ULI Tampa Bay News

Event Recap: Creating Transformative Open Space

At the sold-out StimULI Breakfast on December 1st, attendees heard about the role of urban parks and the effects transformative urban open spaces can have on neighborhoods and cities. The panel discussion was moderated by David Conner of David Connor + Associates, and included Cary Hirschtein of HR&A Advisors, Matt Davis of Strategic Property Partners, and Jason Jensen of Wannamacher Jensen Architects.

Cary spoke to the group about the catalytic force of parks and open space and their ability to effect the economic development of a city or a region. Pulling from several successful projects like Atlanta’s BeltLine, New York City’s HighLine and Dallas’ Klyde Warren Park, Cary examined the way in which open space can be used to reconnect disparate communities, increase tourism, raise real estate values, and add a variety of cultural and social benefits. In addition, he explained four of the major trends in recent urban open spaces: 1) creative repurposing, 2) versatile usage, 3) innovative financing, and 4) inclusive participation.


A proposed rendering of the Clearwater waterfront shows several unique spaces including a large event lawn, an ecological cove area and circulating walking paths. (Sasaki Associates / HR&A Advisors)

Highlighting his current project in Clearwater, Cary discussed the challenge of reconnecting downtown Clearwater to the waterfront. He explained how a dynamic waterfront public space framed by an active edge could spur revitalization in the neighboring downtown core.

Matt, focusing on the Channelside waterfront, explained the challenge of balancing the needs of an active port with the attributes of an engaging and accessible waterfront. Matt’s team at Strategic Property Partners is spearheading Jeff Vinik’s $2 billion, 50-acre development in downtown Tampa. He also emphasized the need to provide flexible and dynamic spaces that can provide diverse experiences allowing these places to transform and adapt over time.


The re-imagined Channelside Park will improve public access to the water and feature a flexible open space that will allow it to adapt to community needs over time. (Strategic Property Partners)

With reference to the new St. Petersburg Pier project, Jason touched on the parking issues that often encumber public space projects, specifically in Florida, where the auto-centric mindset is always a challenge. He also explained that focusing on larger, regional assets as potential open space attractions could create better opportunities to connect disparate communities and promote greater diversity of interaction.


The new St. Petersburg Pier expects to be a regional destination providing a wide range of activities and experiences for residents and tourists alike. (Wannamacher Jensen Architects)

Speaking about the opportunities for open space projects in the Tampa Bay region, Cary said that the most successful projects are those tailored to the uniqueness of a community and should address the social and cultural deficits specific to that place. Jason added that parks should provide more interactive and engaging experiences like public art, water features, and event programming rather than just passive ones. And Matt mentioned that these types of projects have the potential to redefine or rebrand a neighborhood or a region like Yards Park in Washington D.C. and that this value is often difficult to quantify.


Author: Samheadshot Stein, ULI Tampa Bay Member


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