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Innovation Alliance invites businesses to help transform University area of north Tampa

The Tampa Innovation Alliance aims to transform almost 15,000 acres of commerce, housing and retail surrounding the University of South Florida and affiliate hospitals into a revitalized “Innovation District” that will attract local visitors and tourists.

After a 10-year stint as a Hillsborough County commissioner, Mark Sharpe has stepped into the role of executive director for the Tampa Innovation Alliance. The group formed in 2011 with intentions to redevelop the university area as a premiere destination, but focused too much on a “master plan,” Sharpe says. “I want to make sure that we focus on our key mission: to create this ‘Innovation District’ core.”

The area, which stretches from I-75 on the east to I-275 on the west; north to the Bearss/Bruce B Downs intersection; and south to Busch Blvd, is comprised of thousands of acres in which run-down retail and residential blocks co-mingle with specialized hospitals like Moffitt and the VA center, the University of South Florida’s campus, and popular entertainment destinations like Busch Gardens and MOSI Tampa, the Museum of Science and Industry.

“I think there is a way to capture some of the market that is driving past or through, not stopping, at the local businesses that abut these major anchors,” Sharpe explains. “We’re going to focus on outreach and bring in members, large and small, who will all partner together.”
 
A kick-off luncheon on Friday, Jan. 9, serves as the group’s first outreach to the broader community, Sharpe says. Local businesses both inside and outside the future Innovation District are invited to join Sharpe and other Tampa Innovation Alliance members, such as USF President Judy Genshaft, at the USF Connect Building to discuss the group’s next steps and ideas for area branding.

Businesses are invited to provide feedback at Friday’s meeting, along with a series of monthly meetings Sharpe plans to host, similar to those he conducted at Buddy Brew during his run as a county commissioner. The first of these meetings, open to the public, is scheduled for Jan 23.

The first focus is getting organized, Sharpe says. “I’m doing it all right now – I’m approving colors of the logo, and spellchecking things, and calling people to encourage them to come.”

The group’s current members and partners include Fifth Third Bank, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Brighthouse, Tampa International Airport, EWI Construction, and more. Tampa Innovation Alliance’s Kickoff Luncheon will be held 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 9, 2015, at USF Connect, 3802 Spectrum Boulevard in Tampa.

Read more articles by Justine Benstead.

Justine Benstead is a feature writer and editor for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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