Tampa is one of our core markets. Bob Thollander talks to ULI about where the city is heading – 

For decades, Tampa, Florida, was a city that got no respect. One magazine called it “a hot urban mess.” Studies of U.S. cities routinely listed it near the bottom for walkability and commuting. A 2016 report by Smart Growth America ranked Tampa as the seventh most dangerous metropolitan region in America for pedestrians.

On a fundamental level, something was wrong with the city, says Bob Buckhorn, mayor of Tampa. “We were a donor city to other cities,” he says. “Talent was leaving to Charlotte, San Diego, Austin—and they weren’t coming back.”

In recent years, though, something changed in Tampa. It has joined the ranks of reenergized U.S. cities. Large-scale, mixeduse developments are springing up throughout the city, with more than $13 billion in nonresidential and multifamily projects expected in the pipeline by 2022, according to Dodge Data & Analytics forecasts. In the 2015 edition of the Emerging Trends in Real Estate® report published by ULI and PwC, Tampa/St. Petersburg ranked 35th for overall real estate prospects; in the 2018 survey, it rose to 19th overall and seventh for development. No longer a “donor city,” Tampa is seeing its population increasing by 50,000 people a year.

“Momentum is what is so palpable,” says ULI Tampa Bay chair Barry Karpay, who grew up locally and works as vice
president of land acquisition for Lennar Homes in the Tampa Bay area. By all accounts, the regeneration of Tampa is no accident or twist of fate. The city took speci?c steps to change the course of events, to compete with the cities stealing talent and development dollars. The city’s experiences show how a focus on the waterfront, green spaces, and smart development can change the future of a downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods. In many ways, Tampa provides a roadmap for how to reinvent and spark a city’s fortunes.