Uptown District in Tampa continues to grow, evolve

The Uptown District of North Tampa has seen an upswing of redevelopment in recent years thanks to the !p Tampa Innovation Partnership and other players fostering redevelopment in neighborhoods and along corridors  surrounding the University of South Florida.

The change is coming in waves as several landmark projects break ground and top off around Uptown. Several of these key developments were celebrated at the annual !p Innovation Gathering, held at RITHM at Uptown (University Mall) in October. 

The event’s keynote speaker, Margaret O’Mara, author of The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America and Cities of Knowledge: Cold War Science and the Search for the Next Silicon Valley, suggested the Uptown District has what it takes to become the next Silicon Valley. She says the four “I’s” to building a successful community are infrastructure, institutions, inclusion, and introspection.
“One hundred years ago Silicon Valley was the Prune Capital of the World. But it wasn’t just farms,” she says. “There were also companies making small electronics.” 
O’Mara says these tech firms were among the very first that preceded the computer cottage industries that made a home in the valley near San Jose, CA and helped birth the digital revolution in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
During those same decades, North Tampa swelled with its own brand of economic development, spurred by the opening of Busch Gardens in 1959 and the first classes at the University of South Florida (USF) in 1960, as well as other major players that moved into adjacent parcels. Many familiar names moved into North Tampa over the years that followed, including University Community Hospital (now AdventHealth Tampa) in 1968, James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in 1972, University Mall in 1974, and H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in 1986.
Fowler Avenue and other nearby corridors also swelled with new businesses during that time. Despite significant socioeconomic and demographic shifts around USF in more recent decades, major landmarks have remained while other parcels have emptied, opening opportunities to reimagine the future of the community.

New big kids on the block

One of the Uptown District anchors looking to make a new name for itself is Yuengling Brewery, which moved into Tampa 1999 and operates as the southern arm of the Pennsylvania brewing giant that serves as America’s oldest brewery. Construction is ongoing adjacent to the brewery facility to create an outdoor gaming area, digital interactive museum, and 2.2-acre courtyard slated to open next year.
“We are building an experience that will delight Yuengling fans and we look forward to opening our doors for them in Fall 2022,” says Jennifer Yuengling, sixth-generation family member and VP of operations at D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc. “We are eager to get Yuengling enthusiasts onto our campus and for everyone to enjoy the new immersive experience that our partners are working to build.”
Yuengling says these improvements at the Tampa campus symbolize the commitment she and her family have to the Tampa Bay Area, noting she and her family consider the region their “second home” and want to make further investments here.

“This is why we are always looking for ways to give back to and invest in the community that has given so much to us. With the revitalization of our Tampa campus, we hope to bring not just an immersive brand experience to the area, but also opportunities for local members of the community to join our family.”
These include opportunities for more female and minority brewers, many of whom may enter the fold through Yuengling’s Diversity in Brewing Scholarship.

Construction continues on Moffitt, Yuengling expansions
Across the mega-block from the Yuengling Brewing, another major project is topping off with aims to serve cancer patients in the Tampa Bay Area and throughout the state of Florida. H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, based at the USF campus in Tampa, is on track to complete its new 10-story hospital in late 2023. 

“Interior work is underway with about 600 tradespeople on site each day,” reports Don Futrell, Moffitt Cancer Center VP of Planning, Design, and Construction, of the 480,000-square-feet project. 

“The current phase of the project includes 128 beds plus two additional shelled floors to accommodate an additional 76 beds later 19 operating rooms, all related support and patient amenities areas, and a parking garage.” 

Despite encompassing a facility that appears to dwarf the original six-story core hospital and inpatient bed tower at the USF campus, Futrell says the McKinley project is an expansion of the existing 1986 facility on USF’s Magnolia Drive, “not a replacement.” 

Dr. Bryan McIver, deputy physician in chief at Moffitt Cancer Center, says the hospital expansion will leverage Moffitt’s expertise and resources in the organization’s multidisciplinary approach to offer more cancer treatments and therapies than before. 

“The hospital will offer a full suite of services that complement what is currently being provided at our other campuses, with expanded robotic surgery services, image-guided surgery, and minimally invasive surgery, all of which are less invasive, often more effective, and that allow for quicker recovery,” says Dr. McIver.

The hospital’s imaging capacities will be increasing alongside implementation of more novel approaches to better detect cancer at earlier stages of growth and understand what is making them grow.
“We anticipate providing advanced radiation therapy techniques, including MRI-guided adaptive radiation that changes the field and dose of treatment depending on the tumor’s response. In addition, proton therapy and other cutting-edge modalities will be available, to improve outcomes for our radiation therapy patients,” Dr. McIver says. 

Additional breakthrough services to be provided at the new facility will include cellular therapies that use a patient’s own immune cells to seek out and fight their cancer. 

“To enhance our patient experience, the new hospital will utilize innovative digital technologies,’’ Dr. McIver says. “We are creating a digital front door that allows patients to easily access their information electronically, including their appointment itinerary, registration information, wayfinding through the hospital, medical records, and more.” 

The legacy project taps the talents of local contractors, including Barr & Barr of Tampa, which characterizes the new hospital facility as “one of the area’s largest in recent years in terms of size, construction value, and most importantly in terms of positive impacts to our community” and says the collective effects of the Moffitt expansion on local businesses is “profound.”

Moving forward on multiple fronts 

Along with the expansion of Moffitt Cancer Center on McKinley Drive and the growing entertainment complex at Yuengling Brewery, North Tampa also has a variety of other major projects afoot, including The Motor Enclave motorsports complex and corporate event center near Tampa Executive Airport, coming restaurants and stores along Fowler and Fletcher Avenues, and a multifaceted ongoing review of new transit opportunities by Hillsborough Area Regional Transit across the Uptown District. 

Meanwhile, RITHM at Uptown witnesses continued success in luring new science and research outfits, joining a cadre of medical and technology-based tenants at the former mall property, including Florida Blue, AMROC Fab Lab, and Diamond View Studios. It’s the kind of innovative hub that O’Mara says sparked the creation of Silicon Valley in California a century ago. 

“I’m not competing with Silicon Valley, you shouldn’t be competing with Silicon,” says RD Management Chief Development Strategist Chris Bowen, who says he first stepped into University Mall six years ago and envisioned opportunities would abound. 

“Don’t fixate on what you think this community is. Whatever you thought RITHM is, it’ll be different tomorrow, because that’s how it’s designed,’’ Bowen says. “You’ll see more pieces of the puzzle every day.”

Learn more at !p: POTENTIAL UNLEASHED.
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Read more articles by Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez.

Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez is a freelance writer who was born and raised in Tampa. He earned his BA in English from the University of South Florida and spent more than three years as a full-time copywriter for a local internet marketing firm before striking out on his own to write for various blogs and periodicals, including TheFunTimesGuide, CoinValue and COINage magazine. He has also authored local history books, including Images of America: Tampa's Carrollwood and Images of Modern America: Tampa Bay Landmarks and Destinations, which are two titles produced by Arcadia Publishing.