Charlotte, Tampa to showcase smart growth features at this year's political conventions

The Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa Bay, FL, overlooking the Tampa Riverwalk, will host this year’s Republican National Convention. Photo by Flickr user Judy Malley.

Republicans and Democrats alike will be enjoying the benefits of smart growth strategies later this summer as both parties prepare for their respective conventions.

The Republican National Convention will take place in late August at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, a 670,000 sq. ft. arena that’s normally home to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The arena overlooks the scenic Hillsborough River and the Tampa Riverwalk, a 2.6-mile riverfront walkway that connects the Forum with restaurants, shops and parks in the area.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn touted the revitalization of Tampa’s downtown at a Pre-Convention Playbook Breakfast hosted by Politico in Washington, D.C. last week. He particularly noted the areas along the Riverwalk.

“There’s huge explosion in young professionals downtown,” Buckhorn said. “This is occurring around the country but especially in Tampa. Tampa is leading Florida out of the recession and that’s being driven by the young professionals downtown. They’re saying want the convention-goers are going to say when they see the riverfront, which is, ‘Wow, I didn’t know this was here’.” Though a Democrat, Buckhorn said the Republican convention is a great opportunity to show off Tampa to the nation.

A map of the Tampa Riverwalk, which connects the Tampa Bay Times Forum to shops, apartments, offices and parks in the area. Image via The Tampa Riverwalk.

Tampa’s riverfront revitalization has been made possible, in part, by a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The $10.9 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant awarded just last month will help the City connect three gaps in the Riverwalk and complete the contiguous trail. DOT’s TIGER program is part of the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

The Democratic National Convention, meanwhile, will be held in early September at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, NC. The Arena is located in the heart of Uptown Charlotte, a neighborhood proud of its vision “as pedestrian-friendly and walkable, with comfortable and interesting neighborhoods… [and] a vibrant central business district with diverse choices of housing stock and a complement of great cultural, sports and dining destinations.”

Charlotte’s LYNX light rail passes by the Time Warner Cable Arena. Photo by Flickr user James Willamor.

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx also spoke at the Playbook Breakfast, and discussed how his city has changed its development strategies to better welcome visitors like the Democratic Convention. Foxx noted that convention-goers will have easy access to the Arena from the LYNX light-rail system, which was put into place by his Republican predecessor, Pat McCrory, now running for governor of North Carolina.

“Historically, these issues have been less partisan,” Foxx said. “Charlotte is growing by 30,000 people every year. People are coming for all kinds of reasons. Our challenge as a city is integrating thousands of new people without raising our air quality problems and commute times. Transit infrastructure is so critical.”

In his budget proposal to President Obama for fiscal year 2013, DOT Secretary Ray LaHood has recommended new funding for a 9.3-mile extension of the LYNX Blue Line light rail line that will bring additional transit service to and from downtown Charlotte.

Republicans and Democrats alike are both convening in places that have invested in smart growth strategies. You can voice your support for these strategies too: click here to speak out for the Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

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