Hillsborough / The Channel District, aka Futurama

Towers, lofts, a neighborhood in the making?

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Channelside 212, N. 12th St., between Kennedy Boulevard and Washington Street

Low-rise warehouse completely converted to loft condos with tasteful colors and wood entryways. Again, no vacancy.


The Meridian, Whiting St. at 12th St.

New lofts designed by Cooper Johnson Smith with a clean contemporary feel, and a touch of South Beach and cruise-ship deco. Respects the architectural history of the district, and stays within the scale of the neighborhood at six stories. If every development looked like this, I'd say buy, buy, buy!

Ventana, Kennedy Blvd. and Channelside Dr.

A mid-rise luxury condo with a contemporary design by Ybor City's Walt Chancey Architects. Big windows (ventana is Spanish for window), big balconies, a terrace pool overlooking the port and an emphasis on amenities.

Grand Central at Kennedy, Kennedy Boulevard and Meridian Street

A mid-rise office, retail and residential development. More than half of the 393 condominium units have been sold. A grocery store is expected to sign on soon. Developer Ken Stoltenberg is donating rent-free spaces to the Stage Works theatre company and an art gallery.

Channelside 1000, Channelside Drive at Washington Street

Low-rise loft development on Channelside across from the Port Authority. New Orleans/Ybor City-influenced design.


The Villages of Channelside, bordered by Meridian, Whiting, S. 12th streets

The Markhams approved the low- and mid-rise buildings with their own sidewalks and paths for a small neighborhood feel. Retail and gallery space on street side.

The Place at Channelside, N. 12th Street, between Washington and Whiting streets

They advertise "resort style," and it does look cushy. Condos surround a landscaped courtyard pool. Tampa dog owners can escape the dog park controversy at the fifth-floor pet park. Pedestrian-friendly design is slated to include street-level art gallery and retail. Sidewalks are advertised as "a first in Tampa" on the web site (I didn't know things were that bad). Developer wants to change the plans to 30 stories.

Seaport Town Centre at Channelside, between the Expressway and Twiggs Street

Drawings show the Disney version of small-town Main Street with awnings, stucco and wrought iron. Just close your eyes and plug your ears and you might not notice the Leroy Selmon traffic whizzing by. The good news is they promise a grocery store and retail.

Towers of Channelside, bordered by Channelside Drive, Meridian Street and Cumberland Avenue

Two 30-story towers with 260 condominiums. High-rise, high-end development that set the neighborhood on its slippery slope upward. At the same meeting that the developers were granted the 30-story approval, the City gave the developer the right of way on 11th Street, to pave over with a three-and-a-half-acre parking garage.

Pinnacle Place

Two 41-story towers (known as O2) and a much-debated Space Needle. The project sits on the other side of Meridian from the official borders of the Channel District, but it'll be hard to miss.

CREATIVE CLASS OR VERTICAL SUBURBIA? I look into my crystal ball and see a shiny new neighborhood, coffee shops, art galleries and grocery stores. You won't have to leave the building for any of it if you live in one of the towers. But opt for a neo-loft and you can walk outside and have a coffee, a meal, do a little shopping, look at some art, even walk to work. For downtown Tampa, this is huge.

My crystal ball becomes clearer and I see… Starbucks, Walgreen's, Bennigan's. Sadly, I can't see places here like the 12th Street Skate Park, The Taco Bus or El Molino coffee shop. The locally owned and flavored businesses that make Tampa wonderful won't be able to afford the rent.

To prospective residents who want to escape the sameness of the suburbs, I say beware of vertical suburbia. There are some beautiful buildings on the drawing board, but I fear the small-scale renovations and reproductions that respect the neighborhood's history will be overshadowed by the generic post-modern pastiches of their taller neighbors. Penthouse and tower dwellers may have a view of the water, but for most residents the view will be of their neighbor's glass and concrete. Congestion is guaranteed by a neighborhood that will go from 30 residents to almost 6,000 in five years. Green space is not on the map yet, and it is hard to see where park space can possibly be squeezed in.

Again, Tampa suffers from delayed adolescence. First we build, then we plan.

The neighborhood association efforts have convinced some developers to set aside affordable space for galleries and performance spaces. They'd be prudent to do so. Otherwise the guy with the spanking new loft won't be able to love his artsy neighborhood. The association also wants to use TIF money to maintain affordable housing, plan for green space, bury utilities (last year's hurricane season saw residents dancing around live wires) and upgrade the 50-year-old stormwater system. This money, which is meant to provide housing to low-income neighborhoods, in this case is going to be a 30-year gift to the well-off residents of the new Channel District.

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