Spotlight On:
Grayson Silver, Managing Principal, Baker Barrios Architects

Spotlight On:
Grayson Silver, Managing Principal, Baker Barrios Architects

By: Felipe Rivas

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2 min read Jan 2021Tampa’s ever-growing population and uncertain economic landscape have created an even greater need for more affordable housing options. Grayson Silver, managing principal for Baker Barrios Architects, highlighted these issues in an interview with Invest: Tampa, along with spotlighting some of the firm’s most recent projects.  

What was the firm’s focus in the past year?

I would say there were two primary areas where we focused our efforts. The first was our continued growth beyond atypical design services. While our core values remain placemaking, urban design, architecture, interior design and landscape architecture, we have expanded our influence to include research and development, marketing and branding, and client services.  Our goal is to offer our clients and communities more by making sense of the economic and social economic influencers within our marketplace. The second has been maintaining the quality of service that we’ve provided to our clients over the years. Baker Barrios is a 25-year-old firm, with 15 of those years in Tampa. We’ve had the opportunity to partner with a lot of great teams and organizations. However, with COVID and the sudden shift to working from home and remote collaboration, we felt it was necessary to emphasize the value of customer service and leverage our investments in technology and flexible workflow strategies, not only to maintain our client’s experience at BBA, but to push the boundaries by exceeding their expectations. We are looking forward to 2021 and believe the Tampa Bay market is poised for a strong rebound. We also believe the investments we have made in 2020, both in our people and our communities, will allow us to better serve those great partnerships for many years to come. 

What were some of your key projects in 2020?

We were very fortunate to have a lot of great opportunities in 2020, not only here in Tampa Bay, but throughout Florida and the United States. We partnered with Nova Southeastern University and Dr. Kiran Patel on the new College of Osteopathic Medicine in Clearwater, which was completed in Q4 of 2019.  We are partnering again with Dr. Patel and his team on the new JW Marriott on Clearwater Beach, which will begin construction in early 2021. We have teamed with the city of Tampa and Skanska on the Tampa Convention Center addition and renovation, which will help to modernize the existing facility and add needed convention space. In addition, we have partnered with the Tampa Housing Authority and PMG Affordable on the Robles Park Redevelopment Master Plan. 

Another great project we completed in August 2020 is Renaissance at West River, which is a brand new six-story affordable housing apartment building for seniors in the newly transformed West River urban renewal development. Our interior design department recently completed the new Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce offices. 

Lastly, we are working with BTI Partners and Plaza Construction on three, 17-story condo towers in the Westshore Marina District. That project, Marina Pointe, when completed will deliver over 300+ luxury condos and will act as the southern gateway into the city of Tampa. 

Those are just a few of the Tampa Bay projects we have either completed or are working on this year. We had a lot of great success in 2020 despite the disruption to the market and are confident that 2021 will be an even better year for us and the Tampa Bay market.

What are the keys to the Robles Park Village redevelopment?

We are honored to have been selected by the Tampa Housing Authority to develop the new master plan for Robles Park Village with Property Markets Group (PMG). The plan is intended to create up to 1,000 new high-quality affordable homes, with public spaces and support facilities focused on both physical and financial wellness for residents. The Robles Park Redevelopment Master Plan is focused on transforming the area into a modern neighborhood that pays tribute to the site’s heritage and culture. To achieve this, we rely on tried and true practices to enhance the community, while not losing sight of why it’s unique. The pillars for redevelopment are based on neighborhood development, economic vitality/job creation, what we call “cradle to career,” which is seeing students through their entire education and beyond, and transportation and connectivity to make sure the neighborhood is designed to be easily navigated, with an integrated layout. 

The Zion Cemetery preservation is a huge factor in this project. It was the first African American cemetery in Tampa, which unfortunately, through several developments that happened over the years, has been built over. It is important to us that we honor the history of the cemetery in the new plans. Zion Cemetery should be given the respect it deserves while being an insightful reminder to future generations of the history of the neighborhood.  

Another factor is making sure there is an abundance of public spaces and parks. When you’re approaching a development like this, it’s very important that you are listening to the residents. This is their home and neighborhood and it’s important to listen to them so that you can understand how to drive authentic design to fit their needs and services that truly affect their lives. Our team’s approach has been to engage and listen to the community through public outreach programs. We recently completed the first phase of that conversation, which included multiple community workshops with over 175 residents contributing. 

What is your view of Tampa’s property values? 

The Tampa Bay market is probably the strongest of all the Florida markets. Tampa Bay saw much fewer jobs lost as they relate to COVID than most other states and municipalities. Our job loss during the downturn was around 6-8% compared to 12-14% nationally. The same is true for property values. Tampa Bay has sustained its property values while other areas are seeing a predicted 5-10% loss in value.  

Single-family home prices have gone up over the past year and demand is at an all-time high.  On the multifamily side, we are seeing investors pull out of other markets and invest capital into the Tampa Bay market instead. We have one of the largest “for rent” populations in the country; however, this is currently a deficit for available dwelling units. We’ve found a disconnect in terms of market rate and affordable housing options. We don’t have the workforce housing to meet market demand. I think the biggest challenge we have with that is finding affordable land that is in a favorable location. Affordable and workforce housing needs to be where there is access to jobs, healthcare facilities, schools and so on. Finding that affordable land is proving to be difficult, especially here in the Tampa Bay area because the development market is so hot right now. 

As it relates to the urban core, Tampa and St. Petersburg remain two of the most sought-after markets in the country. Businesses and industries are moving into our area as part of the migration from other areas of the country to the Sun Belt states. As such, the Tampa Bay market is poised to respond to this population shift through quality and highly unique urban mixed-use development. Tampa Bay is a special place. It has the right mix of entertainment, recreation, lifestyle, social conscious, and political and economic diversity to attract the best companies and the brightest workforce.  

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