By: Max Crampton-Thomas
The future of Tampa Bay is developing in front of our very eyes and there are a few select developers making this vision come to life. Real estate developer Bromley Companies broke ground in mid-2019 on its ambitious Midtown Tampa project. Company CEO Nicholas Haines discussed the importance of incorporating new tendencies, such as a pedestrian-focused design, and the challenges that both a proper mix of high-end and affordable housing present for the city.
What’s the status of the Midtown Tampa project?
We broke ground on the Midtown project in May 2019 and we are well under construction for the first phase. There are 11 buildings going up at the same time: three residential, two office buildings, and several retail, including a Whole Food Kitchen and True Food Kitchen, both of which are significant expansions in the market. There is also a 1,000-car parking garage that is already topped out, and we’re right on schedule. The goal is to finish it by the 2021 Super Bowl, which will be held here in Tampa Bay just a couple miles up the street.
A lot of what we are doing now is spending a tremendous amount of time on the finishing touches of the common-space designs that create community. It is about creating an imaginative destination not just for the people working, living and shopping here, but for the neighborhood by adding public art and a feel for the place, all the things that make a space interesting and dynamic. We are building a city within a city — an entirely new district.
What business trends are you keeping an eye on as you go ahead with this development?
Accessibility and pedestrian-friendliness. I just read about a development in Arizona, with 1,000 residential units and no parking. That is a bold thing for a non-superurban area. What we are trying to do is create one of the first, pedestrian-first mindset versus car-first developments in Tampa Bay and Florida. All the streets inside the development are private, which is a really interesting feature of Midtown Tampa. We are not constrained by the city’s rules regarding traffic and street design. For a big event like the Super Bowl, we can close the streets so that all the cars access Midtown from the periphery.
We have designed curbless sidewalks, for example, and dedicated ride-share drop-off areas. The city of Tampa is working on a number of mass transit initiatives and we are working to accommodate a mass transit stop on one of our main corridors. People are going to live, work and shop here because they want to wake up, go to a coffee shop, walk their dog at the dog park, go shopping at Whole Foods, have a drink at the hotel rooftop bar, and maybe work at one of the office buildings. They’ll also be able to ride a bike path that connects from Midtown Tampa to the Greenway Trail System, from Tampa to St. Petersburg, by crossing a 10-lane bridge at Dale Mabry.
Are there any other areas that you see as a hotspot or active as real estate developments for the moment?
Yes, it’s really exploding. The Heights area is really interesting. St. Petersburg is incredibly exciting and a great example of a vibrant, urban place with the interplay between food and art. We are talking about a city that has transformed itself over 10 years in terms of the energy there.
What is your outlook for the Tampa Bay region, and how do you see the region addressing its challenges?
Regarding sustainability, it is really important to get the mix right between higher-end housing like we are building here and affordable housing. There’s a need to provide better incentives for the private sector to offer that kind of housing. You can only do so much as a city if everyone is building luxury apartments. It is an issue for all cities, but Tampa today does not have a cohesive development and zoning policy to encourage that. Tampa is still a very affordable place on a relative basis, but that affordability gap is narrowing. People who have been living here for a long time with a moderate income are being pushed further and further away from the urban core.
Transportation is a huge thing too. In some ways, advances in mass transportation technology might help Tampa. The city might not have done it in the past, but in some ways that might not be the worst thing. Tampa might be able to take advantage of innovations in technology like self-driving buses to implement something that is very forward thinking, instead of having to put up the heavy infrastructure and the massive amounts of capital for a light rail system.
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