Revitalizing Neighborhoods: SoHo

January 31, 2011 5 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville's takes a look at the market-driven revitalization of Tampa's SOHO to see what we can learn and apply towards the redevelopment of our own urban core pedestrian friendly commercial districts.

About SoHo

SoHo Tampa, short for "South Howard Avenue," is an entertainment district within the Hyde Park neighborhood of Tampa. Some of the main cross streets are Kennedy Boulevard (SoHo's starting point), Cleveland Street, Platt Street and Swann Avenue. The area has some of the finest examples of architecture in the city surrounding it. The sublet is within walking distance of Bayshore Boulevard where it terminates two miles later. The much praised Bern's Steak House is located in the district. Other high-end restaurants and nightlife venues are located here as well. Other offerings are high-end locally-owned clothing boutiques, art galleries, dessert cafes, and Starbucks. One of only three Publix GreenWise Markets is located in the district also. As of 2009, small companies have sprung up utilizing NEVs to shuttle clubgoers between core neighborhoods including SoHo and Channelside. Also in 2009 a small park dedicated to Bern Laxer, late founder of Bern's Steakhouse, opened at the southern part of the district. At the center of the park is the "Three Graces" sculpture and a lighted fountain that is the first in Tampa to use reclaimed water.,_Tampa

SOHO's market-driven resurgence into an urban entertainment district dates back to the mid-1990s.  In the late 1990s, it was a 1.3 mile stretch with nearly 21 restaurants and almost no on-street parking, which caused surrounding residents major concern.

District guidelines attempt to encourage pedestrian traffic by requiring off-street parking behind the rear of buildings.  Building setbacks are also encouraged to be no more than 10 to 18 feet from the street.  Awnings, balconies, courtyards and shade trees also must be used with new infill to promote the pedestrian atmosphere.  All existing buildings were grandfathered in.  These guidelines, aimed a controlling growth along the South Howard Business District, were adopted by Tampa's City Council in May 1997.

The Brownstones Of SoHo is a 42 unit infill townhome development designed under the guidence of SOHO's district guidelines, which are intended to make the area more pedestrian friendly.

The north portion of South Howard is a mix of bars, restaurants and retail, primarily catering to a younger crowd.  Anchored by Ceviche, Bellas and Bern's Steakhouse, the south end of the corridor is dominated by upscale dining.

Hugo's Restaurant was recognized by Playboy as providing the Best Cuban Sandwich.

SOHO's new Publix GreenWise Market is a two-story 41,000-square foot store with 250 rooftop parking spaces on a 1.5 acre site.

Publix GreenWise Markets is a concept the company is trying in response to the increase in the number and profitability of health food stores and increasing awareness of nutrition, and will focus on natural and organic items, similar to a Whole Foods Market. This is an expansion of a concept that already has been running for several years, as most stores already have a GreenWise section. In addition to the traditional and organic products offered, the stores include an extensive array of salad and hot bars. The first six stores will be in Palm Beach Gardens, Boca Raton, Vero Beach, Tampa, Naples, and Coral Springs. The first GreenWise Market opened on September 27, 2007 in Palm Beach Gardens. The second Publix GreenWise Market opened in Boca Raton on May 29, 2008, located in Boca Village Square. The third Publix GreenWise Market opened November 6, 2008, in Tampa's Hyde Park neighborhood.

Another Publix GreenWise store is planned to open in Tallahassee, Florida, sometime in 2009. In the 2008 purchase of Albertson's Stores, Publix decided to convert a store located in the Dr. Phillips Area of Orlando, Florida to a Publix GreenWise Market, but due to close competition and nearby Publix stores, they made the decision to open only a Publix Liquors at that location. These stores are the only ones in the supermarket chain to provide free Wi-Fi service to its customers.

Madison at SOHO is a 368-unit apartment complex that was completed in 2001.  Parking is located in the center of the property, giving the project an urban street edge.

Challenges Of Success

SOHO is a unique center of activity in Tampa at a time when most of the city seems economically stagnant.  The residents and businesses need to continue to seek ways to co-exist.  Neither is going away.  As one long time Tampa resident commented "the current residents found themselves surrounded by unwanted bars and restaurants, but the newly arriving residents have moved to SOHO for the convenience of walking to all the bars and restaurants."

A Lesson For Jacksonville

Jacksonville's St. Johns Avenue

Urban Jacksonville is home to a number of commercial corridors similar in scale and demographics to Tampa's South Howard Avenue (SOHO). These include North San Marco Boulevard (San Marco), Hendricks Avenue (San Marco), Edgewood Avenue (Murray Hill), Beach Boulevard (St. Nicholas) and St. Johns Avenue (Avondale).

While SOHO's growth as an entertainment destination has been a success, it hasn't been without heartache.  While design guidelines were developed for urban infill nearly 15 years ago, not as much foresight was put into connectivity and the district's role within Tampa's urban context.  Because of this, a lack of viable transit and parking options has resulted in nearby residents being in opposition to several dense infill projects over the last decade.

While planning for future growth along our urban commercial corridors, it will be critical to also think about their roles within the greater Jacksonville area how connectivity can be used to reduce future congestion from additional growth and redevelopment.

Article by Ennis Davis