A better city through Urban Charrette

Alex Pickett interviewed Taryn Sabia, the co-founder of Tampa's Urban Charrette, for this week's print edition.  Sabia, 29, and fellow architect Adam Fritz have held a series of workshops on how to improve Tampa's urban design, transit systems and overall sustainability. These workshops, or "charrettes," have brought together a broad range of stakeholders, including Tampa city councilmembers Linda Saul-Sena and John Dingfelder, the Hillsborough County Planning Commission, University of South Florida professors, Tampa Bay Builders Association members and developers like Daren Booth (of The Heights project) and Greg Minder (of SkyPoint). Read the entire interview here.

CL: How do you get the masses excited about sustainability and urban design?

Sabia: We try to show examples where great projects have been done in other places. Giving people a visual definition of what density is, because density is a very difficult concept to understand. ... You want people to see that if you put density in particular places — and you do it purposely and if it's designed well — then great things can happen. You can start to have vibrant centers for your neighborhood. Your neighborhood is actually protected, because you're putting density where it belongs. You're grouping density in areas to support retail, shops and restaurants. You need a certain amount of density in order to support a certain amount of retail. If it's done well, it can be a really wonderful thing for neighborhoods. It's something that attracts people from other places but also gives the neighborhood itself an area where people can meet, gather, do things and not have to drive a half hour outside of their neighborhood to get the things they need.

Does this mean you want to stack us all in little apartments downtown?

The idea is that we don't make everyone do that, but that we provide choices. We're not suggesting that everyone has to live in small apartments and not have their suburban homes. It's not about one or the other; it's about accommodating all of them and connecting all of them, so people aren't so separated.

It's also about managing our growth for the future. Because, inevitably, density is coming. People are coming, and large numbers of them. We need to think about how we're going to deal with that.

What should we focus on first?

Transit is absolutely at the forefront. TBARTA [Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority] has just started doing public workshops. ... It is so vital that people get out and speak, let their voice be heard and write letters to the TBARTA board and city council members. ... People look and say, "Well, that is the 2050 plan." But it's not. We could have these things in 10 years if we push and fight for them. Let our elected officials know that we not only support it, that we support it now.

Read the entire interview here.

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