TAMPA, Fla. - Downtown Tampa isn't yet what you would call bustling, but the growth recently has been impressive. Nearly 3,000 new residential units have been built since 2005.
The residential towers have an overall occupancy rate of about 85 percent according to the Tampa Downtown Partnership. The Towers at Channelside announced they are essentially sold out.
Jason Carroll's job at the Florida Aquarium can be seen right off the balcony of his apartment building, The Place at Channelside.
Carroll's commute is a stroll past the swimming pool, a trip down the elevator and if he's got the time, a quick stop at the street level coffee shop. Carroll is enjoying a lifestyle that was scarcely possible in Tampa just a few years ago.
"It's for people who like to be downtown. They like to be close to the water. They like to be in a community and close to things, and not really far out where you've got to get in your car. We can walk here to go to dinner and get a cup of coffee," boasts Carroll.
The last few years in downtown and Channelside have been a gradual process of filling condos and apartments that were built before the bust. But on Monday, fresh dirt was broken for 356 new apartments and 4800 square feet of retail space on Meridian Avenue near Channelside Drive.
"That tells me that downtown is alive. It's well. It's prospering and folks need to move on down," said Mayor Bob Buckhorn at the groundbreaking.
The Miami developer behind this new project, Related Group, is betting apartments are a better bet than condos at a time when so many are trapped in upside-down mortgages.
"There's been a big number of traditional homeowners who have become renters now and we're here to take advantage of that opportunity," said Arturo Pena of the Related Group.
More large downtown developments like the Encore Project are already under construction. Those who live here say 'the more, the merrier.'
"We still need a grocery store. We still need a place to buy eggs and milk. But as places like this open up and succeed, those things will come," said Carroll.
The new apartments should be renting in less than two years.