Why Millennials Are Moving To Tampa.

in Strategy & Trends | by Emily Joseph

After living in Tampa for more than five years there are a few things I know for certain: 1) There is no better place to run, walk, bike or drive than Bayshore Blvd., 2) People go gaga for Gasparilla, 3) When Jeff Vinik speaks, everyone listens. And two weeks ago when he, along with eight 40-under Tampa executives spoke about the city’s growth, I was one of 500 attendees eager to hear how Tampa is making waves—and catering to millennials.

Spoiler alert: if you aren’t already living here, you’ll want to be.

The First Annual Millennial Impact Forum, hosted by Newtown Connections, brought together young professionals ages 20-40 to hear about the downtown and Channelside revitalization. After an hour of mingling and cocktailing in Amalie Arena, the main event began: a panel of nine community leaders and business owners, moderated by Roberto Torres, president of StandUp Tampa and co-founder and president of the Blind Tiger Cafe, CoWork Ybor and Black and Denim Apparel Co.

While each speaker held the floor twice throughout the evening, most of the questions were directed at Mr. Vinik— to which he shrewdly responded, “I guess if you own the building you get all the questions.” I’d go one step further and say, I guess when you are investing in making Downtown Tampa a work-live-play district with shops, businesses, academic centers and entertainment, you get all the questions.

Mr. Vinik’s plans for 2027 are big. In 10 years you can expect:

  • 30,000 residents in the downtown area (up from the current 6,000)
  • High and low residential price points
  • Amenities like restaurants, shopping, parks, playgrounds and outdoor gathering spaces
  • More tech startups
  • Multiple transportation options (the goal is to leave your car parked as much as possible!)
  • A vibrant downtown filled with a range of people, from millennials to empty nesters to people who just want to be Tampreneurs.

As millennials want room to grow—their careers, startups, relationships and maybe eventually their families—they need (read: want) a city that supports their endeavors. However, as a millennial, I’d be lying if I said that’s all we want. Those “nice-to-haves,” like good weather, proximity to beaches, friendly people, and a lower cost of living are very, very important. As Tampa outdoes itself on those lifestyle factors, the missing links right now are innovation, the structure of downtown living and community—but solutions are already in the works.

Throughout the Forum I was equally as excited to hear about the tangible benefits of the revitalization project as I was to hear about the intangible benefits and the social progress being made. The other panel speakers, including New Town Connections founder Andrew Machota, spoke about community-related issues such as social media, feminism, and social activism. The core of their discussion hit an all-too-common issue in society, not niche to Tampa: how to build relationships in a smartphone-dominant era. Or rather, WHY relationships and in-person connections are so powerful.

The vision for 2027 is a city that fosters human connection and creates memorable experiences for residents and visitors.

I’ll admit, I’m one to text instead of call, I sometimes get lost in my cell phone screen and, yes, I documented the Forum on social media. But I deeply resonated with the conversation around, well, conversation. There needs to be more spoken word and less texted word (written word will remain strong). While I will likely want to Instagram the beautiful waterfront buildings that will adorn the Tampa skyline, the idea is to post the photo and then be fully immersed in every activity and with the people I’m bound to meet.

I left the Forum feeling proud of the “current” Tampa and energized to create new memories in tomorrow’s Tampa. When I consider Mr. Vinik’s vision, plus the fact that it’s 75 degrees and sunny in February, I’m confident in my decision to move here after college. I’m eager to see the changes ahead and I’m ready to do my part as an active member of the community.