The 2021 Urban Excellence Awards went to 10 winners, marking Tampa's coming of age as a hip place to live, work, and play long into the future.
The Awards, started in 2007, celebrate the diverse and creative businesses, organizations, individuals, events, and projects that play a role in shaping and sustaining a dynamic downtown environment.
"Each recipient has helped create the energy, excitement, and environment that has made our downtown such a desirable place to live, work, and play," says Tampa Downtown Partnership President and CEO Lynda Remund in a statement. "They're ambassadors of Tampa's urban core, and their contributions have helped transform downtown into the thriving destination and economic driver it is today."
An awards jury of downtown constituencies annually selects winners representing leadership, innovation, hard work, talent, and community spirit.
Among this year's honorees are the Water Street Development for Landmark Development Project and Sparkman Wharf in the Activating Spaces Award category. The Landmark Development Project Award recognized Water Street Development's USF Morsani College of Medicine/JW Marriott as iconic buildings that attract people to downtown by improving the physical environment or enhancing the economic, cultural, or social well-being of the area. The Activating Spaces Award recognized Sparkman Wharf for creating a more attractive pedestrian atmosphere and a vibrant commercial environment through activities, street-level storefront improvements, or design elements.
Art on the Block, an initiative set forth by Tampa Mayor Jane Castor in 2019, received the Downtown Collaboration Award for its Unity Mural Day project. The award recognizes a group partnership that has made a unique, positive contribution to downtown; and has been responsible for a project or program that has complemented the work of the City of Tampa and the Tampa Downtown Partnership.
"It's not just the people behind Art on the Block who are being recognized with this award. It's the community," says Justice Gennari, President of the LGBT Tampa Chamber. "Unity Mural Day was a community project that brought everyone together in a time of need."
"The project was able to have a strong focus on unity, and we were able to do that, not just through the Unity Mural, but coming together and creating it together as a community," continues Gennari. "As a result, we showcased Tampa as a diverse and inclusive place to live, work, and play."
Art on the Block brings art and artists into Tampa area neighborhoods to participate in wide-ranging art form improvements like poetry, murals, mosaics, and sculptures.
Unity Mural Day was co-sponsored by the Tampa Downtown Partnership and Tampa LGBT Chamber. The city of Tampa proclaimed June 27 as "Unity Mural Day," and painting started at 7 a.m. to celebrate Pride Month. The crew finished the mural around 5 p.m. and did touchups the following day.
The mural is located outside the former Hall on Franklin at the intersection of North Franklin Street and West Henderson Avenue in Tampa Heights. It was commissioned by local artist Cam Parker, who painted several murals across the downtown area. 50 to 75 volunteers, including city officials, chamber members, and local business owners, showed up to lend a hand.
"With everything that's going on, there's never been a better time to come together to celebrate our community," Gennari says. "We celebrate our community with the Unity Mural, signifying the unity of the LGBTQ+ community, with the Black Lives Matter Movement, people of color, and our Trans brothers and sisters."
"We honor each other and look to build a better future for generations to come."
Below is the complete list of 2021 winners (1) and runners-up (2) in each category:
Public Sector Project Award
Private Sector Project Award
- Lift Up Local by City of Tampa
- HART Autonomous Vehicle Pilot
Downtown Collaboration Award
- Embarc Collective Start-Up Hub
- WeWork Place, Tampa
Landmark Development Project Award
- "Art on the Block" Unity Mural Day
Downtown Experience Award
- Water Street Development | USF Morsani College of Medicine & JW Marriott
- 220 Madison
Activating Spaces Award
- Pirate Water Taxi & Yacht StarShip
- Henry B. Plant Museum Victorian Christmas Stroll
- Sparkman Wharf
- Ashley Drive Vision Zero Project
Arts & Culture Award
- Don Me Now | Bubbly Barchique
- Dio Modern Mediterranean Restaurant Outdoor Dining Expansion
Christine Burdick Downtown Person of The Year Award
- Straz Center for Performing Arts Performance Pivot
- Do the Local Motion Tampa Bay
People's Choice Award
- Ashley Bauman
- Lorrin Shepard
Henry B. Plant Museum Victorian Christmas Stroll