Seeking to draw more resident into the urban center, cities in the Tampa Bay area – spurred in part by the success of St. Petersburg – have committed to creating or improving downtown waterfront parks.
Parks are seen not only as a nice-to-have for urban areas, but also as a draw for the increasing number of people who want to move into the heart of a city, closer to work and cultural amenities.
“There’s some envy in Clearwater,” Keith Greminger with the Kimley Horn infrastructure consulting firm in Tampa told the Tampa Bay Times. He is part of a team working on a new “Imagine Clearwater” waterfront park.
Greminger said the city, seeing the success in other places, is asking, “Why not us?”
Attraction of Urban Waterfront Parks
Larger cities have always used waterfront areas for parks. However, as people moved into the suburbs in the middle of the 20th Century, investment in downtown parks began to slow down.
Now that trend has reversed. As more people seek to move back into the city, creating attractive parks has again moved to the forefront.
In a report called “Benefits of Urban Parks” done for the World Urban Parks organization, experts listed the many benefits of urban parks. They include:
- Health and wellbeing, both mental and physical, for residents
- Social cohesion. Parks strengthen ties within the community
- House prices. Having beautiful parks as part of the environment leads to improved real estate prices
- Cities with exceptional parks draw more visitors
- Parks become homes for a wide range of plants and animals, as well as contributing to the wellbeing of people
- Air quality. Increased vegetation improves air quality
- Parks can help cool the temperatures in concrete and steel-intensive urban areas
Value of Tampa Bay Parks
While the above applies to parks in the Tampa Bay area, there also is the added benefit of the beautiful waterfront locations.
Currently, the long-vibrant downtown waterfront in St. Petersburg is undergoing a facelift and adding a new pier for the first time since the 1970s. Tampa continues to expand its Riverwalk and also is doing work along the waterfront around Amalie Arena. And Clearwater has started a waterfront park project of its own near downtown.
At a recent gathering held by the Urban Land Institute in Tampa, a panel of three people representing all three projects talked about advantages and issues around the projects. Some of the points made at the meeting, according to the Times, included:
- Urban parks now offer more than an oasis from urban living, but also hold many events, including music concerts, art shows, wine tastings and others.
- Waterfront parks help further distinguish a city’s brand, making it different than other urban areas filled with chain restaurants and coffee shops.
- Special attention needs to be paid to the areas around parks. If people want to move into the city, they will want locations near parks so they can simply walk to them.
- It’s better to have fewer, larger parks than many little ones.
These represent just some of the latest ideas around urban parks. As more people look to buy and rent homes in urban areas, expect the trend of improving parks – particularly the beautiful waterfront locations in Tampa Bay’s three biggest cities – to continue and draw more residents to the city center.