How Developers Discovered Tampa’s ‘Best-Kept Secret’

TAMPA, Fla. — When Paul Guzzo first set eyes on Tampa in 1999, he was not impressed.

“I thought, this isn’t a city — it’s a ghost town,” said Mr. Guzzo, a native of Trenton who, like so many other Northerners, had moved south for the balmy weather. “It was like a small town looking to become a big city.”

Against his better judgment, he stayed, and has since been able to observe the gradual metamorphosis of the city’s center: A slew of developments, some completed, others planned or under construction, have imbued Tampa with a sense of dynamism that most people here agree it sorely lacked. Even some of Bill Gates’s billions are in on the action.

“You couldn’t have imagined that it would become what it is,” said Mr. Guzzo, 42, who writes about the area’s history, among other topics, for The Tampa Bay Times. “There’s stuff to do downtown. There are people there 24 hours a day. That’s the difference.”

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