Dade City has traveled a path of success from dilapidated downtown of the 1980s, to one that pulls in people from all over the region today.
Yet, there is still more that can be done.
The Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce has hired Pride Consulting, a student-run organization at Saint Leo University, to steal a glimpse of what Dade City’s downtown might — and should — look like in the future.
“Dade City has this iconic downtown where we have these wonderful antique shops and eclectic restaurants, and it’s really one of a kind,” said John Moors, the Dade City chamber’s executive director.
But as the people change, so may Dade City’s downtown. And Moors said he wants to be ready.
That’s where Pride comes in. Led by John Lax, the marketing instructor at Saint Leo’s Donald R. Tapia School of Business, this group of juniors and seniors from a variety of the school’s business programs provides marketing services to business.
For Dade City, they’ll be working to identify potential models for the district based on research of the community and businesses. They’ll also explore each of those models, and see if there are other towns across the country that Dade City could emulate.
“They’re going to be touring the downtown, teams of like 15 or 20 of them,” Moors said. “They’ll interview some of our merchants, and get in touch with some of our property owners, and get their input.”
That would include what they would like to see, what could help improve Dade City’s downtown, and what might be holding it back.
Pride will continue to work through the winter, and then look to present their findings during a public meeting in March.
Moors also hopes to tackle another issue for Dade City, which he describes as “brain drain.” With both Saint Leo and Pasco-Hernando Community College nearby, there is a lot of academics, but not a lot to hold those students to Dade City when they graduate.
“We don’t know if we’ll find the answers to those questions, but looking at some models might help,” Moors said. “One example might be to have a more artistic type of community, which is extremely important to families, and important to tourism.”
The Dade City chamber has taken the lead on downtown, especially after its former advocacy group — Dade City Main Street — shut down last spring. At the time, Moors said he was confident in downtown’s ability to keep the area vibrant.
“We have a great group of merchants in Dade City,” Moors told The Laker/Lutz News in April. “They’re engaged. They’re active. They’re really committed to the betterment of our downtown, and I think it shows when you look at our downtown.”