REALM Helps Tampa's Riverwalk Come Alive

In case you haven't noticed, more people are walking around downtown Tampa. Some are even playing.

People are actually gathering in Curtis Hixon Park on the Hillsborough River on any given day to attend an organized event, or to just, well, hang. And much of it may be due to a woman who yearned for more urban energy, saw a space and the opportunity it held, and pursued an unconventional idea.

Nancy Kipnis is the founder of REALM, a grass-roots group / initiative / idea, depending on how you look at it, who moved to downtown Tampa from New York to start her PR firm. She says it took some time to connect with her new town. There was no urban feel or presence.

"I moved here from New York seven years ago and was pretty starved for a city," she says. "I was homesick and tried to define what I missed most, other than my family and friends. I realized it was people walking around downtown and a sense of spontaneity.

"I do marketing and PR, and started paying a lot of attention to things that were going on downtown. I wanted to devote my business to making Tampa more of an urban center."

Kipnis recognized that Tampa knew how to organize and promote the big annual events, but that it was lacking day-to-day activity  downtown. So she decided to do something about it. She started sharing her concerns with her growing contacts list throughout downtown Tampa. And then Curtis Hixon Park became the focal point of the emerging Riverwalk arts scene. So Kipnis and her group of like-minded citizens began organizing events that made use of the green open space along Ashley Street between The Tampa Museum of Art and the Glazer Children's Museum on the Riverwalk.

"Our core group are all doers and we decided we're going to spearhead what we're interested in," says Kipner. "Local architect Keith Greminger, a member of the Tampa Downtown Partnership, loves dogs and spearheads Yappy Hour. Hunter Jones has a great music connection and spearheads Rock the Park." REALM also provides a fun cart that provides frisbees and footballs to park-goers in search of something to do.

REALM, which stands for "The Public Realm," is gaining strength through organization. It is currently seeking funding through Pepsi Co.'s Refresh Project, which is awarding funding to people, businesses and nonprofits with grand ideas for changing their communities. And REALM is one of them.

Kipnis hopes that her bid for $50,000 will get enough votes to give REALM the funds needed to organize and grow the organization to allow it to continue to evolve and bring more innovative events to the space at Curtis Hixon Park.

And get people walking. And playing.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Nancy Kipnis, REALM

Signup for Email Alerts