Planning Commission Library

Plan Hillsborough Library

The Planning Commission Library, located at 601 E Kennedy Blvd, 18th floor, room 1848C, is currently open to the public. Inquiries or to make an appointment, please contact Heather Hill at Research assistance is also available through virtual meetings.

About the Planning Commission Library

The Planning Commission Library was established in 1959 as part of the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission. The Library exists to fulfill the Planning Commission’s Mission which states: The Planning Commission promotes, coordinates, collaborates with, and facilitates the involvement of all people in the long range planning and vision for our community to improve economic development, quality of life, and provide value-added services. To fulfill this mission, we seek to provide a wide-range of material to inform and educate interested parties in long-range planning within Hillsborough County and current trends in planning. As such, it serves both as a library of current and historical resources as well as an archive of planning documents.

Since the mid-1990s, the Planning Commission library has been associated with the Hillsborough County Public Library System. As a partner of the Public Library System, we are able to issue library cards and visitors with a valid library card are eligible to check-out select materials in our collection. Our holdings are searchable through the library’s online catalog. Search and view some of our collection through the public library system.

As the repository of documents from the agencies that comprise Plan Hillsborough, the library’s holdings includes records associated with the Transportation Planning Organization (TPO), the Hillsborough River Interlocal Planning Board & Technical Advisory Council in addition to the Planning Commission. These holdings include an extensive collection of early urban plans, photographs from the mid-century, along with historical studies about Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa. Major holdings include:

  • Long range transportation plans and Transportation Improvement Programs;
  • Transportation studies including rail studies and mass transit;
  • Environmental studies including green building;
  • Current and historical comprehensive plans such as the George W. Simons plans for the City of Tampa;
  • A large collection of Presidential papers related to the implementation of public policies;
  • The complete print run of the Florida Statistical Abstract published by the Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR);
  • There are also administrative records and reports from various City and County departments;
  • The oblique aerial viewer which incorporates approximately 175 aerial photographs of the City of Tampa from 1957-1960. Search and view these photographs through an interactive storymap.

The Planning Commission Library also maintains an aggressive purchase policy to update its collection of planning related monographs and material concerning Florida and Hillsborough County history. We also subscribe to a wide selection of planning related peer-reviewed journals.


The Planning Commission librarian is available to consult on and assist in detailed research projects including: mapping and spatial analysis, demographic research, historical trends, and residential and commercial permitting. The Planning Commission librarian maintains an extensive collection of Census products and frequently assists both grant writers and business analysts in determining the overall business climate of the county.

For more information, please contact Heather Hill, our library technician, at or call 813.793.2314.



Planning Commission digs up historical archives for American Archives Month

archived photo of a group of childrenAs part of the celebration of American Archives month, we gathered items from our archives, and elsewhere, to showcase the importance archives have in preserving and documenting our collective memory. The items presented here document the history of planning in Hillsborough County, inform how we remember the past, and how the past informs the present. As will be shown, many of our most vexing planning challenges were being contemplated 70+ years ago.
Hillsborough River Boulevard Study (1941)

In the 1945 Comprehensive Plan for Tampa, just after page 56 on an unpaginated diagram (Diagram 9), there exists a tantalizing rendering of a proposed scenic boulevard to run 7 miles along the Hillsborough River. Designed by the famous Olmsted architecture firm (Frederick Law Olmsted – visionary architect responsible for Central Park in New York City), the Hillsborough River Boulevard was intended to be a counterpart to Bayshore Boulevard and would run from Lowry Park to Downtown Tampa.

map of the Hillsborough River Boulevard study (1941)

The 1945 Comprehensive Plan for Tampa remains silent on the status of this project but most likely by 1945 the project had shifted from prospective to speculative. The Library of Congress digitized the Olmsted firm’s records and correspondences and these records indicate this project was active for the years 1931-32.[1] Why the project failed to materialize is not mentioned in the extant records. Most likely the culprit could be the project was proposed during the Great Depression when public funds were scarce. Additionally, the correspondence in the Olmsted files reflects tension between Olmsted’s staff and the Tampa Garden Club who proposed this project. This tension could have made it difficult for a fruitful collaboration to begin. As the Olmsted letter states:

She [President of the Tampa Garden Club] was very vague minded about the whole thing. An extremely active and energetic person she does, nevertheless, bear an extraordinary resemblance to the Hapsburgs who never learned anything and never forget anything. As much as she has had me work for her and deliver lectures she still does not know what landscape architects do or how they go about to do it. She thinks we make blueprints…In the meantime the job is a decidedly prospective one.

Traffic Survey Report and Limited Access Highway Plan (1947)

After World War II, the State of Florida tried to address the post-war growing pains by initiating traffic studies to plan for prospected growth. One of the earliest such plans was from 1947. The Traffic Survey Report and Limited Access Highway Plan, prepared jointly by the State of Florida’s Roads Department and the Public Roads Administration, sought by way of survey to track the flow of traffic throughout the City of Tampa. This report illustrates the growing pains in the City as well as foreshadowing the growth of the suburbs. Congestion is felt to be a growing concern impeding the ability of residents to travel within the City easily and rapidly. The illustration included from the report, Plate 7: Origination and Destination of All Vehicles, reveals the flow of transportation.

Limited Traffic Study page 1Limited Traffic Study page 2

As the report states:

Traffic converges to the central business district in two well-defined patterns; from the north and from the southwest. A lesser pattern but of considerable importance is shown from the east. These patterns practically dictate the locations of much needed arteries of the limited access or throughway design.

These “locations of much needed arteries” would be addressed in the 1950s with the passage of the Federal Highway Act and construction of interstates.

Report on the City Plan (1951)

The 1951 Report on the City Plan was the first Master or Comprehensive Plan prepared for the City of Tampa by George Simons that included a land use map. Relatively rudimentary and bereft of the multiple land use categories we have come to expect, the Master Plan map illustrates the areas of the city that were either residential, commercial, or industrial. The map also identifies areas ripe for redevelopment and, in some cases, these redevelopment areas were at the expense of the City’s African-American community. The map and the report were products of the work of George W. Simons, a planner under contract with the City of Tampa for approximately 18 years. Simons’ tenure as planner in residence would be marked by several plans and reports for the City of Tampa and many of these were firsts. These include the first major street plan (1941), the first modern zoning code (1942), and comprehensive plans (1945, 1951, 1957).

1951 Tampa Master Plan1940 Simons Contract

At that time, especially in the South, it was not uncommon for local governments to eschew the creation of a formal planning board or commission preferring instead to rely on consultants. This practice of relying on an outside, expert authority lasted until the late 1950s when it was largely impossible for one consultant to manage the planning needs for a municipality. The rapid post-war growth and population boom created needs that could only be met by a professional staff. The rapid professionalization of the planning field, the requirement that Federal grants were contingent on in-housing planning departments and a shift in public priorities led to the creation of planning commissions and departments across the country. This spelt the demise of planning consultants serving as de facto planning departments.

Beyond Today (1996-2005)

Beyond Today was a television series that aired for 9 years from 1996 to 2005 on Hillsborough TV-22 (HTV-22). The series ran for approximately 75 episodes and focused on a wide range of planning issues. The brainchild of Robert Hunter, FAICP, and Ramond Chiaramonte, FAICP, the show was originally intended as a companion-piece to the Planning Commission’s Vision document for the update to the Comprehensive Plan. However, the show was a success for local planning and the agency continued producing episodes after the subject matter in the Vision document had been explored.

Beyond Today logo screenEach thirty-minute episode was hosted by Ramond Chiaramonte with usually one or two guests to discuss a specific topic related to planning. Frequently, guests were elected or appointed officials who enjoyed the opportunity to discuss their ideas as to how Hillsborough County should develop within a 20-25-year horizon. For example, then-Mayor Dick Greco was a guest on the episode focusing on the transformation of the Channel District. At the time the episode aired, little development was underway for the Channel District but the foundation for its redevelopment was being discussed.

As host of the program, Ramond Chiaramonte expanded the subject matter of the program over its nine years of existence. Among the topics he explored were school planning, planning for the Hillsborough River, land use and transportation, and even an episode devoted to Hillsborough County’s bid for the 2012 Olympics. As Mr. Chiaramonte notes, many of the topics and ideas taken for granted by planners today were open for debate 25 years ago and were not readily accepted. Beyond Today provided a forum for these debates. As Chiaramonte states:

The period we did the show in from the mid 90’s into the beginning of the new century was one of questioning and rethinking the way we developed our communities.  Planning is very much like most parts of society that have dramatic changes and then periods of implementation.  I think we are in the later period now.  We accept that the car is not the ultimate solution to our transportation problems.  We accept that a lot of people want a walkable convenient neighborhood.  We accept the environment is important.  That was not the case when the show was on TV.  We were still in the debate stage.  We are now in the implementation stage where we know what we want right now and are figuring the most efficient ways of making it happen.

Of the approximate 75 episodes aired, 35 have been digitized and posted on YouTube for viewing.

The photographs of Lewis Hine

The last item in this article (and earliest records in this collection of archives) relates to the photographs of Lewis Hine. These photographs are not part of the Planning Commission archives. Rather, these photographs are held by both the National Archives and the Library of Congress and are available for download. [1] They constitute a rich source of material on urban and rural conditions, labor force practices, family life and other issues. In recent years, these photographs have become quite popular for illustrative and decorative purposes. Yet, at times, these photographs have been repurposed for uses that belie their subject matter.

The photographs displayed above taken in 1911 and 1913, respectively, document child labor in the City of Tampa. The photograph on the left is taken in a cigar factory bears the title:  A Tampa, Fla., cigarmaker adolescent, Many beautiful girls in the business. The one on the right bears the title, Some of Tampa’s youngest newsboys, waiting for the evening edition 4 P.M. Location: Tampa, Florida. They are part of a series of photographs that Lewis Hine made on behalf of the National Child Labor Committee.

Travelling the country from 1908 and 1924, Lewis Hine documented the working and living conditions of children on behalf of the Committee. The Library of Congress includes a collection of over 5,100 photographs he took. As such, these photographs are some of the earliest documentation of urban life, work, and the roles children played in the economy. Locally, we know that Lewis Hine visited Tampa at least twice, possibly more, from a memorandum Lewis Hine sent to the headquarters of the National Child Labor Committee and which the Library of Congress shared with Planning Commission staff. Entitled, Child Labor in the Cigar Industry, and dated March 1911, the two-page memorandum summarizes Hine’s most recent findings in the City of Tampa.

St the time of his writing, Lewis Hine found only a handful of children employed in the cigar industry under the age of 10. While this may be true, his photographs amply demonstrate the role of children in other trades in the City of Tampa. His photographs document children, mostly boys, as Western Union telegram and newspaper deliverers. Likewise, a close examination of his photographs of the cigar industry reflect the gendered roles of work. However, it is in reading the memorandum that underscores the strong biases of the time. He quotes the Secretary of the Associated Charities in Tampa who characterized the mostly Hispanic (and immigrant) workforce as having “rampant venereal diseases due to lax morals.” There is also some mention of cocaine usage and its availability.[2] Then, the memorandum abruptly terminates providing no further information.

Planning Commission staff sought additional information from the Library of Congress related to Hine’s work in Tampa. Alas, only the one memorandum and the photographs are currently available. While these remain a rich source of information documenting the early development of the City of Tampa, they also leave researchers asking more questions. However, the Lewis Hine collection demonstrates the important role archives play in preserving heritage and bearing witness to the past even when the archival record is unfavorable or unpleasant. To his credit, the work Lewis Hine prepared and promoted through the National Child Labor Committee led to Federal legislation establishing minimum ages for work as part of New Deal legislation in the 1930s.

In conclusion, American Archives month is a special time to explore the resources available through libraries, public-archives and the special collections at universities. There are many studies, reports and plans available that can inform the planning process, illuminate the past and contextualize the present.

[1] For more on the Olmsted records, visit

2 In today’s dollars, that would be equivalent to $341,027.

3 The National Archives has a collection of Lewis Hine photographs at: and the Library of Congress maintains their own collection at:

4 The use of cocaine may be true. According to Michael Mundt in his 1996 article, Deplorable Conditions”: Tampa’s Crisis of Law and Order in the Roaring Twenties, he states: By 1923, narcotics had become a serious concern among Tampa citizens. The Tampa Times published an expose revealing what most Tampans already knew: the city was plagued by morphine and cocaine dealers and addicts, or “dope fiends.”