Residents have plenty of ideas to fix Nebraska Ave.
City officials asked people who use Nebraska Avenue for their ideas about reinventing the road, and residents were happy to oblige.
Over the span of about an hour Tuesday evening, Tampa residents filled five easels with ways they thought the city could change Nebraska for the better between downtown and Hillsborough Avenue.
The list ran from better bikes lanes to more public parking lots to family-oriented events in Borrell Park.
“This area is literally a canvas for mural opportunities,” said Mara Latorre, an artist and urban studies graduate from the University of South Florida who had her own ideas of what her piece of Nebraska needed.
Consultant Peter Sechler, who moderated the brainstorming session on behalf of planning firm AECom, said his staff will sift the pile of ideas and return Thursday with some that could be used to improve the blighted corridor.
The discussion is part of Mayor Bob Buckhorn's attempt to create a master plan that will guide future growth in downtown and adjacent neighborhoods. The project is called InVision Tampa.
Every idea voiced Tuesday won't make it into Thursday's report, Sechler said.
“There's a whole group of issues that are working at cross purposes,” he said.
Reduce the traffic on the street too much, for example, and businesses could die.
At the same time, there needs to be a way to make Nebraska – and Hillsborough Avenue with it – safer and friendlier to people not traveling in cars.
Doing that could bring new life to a street now known more for its prostitution than for its destinations.
Nebraska Avenue lacks many of the services nearby residents need. That means they – and their money – go to other parts of town.
“When an area does not contain stores where people can find daily needs, they must go elsewhere to shop,” the consultants said.
AECom's analysis of Nebraska Avenue estimates the corridor's empty buildings and Spartan commercial offerings benefits other parts of the city to the tune of $1.7 million a year.
The corridor generates about $2.2 million each year, but mostly from two categories of commerce: grocery/liquor stores and full-service restaurants.
Seminole Heights resident Rick Fifer would like to see the city buy up some commercial lots and use them to create public parking. That could take some of the pressure off business owners trying to meet all the modern development requirements on lots that are too small.
“It's really unrealistic to expect someone to develop a parcel if they have to give up a large amount of it for parking,” Fifer said.
Buckhorn encouraged residents to make their mark on the Nebraska corridor and, by extension, the city.
“I want this blueprint to last long after I'm gone,” Buckhorn said. “I think it will prevent the hodge-podge of development that's happened over the years.”
Review: Kenny Chesney goes big all night in Trip Around the Sun Tour opener at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium