Each year, the Westshore Alliance elects a new board of directors to take on leadership roles for the next year. On February 25, 2021, outgoing President Don Skelton passed the gavel to Patrick Kelly as 2021 President of the Alliance. Currently with Franklin Street, Kelly is a seasoned professional with a rich background of experience and a plethora of knowledge in real estate and development. With high hopes for the future, President Patrick Kelly is ready to make a big impact on the Westshore District.
Coming Full Circle
Although stepping up as President in 2021, this term is not Patrick Kelly’s first impactful role within the Westshore Alliance. In fact, he’s been a part of it since the beginning. Back in the early 1980’s, Kelly had returned to the Tampa Bay area with the Vantage Company to focus on some submarkets of the city- one being Westshore. They were looking at some substantial developments, including large office buildings, that would require a Development of Regional Impact (DRI). A DRI is defined as any development which, because of its character, magnitude or location, would have a substantial effect upon the health, safety, or welfare of citizens of more than one county. In the 80’s, the state of Florida had come out with an Areawide DRI- meaning that a district or group of developers could come together to get approval in a more timely and cost-efficient manner. Kelly was approached by other prominent Tampa developers, including Al Austin and Dick Beard, with the idea to band together on an Areawide DRI for the Westshore District. They all came together on the Areawide DRI, hired Ron Rotella for political alliance knowledge, and created what they called the Westshore Development Association.
Around 1988-1989, the Areawide DRI was complete, but the group decided that their involvement in Westshore was not. Rotella brought in a variety of other key stakeholders, the long-term idea for the District came to be, and the Westshore Alliance was born. To the core, the organization still runs DRI related work, but now it is a cross-section for everyone to have a seat at the table, from employers to retail tenants to the city council. “Nothing goes on in the District that we are not aware of and a part of,” says Kelly.
Patrick Kelly’s involvement with the Westshore Alliance goes way beyond his current leadership role. “I like to say that I’ve come full circle,” says Kelly. “I was there at the beginning and now here I am in 2021.”
With Tampa named as the 9th fastest-growing city in the U.S., and the COVID-19 pandemic increasing that speed, there is something about the city that keeps people coming back for more. For Kelly, that meant five moves back to Tampa throughout the course of his career. “The first four times I was moving back to the same town that I had moved to in 1976,” he says. “This past cycle was the biggest difference maker that took us to the next level. We’re not the typical secondary marketplace anymore; people know Tampa Bay and they know us well.”
In Kelly’s opinion, Westshore’s greatest impact on the Tampa Bay area is that they’re all about live, work, and play. “Even if you don’t live or work here, you come to Westshore in some way. You shop in our retail spaces, dine in our restaurants, fly out of the airport, and pass by on your way to the beach,” says Kelly. “In my personal opinion, Westshore is the center of Tampa Bay.”
Plans for the Future: Transforming Westshore
Although Westshore has transformed exponentially since the Alliance’s conception in the 1980s, the team is not done yet. During his term as President, Kelly plans to continue setting up Westshore as more of an urban district. What is the key factor in this goal? Connection and walkability. The main focus remains the effort to redesign West Shore Boulevard. “From Spruce to Kennedy, I would like to fund a more walkable environment that makes it easier for people to get from place to place,” says Kelly.
Without the proper facilities to walk on, residents of the Westshore District are still getting in their cars to drive to work, go shopping and dine at restaurants. The Westshore redesign would increase the connectivity of the neighborhoods for their residents, leading to more walkable commutes. Not only would this have a huge impact on the traffic in the Westshore District, it would have benefits for the environment as well. “I’ve lived in other cities and the walkability becomes contagious,” says Kelly. “People start to see the value in it and start to develop it themselves.”
Along with the shift to an urban district, Westshore continues to expand upon its thriving residential convenience as well. Residential developments are popping up left and right, as many young professionals and families are moving to these brand new complexes and communities in the district. “Some of our studies have indicated that close to 65% of everybody who lives in these apartments that you see being constructed all over the district, actually work in Westshore,“ says Kelly. “Bring those live, work, and play elements closer to you, and people will take advantage of it.”
Leaving a Legacy
Although he is just getting started, Patrick Kelly’s term as President of the Alliance will not last forever. When his reign comes to an end, he hopes to leave a positive legacy. “It’s simple, I just want to leave it as a better place than when I started. This is not a 12 month response but a career response because I’ve been there from the beginning,” he says. “The people I've had the good fortune of working with are the feather in my cap to work with the Alliance and all that it means.”