"We're Probably Living In The Best Times We May Ever See"
Tampa as Microcosm of Florida's Ironic Prosperity
Tampa Mayor Dick Greco
Tampa Mayor Dick Greco
|In a thoughtful and prophetic welcome to the Tampa Sustainability Workshop, veteran mayor Dick Greco bared the larger heart of Florida's opportunities and obligations.|
Posted 27 January 1998
Welcome, I appreciate being invited here to say thank you to all of you for putting this program together and for having enough confidence in the cities to recognize that this was needed. It gives us a little latitude to do some of the things that we have needed to do.
|". . . people will be coming here forever and ever."||It occurred to me a few weeks ago that we're probably living in the best times we may ever see. The economy is great. Things are going tremendously well, especially for this state. There are so many God-given attributes in Florida that everybody wants to live here. And I don't blame them. Wake up and just look around you. Maybe travel to a northern city this time of year and see what we have. Sometime, we take these things for granted. When I lived on Bay Shore, I would drive down every morning and look at downtown and look at that water and realize that people will be coming here forever and ever. And we are going to have to prepare for that whether we like it or not. One of the things about Florida is once people get here they don't want anyone else to come. But that's just not the way it's going to be.|
I've never seen so many good things happening in this state. And, of course, with good things comes some bad things that we're going to have to also watch. That's part of what this program is all about.
|". . . the things that Tampa needs, we better do right now"||A year or so ago, I got my department heads together. I said the things that Tampa needs, we better do right now because the economy is good and it's somewhat easier. I was just sitting here at the back door thinking of all that we will be doing in the next few years. We've got a hotel closing on property right next door to this (downtown Tampa conference center). They are building a 700 room hotel there. A few years ago, we were having a hard time getting anybody interested. We are going to have another one downtown, one is already underway downtown and yet a fourth one that's talking about going; one in Ybor City; an 800 room hotel out by Busch Gardens. From nothing to six or seven, just almost in a year's time. Which tells you something is happening here.|
|Saks Fifth Avenue (that may seem like nothing) is going to open in one of our malls-something that many of you people nodding your heads over there have been waiting for a long time. That is an indicator, my friend. Something different is going on. They do a lot of research before they open that kind of a department store, research on what people make, what their spendable income is, those types of things.|
|Oozing prosperity||Three condos are going to be built in Tampa in the next year or so. They are going to break ground. They start at $450,000 and go to $2.5 million. There's an apartment complex that you'll see right across from Tampa General Hospital that is about complete. Those rent for as high as $2,000 a month. A few years ago, if someone had said you are going to rent an apartment for $2,000 a month in that area everybody would have thought they were crazy. Some of us who live here don't even realize what is happening. I decided to move across town from one part of Tampa to the other and there have been maybe eight news articles (that's how provincial we have gotten) that I am moving to North Tampa. So what. But the reason being some of them don't realize Harbor Island which is right across from where we are right now. Take a look at that. It is a very nice place. That's how I met my ex-boss Mr. DeBartolo. I wanted him to buy it for less than $3 million. I went over there thinking I might buy a 50-foot lot on the water. It cost $525,000 for 50 feet and they had two left. So you had to hurry. They said, "by the way, we are going to have some larger ones on the tip," larger meaning 65 feet wide, that start at $650,000 to a million and a quarter for the lots.|
|Rich kids||In South Tampa, they are tearing down houses that cost $4-500,000 to build to begin with. When you see this type of thing you realize that your community is really growing. I purchased in a place in North Tampa that has 82 homes that are huge. By comparison to the others, mine will look like a Jim Walter home when I am finished. But I noticed something when I drove through. Everybody had a jungle gym and a basketball hoop in the yard. I said these people must be young. They've got kids. So I looked it up and there's 82 people that live there, the houses start at $600,000 to about $2.5 million and there are 125 kids under 11 years old. On the cul-de-sac where I purchased, there are eight homes and 24 children. We don't even know some of the people that have come in and what they do. And they brought money. Things have changed and they are going to continue to change. But we don't want to get the idea that everything is wonderful. And some of us do begin to think everybody lives like we do, whatever that might be. And I notice that a lot. "This is my area and this is what life is like."|
|A different circle.||But there is also an area of our city that if you took a dot and drew a 4 ½ mile circle the average income per person is $5,200 per year. For 4 ½ miles! Thirteen percent of our population lives in public or subsidized housing. Sixty-five percent of those folks don't have a mother or father relationship in the house. Fifty percent don't have a job. You've got welfare coming to an end in about 20 months. Eight thousand people who have never worked need to find a job. Fifty-one percent of the grammar school kids in this county get subsidized lunches at the school. A lot of times we don't realize that. You mention a part of town to someone who lives in South Tampa or North Tampa they don't know what you are talking about. But what's even worse is that they don't care. When we had a half penny sales tax option I heard people say, "I raised my children, I don't have an obligation to other people's kids." We have to change that kind of an attitude. We have got to care about each other, about our neighbors, about people wherever they live in our community, our state.|
|Using existing infrastructure||And that's partly what this is all about. For instance, to rebuild neighborhoods. It is fine to do it 10 or 12 homes at time, but you'll never make it at that speed. You'll be too far gone. We just started something new here. Unbeknownst to most people for over a year we purchased 233 vacant properties in one area of town. We have about $10,000 a lot in there which is not much and all the infrastructure is already there. So what we are going to do through nonprofit organizations, is to build a bunch of homes and townhouses and so forth.|
|Do the right thing||We also have a program, whereby, somebody that is already in the area can borrow money at no interest for a long period of time. And we'll try to transform that neighborhood. We just got a grant from the federal government for $32 million that we can parlay into maybe $150 million to tear down some of the conventional public housing that we have. So it's a great time. It's a great time not only for our city, but for every city that is represented in this room. We need to take advantage of that. And we need to consider every single person whether they be rich or poor, black or white, and do the best we can to lay a foundation, because Florida is going to soar in the next few years. Some people are in the position where they can't move up, they can't move from one place to another. We want to do the right thing, where everybody is reasonably happy with what they have.|
|"Thank God..."||It is Christmas time. My wife and I are going to build a house. One of the Bucs football players decided to give $5,000 to four different families to lower their down payment so they could move into a home. A couple of weeks ago, I went to the first one where this woman was fourth generation in Tampa and no one ever had a house. She had two children and was not married. People in town furnished the home for free. Had everything she would need to get started--lawn mower, vacuum cleaner, refrigerator, pantry full of food. It was something to see. If you could imagine never having a house. Two of them came out of public housing--never had a house. It's an achievement for all of us and it is a barometer for what your community is when you do something like that. I watched her when she accepted the thing and how emotional it was and I got in the car and said to Linda, (we are still arguing over what size the pool is going to be and how high the spa is going to be), "Thank God we are in that position." And we must not forget there are a lot of people that aren't. And this is about having an opportunity to do that, to take everybody and everything into consideration.|
|We are very fortunate to be Floridians, we are very
fortunate to be in government. And there has never been a better time.|
Mayor Dick Greco