Which Downtown Is Ahead? Jacksonville's or Tampa's?

January 21, 2015 37 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Florida's first major cities have more in common than one would imagine in the rise, fall and rebirth of their historic downtown cores. With that in mind, there may be tools and ideas that one community has successfully implemented that the other could benefit from.

Historic Preservation

Tampa's historic flagship Maas Brothers department store was demolished in 2006, in anticipation of a condo development. Like the sites of many demolished buildings in downtown Jacksonville, the condo project failed to move forward and Tampa has been left with another surface parking lot.

Neither city is the creme de creme when it comes to historic preservation. Both have detonated blocks of impressive building stock in hopes of future development, only to end up with surface parking lots as a result. This situation doesn't get any worse than Tampa's decision to demolish the Maas Brothers department store on Franklin Street in 2006 or Jacksonville blowing up the Rhodes Furniture building in 2002. Nevertheless, both do have good examples of historic preservation. In Jacksonville, these include the preservation of the St. James Building, 11 East and Carling Hotel buildings.  In Tampa, good examples include the Tampa City Hall and two boutique hotels in the Floridian Hotel and US Courthouse buildings. Both serve as great examples of what the Laura Trio buildings in Jacksonville can become if the City of Jacksonville and Southeast Group can work together to bring in Courtyard by Marriott. For Tampa, Jacksonville's preserved Kress Building should provide hope for what Tampa's vacant Kress Building can become.


The Floridian Hotel

Kress Building

LeMeridien Tampa


The renovation of the former Kress Building in 2011.

Now City Hall, the St. James Building was the 9th largest department store in the country when it opened as Cohen Brothers Department Store in 1912.

The Carling Hotel and Lynch (11 E) Buildings are now residential apartment structures.


Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan's 312-foot superyacht Kismet along the Northbank Riverwalk.

Jacksonville's Southbank and Northbank Riverwalks have been two of downtown's major attractions since the early 1980s. While not built as originally envisioned, future plans include extending  both riverwalks into adjacent neighborhoods and connecting them with a shared use path along Interstate 95's Fuller Warren Bridge. For years, Tampa's access to the Hillsborough River has been somewhat limited along the downtown Riverfront. Now under construction, Tampa will soon have a 1.8 mile continuous riverwalk on one side of the the Hillsborough River. Future dreams call for a second riverwalk on the westbank of the Hillsborough River. If Tampa needs any examples on the benefit of duel riverwalks in the heart of the city, look no further than downtown Jacksonville.


Hillsborough River and riverwalk construction from the Kennedy Boulevard Bridge.

Riverwalk at Curtis Hixon Park


 PREV 1 2 3 4 5 NEXT