Will Downtown Dreams Come True?

Will Downtown Dreams really come true for downtown Tampa with the start of 4 high profile projects: The Children's Museum (Gould Evans), The History Center (Verner Johnson and Associates), Tampa Museum of Art (Saitowitz) and the Curtis Hixon Park Redesign (Thomas Balsley)? All projects are scheduled for completion in late 2008 / 2009.

Do these projects deserve the hype that they are starting to receive? What are your thoughts about the future of dowtown Tampa? Are these truly great projects breathing new life into the dowtown core? Or are they missed opportunities for a city that has struggled for the past decade to be something more than a 9-5pm workplace destination?


Anonymous said...

Isn't this still the same story from years ago just reprinted? I don't care what they are like, just build them already. My view of the future of Tampa, basically the same as it is today.
Why is it so important for downtown to be livable? The city should focus on making the nearby districts liveable, viva West Tampa, Seminole Heights, Ybor City.

nar said...

The comment above suggests an 'either/or' mentality, as though focus on significant cultural projects and a livable downtown means there is no focus being put on West Tampa, Ybor City, etc. In fact, there are a lot of efforts going into all these regions, and not just on the part of the city. The city is no solely responsible for the improvement of urban districts. As for the four projects being described here...whether this is exactly as things were a few years ago or not, it currently looks like things are moving forward, and in fact converging in 2009. This should be exciting for people, and seen as significant projects which will help elevate the city of Tampa as a vibrant and (more importantly) viable urban center. None of this is happening at the sacrifice of other, equally-important surrounding exurban neighborhoods. Let's look at the positives for once.

Christopher Vela said...

Yeah sure, it would be easier to not deal with downtown despite we know of the space potential is has and the value (not just money but cultural) especially looking at it historically like other neighborhoods mentioned. I mean would Ybor be as special if it were not historic or close to downtown? What about Tampa Heights?

It has been the same story because our city administration for the most part sucks, it has nothing to do with downtown. The museum has been ongoing since Mayor Greco started tearing up Kiley Gardens 7 years ago and touting about Guggenheim-ist architectural gems along Ashley which in the hands of Pam and the Museum, failed. And guess what? It still may not happen because there really isn't any money. But if things do happen it means the museum will be shut down for possibly for 2 years so maybe a reboot could be a good thing.

Unfortunately along with poor interstate planning, it took 30 years of tearing down historic properties on failed developments, broken dreams and endless public work order graffiti tactics to come as a wake up call to many. I think the only way we can fix downtown is to get involved (many opportunities to do so), realize downtown does indeed connect to Ybor, Tampa Heights, etc., and those connections are crucial in many ways.

Turning our backs and boosting about the coolness of our neighborhoods really isn't going to make the issue go away nor will it prevent its annoyance when published again and again.

nar said...

I couldn't agree more with the sentiment of your posting. WE have to get involved to help things improve, and put aside frustrations and apathy. Personally I don't see the Heights, Ybor etc as seperate from 'downtown'. It is all part of an urban fabric that stretches from the river at least as far as 22nd St.

I would be remiss if I didn't add a couple corrections though...one could make the argument that the prior Museum project 'failed' before Iorio ever came on the scene. She only put an end to it because the finances were not in place and the Museum did not have a feasible economic plan. It would have fallen apart without her involvement, and more people would have been burned were that to come later. Iorio shouldn't be blamed for shining a light on the prior mistakes, or for being fiscally responsible (a trait rarely assigned to a Democrat.)

As for the "it still may not happen"...well, anything is possible, but that is not likely. It is untrue that there "isn't any money." The Museum actually learned from the prior mistakes, and scaled back Saitowitz's design so it CAN be built with the money they have secured. The phased design allows later growth and is what some would call 'responsible.' And any of us in architecture know phased design/consturciton is not an uncommon practice. Many institutions struggle with building capital funds. But it is a fallacy to state the TMA does not have the money.

Lastly, the Museum will not be shut down for any amount of time. It is being relocated to smaller, temporary space, where its programming will continue uninterrupted. There are also plans for a series of outreach events and shows around the community to compensate for the reduced space. Current plans have the TMA in its new space about 18 (not 24) months after vacating/demolishing the old building.

Christopher Vela said...

I just have friends in the press I guess knowing the insiders you get all sorts of tales but they are usually right. Also I was at a recent show at the museum and I was told that TMA will be a shut down with no plans for operations possibly up to 2 years. I personally would like to see something happen, so I hope you are right.

I still think Pam failed I mean until we physically start seeing things happen. She made some poor choices especially since she was the one who endlessly campaign the message, 'City of the Arts'. To me that really puts total responsibility of making that happen even if ideas were present before. Naturally, that also involves being financially creative. I think it would have been ok if she was honest meaning, 'it can’t be done right now'. But several million of dollars were continued during and after Vinoly, some over useless studies. You may recall the public input meeting 2005 it was brutal as the public was telling her literally what to do. Further I think the museum should have looked at ways to become private and pull out because in the end they are going to be the middle man when things go south. I realize these are not easy choices, it is very difficult. But too many failures cost too much in money that can actually get stuff done and importantly, lower the public faith for our downtown to make it.

nar said...

Sometimes the press doesn't get things right, nor is it always in their interest to. 'Right' can be boring. And anyone who informed you the Museum was being shutdown for 2 years was just incorrect. Entirely untrue. It is not.

Also, the Museum is indeed becoming private (no one seems to ever report that), but cannot until this process is underway and they have met certain requirements to prove they can sustain themselves. That process is nearly complete, and they become autonomous from the city and taxpayer dollars in 2008.