Living it Up Downtown  - Guide to Greater Tampa Bay
Now Reading
Living it Up Downtown 

Living it Up Downtown 

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. 

Downtown Tampa Districts: 

  1. Channel District — Check out Sparkman Wharf eateries, bars and hangouts and enjoy within walking distance of museums and the Amalie Arena. 
  1. 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. 
  1. Water Street — A revolutionary, updated, health and wellness–focused standard of living. Lots of green space and very walkable. New high-rise condos and apartments are coming soon. 
  1. 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.” 

To find most of the residential space in downtown, look up. There are plenty of high-rise apartments and condos with beautiful views of the water and cityscape to choose from. Several residential towers in the downtown area include Nine 15, Element Tampa, Anchor Riverwalk and Aurora, which is just beginning to list the options.  

More high rises are currently being built as part of the expansive Water Street Tampa live, work, play community. Construction is complete and space is available in a few condominium and apartment high rises here, while more towers are on the horizon. 

The many recognizable towers of the city house businesses and offices in Tampa’s growing, diversifying, prospering business community. Growing numbers of tech companies are making Tampa their home sweet home, with headquarters at the center of it all in 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, riverside hangout spot with dining, drinks, events and more 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. 

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

Downtown St. Petersburg Districts: 

  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. 
  1. 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. 
  1. EDGE — Historic District known for many locally owned, independent businesses with a vintage, antique vibe. 
  1. Grand Central — This district is quaint and charming with a small-town feel. It has historic neighborhoods, studios and galleries. 
  1. Warehouse Arts — An old industrial area now revitalized and fresh. Art studios and breweries are common. 
  1. 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. 
  1. Innovation — Incubates STEM fields with a smart growth mentality. More than 30 organizations participate in this initiative. 
  1. MLK Business — Known for supporting local businesses. Missions include advocacy work including development projects and beautification efforts such as street clean-ups. 

St. Petersburg’s downtown area, featuring many iconic districts and famous landmarks, paints a vibrant picture of life right beside the blue waters of Tampa Bay. This picturesque, progressive city is home to a tight-knit community that embodies both small-town approachability and bustling urban activity. 

Residing in downtown St. Pete comes in many forms. Numerous high-rise apartments, condos and townhomes are scattered throughout the downtown area, providing an incredible variety of options all in one place. Take a pick at the variety of urban apartments, which just begin with the amenity-rich Wayland Apartments, luxurious Residences at 400 Central, the warm and inviting Cottonwood Bayview Apartments, the resort-style lofts at Vantage St. Pete, the sleek and stylish Hermitage Apartment Homes and so much more. Many new housing developments are planned for the city as well, downtown and beyond. 

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 several restaurants here proudly rank among the state’s best. Arts and culture dominate in St. Pete. Murals adorn walls, architecture and art installations delight visitors to the pier, and museums are never hard to find.  

St. Pete is a fun place to live, full of opportunity for professionals and businesses to thrive in and is constantly rising to meet the demands of a growing community. There is a sense of camaraderie and unity in this progressive city that newcomers are drawn to. 

“It’s such a funky, funky place. We own that,” said JP DuBuque, president and CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corporation. “When we get somebody here, as our mayor likes to say, ‘Once we get you here, we got ya. You’re not going to leave.’”  

Jason Mathis, CEO of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, offers a similar perspective. 

“St. Pete has a unique blend of cultures that help define who we are as a city,” Mathis said. “There’s a sense of arts and creativity and energy that helps make the downtown district.” 

He cites the collection of art and museums as examples of this multiculturalism.  

Getting down to business, companies large and small, innovative and established thrive in St. Petersburg. Business incubators, co-working spaces and districts devoted to supporting communities of entrepreneurs create a strong mix of professionals.  

Supplying a steady stream of young talent, 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. USF has a campus near St. Pete’s Innovation District, where young professionals join forces with established companies and government entities to make groundbreaking discoveries. 

In short: “There is incredible demand for businesses who want to be in St. Pete,” Jason Mathis said. 

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. 


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

Downtown Clearwater melds small-town living with beachside splendor. Set against the tropical backdrops of Clearwater Beach and the Gulf of Mexico, this urban center features quirkiness and personality 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 and the main thoroughfare through downtown, creates a cozy atmosphere for those looking for a fun and easygoing night out on the town. Wine bars, music venues and occasional pop-up farmers markets make for an eclectic mix of activity, while the Capitol Theatre hosts performances and festivals. The famous Pinellas Trail passes through the area as well, providing easy access for a relaxing walk or bike ride. 

Expect even more buzz coming to downtown Clearwater soon: Coachman Park is currently undergoing a nearly $65 million transformation to become Imagine Clearwater, a 24-acre cultural destination between downtown and the waterfront that will expand on the already vibrant entertainment and recreation scene in Clearwater.  

“Downtown is booming in this whole area that’s known as the District,” said Kristina Park, executive vice president of Amplify Clearwater. “Along with the Waterfront project (Imagine Clearwater), over the two-year timeline to 2023 we’re just going to see that beautiful park come to life. You have that crown jewel right across the water from America’s best beach.” 

Housing options are diverse in downtown Clearwater. Apartments including The Nolen, The Rosery, 1100 Apex, The Indigo Apartments and The Palms of Clearwater are a handful of options for those seeking amenity-rich complexes with the walkable Cleveland Street area only an elevator ride away.  

An assortment of condos offers the ability to more permanently settle downtown here. The Water’s Edge luxury condo community meets the demand for those seeking to purchase that slice of heaven in the sky, with spectacular views of Clearwater Harbor and the city from any of the 25 floors. Meanwhile, The SkyView delivers on what its name implies and more. Those breathtaking views of Clearwater’s beautiful waterways can be admired from within the unique building, which was formerly a bank building. 

With the beach just a short causeway away, day trips are almost too easy. Easily walk to the downtown shops, galleries and eateries, or hop on the Jolley Trolley for an inexpensive and convenient way to get around the beaches, downtown and neighboring cities. Whether living, working, playing or just visiting, downtown Clearwater’s charming, upbeat, seaside feel is a breath of fresh air.  

By Ryan Walsh.

Copyright © 2020 by Guide to Greater Tampabay | Powered by TheRipal

Scroll To Top