BDG Architects had the privilege to design both these rooftop paradises, and we’re excited that with the initial approval of SPP’s chilled water distribution system, Vinik’s redevelopment plans will be cleared of bulky AC units on top of buildings to make way for spectacular rooftop venues overlooking the water.
Tampa Bay Times
First, it was the water, or more specifically, the waterfront.
Florida long ago realized the huge value in simply allowing people to see it — from epic views of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico to riverfronts, lakesides and the occasional overhyped, alligator-infested borrow pit beside a restaurant. St. Petersburg has known forever what Tampa's just starting to pick up: Parks, bistro tables and walks on your waterfront can really pack a place.
Now things could be looking up all over. That's literally, as in views from on high of our bays, bridges and city skylines from rooftops that sport bars, green spaces, restaurants, even dog parks.
The high-end idea is gaining traction with Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's plans to redo, rebuild and revitalize a sweeping swath of the south side of downtown Tampa. The Tampa City Council gave its initial approval Thursday to an agreement with Vinik's real estate firm, Strategic Property Partners, to put pipes under roads and begin building a chilled water distribution plant to air-condition buildings.
Enthusiastically touted at the City Council meeting as a step toward more walkable, sustainable cities — those cool downtown buzzwords — it would clear the need for traditional giant AC units atop buildings.
And thus, open up all kinds of rooftop potential.
Really, it's amazing we haven't done more of this already. Think about it: Even in the swelter of summer, patrons are willing to fill every ground-level outdoor bistro table, even when the view is just passing cars on a not-so-pretty street (though this option is less appealing to natives who fully appreciate chilly restaurant AC in summer and do not deign to dine outside until fall).
But besides high-rises with private decks, we have not taken full advantage of our rooftop potential around here. Downtown St. Petersburg's Birchwood hotel has the gorgeous, cabana-draped Canopy bar overlooking the water. And Tampa has the rooftop Edge at the Epicurean Hotel, where people sip a spicy mouth-on-fire cocktail called Some Like It Hawt, and where, even with capacity for 142 patrons, they sometimes have to close the doors to more.
"One, it's the view," says Joshua Brock, assistant food and beverage manager. "Two, I don't know, it's a different feel — you're not inside, there's no echoes, you're not in a stuffy hotel bar."
"Nine months out of the year," says Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, "there's not a better place to be than up on a top deck."
Potential? We've got incomparable skies, epic sunsets, respectable city skylines. Heck, when Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano first got here from Dallas and drank in a sunset from atop the airport parking garage — a site well-known to local high schoolers on dates — he talked of putting a tiki bar up there.