TAMPA, Fla., Sept. 7, 2016 In May, HCP Associates, the marketing firm of record for the Ybor City Development Corporation (YCDC), a division of the City of Tampa’s Economic & Urban Development Department, launched an assessment of the district, gathering feedback from various stakeholder groups.
The assessment included in-depth interviews with YCDC board members, secondary data mining, as well as a survey of Ybor City residents and employees. The assessment coincides with a proliferation of residential and commercial developments underway.
The YCDC’s marketing firm of record, HCP Associates, conducted the assessment. YCDC leadership and its board of directors strategized with HCP Associates in order to structure a research methodology that would deliver solid baseline results. The objectives were to:
• Understand development priorities from resident and worker perspectives
• Establish benchmarks for satisfaction and recommendation levels
• Collect perceived assets and opportunities for the district
• Document motivating factors for use in attracting future residents
• Glean benefits for potential businesses to relocate to Ybor City
• Identify challenges to achieving residential, retail and commercial capacity
• Solidify how the stakeholders define Ybor City’s brand
YCDC Manager Courtney Orr said, “The assessment began with a series of one-on-one interviews with board members. These interviews provided a depth of understanding of where the organization had been and where it was going. We encouraged them to share what they believed to be the most impactful accomplishments as a board and what we needed to capitalize on to best tell Ybor City’s story. They helped us pinpoint many of the district’s assets and the most critical components to use in conveying those assets to developers, corporate headquarters, small business owners, residents and visitors.”
The YCDC board member interview phase of the assessment provided a broad spectrum of understanding of the district’s assets—the things that new residents will appreciate and what should be capitalized upon to best tell Ybor City’s story. Beyond highlighting the assets, the board members talked through ways the organization can capitalize on them to prepare for the pending population influx.
Dr. Shawn Robinson, YCDC Board Chair said, “The study is a great barometer for the board regarding what residents and business owners want before we plan and then execute a strategy that ensures growth.”
Research expanded from the board to include the residents of the district and those working within it to capture the importance each group places on various aspects of the district and their satisfaction with those features. Stakeholders shared specific desires, perceptions and levels of current usage of amenities currently available and those on the horizon.
On August 23, HCP Associates delivered the results to YCDC board members, the organization’s senior management, and members of the public. HCP Senior Research Director Sarah Lindemuth said, “The community involvement exceeded our goal with 309 resident responses and 404 worker responses. We found that a majority of residents and employees were very satisfied with their experience in Ybor City. The sentiments of these two groups provided valuable insight into perceived strengths and weaknesses of the national historic district, thereby assisting us in the development of a well-refined roadmap for Ybor City’s growth.”
The more than 700 participants shared factors of greatest importance—sense of safety, walkability, things to do and parking accessibility. They also highlighted Ybor’s strongest assets, inclusive of its historic significance, diversity, architecture, walkability, food and beverage, activity…and of course the chickens. According to the report, factors where respondents made explicit requests were:
Amenities: There is significant opportunity to close the expectation gaps residents hold for retail and personal services; this is a major limiting factor to perceiving the district as a viable community to live in, when lacking major amenities such as a grocer, gym, dry cleaner, clinic, drug store, etc. Both groups are willing to buy in the district, if the desired retail existed.
Job Opportunities: Satisfaction is high among workers and residents expressed strong interest in working in the district; the prospect of close proximity to work was a major motivating factor for residents. Job availability in one’s profession; however, is considered to be insufficient.
Housing: Urban living was important to residents—majorly driving their decision to live in Ybor City, despite lacking amenities. Workers expressed concerns surrounding quality housing options, affordability and amenities.
Transportation: With the exception of the streetcar, public transportation usage is low. Residents and workers alike proposed higher volume streetcar usage with extended early morning hours.
Traffic Flow: Responses highlighted frustration with regard to infrastructure projects that create congestion when entering and exiting the district. Residents and workers called for improved communication on project timelines and deliverables.
HCP Senior Business Strategist/Partner Sean Coniglio said, “With all of the residential development, infrastructure improvements, retail expansion and commercial relocations to the area, Ybor City is at a true tipping point. With an impressive workforce of 11,000 and 1,780 residents, the district is primed to lift the curtain on what has been one of Tampa’s best kept secrets. Many enjoy visiting the district; however, we now see a vibrant and active community of residents and workers in the district from sun up to sun down. This is an important distinction for Ybor City’s future.”
According to HCP Associates, the findings will be extensively used in conjunction with the YCDC’s strategic planning efforts.
“One thing is for certain, we are doing our due diligence with third party research and strategic planning sessions to better understand the driving and restraining forces of our community. This is the best way we can make our district thrive simultaneous with Tampa’s growth boom, and at the same time satisfy our workers and residents, and attract new prospects. History is repeating itself and Ybor City is once again thriving,” Orr said.
For more information on the YCDC or to view the research findings, visit http://www.yborcityonline.com/news/research.