The Tampa Downtown Partnership is a private, not-for-profit 501(c)(6) organization that administers to the Special Services District within Downtown Tampa. The Partnership is committed to leading and promoting healthy growth in Downtown Tampa. The lack of benchmark data on the “Downtowner” profile and preferences, however, challenged the depth of conversation possible with prospective developers, retailers, future residents, etc.
In 2007, the Tampa Downtown Partnership approached HCP Associates with their concerns relevant to the growth occurring in the downtown area. In the previous years, residential occupancy had increased at a surprising rate, but many retail storefronts were still empty. There seemed to be a perception of Downtown Tampa being a less than lively zone by residents, workers and visitors to the area, and complaints by these groups were being voiced more and more frequently. HCP recommended designing a custom study to highlight the true business potential of the area.
To select the target participants, we considered the groups that frequently trafficked the downtown area. Ultimately, those who utilized the downtown area the most were identified as residents and workers. Two separate studies were crafted based upon their respective recipient groups, addressing the topics of area growth, development trends, retail needs, transportation and mobility satisfaction, parking requirements, demographic data and other important lifestyle activities.
As downtown was in the early stages of growth, the study was considered a baseline, and was to be repeated at defined increments to track growth and changes in the responses. Moreover, the feedback coming from the respondents would be used by the Partnership to identify what was lacking from the Downtown geography, from the perspective of its primary “users.” What did these individuals need to feel a stronger sense of connection to the area? What was the potential downtown customer base looking for from retailers?
Armed with the knowledge gained from the results, and by working and collaborating closely with both public and private sectors, the Partnership could confidently take the lead in encouraging growth and supporting the needs of both residents and workers that make up the Downtown Tampa market.
A follow-up to the 2008 downtown study, it was repeated in 2010, providing points of comparison to the baseline, to see that ways in which Downtown Tampa has progressed, as well as reactions to new features, attractions and amenities. The data has been collected biennially each year since and is shared with the City of Tampa, current downtown retailers, developers within the area and retailers considering a move to downtown.
Together, all of the studies conducted by HCP on behalf of the Tampa Downtown Partnership offer solid feedback from those individuals frequenting the Downtown Tampa area. Based upon survey feedback, additional programs and attractions have been implemented or brought back, such as the Downtown Market, Lights on Tampa, Live After 5/Rock the Park, the Children’s Museum, new parking stations, a seasonal outdoor ice skating rink and new parks and green space. New restaurants opened and have extended their hours; there is clearer signage directing people around the Downtown Core; and there is now access to the waterfront through the Riverwalk. Points of interest from the study are frequently cited by Tampa’s mayor and local stakeholders.
The development has helped the Downtown Core and its surrounding areas build a stronger sense of place, and given the current 90%+ residential occupancy, people are taking note.