The rankings seem to come out every week.
If you’re asking yourself ‘should I move to Tampa?’ the lists can help you check off all the boxes on your must-haves.
Timing is everything, though, and there are three new reasons to take a closer look at Tampa. These major, near-downtown projects — completed, or in the works — make living in Tampa an even better choice.
Water Street Tampa and Sparkman Wharf
Developers have unveiled plans for a 50-acre, $3 billion, multi-year reimagining of an area of downtown now called Water Street Tampa. The brainchild of the city’s NHL franchise owner, Jeff Vinik, will mix green space, entertainment and office space.
The project anchors the south side of the growing Channelside District and abuts Amalie Arena, where the Tampa Bay Lightning plays. It’s also near the town’s cruise port, the Florida Aquarium and Tampa Bay History Center. Ultimately, it will add to the already long list of things to do in Tampa and could turn the downtown into one of America’s more walkable cities.
While Vinik plans several housing options in his Water Street Tampa project, they will be limited to vertical apartments and condos because of downtown location. But you don’t have to live in the city to enjoy the new amenities. The whole area is easily accessible from beyond the city limits. Many neighborhoods are nearby, including Touchstone, which is less than 10 miles away and offers open-concept single-family and townhome floorplans ranging from 1,505 to 3,326 square feet.
The recently announced restaurant and retail area of Water Street Tampa is Sparkman Wharf, named after Stephen Sparkman, an early 20th-Century U.S. Congressman who secured major federal funding to dredge the channel, leading to Tampa’s rise as a significant port city. The project replaces a former entertainment and restaurant destination that had fallen on hard times.
Expect the redesigned area to open to the public in 2020 and to include open-air waterfront space, shopping options and a concept that has been described as an outdoor food hall. Recently added to the lineup of restaurants in Sparkman Wharf is Gallito, a modern day taqueria, and Boat Run Oyster Company, a ‘tide-to-table’ concept stocked with oysters from all over the world.
Gallito in a new concept by Chef Ferrell Alvarez and partner Ty Rodriguez of Seminole Heights’ popular eatery, Rooster & the Till. The restaurant, which will be housed in a repurposed shipping container, will focus on street food with authentic Mexican flavors. Boat Run Oyster Company will serve sustainably raised and diverse oysters along with shrimp rolls and stone crabs.
Heights Public Market at Armature Works
Food halls are hot, and Tampa has joined in with two appealing versions. The newest one just opened in a former industrial building that was once a storage and repair facility for Tampa’s streetcars. Located just northwest of the core of downtown along the Hillsborough River, is Armature Works, a 73,000 square-foot building that has been completely redone while keeping its historical charm. It now houses the Heights Public Market, a food hall that fuses the city’s many different flavors and popular dishes. Some market vendors include Hemingway’s, where you’ll find Cuban classics, to Ichicoro Imoto, serving contemporary Ramen, to an all-day breakfast vendor, called Graze 1910.
In recent years, Ulele, an award-winning restaurant, opened up in an old renovated building nearby, and the natural spring next to it has been restored to its old glory. About the same time, the Water Works Park, an urban playground with water features and other amenities came on the scene. All three facilities now benefit from the recently finished Tampa Riverwalk, which connects the area to downtown and will connect to the Water Street project and Sparkman Wharf.
Across the river from the Armature Works is the brand new Julian B. Lane Park. It’s accessible by boat from the Hillsborough River as well as by car. Once there, you’ll find water features, tennis courts and other attractions that draw families from beyond Tampa’s urban core.
Hall on Franklin
A stone’s throw away from the Armature Works is another popular food hall, the Hall on Franklin. Opened in 2017, it also offers diners a variety of menu choices, but in a new way. It’s a sit-down, full-service experience, so you’re not wandering the market trying to decide which vendor to select.
Although a sit-down restaurant, the Hall on Franklin’s concept offers visitors a wide range of flavors to choose from. You’ll find everything from acai bowls at Bake ‘n Babes to poke bowls at Poke Rose to a Chicago-style hot dogs at Heights Melts. The coffee, dubbed as Kofe, puts a spin on the classic cup of joe with additions such as macadamia nut milk and butterscotch flavor.
You only need to try to find a seat on a weekday to see how the concept is working. It’s one of the better things to do in Tampa with friends or out-of-town visitors on the weekend.
These exciting new projects can help you answer that question: should I move to Tampa? It’s a great time to be living in Tampa, especially if you fancy yourself a bit of a foodie. Throw in the sunshine, proximity to great beaches, and new nearby housing communities, and it’s easy to imagine living in the area.