Tampa could be 'economic engine' with Water Street project

Mayor Bob Buckhorn just exudes of excitement when talking about the ongoing transformation of downtown Tampa.

One of those projects is Water Street, turning the parking lots and space around Amalie Arena into 32 new buildings, restaurants, shops and hotels.

"Those young people want to live downtown, work downtown, want to play downtown, recreate downtown they want mass transit as an option ... they don't want to live in the 'burbs, they want to live in a hip, cool diverse city and that's what we are becoming" Buckhorn told Fox 13 News. He added, "this city over the next 10 years, south of Atlanta, will be the dominant economic engine of the southeast. I am absolutely convinced of it."

That means more people, more tax revenue and more growth for the city which will have added up to 4,000 residential units in the next two years.

The mayor says over the next five years to a decade, the city could see 10 to 15 thousand units to accommodate the demand.

"You need the ability to move people around the community," Buckhorn said. "I think at some point if something is not done I will leave this office after 8 years with the single greatest disappointment: not solving this transportation problem. Unfortunately, the city is dependent on the county commission. We have found that they're not the greatest partners in this transportation debate, So we are at the mercy of the county and held hostage. If it were up to the city, we would have had it resolved a long time ago."

Revitalizing downtown -- which he calls the Tampa's "front door" -- specifically, Water Street, will cost $3 billion. Tens of millions coming from the city for sewer, new streets... infrastructure. Money that has been already generated in that financial district that -- by law -- has to be spent back in the same district.

The payout is something the mayor says the city hasn't had for a long time..

"They see it and they feel it and they see their grand kids coming home. They see the Nightlife changing and the downtown changing and Bayshore being beautified and they see us on national TV hosting these big events," Buckhorn said. "It's pretty exciting and the key is to keep people believing and to know that the best days are yet to come."