Ok – let’s be honest. How many of you live for the thrill of traversing Fowler Avenue? Yes, I know that there are people who spend perfectly good money to travel to San Fermin, Spain to run with the bulls, but at least you can have a sangria afterward.
To put it kindly, Fowler Avenue is a mess.
It did not happen overnight, as this backslide has been decades in the making. I still remember my first trip to USF in the late 1970s with my dad and being aghast at the appearance. I’m driving to a major University and the first thing I see when I get off at Fowler is ‘the world’s largest flea market’?
How can a corridor which is the gateway to a major research university, top-tier cancer center, globally-recognized entertainment theme park, one of the busiest VA hospitals in the country, a major mall and the largest private not-for-profit Protestant healthcare provider in the country (think Florida Hospital of Adventist Health fame) AND hundreds of small businesses look this way? It wasn’t easy, but then travel to most any major metro in America and you’ll find similar disasters.
I’ve pondered this question for some time. Even channeling my inner Sigmund Freud – trying to understand the id of a district which has so much economic value within such close proximity of each other now mired in such poor appearance.
Worse, this Street is one of the most dangerous to pedestrians and bicyclists in the nation. READ HERE
Yes – Innovation Place, formerly the Tampa Innovation Alliance, looks upon the asphalt topography and thinks Opportunity. Opportunity for the people who live in the area, which is 7% of Hillsborough County’s 1.2 million plus people. Opportunity for the hundreds of businesses which are set along Fowler Avenue, but capture a mere fraction of the approximately 61,000 trips which pass by each day, and economic potential for the iP anchor businesses who attract tens of thousands of visitors each day.
Fowler Avenue is our Innovation Gateway and we must begin to think of it this way and treat it as such. It’s the corridor where people seek life-saving treatments every minute of the day or send our best and brightest to attend or work at a top 25 Research Institution.
The Innovation Gateway (see it’s so catchy I’m already calling it as such) is a place where people want to visit and stay. Places such as this attract and retain business. Imagine a place where people say things like:
“Hey, honey …. remember when we visited the ER at Florida Hospital?”
“Yes dear … that was an amazing visit. You didn’t fall off the ladder again did you?”
“No. I was just reminiscing. Let’s go back, and this time without the broken arm. Let’s enjoy a dinner and movie (think Studio Movie Grill) or a dinner and beer (think World of Beer) or we would have brisket taco’s with a (small) margarita (think Fuzzy’s Taco Shop).”
Ok – the dialogue is corny. Perhaps from my years of wandering the back roads of Nebraska, but you get the drift. This place can, should and will, become a major destination!
Our Innovation Gateway can be a magnet for new companies that want to locate near the University of South Florida, Moffitt Cancer Center and VA Hospital. It can be a place where people choose to stay for the night and be entertained.
It can generate economic value for our region. It just takes effort.
Welcome to the new Innovation Place.
That’s my Byte for now.
Follow Sharpe Bytes: