Get a Front Row Seat for Tampa Bay

This photograph is of Downtown Tampa and Tampa...

A very exciting and unprecedented media effort that is taking place here in Tampa and is incorporated with the Republican National Convention will launch in about 10 days. It is called Front Row Tampa Bay! I want to publicize it, because the more people around the nation that take the time to watch it, the greater the effect will be.

According to their website, Front Row Tampa Bay, presented by the Tampa Bay Partnership will promote regional and Florida businesses with interactive business panels, featuring regional, state and national VIPs in business, industry, and the public arena, live-streamed to a targeted list of business and political leaders from a theatre complex located nearby the convention site. (Of course you can sign up to watch too, or maybe even be part of the show)

Programming will include focus on the key business sectors and leaders from Florida and Tampa Bay, commentary from top political leaders, and a look at life in Tampa Bay and Florida.

It will be interesting to see what the overall impact of the convention is on our local economy, and this effort ought to plant some seeds that  will bear fruit over time. Although Florida is a top tourist destination because of its great weather and wonderful attractions, the media is having so much fun spinning the threats of hurricanes and making summer in Florida sound like slogging through the Amazon. In reality, most people from other cities visit and dream about what it would be like to do business in a place that combines great weather, a diverse culture, and tons of natural beauty.

I’ll try to do a few blog updates as I wander around Tampa during the convention, and attempt to determine whether my post on RNC parties ends up being correct. But if you are a business person or thinking about moving to Tampa, your best source for true on the ground reporting that extends beyond all of the political banter will be Front Row Tampa Bay and their Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Loosen Your Belt – Dine Tampa Bay Coming Up in August

Oystercatchers Key Lime Pie courtesy of: Dine Tampa Bay’s – Tampa Bay Taste Bud Blog

Do you ever get intimidated by the daunting task of trying new restaurants around your town, knowing where to start in finding them, and most importantly what to order when you get there so you get a true taste what the chef is most proud of?

The Basics: Dine Tampa Bay is a two week event from August 3rd-17th that allows you the opportunity to visit over 100 of the bay area’s top award winning restaurants and enjoy a prix fixe, 3-course meal that includes some of their signature dishes.

Price: $25, $35, $45…you choose

It’s So Easy: The Dine Tampa Bay Website makes this adventure so much fun, and the over-organizer in you will definitely appreciate the user-friendly search criteria available. You can simply pick a price, choose a restaurant, and reserve your table…all online. Or you can even narrow things down by cuisine and neighborhood.

It’s easy to view the menus and a map for each restaurant. That will come in handy if you decide to sleep in your car and spend the two weeks trying every restaurant, needing to chart the most efficient course. That would be an admirable goal indeed!

Whether you enjoy one or all, let me know here or on Twitter where you went and what your thoughts are!

Here are Sample Listings from 3 of My Favorites:

The Melting Pot of Tampa

The Melting Pot of Tampa

13164 N Dale Mabry Hwy., Tampa, FL, 33618

(813) 962-6936 | Website  $25

I used to live on Melting Pot fondue when up in Ocala, but Tampa is where it all started! Includes a salad course, 3 choices of meat fondue, and your choice of chocolate fondue including my favorite the Flaming Turtle.  Menu

Cassis American Brasserie

Cassis American Brasserie

170 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg, Florida, 33701

727-827-2927 | Website  $35

Cassis American Brasserie serves up “Continental Comfort Cuisine” in a vibrant, friendly atmosphere. Chef, Jeremy Duclut, revisits American classics with an innovative twist, and flavors his cuisine with subtle elements from his traditional French training. Since I lived nearby the town in Provence that is the namesake for this restaurant, I had to include it. All of their food is simple yet unique…I’m looking forward to starting with the cantaloupe soup with crispy Prosciutto de Parma. Menu

Oystercatchers

Oystercatchers

2900 Bayport Dr., Tampa, FL, 33761

(813) 207-6815 | Website  $45

Oystercatchers is located on the shores of the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay and has one of the best brunches in town and is where we had our engagement party! For this package though, I would suggest the fresh catch blackened with one of their signature sauces like a fruit chutney, and don’t forget to finish it off with one of the best Key Lime pies in Tampa. Menu

Question: Which Dine Tampa restaurants would you like to try?

Get Rid of Gridlock? Part 2 – Case Study Tampa

courtesy of Beltline.org

On July 31st, Atlantans will vote on the Atlanta Beltline and Transportation Referendum mentioned in Part 1 of my post Get Rid of Gridlock. We struck down a similar measure in Tampa/Hillsborough County over a year ago. There are many who criticize Tampa residents for not being forward thinking and not caring about mass-transit. I’m not one of those, I think everyone in Florida realizes how useful a regional transit system would be, they just want it to make common sense first and be done right. Here are four reasons in my opinion why the pitch for a tax might work in Atlanta and didn’t work for Tampa:

1) The BeltLine is truly visionary, they have done a great job with videos, renderings, and maps communicating what the BeltLine will be. Progress is already being made. They are turning vacant land into parks along the BeltLine so people can begin to imagine the possibilities. Runners are already having races along the BeltLine. The project is also very innovative, and a fascinating reuse of existing infrastructure that yearns for revitalization.

2) As mentioned above, Atlanta has been able to collaborate across 10 counties to come up with a plan and a referendum. The Tampa Bay Area has not been able to do that, with authorities in every county butting heads against each other and regional authorities that couldn’t get consensus from the counties. On Hillsborough County alone there were at least 4 groups involved in the lobbying for the tax and they did a pathetic job of creating one coherent vision with one common set of renderings/maps. And that was just Hillsborough County.

3) Atlanta already has the experience of MARTA and its citizens rally around mass-transit in theory especially due to Atlanta traffic. Atlanta sees the future and wants to grasp it. It is part of the culture. There seems to be less of a concern for frivolous spending in Atlanta and more of a sense of trust in local government and public/private partnerships. Recently, local media and government cracked down on the spending/accounting of the BeltLine team before anything egregious happened. All parties are working together on transparency, and that will be critical.

4) None of the plans for light rail in Tampa Bay made any sense financially, although no public transportation plans ever really do in terms of dollars and cents. The value of course are in the long term intangible benefits for future development and economic growth that can only be estimated, and in my opinion this was not done effectively by the agencies involved in Hillsborough County.

I think Tampa has a lot to learn from cities like Atlanta about collaboration, innovation, and planning. In this case though, I think the team in Atlanta could learn some good lessons from what did not work here in Tampa.

Question: What else is holding Tampa back?

Get Rid of Gridlock? Part 1

Atlanta Beltline – courtesy of BeltLine.org

Sound familiar Tampa? In just 11 days, Atlanta will be voting on a public transportation referendum that proposes a regional 1% sales tax across 10 counties. This sounds similar to the recent Hillsborough county tax referendum that we voted down last year…or does it?

The Atlanta BeltLine is the 1999 brainchild of Georgia Institute of Technology graduate student Ryan Gravel from his master’s thesis, a plan for a 22-mile loop that would connect 45 historic Atlanta neighborhoods, promoting in each greater access to mass transit, public parks and recreational trails. Much of the BeltLine makes use of abandoned track from previous local railroads. Ambitious in its scope, the BeltLine project hopes to grow the local economy by $20 billion dollars, create some 30,000 jobs, reclaim 1,100 acres of brownfields, and develop more than 5,000 affordable housing units for working families over the next 25 years. For more information, check out the BeltLine Tour or Maps of the Project.

Here is a video from the Referendum website from the BeltLine as well as a brochure from the Opposition so you can make an informed vote. According to the Beltline website, if the referendum passes, it would build roughly five miles of new transit on the east and west sides of Atlanta BeltLine and another five miles across midtown and downtown on city streets, connecting to MARTA rail in three locations. It would also connect transit to the existing West End Trail and run transit alongside the Eastside Trail, now under construction.

Question: What are your concerns about the Atlanta BeltLine Referendum?