Foundations of Success in Tampa

Bob Buckhorn, Former Mayor, City of Tampa

As his eight-year tenure as Mayor concluded, the Former Mayor reflected on his time in office, all the change that has occurred in Tampa throughout the duration, and all that lies ahead for the city.

Former Mayor Buckhorn was elected in 2011, at the tail end of the recession, with a bold vision for what the city had in store – determined to make it a destination for visitors, corporate relocations, and residents to explore and relocate. His vision is well on its way to being accomplished.

“We’ve created one of the most vibrant and exciting midsize cities in the country,” he said. “It has become a global destination. Tampa is no longer a city that shuts down at 5:00 p.m.”

As forward-looking as the Former Mayor is, he is equally as passionate about the city’s past. It is important to him to maintain the diversity that Tampa was founded on – Cubans, Spaniards, and Italians coming together to form the community. He believes this is a key differentiating factor and is something that should be held on to even as Tampa grows.

Assuming office in 2011 during a pivotal time in Tampa’s fiscal history, he explained that the recession forced a total reevaluation of the economic strategy of the city. They completely overhauled the regulatory process, urban core masterplan, and begun embracing the waterfront that Tampa had turned its back on, which Water Street Tampa is capitalizing on.

In addition, key leadership positions in the community were filled. The Aviation Authority, Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, United way, and Community Foundation all hired new leadership that brought new vigor to the area.

“It became a perfect marriage with everyone believing in the vision and doing their part to get it done,” he said.

His relationship with Jeff Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, was instrumental to that vision. Former Mayor Buckhorn reflected on early conversations with Vinik, and mentioned that they frequently exchanged books about cities, sharing ideas of what Tampa could become.

Former Mayor Buckhorn shared Walkable Cities, a book by renowned urban planner Jeff Speck that inspired the concept of Water Street Tampa. The book proposes that the most successful cities all have walkability in common, and therefore prioritize pedestrians over cars.

In reference to sharing the book, the Former Mayor explains, “It was a meeting of the minds that brought together a vision of a city’s future with the resources and commitment of an owner who saw it as his responsibility to not just win games but to leave a legacy in the form of a city that has become one of America’s most exciting urban environments.”


Below please enjoy a few highlighted excerpts from our Q&A with the Former Mayor.

How would you describe Tampa in three words?

Diverse. Inclusive. Transformational.

What are the most important components of a community to you?  

A sense of ownership and a belief that we are all in this together.  I have seen communities do amazing things when they buy into a vision, see real tangible progress, and feel like they have a stake in the outcome.

What do you hope is accomplished for Tampa in the future?  

The development of a City is a journey.  There is no final destination because like a living organism we are constantly changing, expanding, and improving or not. I fully believe that we are at a unique moment in Tampa’s history out of which will determine the next 50 years of our growth.  Water Street Tampa represents a new chapter in our development with the potential to catapult Tampa in to tiers of the top cities in America. It is built and inspired on the foundation of the last eight years of work but at its completion will be one of the signature projects that has ever been done in Tampa.