Inside Water Street, Tampa’s Central Wellness District

Broad sidewalks and buzzy restaurants are among the features reshaping a slice of downtown Tampa

A wide street between city buildings

Photo: Strategic Property Partners, LLC.

Wide sidewalks along Water Street South.

A new neighborhood is breathing life into downtown Tampa, and it’s centered around health and well-being. What was once a sprawling, mostly vacant spread of parking lots and underutilized space has been transformed into Water Street Tampa, a “fifteen-minute city” developed with the intention to situate daily amenities—grocery stores, fitness centers, restaurants, medical care, workplaces—within a fifteen-minute walk or bike ride of residents.

Bermuda shoreline
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The design of Water Street, which completed its first phase in late 2022 and continues to expand its footprint, focuses as much on the space between buildings as the buildings themselves. Generous, continuous sidewalks (some as wide as forty-five feet), tree-lined streets, bike lanes, and public spaces connect the neighborhood to Tampa’s downtown business district, nearby greenspaces, and the waterfront. The result has garnered recognition from the United States Green Building Council and the International WELL Building Institute. (Water Street is the first neighborhood in North America to receive the gold level of the WELL Community Certification.) 

photo: Strategic Property Partners, LLC.
An aerial view of the neighborhood.

The ability to walk off a meal is especially helpful in an area that has quickly become a culinary destination. Restaurant highlights in Water Street include Boulon Brasserie, an art deco–inspired bistro serving French fare like steak frites and snapper amandine alongside Southern-inspired dishes such as blue crab beignets and Shrimp NOLA. At Predalina, executive chef Billy Zeko borrows flavors from South America, Europe, and New England, and there’s an on-site boutique selling items like candles and olive oil. Brunch, lunch, and dinner at the Pearl are filled with fresh seafood (including an impressive shellfish tower), and there’s seasonal, house-made pie for dessert.

photo: Cameron Mitchell Restaurants
The patio at the Pearl.

For a bird’s-eye view of Water Street’s fifty-plus acres, make reservations at Beacon, Tampa’s highest rooftop bar. At twenty-seven stories up, you can dive into shared plates like steamed buns and tartines and sip cocktails with innovative flavors like sesame, yuzu, and even caviar. If you time it right, you can also watch the sun set into the Gulf of Mexico from the outdoor deck.

Not everything in the vicinity of Water Street is new. The neighborhood is anchored by well-established attractions like AMALIE Arena, where the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning take the ice and concerts are held year-round. The Tampa Bay History Center looks back at ten thousand years through interactive galleries and an especially noteworthy collection of Florida maps. For nearly thirty years, the Florida Aquarium has provided a peek into the natural wetlands and marine life of Florida, including endangered coral reefs.

photo: Strategic Property Partners, LLC.
The lawn of Sparkman Wharf in Water Street.

And while Water Street is built for walking and bicycling, it’s also a convenient jumping-off point for other car-less adventures. The Pirate Water Taxi is a fun way to travel from point A to point B (or take a water tour of the city). The TECO Line Streetcar, with four stops in the neighborhood, is a free and easy way to get to nearby historic Ybor City, and the seasonal Cross Bay Ferry will bring you across the bay to downtown St. Petersburg and back.