Many cities across the country have instituted fees for developers on projects, usually a certain percentage of the total development costs. Tampa, Florida is no different, according to a Susan Thurston article in the City Times edition of the St. Petersburg Times. Tampa mandates that developers of projects in the downtown’s central business district set aside either 0.75 percent of the total project cost for public art, or give 0.5 percent to the city’s public art fund. Currently, the maximum cost to developers is $200,000.
The city has explored expanding the boundaries to the entire city, raising developers’ contributions to 1 percent, and abolishing the cost cap. Instead, the City Council ended up approving a cap increase of $400,000 and a slight boundary expansion to include commercial and multi-family projects in the Channel District. This is not enough, according to Thurston. She writes that the message the City Council sent was: “Yes, we like public art, but we don’t want to upset our developer friends.” Fortunately for Tampa, the issue is still up for debate.
I chose to write about this article for two reasons. One, to highlight the importance of public art in communities and how requiring a percentage of development costs set aside for public art can help bring more to your community. And second, that we need media personnel like Susan Thurston to bring these issues to the public’s attention – with a positive spin. Please read her article because it offers some great insight on the matter. So many times quality of life issues get bashed by the media – oftentimes because it involves an expansion of “Big Brother” or a raise in taxes. Also, I would encourage you to find your media champion, that person who will always put a positive spin on your livable communities projects. The media plays such an important role in the politics of projects because they can reach such a wide audience. While many in the bike/ped profession may want to stay out of the spotlight when it comes to political issues, it is our duty to make the public aware of how they can benefit from these projects. And the media is perhaps our most valuable resource.