Thursday, June 22, 2006

Act Locally

It's a hot-button issue these days - Tampa vs St. Pete. Weekly Planet recently held a Political Party discussion about these "Downtowns on the Verge." Within a few minutes of that discussion starting up, someone made a joke that the state bird of Florida is a crane. Har. Get it? A crane? It's true though, if you head down to either Downtown they both are bustling with construction projects. I'm sick to death about hearing of the "condo boom."

I have to hear it all the time from all of my friends - artists, musicians, writers and scenesters: Downtown St. Pete kicks Tampa's keister. "No contest," they'd have me believe. To me, Downtown St. Pete is also a 20-25 minute drive away on a good day. Have you seen the traffic going over those bridges? You know we're in an oil crisis, right? Every day people talk about an accident on one of them and actually act surprised that they were delayed getting from A to B. I have better things to do with my time and cash.

I live in Tampa Heights. I work in Downtown Tampa. I drive for 3 minutes to or from work, and I never have to get on the interstate anymore. I have a quadrant that I drive that surrounds my home to points in Seminole Heights, West Tampa, Ybor, Downtown and possibly here and there it take me south of Kennedy (oh, the bougie horror!). Now that I've been in my current location for two years now, I've done quite a bit of exploring and I find that I have no real need or desire to leave my zone.

I know it might be a bit Pollyanna to have that "build it and they will come" attitude, but I think it's also true. It's not quite Manhattan yet, but money attracts money, right? Downtown Tampa isn't going to boom overnight, but with some love shown it's way it could really grow. Here are some suggestions for life in Downtown Tampa to make both an immediate impact in your quality of life that will also hopefully lead to long-term improvements down here.
  • Take in a show at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Ok, so this is a TBPAC blog and I should probably be ashamed of myself here, right? I don't. I'm actually getting this one out of the way first. With five venues, dining options, a great location on the river and truly world-class programming - you can find something to do here pretty much every day of the week. Check out a concert by The Florida Orchestra, an intimate evening with singer-songwriters in the Club Jaeb Series, catch a cabaret review, take in a play by Jobsite Theater, see the best in Broadway spectacle straight from New York in the areas finest hall, witness a lavish grand opera, see one of today's best and brightest pop stars or comedians - you name it, we got it.
  • See a movie at the Tampa Theatre. Straight from their website: Built in 1926 as one of America's most elaborate "movie palaces", the Tampa Theatre today is a fiercely protected and generously supported landmark. Designed by famed theatre architect John Eberson, the Tampa is a superior example of the "atmospheric" style of theatre design. Inside the Tampa, audiences are transported to a lavish, romantic Mediterranean courtyard replete with old world statuary, flowers, and gargoyles. Over it all is a nighttime sky replete with twinkling stars and floating clouds.
  • You've not really experienced Downtown Tampa until you've had a drink from The Hub. Stiff drinks, great jukebox - 'nuff said. This place has been a Downtown Tampa institution for close to 50 years. Hang out Friday night until the Hot Dog Guy gets there. He makes a mean Italian sausage.
  • This is another point of contention with a lot of folks in town these days with all the planning and money and bickering, but it's still something viable to do. Go visit the Tampa Museum of Art. The anime exhibit I saw there a few years ago was one of the most fun installations I've seen.
  • Not sure if this is technically Downtown or not, but it's at least on the border - catch an art show at Flight 19 in the old baggage claim building at the railroad station.
  • Looking for dinner? Try grabbing a bite at Thai Corner, The Spain or Jerk Hut (which is also open late on the weekends).
  • Looking for breakfast/brunch on the weeekend? Try First Watch or grab bagels from CC's on Franklin St.
  • Be adventurous! See something new? Go try it! I find more often than not I'm pleasantly surprised with my urban exploration efforts.
Got any cool things I've missed to do in Downtown after work or on the weekends? Let me know!

- David J.

2 comments:

LeeAnn D. said...

Here! Here! I live in Emory Heights. That's just outside Seminole Heights proper, so I have all of the Seminole Heights amenities without the Seminole Heights price tag. Takes me 10 minutes to get to and from work and I drive through Ybor every day. I also stay pretty much in my "zone" and don't feel as if I am missing a thing. All the cool stuff is happening down here anyway.

Anonymous said...

It really takes only ten minutes?!