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Architects say transportation is key to development in Tampa-St. Pete

Margie Manning

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Angela Hendershot, principal of Rowe Architects in Tampa, and president of the AIA Tampa Bay board

Architects in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area say how we move around will shape the spaces where we live, work and play.

A new survey of local architects finds that transportation dominates the conversation about development.

“Every project in the community is benefitted by smarter transportation options,” said Angela Hendershot, principal of Rowe Architects in Tampa, and president of the American Institute of Architects Tampa Bay board.

Mickey Jacob, principal of the Design Studio at BDG Architects in Tampa

Architects who responded to the AIA Tampa Bay’s Voice of Architecture Economic Outlook 2020 survey identified transportation as the top issue in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Polk counties.  The second-ranked issue in Hillsborough was infrastructure, while in Pasco and Polk counties it was housing. In Pinellas, transportation was such a dominant issue there was no significant second issue, according to the survey.

“It is critical and goes hand-in-hand with the next generation of designing spaces,” said Mickey Jacob, principal of the Design Studio at BDG Architects in Tampa.

Jacob cited demand for attainable housing, including micro-apartments, as one example of how transportation interacts with design.

“We’ve been working with a developer who wants to do a high-rise with micro-units, 600 square feet or less. We’re looking at how they can build it in a place close to an employment base like downtown, with people who don’t want to have an automobile and want to be able to walk to work and be in the center of the city. We’re going to see a great interest in those in the next little while,” Jacob said.

“Right now our parking requirements handcuff what you can do and drive up building costs. As we enhance our transportation system and the transportation options that we give people, we can start looking at reducing parking requirements. Once we do that, we drive down construction costs,” Jacob said.

“Then we need to look at incentives for developers to do that. If we reduce your parking costs and you save $35 million because you don’t have to build that much parking garage, then you can return some of that investment into transportation options that will support your building. Suddenly we’re getting private dollars invested in the transportation network.  It’s a win-win situation and those are the kind of creative solutions we need that are going to make projects work.”

Seventy-one area architects, half of them principals or managers, responded to the survey, and overall they were optimistic about the local development-related economy. Their opinions carry weight, because they are hired early in the development process.

“Area architects are the ‘canaries in the coal mines’ for our region’s development-related growth,” Dewey Caruthers of St. Petersburg-based Dewey & Associates, who runs the survey for AIA Tampa Bay, said in a news release.

Among the survey’s findings:

  • 77 percent expect demand for architectural services to increase in 2020
  • 27 percent expect the Tampa Bay development-related economy in 2020 will be excellent, and 66 percent expect it will be good
  • 47 percent anticipate revenue growth of more than 10 percent in 2020
  • 82 percent agree or strongly agree that their organizations will hire more employees in 2020

Revenue growth will come with growing pains. Nearly all the survey respondents, 97 percent, said it is more difficult to recruit and hire skilled workers.

The bullish outlook stems in part from continued population growth and in part from projects that have gotten national attention, such as Water Street Tampa, a $3 billion development in downtown Tampa, Jacob said.

As more people move to the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, there’s more demand for hospitals and healthcare facilities, K-12 schools, and apartments — the segments the survey found are expected to be most active this year.

Rowe Architects, which focuses on public sector work, is seeing school districts focus on efficiency and technology.

“We’re doing multiple major renovation projects in both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, and the drive is to accommodate higher technology and 21st century focused learning styles – either in the envelope of the existing building or new construction,” Hendershot said.

What do 21st century focused leaning styles look like? “Spaces that encourage collaborative learning or more flexible styles. Instead of putting students in rows, allowing for more team-oriented learning and hands-on and group work,” she said.

One of Rowe’s largest projects is a renovation and addition at St. Petersburg High School, built in 1920. The project includes upgraded technology in some classrooms and a new dining facility.

The company was just selected to do a major renovation and addition at Tyrone Magnet Middle School, which has a technology focus. “That will have some new and innovative spaces to accommodate learning styles,” Hendershot said.

Jacob sees the healthcare industry branching out into neighborhoods.

“Rather than you coming to a place to get healthcare, healthcare is coming to you. We’ll see a lot of urgent care centers that will pop up. Those specific design facilities are interesting, because a lot of them will take up the old types of retail like old Blockbusters and things like that, where you have adjacent parking, it’s easy to access and it’s in the neighborhood where people are used to go to. This kind of medical in the neighborhoods is the next big thing.”

BDG is close to finishing work on three food and restaurant locations at the St. Pete Pier — Driftwood Cafe, Teak, and Pier Teaki.


Related story: Take a virtual stroll with the mayor on the St. Pete Pier


The architectural firm also is working a solar energy project, an outdoor canopy for the fourth-level event deck at the Florida Aquarium.

“We’re designing a canopy with movable louvers to allow sunlight in and protect from rain and heat. We’re working with TECO on a solar energy system that will power the sea tank that they have. It’s a working solar energy system, and they will use it to tell the story about solar energy as part of their education,” Jacob said.

The architects in the survey expressed confidence in Tampa Bay’s political leadership to advance smart growth.  More than three-quarters of the architects agreed that political leadership will effectively lead smart growth in Tampa Bay in 2020 – nearly a 10 percentage-point increase from last year. And nearly 75 percent agreed that there is a clear vision for Tampa Bay’s growth in 2020 – a more than 20 percentage-point jump from last year.

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