19, the International Downtown Association’s annual conference will take place Wednesday through Friday at the Hilton Tampa Downtown. For a calendar of events, see centre-ville.org.


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