In his May 2nd article Michael Sasso referred to progress in the University Area Community (UAC) as sluggish. I find the description a bit misleading. Over the past nine months 70 non-profits, government agencies and businesses have joined the University Area Community Development Corp. Partners Coalition to tear down the silos that kept us from creating a strategy for permanent sustainability in the UAC. Contrary to the article’s implication, that strategy not only exists, but is being implemented now.
I’ve been meeting with University of South Florida representatives monthly. The organization of an accountable steering committee for a larger effort has slowed. That said, the process hasn’t stalled. I would argue that it’s evolved and improved, not by stakeholders each trying to assert their dominance, but by each thoughtfully bringing their strengths and priorities together into something greater than the sum of its parts that will benefit the entire region. Our hope is to form a body resembling a three-legged stool in which each group can focus on what it’s best at: one leg focusing on infrastructure and transportation, one focusing on economic development and private investment and one focusing on community stabilization: each supporting the others’ priorities and strategic initiatives.
Continuing conversations have included USF, Hillsborough County, City of Tampa, City of Temple Terrace, The Innovation Alliance, and the Hillsborough County Planning Commission, which has just unveiled a new, broader Master Plan for the University Area. In the past two years we’ve seen millions of dollars of private investment in the neighborhood. In the photo for Sasso’s article, I stood before Spanish Trace, a beautiful property in the UAC that has inspired hundreds of thousands of dollars of investments in the blighted properties around it. I chose that site to make a point. Innovation in the UAC isn’t slowing down. It’s alive and well underway.