FX Excursions

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Tampa Rising: Water Street Tampa Reimagines the City’s Downtown

by Terry Ward

Feb 27, 2024

© Strategic Property Partners

February 2024

It’s impossible to talk about Florida right now without mentioning Tampa. Once a sleepy backwater of a city, it’s boomed of late into a hot spot for millennials and Generation Z, tech startups, and people of all ages and ilk who’ve moved here from around the country and world for an enviable quality of life served up with plenty of sunshine (not to mention water, water, everywhere).

At the heart of downtown’s renaissance sits the landmark $3.5 billion Water Street Tampa project, financially backed by Bill Gates and Jeffrey Vinik (owner of the city’s professional hockey team, the Tampa Bay Lightning). The 55-acre mixed-use development project at the heart of the city’s downtown corridor recently received designation as North America’s first WELL Certified Community, thanks to its sustainability and livability standards. And Water Street Tampa plays a key role in redefining what was once a languishing downtown that now booms with restaurants, retail, urban parks and food halls that take advantage of the city’s prime waterfront setting.

Josh Taub, CEO, Strategic Property Partners, Water Street Tampa’s developer, called 2023 a “monumental year” for the project.

yoga on the lawn

© Strategic Property Partners

“Many of our retailers opened this year, from beautifully designed sit-down restaurants to creative grab-and-go lunch spots to rooftop cocktail bars and more,” he said. “We also hosted even more community events and programming, including our incredibly successful monthly local vendors and farmers markets and our Arts in Motion pop-up event, which brought two world-renowned art installations to Florida for the first time.”

Visitors of the leisure and meeting and conventions variety flock to new hotels in the district such as The Tampa EDITION — the city’s first true 5-star property, designed by Ian Schrager — and linger over meals at diverse restaurants like French brasserie Boulon; The Pearl (a fabulous import from Ohio’s Cameron Mitchell Restaurants); and Lona by Chef Richard Sandoval, known for its authentic Oaxacan flair.

Water Street Tampa is also home to the waterfront park and street food/beer garden hangout Sparkman Wharf; the largest collection of hotel rooms and meeting space in the Tampa Bay area as well as the region’s largest hotel ballroom, at JW Marriott Tampa Water Street; and the Tampa Marriott Water Street. Visitors should bookmark dinner reservations at the city’s first Michelin-starred restaurant here, too — Lilac, inside The Tampa EDITION.

Quality-of-urban-life-enhancing elements define the district, such as double-wide sidewalks, bike lanes and plazas that form the neighborhood’s foundation, with a focus on infrastructure that makes sense for the future. “It was vital for us to invest in placemaking and ensure the neighborhood that we were creating could not only support, but also enhance, a downtown live-work-play experience,” Taub said. “The result is a beautifully crafted yet functional place that balances a lively urban environment with lush landscaping and moments for respite [in order] to create thoughtful spaces where people actually want to spend their time.”

Santiago C. Corrada, president and CEO, Visit Tampa Bay, said Water Street Tampa is part of a “remarkable renaissance” in the city that’s expanding Tampa’s cachet to a diverse range of travelers. And there’s much more to come in 2024 as SPP unveils initial plans for upcoming buildings that will expand the neighborhood and continue to attract new residents, tenants and visitors with the promise of vibrant, walkable urban life.


© Strategic Property Partners

“Water Street Tampa continues to stand out for its transfor- mative lifestyle offerings,” he said.


Drive just south of Water Street Tampa and downtown along Bayshore Boulevard — a waterfront thoroughfare that hugs Hillsborough Bay — for a tour of some of the city’s most stately and iconic mansions within the leafy neighborhoods of historic Hyde Park and Ballast Point. A wide sidewalk lining Bayshore Boulevard runs right along the water, too, stretching for 4.5 miles and popular with Sunday strollers, joggers and people pedaling bikes, roller skating and pushing skateboards (if you’re on foot, scan the shallow waters for stingrays and passing dolphins). At Ballast Point Park in Bayshore Boulevard’s southernmost reaches, detour to spend time at a pretty park thick with oak trees and featuring a playground, splash pad and fishing pier.

The scenic drive between South Tampa and downtown St. Petersburg across the Gandy Bridge features the sparkling waters of Tampa Bay all around and pelicans often flying in formation alongside cars. Once you’ve crossed onto the St. Pete side of the bridge, you’ll find pull-offs with sandy beaches where people wade into the water along Gandy Beach to fish or cool off. Stop for fish tacos and mangrove views at The Getaway, a colorful little open-air restaurant fronting the water where you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to Key West, so tropical is the setting.


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