TAMPA, Fla. — Developments underway in West Tampa and in the Uptown Innovation District near the University of South Florida are working to better connect our communities and are making progress despite a global pandemic.
Tampa City Councilman Luis Viera grew up in Tampa Bay and has seen Tampa evolve from a place for retirees and snowbirds to a diverse and thriving hub, attracting young families and new companies.
But until now, some areas, like Uptown near USF, seem to have been left behind.
"This has always been a very unrecognized, under-served area," Viera said.
But now, developers like Chris Bowen with RD Management have recognized that untapped potential.
"It's under construction now, so there's no going back," Bowen said.
Rithm at Uptown
Rithm at Uptown is located in the heart of Tampa’s Uptown District, with frontage on East Fowler Avenue and Club Drive on the site of the University Mall. It's close to I-275 and I-75.
Rithm will become a multi-story, urban neighborhood development.
Rithm at Uptown
According to the developers, it will showcase "life sciences and technology research institutes and complexes; retail and recreational opportunities and entertainment; hospitality; education; medical specialties, clinics, and pavilions; corporate offices and co-working spaces; and residential, fitness and other related uses."
Once complete, Rithm At Uptown will be one of the largest, mixed-use innovation communities in the state with capacity for over 7 million square feet of development, including several thousand residential units, according to RD Management.
The construction site will eventually be a six-story, 600k square foot building with student apartments and retail.
"This is the first residential component on this hundred acres ever in history," Bowen said. So, this is historical. This is bringing people here and the first round of people will be students to live onsite."
It will also extend University Square Drive, connecting this area to USF, Moffitt Cancer Center and the VA. A large office space and hotel are both set to go in as well.
"This starts to really formulate how this site really develops into from a mall into a village, a community where people are gathering, collaborating, working together and living together," Bowen said.
Bowen says because of restrictions on public meetings, final approvals for rezoning and development were delayed four to five months in the middle of last year. However, the construction projects on site did not experience any unusual delays.
The student apartments are set to open in 2022.
This comes as another major development, Midtown in West Tampa, has just opened the first sector of the project: The Element Tampa Midtown Hotel.
"There's going to be something going on all the time," said Kathy Hackshaw, general manager for Midtown. "We're a little different and that's by design."
But it doesn't stop at the hotel. Midtown, located off of Dale Mabry Highway and I-275, will also feature luxury apartments, along with a salon, a chiropractor, a specialty drug store, restaurants, an R.E.I. and a Whole Foods.
For the most part, Midtown's construction only saw minor delays because of the pandemic.
"It has affected some of the tenants in that they had to redesign their interiors, because some tile they wanted they couldn't get or something like that," Hackshaw said. "So you've had to rethink some of that. But overall, it hasn't affected us as much as it has in other areas of the country."
The developers hope Midtown serves as a gateway from neighborhood to neighborhood.
"This is what Tampa needs," Hackshaw said. "It kind of connects West Shore and Downtown and brings it all together."
People started moving into Aloft Apartments in March 2021. The developers said Whole Foods is set to open in June 2021. Other businesses will open in that time span also.
For Viera, this is a sign of progress as he remembers how far Tampa has come.
"We're seeing the kind of movement forward that we got to see," he said.