TAMPA, Fla. - Crews are in the process of erecting barricades around the old Federal Courthouse in downtown Tampa, but it's not the first time the building's been closed off to the public.
It sat boarded up and vacant for 10 years.
Still, its future is getting easier to imagine thanks to construction that recently began inside, turning the historic landmark into a boutique hotel.
"The work that we do today is going to pay dividends for decades," explained Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
Mayor Buckhorn gave his annual State of the City address Tuesday morning, announcing to a standing-room-only crowd that Tampa's made great progress under his administration, both by what it's destroying as well as creating.
In the last year, Buckhorn focused on blighted properties, planning to demolish 50 of them in Sulphur Springs.
"They had become magnets for drug dealers, and prostitutes, and gang-bangers," he said. "These houses were like a cancer on the adjoining property owners."
Buckhorn believes clearing the city of homes turned crime dens makes the city more attractive for homes that bring tax revenue, including plans for three new residential towers announced in the last few months, 300 units of which are designed for Channelside alone.
Also, Buckhorn pointed to how new residents could finally enjoy the river walk, expected to face completion soon after 6 mayors and 30 years.
For more people to live in Tampa, however, they have to have jobs here, too.
"I am not losing my two little girls to Charlotte, North Carolina. I will be darned to let that happen," Buckhorn said.
That's where the work remains.
The city's still in a $20 million deficit and has 500 less employees than six years ago.
Still, announcements of expansion at Tampa International Airport signal a potential turn around, along with hopes for the Port of Tampa. Combined, Buckhorn wants Tampa's local expansion to go global.
"I'm not playing second fiddle to Miami. It's our turn!" he shouted.
Buckhorn's plan didn't include many details. It sounds more like a vision for a city he refuses to give up on. Even if, like the old federal courthouse, Tampa's future means a lot of hard work and a little imagination.
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