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Tampa community leaders strive to bring job creation to University Area despite pandemic

Projects target transit and business development
University Area Development despite pandemic
Posted at 2:43 AM, Apr 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 07:27:45-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa community leaders are now working together to continue the mission of bringing economic improvement, job creation and more transportation to the University Area despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Tampa Innovation Alliance is partnering with Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa to keep projects moving forward.

Councilman Luis Viera, who represents the University Area in North Tampa, said before COVID-19, this was an area that was already struggling a great deal but assistance was coming.

"We had, not too long ago, a memorandum of understanding, which was entered into by the City of Tampa, Hillsborough County, University of South Florida, Moffitt and the UACDC in different institutions in the North Tampa area, which would dedicate $2M for immediate seed money for study and other endeavors," Viera said.

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That conversation is still happening, according to Viera, despite COVID-19. He said he has spoke with Tampa Mayor Jane Castor's administration to outline his objectives for the area.

"It is my position that we cannot let go of our long term goals and our long term vision for the North Tampa area and for USF," Viera said. "This is not about wants. This is about needs."

This is an area that has such tremendously untapped potential, Viera said.

"If we let go of that long term vision in the midst of COVID-19, in the aftermath, we're going to be dealing with tremendous economic dislocation," he said. "The North Tampa area is an area of great potential, but yet, that potential has been very much not realized," Viera said. "You've got great tracks of poverty there and it's an area that really, really needs to be uplifted."

Viera, along with Mark Sharpe, executive director of the Tampa Innovation Alliance, said they are remaining focused on projects that bring forward not only job creation, but enhancing the infrastructure to make it safer for people to drive, walk, bike, do business.

Sharp said after the pandemic comes to a close, we may expect new traffic patterns and norms.

"That new normal might mean that those of us who don't have to be on the road as much might not be on the road as much," Sharpe said.

Sharpe said that could mean city, county and state leaders can create lanes which are a little bit tighter, with lighting signalization, that would allows drivers to move much more efficiently.

Sharpe said that also would create opportunities for people who want to get off Fowler Avenue and enjoy the shops along that corridor much easier and safer than we do now.

Leaders at the Tampa Innovation Alliance also said there is a growth in the demand for the type of things that innovation districts provide, including the advances at with the University of South Florida research departments and USF Medical School.

"Now people are realizing these investments are smart investments," Sharpe said. "That is going to accelerate the demand for the type of work that we're doing up in the University Area, making it all the more important for development to continue.

Learn more about the work of the Tampa Innovation Alliance and community efforts to enhance the lives and job creation for University Area residents with the University Area Community Development Corporation.