“Live Grow Thrive 2045:” A long-term vision for rapidly changing Tampa

Tampa’s comprehensive plan, the policy blueprint for the city’s future, last went through substantial changes in 2008. A lot has changed since then. 

Downtown and the Channel District have redeveloped and boomed, part of a growth surge that has increased Tampa’s national profile but put pressure on the availability and affordability of housing. Now, the process is underway to update the comp plan to look ahead through the year 2045, when rapidly changing Tampa is expected to have 108,000 more residents, 77,000 new homes and 258,000 new jobs.  

Plan Hillsborough, the long-range planning agency for the local governments in the county, and city planning staff launched an outreach campaign in February that has visited parks, libraries and community meetings and used an online survey to gather public input.  

“We really wanted this to be the community vision for the city, not the planners’ vision for the city,” says Melissa Dickens, strategic planning and policy manager with Plan Hillsborough. “So that initial outreach engagement was really critical to the vision.”  

After several months of public input, in late July, the Tampa City Council approved a vision statement to guide policymaking for the city’s future: “Tampa is an inclusive, sustainable, and resilient city; where the natural environment, historic character, and a diversity of cultures enables a vibrant setting for all.”

Under that broad vision statement, the comprehensive plan focuses on nine areas of city government. Some include future land use, infrastructure, mobility, water resources, parks and open space and coastal management and the environment. The updating process goes section by section, with public awareness and input campaigns and, eventually, a hearing and vote before the Tampa City Council.

No surprise with Tampa’s rapid growth, the public input process for future land use has produced a lot of feedback.

“We heard quite a bit about the need for more housing options in the city,” Dickens says. “A lot of people are finding it very challenging to find housing right now with all the growth and demand. We heard a lot about protecting neighborhood identities and making sure to retain, as we grow, the character of individual neighborhoods. We heard a lot about linking future land use to transportation and trying to coordinate those areas of planning very closely.”

The “One Water” section of the plan, which Dickens says combines wastewater, stormwater and drinking water to “look at water resources holistically,” will be the first to go to the Tampa City Council for a vote. That hearing is currently scheduled for December 8. The future land use and mobility sections are then expected to go to a public hearing and vote in the spring of 2023. The process to update the comp plan will last into 2024.

Because the comp plan impacts so many areas of government policy, there is an active outreach campaign to keep interested members of the public in the loop.

“The comprehensive plan affects everything from parks to transportation options to land use and neighborhoods so it is really important that we get the word out about this project,” Dickens says. 

Ongoing and upcoming public input opportunities include an online survey on the future land use section that is open through September 29. There is a virtual online meeting on the water resources section scheduled for 12:30 p.m. October 7th (rescheduled from October 4th). Plan Hillsborough and Tampa planning staff are also holding three joint "Tampa's Tomorrow Town Hall"  meetings- two in person, one online - on the comp plan update and ongoing city planning projects.

It’s going to be a one-stop planning shop if you will,” says Jennifer Malone, executive planner and City of Tampa liaison with Plan Hillsborough. “It’s a good chance for people to learn about a number of different planning initiatives.”

The in-person meetings are scheduled for 5:30 p.m October 11 at the Port Tampa Park Community Center and 5:30 p.m. October 26th th at the Forest Hills Community Center. The virtual meeting is noon on October 18th.  A  “Live Grow Thrive 2045” website is regularly updated with information on upcoming meetings and input opportunities as well as feedback from prior public input sessions efforts and surveys.

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Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry has been a writer for the 83 Degrees Media team since 2017. Chris also served as the development editor for a time before assuming the role of managing editor in May 2022. Chris lives in Clearwater. His professional career includes more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys the local music scene, the warm winters and Tampa Bay's abundance of outdoor festivals and events. When he's not working or spending time with family, he can frequently be found hoofing the trails at one of Pinellas County's nature parks.