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Expert: No extended downturn for downtown

Stantec Vice President David Dixon says the pandemic can't stop the transformation of Tampa's urban core.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. September 3, 2020
File. Urban planning expert David Dixon says companies that prize innovation will want to bring remote workers back into the office.
File. Urban planning expert David Dixon says companies that prize innovation will want to bring remote workers back into the office.
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Will the COVID-19 crisis bring to a halt the transformation of Tampa’s downtown core into a highly desirable live-work-play neighborhood? Not necessarily, says David Dixon, vice president of Stantec, an urban planning and development group involved in Jeff Vinik’s ambitious, $3 billion Water Street Tampa project, which will result in an entirely new mixed-use neighborhood in the Channelside area just east of downtown Tampa. 

Courtesy. Stantec Vice President David Dixon.
Courtesy. Stantec Vice President David Dixon.

Dixon, along with downtown advocates from Charlotte, N.C., and Santa Monica, Calif., held an Aug. 27 discussion about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on city cores. The online event, dubbed a “Digital Debriefing,” was presented by the Tampa Downtown Partnership.

“COVID is clearly changing a lot” about cities, Dixon says. “It’s had a devastating effect on retail. It’s changed much about what is happening in offices.” 

But despite many companies shifting to largely remote workforces to help reduce the spread of the virus, Dixon thinks there will eventually be a rebalancing. Firms focused on innovation, he says, are eager to get people back into the office.

Employees “are collaborating just fine, virtually,” Dixon says, “but what is not happening is the same level of innovation as when folks just ‘collided,’ as the saying goes, or held inadvertent, unplanned meetings that led to new ideas.” 

Getting people back into offices bodes well for the health of downtown Tampa, which already boasts more than 16,000 residents and many more expected in the coming years. That's partially because downtowns and urban cores are driving the real estate market like never before, Dixon says, referencing the latest edition of the International Downtown Association's annual Value of Downtowns and Center Cities Report, which, for the first time, analyzed Tampa. 

Also, developers, take note: Dixon says the nation’s housing supply, today, consists of roughly 62 million single-family, detached homes, but less than 50 million of those will be needed approximately 18 years from now. “We’re going to need a lot more attached, small-lot, urban housing than we have today,” he says. 


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