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Old February 24th, 2007, 02:38 PM   #1
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Article: Downtown Scrutinized With Wide-Angle Lens

Downtown Scrutinized With Wide-Angle Lens

By DAVE SIMANOFF The Tampa Tribune

Published: Feb 24, 2007

TAMPA - Downtown development wasn't the main topic of conversation at Friday's Downtown Development Forum in downtown Tampa.

Instead, local business and community leaders focused on regional issues - specifically, the need for a strong, regional commuter transit system to accommodate the growing needs of the Tampa Bay area's expanding population and work force.

The regional emphasis was not an accident. The Tampa Downtown Partnership, the economic development organization that hosts the annual forum, said it wants people to recognize that the push to revitalize downtown Tampa is part of a greater effort to handle growth and development in the entire Bay area.

The forum traditionally discusses issues identified with downtown Tampa, such as affordable urban housing and strategies to encourage more retail and restaurants.

"Downtown Tampa can only be as great as what surrounds it," said Christine Burdick, the Partnership's president, after the half-day program. "It's very obvious that not one downtown, not one city, and not even one county can give everybody what they need."

Nearly every speaker addressed the need for regional thinking.

Keynote speaker Nancy Graham, president and chief executive officer of San Diego's Centre City Development Corp., said downtown areas need to understand the role they play in big-picture issues such as infrastructure and transportation needs.

"There are no separate jurisdictional lines any more," she said. "Regionalism … is at the top of the list for all of us now."

Graham is the former mayor of West Palm Beach. She is credited with orchestrating that city's 80-acre downtown redevelopment project, called CityPlace.

Later in the program, two Orlando-based transportation experts said that area's public transit program is proceeding because of regional cooperation and strong public involvement.

During a panel discussion about transportation, developer Greg Minder said a regional transit system would benefit downtown; developers would not need to spend as much money on parking, which could lower costs for housing and offices. Minder is president of Intowngroup, which is developing two condominiums in downtown Tampa.

Joe Smith, chairman of the Tampa Bay Partnership's transportation initiative, said a regional transportation authority likely will be formed by this summer, and its mission would be to devise a regional transit plan by July 2009.

Reporter Dave Simanoff can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 259-7762.

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Old February 24th, 2007, 11:04 PM   #2
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Man, I had every intention of going to that... And then it turned out that was the same day as the annual meeting/luncheon at work. As anyone knows, when it's your first year at a company, you might as well quit than to ask off that day.
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