Amalie Arena, big beautiful empty spaces

Not every urban core urban renewal project turns out well. A number get stuck in times of a slow economy, changing tastes, etc. In general this is to the good, as cities built all at once tend to age and decay all at once. So hitting the pause button may make subsequent plan modifications and build-outs better reflect what works.

Here’s the area around Amalie Arena, in Tampa. The public facilities all share those beloved-of-architects and -planners and -politicans grand plazas of huge open spaces. The public clamors for them too. But all too often they turn out to be desolate wastelands between scattered buildings that discourage walking and urban life, which is predicated on the close proximity of a large variety of varied uses.

The area around Amalie still has potential, but on this visit was falling short. Ironically, on the opposite shore from the Arena was a new urban neighbourhood that was lovely. But I can’t find that story to repeat here.


Anyone with a camera could walk around Amalie Arena in Tampa and make the case for successful city building: long vistas, lush landscaping, waterfront restaurants, bike trail access — catch a game, look at some fish, go for a cruise or stroll back to Hotel High and Monumental. Classic planner porn.

Shown below are pic from the main arena plaza with the Ford garage on the right. Beyond its nice foreground facade, it became a much plainer parking deck. And what’s that beside it, on the left?


An entire city block sized surface parking lot.  I hope it is temporary, until the lot can be developed.



And across the street, with the downtown office towers in the distance, on the other side of the elevated freeway,  were … parking lots the size of LeBreton Flats:



While I could walk to the downtown, and did along the more circuitous riverfront promenade, shown here by the convention centre…


… the direct overland route to the core was ugly and unappealing. It was clearly awaiting that condo boom that hasn’t yet come to fruition.

There were, in the distance, a few residential towers. However, the attractive riverfront areas were further separated from potential residents by a wall of parking structures. Huge ones:


Given the hostile climate — searing summer heat and humidy six months of the year — I could not imagine residents of these buildings walking to downtown offices or shops. They are more likely to drive, or maybe use the streetcar. If walking, there were some large roads to cross, designed to move out all those sports fans, cruise shippers, and downtown employees, altho the wave motif on the overhead highway signs was a nice continuation of other area design themes*



Conclusion:  The plain reality is that Tampa is another motor-age-city, and its form is a diagram of the forces acting during its growth, ie the private automobile, and successful draws like the cruise port or convention centre or arena have to cater to the majority of their custom arriving by private car. There simply isn’t an alternative. No amount of pedestrian walkways and promenades can overcome that.

Which leaves dreams of new  downtown living in highrises close to the action means much of the action is motor traffic, and the core populates and depopulates with the tide. Anyhow, most of the downtown buildings have above-ground garages in them, sometimes 14 floors of them, so street level life is conspicuously absent. Pic on request, adults only.

At least Ottawa, with a potential arena site on the crossroads of two transit lines, has a chance to avoid parking mania. And easy freeway access.

If the will is there.

Not all was bleak on the sparking-urban-renewal front.

A successful new downtown-ish urban redevelopment called Harbor Post was located across the channel, and looked very good. It was built — and some building is ongoing — before the arena and it would be a stretch to credit the arena alone with fostering it. But all the channelside projects together have made the area look very good. If readers are interested, we can do a tour if it another day. The area is popular with professionals, and a number of the Lightning Players apparently live in the snazzier area beyond. I say apparently because access there was through a gated guard post and lacking an invite I had to do pool inspection via google earth …





You can do a flyover of the area if you go to Google Earth and search Amalie Arena in Tampa. It is most edifying. Note also the low rise infill apts to the NE.



* despite my harping on motor mania in modern cities, regular readers of this blog will know I very much admire the boldness of florida engineers in their applications of traffic calming, car-wrecking-size bollards, colourful sign posts, and decorative elements such as the wavy highway signs, which I am sure Ottawa traffic engineers would have heart attacks over as they might confuse the dimwitted folks who drive in Ottawa who apparently cannot be expected to cope with even a red utility post in Chinatown. Warning: In a few days, we’ll tour a Florida bus stop. NSFW.

4 thoughts on “Amalie Arena, big beautiful empty spaces

  1. Have an off topic question and believe you are the person who will know. Having sponsored several metres of Trans Canada Trail, am planning to visit the pavilion with an elderly relative who uses a walker. Know it is on Commissioner Street/Road, enter via Bronson and Albert, but no mention if it can be accessed by car. We will be going downtown from the Sir John A. Parkway. Have checked a current Ottawa map, the Ottawa Bike map, and google earth to no avail. Any information appreciated.

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