Monday Morning Memo

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Tampa Downtown Partnership commissions local artist to paint first Downtown intersection mural

TAMPA – On May 23, people traveling in downtown Tampa at the intersection of Franklin and Twiggs streets were in for an artistic surprise.

The Tampa Downtown Partnership recently commissioned local artist Meaghan Farrell Scalise to paint the first intersection mural in downtown Tampa. She and volunteers spent the day painting the mural, titled “Lift Up Luck,” which described as blending Tampa’s history with the spirit of resiliency during the Covid-19 pandemic.

View the photos for scenes from the mural painting.

Read more about the project here.

“Volunteers take to downtown Tampa streets to paint intersection mural” – Tampa Bay Business Journal (subscription required)

 

Tampa recognized nationally for creative solution assisting restaurants

The forced distancing required by the coronavirus prompted several cities to quickly close some public roads to make room so cooped-up residents anxious to get outside for exercise could do so safely.

Now, following moves to shut, narrow or repurpose streets from Oakland to Tampa, cities including Washington are seeking to understand how those emergency closures might have lasting impacts on some of urban America’s most important, and contested, real estate.

D.C. lawmakers are drafting legislation to make it easier for shutdown-battered restaurants to space out their tables by putting them on public roads, parking spaces and sidewalks at least for months, and to give neighborhoods a way to close streets to traffic to make walking and biking safer. A mayoral advisory group made similar recommendations Thursday.

The pandemic “has been terrible. But there are certain byproducts that, if we take advantage of them, will let us be more of an open city, more of a city that’s usable by all sorts of people, cafes and cyclists,” D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) said. “It’s an opportunity to stop doing things in the old polluting and unhealthful ways.”

Officials around the country say their moves to change public roadways have been met so far with broad support, though they acknowledge some early missteps, such as not giving enough emphasis to the specific needs of disadvantaged neighborhoods. Some of the newly closed streets also were underused or met with objections from some businesses.

But cities have taken steps to address those concerns, including reopening some roads and closing others as they seek to get the balance right. Oakland, Calif., home to one of the earliest and most ambitious “Slow Streets” plans, has also been among the most open about early blind spots, with officials there saying humility and accountability are vital for cementing any such changes.

“While the program overall continues to receive overwhelming support among survey respondents, those responding to surveys are more likely to be White, have high incomes and live in North Oakland,” a more well-off swath of the city, officials wrote in a recent summary. That’s true even as public health officials say poorer neighborhoods and “people of color are more likely to suffer harm from this pandemic,” the officials wrote.

To address that, Oakland officials on Friday broadened their effort beyond about 20 miles of “soft closures” of neighborhood streets. Those use barriers and signs to bar through-traffic in particular areas, but they allow residents, trash trucks and delivery vans to drive in slowly.

On Friday, as part of an expansion dubbed “Essential Places,” city officials unveiled barriers in less-well-off East Oakland that are intended to thwart speeding and help pedestrians walk and cross a sometimes-treacherous intersection more safely, with more coming soon in other areas.

“The program was not addressing what we would call arterials, the larger streets that carry buses and trucks,” said Ryan Russo, Oakland’s director of transportation. The city is targeting other such places, including those with high numbers of injuries and areas near essential services such as grocery stores, to add barriers and other safety measures for pedestrians. That’s on top of ongoing efforts to close dozens more miles of smaller neighborhood streets to through-traffic.

“The streets are 25 to 30 percent of any city’s land. We need to manage the public realm in a way that meets people’s needs in this moment and in the future,” Russo said.

“We’re only a couple generations removed from the nostalgia of stick ball in the streets and kids playing in streets,” he added, saying that phenomenon shifted to cul-de-sac communities in the suburbs. “There’s really no reason why cities can’t get the benefit of a more balanced management of the public right of way as well.”

Of course, that balance comes with traffic engineering, congestion and safety questions. But Russo said the evidence so far, at least in the context of dramatic reductions in travel due to the coronavirus, is encouraging for the future. He said after the “No Through Traffic” signs and barriers went up, he watched families with children on scooters sharing the road near their homes with slow-moving recycling trucks and delivery vehicles.

“The real question was, would motorists choose to make good choices in that context, and would people feel comfortable coming into the roadbed?” Russo said.

“The lesson is that those things are coexisting quite well in many cases,” he said, noting “the comfort we’re seeing parents have in letting small children experience this public space with a sense of freedom.”

Communities have different priorities and a different sense of what is possible and appropriate. In Tampa, the focus has been on finding ways to help businesses affected during the pandemic.

Mayor Jane Castor (D), a former police chief, has pushed a “Lift Up Local” campaign that allows restaurants to put tables in some public streets.

“We thought of ways they would be able to increase their customer base while keeping everyone safe. The best way to do that is to move everyone outside,” Castor said.

It’s something she sees as part of the city’s future fabric, she said, though this initial experiment is about to be shaken up by the Sunshine State’s weather.

“Really, for us in Florida, the end date will be determined by Mother Nature. It’s going to get so hot, and we’re going to get afternoon rain showers that just don’t make it an enjoyable experience to be dining outside,” Castor said.

The imperatives of the pandemic have also helped local officials cut through bureaucracy and take swift actions that cross jurisdictional boundaries.

In Minneapolis, work to close scenic waterfront parkways to cars, expand sidewalks and shrink neighborhood roadways to promote safety has created 38 miles of protected pathways for “walking, biking and rolling,” including by people with disabilities, according to Robin Hutcheson, the city’s director of public works.

That work was combined with similar efforts in St. Paul and two area counties, creating 6- and 10-mile regional loops protected from cars, Hutcheson said.

The measures have been varied, she said, including expanding the sidewalk for a couple of blocks “where we need it.”

“And some of it is a full closure of a parkway around a lake, and some if it is a local-only street to serve a neighborhood,” said Hutcheson, the president of the National Association of City Transportation Officials. “It shows people what’s possible.”

In the District, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s ReOpen DC advisory group on Thursday called for similar efforts as part of broader changes to everything from education to health care given the effects of the pandemic.

One recommendation was to “identify select streets to close off to cars and convert to outdoor seating and retail space.”

Another called for “diversifying our streets.” Some city roads “are built to carry cars but do not easily accommodate pedestrians or bikes, even in a non-COVID reality. There is an opportunity to identify locations where vehicular roadways could be converted to allow for widened sidewalks, coupled with bike lanes,” according to the recommendations, which cited the narrow sidewalks along Benning Road near Kingman and Heritage islands as prime candidates.

There have been some modest coronavirus-related closures by the city and National Park Service in the District, including along Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park; on the service road beside Connecticut Avenue in Cleveland Park; and in Anacostia and Fort Dupont parks.

“We’re evaluating a wide range of ideas, both for restaurant expansion, but also for safer travel,” said Jeff Marootian, director of the D.C. Department of Transportation.

Spurred by ideas from the ReOpen DC advisory group, he also said the city is “doing the necessary planning work to be able to support our businesses when they reopen and to ensure people can get there safely when they do.”

Channel District boutique owners write letter to the Times Editor for Downtown grant program

Danielle and Graham Evans write, “The Tampa Downtown Partnership recently offered an unexpected and very welcome lifeline when they handed out 50 grants to small businesses like mine — Don Me Now.” “Because of this grant, we will be able to get back on track sooner rather than later, which will benefit our business, our employees, and the community.”

To read more, click here.

TBARTA's Regional Rapid Transit Development Plan draft is open for public comment

Please take a few minutes out of your day to review Tampa Bay’s first Regional Transit Development Plan, open for public comment until June 1, 2020.

Check it out!

Glazer Children's Museum announces re-opening date

TAMPA, Fla. — Kids across the Tampa Bay area will now have one more thing to do this summer.

The Glazer Children’s Museum announced Friday it will reopen June 6, with summer camps starting June 8.

The museum said it developed a comprehensive reopening plan that expands on 10 years of experience operating as a “clean, safe, and fun” museum.

The museum said it principles, Clean – Safe – Fun, will help guide its reopening operations during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We know that children need play now more than ever,” the museum’s President and CEO Sarah Cole said. “Our team is excited to reopen in a safe way so we can provide much needed respite for families in Tampa Bay. We can’t wait to see the smiling faces and hear the laughter of curious kids in the museum once again!”

The museum will be opening at 25 percent capacity. To keep that capacity managed, people are asked to buy their tickets online ahead of time to reserve a spot.

Here’s are a few things the museum plans to do to keep people safe:

  • Certain difficult-to-clean exhibits will remain closed, while all others will be disinfected frequently
  • Any handheld props used in exhibits will be replaced with a clean set four times per day
  • Some areas and experiences will be converted to one-way, with an entrance and exit
  • Cloth masks are now a required part of all staff uniforms
  • Adult guests are required to wear masks that cover the nose and mouth
  • The museum will be closed on Mondays for deep cleaning, maintenance, and training
  • Signage throughout the museum and on the floor will promote physical distancing

“Glazer Children’s Museum set to reopen on June 6” – WTSP

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