Developer interest in Hillsborough stirs economic optimism
Headlines about layoffs and business closings in the Tampa Bay area are being outnumbered these days by stories about development plans and openings. In a single issue of The Tampa Tribune last week, the headlines heralded the possibility of 1,000 new jobs if retail giant Amazon decides to build a warehouse in Ruskin; plans to bring a Trader Joe's grocery to Tampa; negotiations to land a luxury TopGolf driving range and restaurant facility near the new Bass Pro Shops in Brandon; a pitch by investors to develop a hotel and entertainment area at the Florida State Fairgrounds; and speculation that a new 24-story apartment tower in Channelside will include a grocery store for that growing urban neighborhood. This is on top of plans to build a luxury apartment tower next to the Straz Center, the construction of the boutique Aloft Hotel off Kennedy Boulevard and Ashley Street, efforts to breathe new life into the troubled Channelside Bay Plaza retail complex, and the Container Store and high-end restaurants opening near International Plaza. Of course, as many as 50,000 people in Hillsborough County remain unemployed. And the area's residential foreclosure rate continues to rank among the country's highest.But the building projects in the works or under negotiation will go a long way toward curing what ails our economy. They will create jobs and incomes. After enduring four devastating years of high unemployment and furloughs, we should pause to soak in the good news. It's a welcome relief, and the best indicator of better times ahead.