The Midtown Tampa Miracle

By Mary Lou Janson

The densely trafficked junction of Interstate 275 and Dale Mabry Highway has long had just one distinction — it’s the midway point between downtown Tampa and Westshore. The lackluster landscape surrounding the intersection never possessed an identity of its own.

Two years ago, that began to change. Ground was broken on a project occupying one quadrant of the highly commercial corridor, and the impossible-to-ignore prime piece of real estate quickly morphed from construction site to a complete community: Midtown Tampa, a $500 million, 23-acre, 1.8 million-square-foot complex that combines Class A offices, apartments, retailers and hotels.

Designed and developed by the Bromley Companies, Midtown has been touted as Tampa’s first urban project to feature a walkable footprint, pet-friendly amenities and a people-focused design. The dual-branded Aloft and Element hotels opened in early January, leaving the remaining tenants to complete build-outs during the first and second quarters of 2021.

“The Midtown development is transformational for the City of Tampa,” said Mayor Jane Castor. “I often say, ‘Tampa’s going to change more in the next 10 years than it has in my entire lifetime’ and this project is one of multiple projects that will be a part of transforming Tampa’s tomorrow.”

Bromley, a national real estate developer and investor, partnered with Highwood Properties, Concord Hospitality, CASTO Southeast Realty and Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate to mold and market Midtown. Bromley’s no new kid on the Midtown block. Its first site acquisition was a foreclosure in the 1990s, followed by purchases of 25 adjacent properties that included a lumber yard and automotive repair shops.

Once the location was secured and plans for a multi-purpose community in place, it was just a matter of finding the right time to break ground. Previously considered, and rejected, uses ranged from an office complex to retail space to a baseball stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.

“We knew that there would never be another opportunity to assemble 20 acres in such a central site in Tampa. We had a real responsibility to wait to do something that would not be another me-too project,” said Nicholas Haines, CEO of Bromley Companies. “We hope Midtown becomes a model for additional development in Tampa and and that its impact extends throughout the area.”

For some, Midtown will be an enviable way to live within a very walkable environment. For hotel guests or for the residents of the 390 high-end apartments in NOVEL Midtown by Crescent Communities, an evening out could entail a short stroll to acclaimed Chef Chris Ponte’s new restaurant or to Midtown Commons, a centralized green space designed to host events such as outdoor concerts or holiday festivities.

Others will make Midtown a favorite destination for shopping and dining. Among the project’s 21 tenants will be this area’s largest Whole Foods Market. There will also be new-to-the-region retailers and personal services such as REI Co-op, which caters to outdoor enthusiasts, and Body Details, Southeast Florida’s largest cosmetic laser service provider for hair, fat and tattoo removal or facial treatments.

Eating and drinking establishments are expected to be a major draw, with Shake Shack making its Tampa Bay debut and the addition of The Hall at Midtown, the latest upscale food hall to open locally. The panoramic view from Sal Y Mar, a new restaurant and lounge connecting the seven-story hotels, is sure to attract crowds.

Among the wellness-focused businesses are a chiropractic treatment center run by the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers chiropractor, Dr. Tommy Rhee; F45 Training, a fitness franchise backed by actor and fitness buff Mark Wahlberg; and BevelUp, a med spa offering non-invasive facial treatments.

“Part of our vision from the beginning was to find businesses that are experiential and service-based,” said Haines, describing an approach that promotes in-person visits rather than online purchases. “What makes Midtown unique is the interplay of uses.”