TAMPA — The effort to rejuvenate a downtrodden area that happens to house some of Tampa’s most vital institutions will get a new perspective with outgoing Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Mark Sharpe joining the campaign.
Sharpe will serve as a consultant to the Tampa Innovation Alliance, a group formed by powerhouses in the fields of entertainment, education and medicine – Busch Gardens, the University of South Florida, Moffitt Cancer Center and Florida Hospital Tampa.
The plan is to clean up the northeast neighborhood those institutions share, centered on 30th Street from Fletcher Avenue to Busch Boulevard, bringing in new businesses and housing and creating a research and innovation zone and an area where people would want to live, work and play.
“You’ve got a major university, you’ve got health care, you’ve got entertainment – you’ve got all the ingredients for both a powerful economic region and also a major draw,” said Sharpe, whose term on the county commission ends in mid-November. “Our goal is to bring that all together.”
Founded in 2011, the alliance has foundered in its early years, with the parties pushing different visions and strategies. A consultant was let go amid early disagreements.
Sharpe was approached by USF president Judy Genshaft and leaders of the other organizations to work with the group. He said he recognizes the challenge ahead.
“I’m a man of mission, and I look for things where I think I can play a positive role,” he said. “The challenges are indeed high, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, and if we work together, we can do something that hasn’t been done in that area.”
After his election to fill out a vacancy in 2004, Sharpe has served two full, four-year terms and is prohibited by term limits from running again. He receives $95,523 as chairman.
He will earn $6,000 a month as a consultant to the alliance, and will likely become its full-time executive director when he steps down at the end of the year.