The Urban Excellence Awards celebrates businesses, organizations, individuals, events and projects that have made significant contributions toward creating a unique, vibrant and diverse downtown environment – and have made a lasting, positive impact on Downtown Tampa. Each year an awards jury representing a cross-section of Downtown constituencies selects award winners honoring the leadership, innovation, hard work, talent and community spirit.
Award categories include; the Public Sector Project Award, Private Sector Award, Downtown Collaboration Award, Landmark Development Project Award, Downtown Experience Award, Activating Spaces Award, Marketplace Award, Arts & Culture Award, People’s Choice Award, and the Christine M. Burdick Leadership Award.
The external demolition of downtown Tampa’s CapTrust began Wednesday morning.
The building is being knocked down to make way for Riverwalk Place, the 53-story condo tower proposed at Ashley and Brorein streets on the Tampa Riverwalk. The demolition process has created a traffic detour in downtown Tampa, and the developers said that detour could be in place for up to several weeks, depending on demolition and excavation.
The developers — a partnership of Feldman Equities, Two Roads Development and Tower Realty Partners — haven’t said when vertical construction of the tower might begin. The project first went public in 2015 as a mixed-use tower that would have stacked luxury condos on top of office space, structured parking and street-level retail. But in late 2018, developers said demand for condos was so great that they were ditching their plans for the office space.
The tower is to include 288 condos priced from the $600,000s to $2 million.
“Watch demolition of downtown Tampa’s Captrust building ” – Tampa Bay Business Journal
Just say yes.
That is one of the key messages Tampa marketing executive Dianne Jacob tells people she speaks to at presentations and during one-on-one conversations.
Instead of turning down opportunities, the 67-year-old vice president and director of client and community relations at PNC Bank recommends people challenge themselves, volunteer when asked and constantly make new connections.
The long-time Tampa resident, who has served on more than 40 nonprofit boards and held a multitude of community leadership positions, says taking risks — saying yes — allowed her to travel to numerous countries, take on new roles and work on a team that helped secure a Super Bowl and Republican National Convention for Tampa.
“Looking back, I had no idea how much being on those boards would enrich my life,” she told a large crowd at the Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards ceremony Aug. 29 as keynote speaker. “I found myself looking for more. Each one led to the next and the next.”
Prior to her executive level position at PNC, Jacob was the senior vice president of marketing at Visit Tampa Bay, a vice president of business development and a director of marketing at construction companies, along with working as a director of leasing for a real estate firm. She also has experience in commercial interior design, commercial real estate and tourism.
Current boards she sits on include the Tampa General Hospital Foundation, Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County, Tampa Downtown Partnership, Champions for Children and the Tampa Museum of Art. Jacob helped develop the Emerge Tampa Bay organization for young professionals and developed the Connect Florida Institute leadership program.
Jacob considered running for office due to having such a strong passion in improving early childhood education. She put her energies elsewhere. “I’m not sure I like the [election] process anymore, but think I could be effective,” she says. “But the older I get, the less I worry about what other people think.”
Prior to the chamber event, Jacob spoke with the Business Observer about her career, challenges and Tampa’s rise nationally as a premier city.
What did you learn from being a woman in the male-dominated construction industry?
The first thing I had to do was toughen my skin. I’ve been in a male-dominated profession all of my life. My father told all of us (Jacob and her two sisters and one brother) that we were smart and capable and that we could be anything we want to be. The other thing he told us is, “Don’t rely on a man. Be self-sufficient.” We have all succeeded really well.
As a result, getting into the workforce originally, I wasn’t prepared for some of the discriminating remarks that happened. I hadn’t heard that type of thing before. My response was to laugh, thinking that they weren’t being serious. It served me well. Maybe in my own naivety, it helped me to move past it.
What has the Tampa region done right in growth? What mistakes has it made?
We don’t leap forward real fast. We tend to take our time, look at things and make our decisions based upon that type of information.
The region hasn’t overbuilt tremendously. But on the other hand, we haven’t taken a lot of risks. The one thing that comes back to haunt us is transportation issues. There hasn’t been much done to solve it. People are coming to Tampa at a staggering rate.
But the thing the region has done very well is in health care. We have Tampa General Hospital here. It has a wonderful reputation, along with some of the top-ranked cancer hospitals like [H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute].
What can fast-growing communities like Fort Myers or Naples do to not become Miami or Fort Lauderdale?
Through my work with statewide organizations, I’m all over the state. I’ve found that there’s not one community in this state that’s the same. The best thing we can all be is the thing that makes our community unique.
For example, St. Petersburg has a really cool vibe going on right now. Their downtown area is small but really walkable and congenial. It’s like a very small version of what South Beach is like. Along their waterfront park, it’s loaded with restaurants. They have wonderful museums, small and quirky ones. We have downtown envy in Tampa over what they have done in St. Petersburg.
The communities in Southwest Florida are all very different. Play to your strengths. The transportation issues are not going to be solved by one community, but statewide.
In another respect, honor what your communities are. Let them be what they are.
How were you able to secure the Super Bowl in 2009 and the Republican National Convention in 2012 for Tampa?
Well, it’s a team effort. When I was with Visit Tampa Bay, the request to bid for a Super Bowl came from the NFL to the mayor of the city (who then sent it to her team).
Responding to that is an enormous task. It revolves around the three counties near Tampa because it required a hotel room block of 40,000.
Everyone who was in the (Visit Tampa Bay) organization — my team being marketing and public relations — we packaged it and made sure it was properly written and addressed all issues.
Then you make an incredible presentation at the NFL owners meeting, along with four other communities. They then make a decision on the spot.
It’s amazing but it’s also one of the most stressful things I’ve ever been through.
The Republican National Convention took three times before we got it. You make the same kind of response [like the NFL]. They bring in leaders from the Republican Party. They come to the city for 2 1/2 days, and we show them everything spectacular about it. It’s fanfare like you’ve never seen before.
What business advice do you often give others?
I mentor a lot of people. I don’t know how many to be honest with you, but it’s a lot. Some of the relationships last a couple of years, some months and some over lunch.
But I also receive mentoring from others. My current mentor is 40 years old, and that’s because he has an expertise I don’t have. He keeps me attuned to what’s happening in those areas that I don’t have experience with.
Frankly, I’ve got a world of experience, but he’s the regional president here [at PNC Bank in Tampa]. I’m not a banker, so I’m constantly listening and watching what he’s doing. We have the kind of relationship that is strong. We listen to each other.
At 37, he was anointed as our president. He sat down with our whole team and wanted to know our goals and objectives.
When I sat down with him, he said, “So what’s your plans?” I told him my short-term goal is to make sure you get your feet under you completely. And goal No. 2 is to leave you as strongest regional president ever for PNC. He said, “We’re going to get along just fine.”
It’s fun to be at this point in my life. Experience gives you perspective that you don’t have when you’re younger. None of us believe that until we’re older.
“Bold approach: Community leader encourages others to lend a hand when asked” –Business Observer
Steve Semmelmann and his family lived in Riverview but drove 20 miles one way to eat at Armature Works, stroll the Riverwalk and attend Tampa Bay Lightning games.
The more they went to Tampa, the less reason they had to stay in Riverview. Finally, Semmelmann asked himself: “Why are we living here? It’s just a house.”
In July, they moved to Tampa Heights. They’re so close to their favorite restaurants and activities they can walk instead of battling traffic on the interstate. “So far, it’s been great,” Semmelmann said. “Getting out of (Riverview) has been a huge relief from stress.”
Few places in the Tampa Bay area are generating as much buzz as Tampa Heights. Just a mile north of downtown Tampa, a community once viewed as slightly seedy, even rough, has become an exemplar of urban cool.
House prices are soaring, up 64 percent in two years. Young professionals are moving in from Chicago, New York and even tony South Tampa. And crime is down. Between 2008 and last year, reported burglaries plunged 64 percent, robberies 73 percent and auto burglaries 37 percent, according to crime statistics for the general area.
Still, there are concerns. Higher prices fueled by speculation and redevelopment are driving away some longtime residents. Tampa Bay’s notorious traffic problems continue to spur talk of widening Interstate 275, whose construction decades ago affected parts of Tampa Heights. In some ways, the community has not fully recovered.
Developed in the 1880s from orange groves outside the city limits, Tampa Heights was Tampa’s first suburb. It was close to the city’s port and financial hub, yet distant enough from marshy, low-lying areas that residents felt safe from the periodic outbreaks of yellow fever. Doctors, lawyers and prominent business leaders like Tampa Tribune President Wallace F. Stovall built large, Queen-Anne style homes on bricks streets with granite curbstones.
“At the crest of its reputation around 1910, a Tampa Heights address was among the most fashionable in the city,” according to the application that landed part of the area on the National Register of Historic Places eight decades later.
As Palma Ceia, Davis Islands and other expensive neighborhoods developed, Tampa Heights became more middle class. The majority of newer homes were one-story bungalows. Churches and schools were prevalent but there were few commercial buildings since residents could hop a trolley to the main shopping areas of Ybor City and downtown Tampa.
The decline of Tampa Heights accelerated after World War II. The construction of Interstate 275 in the 1960s led to the demolition of many buildings, and residents began to flee in the face of blight and a rising crime rate. Tampa Heights pretty much dropped off the radar in other parts of the city.
“To be honest, I wasn’t aware of it,” said Brad Cooke, who grew up in South Tampa and left Florida in 2004 to go to college and grad school. “The only neighborhoods that I was familiar with were Hyde Park and Ybor. You kind of always went around Tampa Heights and Seminole Heights.”
As South Tampa grew ever pricier, Seminole Heights, north of Tampa Heights, was the first to be rediscovered. People looking for character and affordability were drawn to its quaint bungalows and relative closeness to downtown Tampa, which was starting to shed its image as a place that went dark after 5 p.m. By the mid 2000s, Seminole Heights was touted as one of Tampa Bay’s trendiest neighborhoods.
Then came last year’s opening of Armature Works, a 1910 streetcar barn repurposed with a food hall, restaurants, rooftop bar and co-working and event spaces. It didn’t hurt that Armature Works was on the Riverwalk and near Ulele, a wildly popular restaurant in an old pump house.
“As soon as Armature opened up, there was a flood of people wanting to be south of Seminole Heights,” developer Jason Giardina said. “That’s when Tampa Heights exploded.”
Realtor Courtney Poe agrees that Armature Works was a catalyst for Tampa Heights’ resurrection.
“Most of the property listings showcase the distance to Armature Works as a selling feature,” she said. “Younger buyers want to be close to amenities — downtown, the Riverwalk, a place to grab lunch that they can walk or bike to.”
One example of the dramatic rise in prices: A 1915 bungalow on N Highland Avenue. It sold for $75,000 in 2015; $105,000 in 2017 and $218,500 two months after Armature Works opened. Almost immediately after listing the house in July, Poe received multiple offers — it went for $275,000, $16,000 more than the asking price.
Poe also had several offers for the 1,250-square-foot house next door. Sold three years ago for $155,000, it is under contract at a list price of $275,000.
“Tampa Heights is the only place you can get a house under $300,000 that’s close to downtown Tampa,” Poe said. “South Tampa is outrageous and nobody wants to live in the ‘burbs anymore.”
Before long, even $300,000 might be wishful thinking. In the 33602 zip code, which includes much of Tampa Heights, the median price of a single-family home jumped from $188,750 in the first quarter of 2017 to $309,900 in the first three months of this year. A house on West Street that sold for $265,000 in December sold in June for $435,000.
As its popularity skyrockets, Tampa Heights remains a hodge-podge of the old, the new and the run-down. It is not unusual to see — on the same block — a contemporary-style house under construction, a 1920s bungalow that has been lovingly restored, and a dump with weeds in the yard and plywood in the windows.
Domain Homes, known for its ability to spot up-and-coming urban neighborhoods, has built several homes in the area and is planning more. Giardina, co-owner of NEO Homes, said he likes nearby Riverside Heights because it has been a more stable, upscale community. But some clients are “opening up their budgets,” he said, because they want to be in Tampa Heights, close to everything along the Riverwalk.
“They are willing to go three-quarters of a million (dollars), which two years ago was just unheard of,” he said.
Among Tampa Heights’ newer residents is Cooke, the Tampa native who moved back to town in 2016. He and his wife, both architects, bought a lot just north of Armature Works for $150,000 (it would be closer to $200,000 now) and designed a duplex. They live on one side and lease the other to a couple with two kids.
“We fell in love with Tampa Heights, the proximity to downtown, the historic character, all of the things happening in the neighborhood so we decided to invest in it,” Cooke said. He can bike to downtown, where he heads the master planning team for the $3 billion mixed-use Water Street project.
Realtor Justin Ricke, president of the Tampa Heights Civic Association, has lived in the area for more than a decade. Back then, “walkability really didn’t seem to be a priority on Tampa’s road map,” he said. “But I moved from Chicago, so I wanted a place where you don’t have to drive a lot of places.”
In the past few years, as membership in the civic association tripled, he’s been pleased to see more businesses emerge within walking distance. Shuffle, an indoor shuffleboard court with a bar and restaurant, opened last year on North Tampa Street. King State, which offers beer, food and locally roasted coffees, occupies what used to be a car wash and garage. The developers of The Heights, which includes Armature Works, have filed plans for a grocery.
“You’re starting to see business pop up where people wouldn’t have dreamed of investing before,” Ricke said.
Not everyone is totally comfortable with the rapid changes. As of the 2010 Census, African-Americans and Hispanics made up 80 percent of Tampa Heights’ population. The head of the Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association which provides tutoring and other services for children, has seen some minority families leave for less-expensive areas.
“It’s becoming a place where they can’t afford to stay in the homes they’ve lived in all their lives,” said Naya Young, the association’s executive director. “It’s pushing them out of a community that we once were pushed into.”
Ricke acknowledges that people are leaving but dislikes the term “gentrification.”
“It has somewhat of a negative connotation,” he said. “People who’ve been here a long time (and sell) are profiting quite handsomely off a low investment. If you’re being priced out from rentals, you can talk about any city that’s seen exponential growth. It really comes down to the county and local officials to make sure there’s affordable housing, and I’d like to see that dispersed a little more in places like Hyde Park.”
Until the recent boom, the most affordable — and roughest part — of Tampa Heights has been near where I-275 sliced through the area. Still on the drawing board are plans to add lanes in a project that could require more right of way.
“We’ve seen how destructive that’s been to neighborhoods in the past,” said Cooke, the architect. “My hope is that Tampa Heights will continue to prosper and grow and that will make it a much tougher sell if it does come back.”
When Semmelmann and his wife decided to leave Riverview for Tampa this year, they needed a place big enough for them and the three kids still at home. They bought a 109-year-old, four-bedroom house so close to 1-275 they can see the wall and hear the traffic.
That’s okay with Semmelmann, who works for a software company and likes the fact he can easily get on the interstate to go visit customers. What he most appreciates about his new home, though, is that he can walk to so many places. Just two blocks away is Lee’s Grocery, where customers can enjoy stone-baked pizza and craft beers at an indoor bar or shaded outdoor patio.
“It’s one of those small corner shops where everybody knows your name,” he said. “It has that small-town feel.”
The Semmelmanns paid $480,000 for the house. That’s $160,000 more than it sold for two years ago.
“We got it at the right time,” Semmelmann said. “Well, not exactly the right time, but the right time for us.”
“Is Tampa Heights the hottest real estate market in Tampa Bay” – Tampa Bay Times (subscription required)
Your Downtown Calendar
The following is just a sample of upcoming events in Downtown Tampa. Visit the Downtown Tampa Events Calendar for a more comprehensive list!
Mayor’s Food Truck Fiesta
Wednesday, October 2, 11am to 2pm
Lykes Gaslight Square
Looking for a larger selection of lunch options? Step outside for a meal in the park! Choose from a wide variety of local food trucks serving up all sorts of delicious culinary creations. You’ll have your pick of dishes from plenty of delectable kitchens on wheels! For more information, go to Mayor’s Food Truck Fiesta.
Rock the Park
Thursday, October 3, 6:30pm to 9pm
Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park
Listen to some great musical talent in a beautiful setting. This month’s show features flipturn, Ella Jet & Future Soul, and Brendon Hock. With food and drinks on the premises and an always exciting vibe, this free concert is guaranteed not to disappoint. For more information, go to Rock the Park.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers
Thursday, October 3, begins 7pm
Hockey is back in the Bay! The Tampa Bay Lightning kick off the 2019-20 season with a home game in Downtown Tampa. The Bolts take on the visiting Florida Panthers in a downtown showdown. Get your tickets, support the Bolts, and Be the Thunder! For more information, go to Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers.
Taking the Stage at the Straz Center
Meteor Shower by Steve Martin – Through Sunday, September 29
Spymonkey’s Hysteria – Through Sunday, November 3
Faculty Showcase: Back to Baroque – Tuesday, October 1, begins 7pm
Revolution: Music of The Beatles – A Symphonic Experience – Friday, October 4, begins 8pm
Baby Shark Live! – Saturday, October 5, begins 5:30pm
On the Marquee at Tampa Theatre
Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool (2019) – Through Wednesday, October 2
Mean Girls (2004) – Thursday, October 3, 7:30pm to 9:15pm
Tampa Bay International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival – Friday, October 4 to Saturday, October 12
Monday Morning Memo –Monday Morning Memo is a weekly update of “insider downtown information” regarding developments, transportation, special opportunities and other useful information to help you make the most of downtown. Subscribe to receive this weekly newsletter.
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