The Riverwalk remains downtown Tampa’s greatest asset. The hybrid work model appears here to stay post-Covid. Residents and workers want to see expansions of the TECO Line Streetcar and the Riverwalk. More downtown residents are interested in purchasing electric vehicles or going car-free than in the past. There are concerns about affordability and, in the downtown core and River Arts District in particular, about personal safety and homelessness.
Those are some takeaways from the Tampa Downtown Partnership’s just-released biennial survey of downtown residents and workers.
Forty-three percent of those surveyed have a hybrid work model that alternates between home and the office. That’s an increase of nine percent from 2020 and another sign that working remotely at least part of the time is the new norm. Thirty-five percent of workers have worked downtown for at least five years and 13 percent started working there within the last year. Forty-seven percent of the respondents who work but don’t live downtown say they prefer a suburban lifestyle and do not want to move downtown. For residents, 42 percent have lived downtown for more than five years, while eight percent say they moved there within the last year.
The amount of people who responded to the survey in itself is a sign of the continued influx of residents, companies and workers to downtown. The latest survey had 1,233 residents participate, a more than 90 percent increase over the historic average for a survey that started in 2008. There were 927 workers who participated, a nearly 13 percent increase over the historic average.
The firm HCP Associates conducts the study for the Tampa Downtown Partnership. During the Partnership’s annual Downtown Development Forum on May 19th, HCP Associates Vice President Robert Allen, Jr. provided some insights on the survey results.
Interest in switching to an electric vehicle continues to grow, particularly among downtown residents. Thirty-eight percent of residents say they plan to purchase an EV, an 11 percent increase over 2020. Another 12 percent say they plan to go car-free.
“That’s half of our sample saying I’m not going to buy a tradtional internal combustion engine vehicle anymore,” Allen says. “I’m going to go EV or I’m going to go car free. That’s a pretty big share.”
There’s also increased interest in lesser-used forms of transportation. Forty-five percent of residents say they would use expanded bus service, an increase of 15 percent from 2020.
The TECO Line Streetcar remains widely popular. Seventy-seven percent of respondents rode it at least once in the last 12 months. Of those who ride the streetcar, 78 percent of residents and 75 percent of workers said they would continue to ride if there was a fee.
Along with the increased interest in transportation options, there was an overall frustration with getting around downtown. Mobility constraints were the second most mentioned “insufficient aspect” of downtown. The price of parking was a concern for 37 percent of residents and 34 percent of workers. The availability of parking was also an issue for workers, Allen says. Their concern was not parking at work but finding parking when they get in their car to go to lunch or run errands downtown.
The redevelopment boom of recent years and a flood of new residents has transformed the downtown area into a series of unique but connected neighborhoods with their own character. With that in mind, the Downtown Partnership survey gathered neighborhood-level feedback for the Channel District, the downtown core and River Arts District and Tampa Heights.
Channel District residents reported the greatest satisfaction with safety and, along with Tampa Heights, a strong sense of community. Cleanliness, specifically pet waste, was a leading concern.
Tampa Heights residents had a strong sense of community and the greatest satisfaction with their restaurant and cafe offerings. Their greatest concerns were mobility and public safety. In the downtown core and arts district, safety and homelessness were concerns. In an open-ended question about concerns, 15 percent of residents there cited homelessness as a concern and 18 percent said personal safety. Those numbers were significantly higher than the Channel District and Tampa Heights.
Overall, residents and workers cited a lack of affordable housing across downtown as a concern. Downtown housing prices were the top reason workers gave for not wanting to move there.
Love for the Riverwalk
The development of the Riverwalk and increased activation of the riverfront played a major role in sparking redevelopment downtown. As in years past, the Riverwalk remains downtown’s top draw in the survey. Residents and workers alike said it was downtown’s greatest asset. That held true for the neighborhood-level responses. More than 90 percent of the respondents said they would make use of a Riverwalk extension.
Downtown parks were popular. The three large parks on the Hillsborough River, Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, Water Works and Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, received the highest marks among residents and workers.
For more information, go to Tampa Downtown Partnership.
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