Urban Living: Life in the Fast Lane - Guide to Greater Tampa Bay
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Urban Living: Life in the Fast Lane

Urban Living: Life in the Fast Lane

Downtown st Pete urban living in tampa bay

Dive headfirst into the hustle and bustle of life in the heart of the city

As the song goes, “You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares, so go downtown.”

Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater are often described as little big cities, incorporating elements of major metropolises while retaining a local feel. Each has a downtown area filled with its own unique version of life in the Greater Tampa Bay area, with enough variation to provide something for everybody. Look around — life in the urban cores is alive and well.


urban living in downtown tampa

Population: Approximately 15,000


  1. Channel District — Check out Sparkman Wharf eateries, bars and hangouts and enjoy within walking distance of museums and the Amalie Arena.
  2. Downtown River Arts — The opening to Tampa’s Riverwalk and art venues such as the Straz Center, the Tampa Museum of Art and Tampa Theater.
  3. Water Street — A revolutionary, updated, health and wellness–focused standard of living. Lots of green space and very walkable. New high-rise condos are coming soon.
  4. University — Home to the University of Tampa. Dorms, local eateries, fascinating and architecture abound.

Known for famous attractions including the Tampa Museum of Art, the Straz Center for Performing Arts, the Riverwalk and Sparkman Wharf, downtown Tampa represents a high-end business district with classy nightlife and multicultural influences.

“Downtown Tampa has been a city on the rise, with an accelerated pace in the last five years,” said Ashly Anderson, director of Marketing and Design for the Tampa Downtown Partnership. “It’s energetic. The downtown lifestyle is the reason people are moving here.”

Much of the residential space resides in high-rise apartments and condos, with beautiful views of the water. The many recognizable towers of the city house numerous businesses and offices, making the downtown area an important business center as well. Tech companies such as ConnectWise are making Tampa their home sweet home, with headquarters in the heart of the city.

The University of Tampa, with nearly 7,000 students, brings a small college-town feel to the city, and its iconic minarets are emblematic of the area’s rich history. With the University of South Florida only a few miles away, this collegiate atmosphere is enhanced and enriched even further.

Downtown Tampa is also an area in constant evolution, with new developments going up almost monthly. Sparkman Wharf, a laid-back riverside hangout spot in Channelside, is one of the latest additions to the city’s impressive resumé. Culture and traditions reign heavy here as well. Every January, watch as the harbors fill with boats, the streets line with people and the atmosphere fills with festivities of the Gasparilla Pirate Fest, a local tradition dating back to 1904.

Champa Bay, as it has come to be known, earned this moniker from its professional sports teams. Beginning with the first of the Lightning’s back-to-back Stanley Cup wins, this was validated further by the Rays’ trip to the World Series and the Tom Brady-led Buccaneers win in Super Bowl LV.

While mainly a driving city, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transport provides public transportation in style, conveying passengers in streetcars reminiscent of the early 20th century.

St. Petersburg

Downtown st Pete urban living in tampa bay

Population: Approximately 15,000


  1. Waterfront Arts — This features the Dalí Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts and St. Petersburg Museum of History and American Stage Theatre Company. Also known for nightlife, galleries and parks.
  2. Central Arts — Cuisine-based district made up of the 300 to 700 blocks of Central Avenue. Attractions include the Morean Arts Center, as well as many boutiques, coffee shops, breweries and more.
  3. EDGE — Historic District known for many locally owned, independent businesses with a vintage, antique vibe.
  4. Grand Central — This district is quaint and charming with a small-town feel. It has historic neighborhoods, studios and galleries.
  5. Warehouse Arts — An old industrial area now revitalized and fresh. Art studios and breweries are common.
  6. Pier — One of St. Pete’s renovated landmark projects. Features art exhibits, marketplace and restaurants at the very end with amazing views of the bay.
  7. Innovation — Incubates STEM fields with a smart growth mentality. More than 30 organizations participate in this initiative.
  8. MLK Business — Known for supporting local businesses. Missions include advocacy work including development projects and beautification efforts such as street clean-ups.

St. Petersburg records an average of 361 sunny days a year. The downtown area, featuring many iconic districts and famous landmarks, sits right on the blue waters of the Tampa Bay. If these images are not enough to paint a picture of life in this picturesque, progressive city, then maybe a few more will.

Residing in St. Pete comes in many forms, with high-rise apartments, condos and townhomes scattered throughout the downtown area. Compact and walkable, these residences are never too far from any of the city’s more than 100 retail shops, 73 restaurants, 12 bars and breweries or 24 famous museums and galleries. Nightlife in St. Petersburg is classy, yet laid back, and its restaurants feature some of the state’s best.

Arts and culture dominate in St. Pete. Murals adorn walls, architecture augments the pier, and museums are never hard to find. The Tampa Bay Rays, winners of the 2020 American League Championship Series, call St. Petersburg home in Tropicana Field. The Tampa Bay Rowdies, the oldest sports franchise in the Greater Tampa Bay area, play soccer in the nearby Al Lang Stadium.

Meanwhile, businesses flourish and thrive in St. Petersburg. Incubators, co-working spaces and an entire district dedicated to business creates a healthy mix of corporate, local and independently owned businesses. With the median resident age of 49, working and living in downtown St. Pete is a prime focus for residents.

Supplying a steady stream of young professionals, the St. Petersburg College campus is less than a mile from the main downtown area and educates many of the 180,000 higher education students in GTB.

See Also

St. Pete is highly compact and walkable. While transportation is still vehicle-focused, the layout encourages movement on foot or by pedal. Look out for electric scooters, too.


urban living in downtown clearwater

Population: Approximately 2,000


Cleveland Street — A walkable route through downtown. Contains retail shops, restaurants, bars and events. Farmers markets and festivals are held often.

Downtown Clearwater, the smallest of the three major urban cores, melds small-town living with beachside splendor. Set against the tropical backdrops of Clearwater Beach and the Gulf of Mexico, this urban center features quaint quirkiness around every mural-filled corner.

High-rise condos, bars, restaurants and entertainment venues are some of the new additions to the city’s recent revitalization project.

The Cleveland Street District, named for one of the historic avenues of the area, creates a cozy atmosphere for those looking for a calm night on the town. Wine bars, music venues and occasional pop-up farmers markets make for an eclectic mix of activity, while places like the Capitol Theatre and Coachman Park feature performances and festivals. The famous Pinellas Trail passes through the area as well, providing easy access for a relaxing walk or a blood-pumping bike ride.

With the beach just a short causeway away, day trips are almost too easy. Downtown Clearwater maintains a quiet, seaside feel while offering quick connections to both Tampa and St. Petersburg.

By Ryan Walsh

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