In most cities, the downtown area serves as the central business district (CDB) and the nightlife hub. However, Tampa’s downtown area competes with other places for the honor of CBD and the happening place to be. After 6pm, downtown becomes a ghost town, with only the few people who are able to afford the few housing opportunities staying there. Most people gravitate towards neighboring areas, such as Ybor City or South Howard Avenue. The weekends remain the same, unless there is a game or concert at the Tampa Bay Times Forum or a show at the Straz Center. Urban planners in Tampa have been trying to ease this problem for many years, and the recent development of parks in downtown Tampa have helped draw people to the area outside of business hours.
The planning and redevelopment of the Hillsborough River Riverwalk, an initiative to contribute to sustainability of the Hillsborough River, has led to more utilization of Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, located on the north end of downtown Tampa. Curtis Hixon Park is becoming a premier event location, recently hosting the inaugural Gasparilla Music Festival, holding regular concert series, and even hosting an outdoor ice skating rink every December. Lykes Gaslight Park, located in the interior of downtown Tampa and encompassed by high-rises, has been the location of many Occupy Tampa demonstrations, Latin Fest, and Pops in the Park concerts.
These examples of parks in CDBs can help urban planners draw people into city areas that can lose people after that 6pm, business-hours, cutoff. Retail businesses and restaurants located in the CDB can benefit from the increased amounts of visitors. For a city like Tampa, that has multiple CDBs and recreational areas, focusing on development and planning of parks and event areas in one CDB, such as downtown, will help drive people to the area beyond just business reasons. Holding key events at these parks can give the CDB a new identity, one that makes people consider it when making their evening or weekend plans.
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.