Tampa Mayor Jane Castor will be on hand as the findings of a New Tampa business climate study by the University of South Florida School of Public Affairs — triggered last year by concerns over the number of businesses closing in our area — will be revealed at a community meeting on Monday, February 3, 6 p.m.
Castor was briefed on the results of the study on Jan. 27, and will deliver introductory remarks at the meeting, which will be held at Compton Park (16101 Compton Dr.) in Tampa Palms.
Tampa District 7 City Council member Luis Viera will host the meeting, which he first helped spearhead last year after he said he received phone calls and emails from constituents — as did Castor — who were concerned about the closing of local businesses.
In early 2019, the Neighborhood News, after receiving many of those same calls, addressed the issue of the closings since 2017 of stores like HH Gregg, Staples and Bed Bath & Beyond in the Market Square at Tampa Palms Plaza, as well as restaurants like Casa Ramos in Tampa Palms and Ruby Tuesday on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd just north of I-75, also have been shuttered, and two Mexican restaurants have failed at the site of the one-time Romano’s Macaroni Grill.
Others, including popular local restaurants like Las Palmas (which reopened in a different location in New Tampa) and Café Olé, as well as former local staples Beef O’Brady’s, Boston Market and Dairy Queen also have shut down over the past few years.
USF’s School of Public Affairs and its director Ron Sanders agreed to take on the project of studying New Tampa’s business climate, along with graduate students working towards their Master’s degree in Urban & Regional Planning.
“The meeting will reveal those findings, and then those in attendance can weigh in,” Viera said. “It will be interesting to see what they found, and if we have a challenge, how to face it.”
Four students volunteered to conduct the study. At a meeting in July, they heard from close to 100 people who attended a meeting with Viera, District 2 Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan and District 63 State Representative Fentrice Driskell.
While some community members expressed worry, others were confident New Tampa would bounce back, in part due to the sometimes-cyclical nature of business.
Since that meeting, in fact, a number of the local businesses that had been vacated have announced new tenants. The Brunchery (Boston Market), Urban Air Adventure Park (HH Gregg), Taza Market (Staples), Regina Margherita, which was formerly Chefs of Napoli (Beef O’Brady’s) are either open or close to it, while Aldi is looking into taking over the old Ruby Tuesday location.
And, as we reported last issue, even the long-vacant Sweetbay supermarket could have a new tenant signed up by the end of 2020.
“We have seen some positive changes,” Viera says. “I still think there’s some cause for concern, but at the very least, this is something that tells us about the business markers and growth in New Tampa, and what we need to do to keep the momentum going. We want to make sure our area does not deteriorate.”
Viera says the study also should provide some insight into some of the transportation challenges local businesses face, as well as how the design of New Tampa, especially along BBD, plays into commercial success.
To RSVP to attend the community meeting since seating is limited, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.