Economy – Of Booms, Basements, and Bombast
Last week, regarding economic development, we spoke of a culture of diminished expectations that has held us back. See “Economic Development – The Quest for an HQ”. Diminished expectations are a private phenomenon that manifests itself in excessive hype and exaggerating accomplishments, saying that something which may be just good or ok is actually superlative, as well as settling. (See exaggerated comments regarding the Amazon warehouse. See “Amazon – Time to Hunker Down”) While there are achievements, they are often portrayed as far more substantial than they really are. While we understand the tendency to play up accomplishments, doing so interferes with our actual progress by distorting what is actually going on. (And it is all a sign of lack of faith in the ability and potential of this area.)
See what you can see in some recent articles.
– A Means to an End
This week, there were a few articles about tourism culminating in a Tribune editorial about the benefits of tourism.
It may not be readily apparent to those of us who call this place home, but Tampa is setting tourism records at a remarkable pace. A rebranding of the area and a concentrated marketing push, along with the fading recession, have propelled the number of visitors — and the dollars they spend here — to levels that might soon put Tampa in the same company as the state’s perennial top tourist draws — those being Disney World and the other theme parks near Orlando, and the famed international nightlife and beaches near Miami.
Visit Tampa Bay, the county’s publicly funded promotions engine behind the robust numbers, reports hotel revenues in Hillsborough County climbed to $524 million in fiscal year 2014, a 13 percent jump over the previous year. Hotel bookings, known in the industry as room nights, topped 760,000 with an estimated economic impact of $374 million related to those bookings.
It is good that tourism is up, though the comparison to Orlando (or Miami) is based on a state statute with a threshold to increase bed taxes, not pure numbers.
The tourism growth feeds a key economic engine in this area and in the state, and the counties that excel are rewarded. Counties generating $30 million in annual bed tax receipts are designated by the state as “high-impact” tourism counties and eligible to collect 6 percent bed taxes on hotel room stays rather than the 5 percent allowed for other counties.
Hillsborough is about $6 million shy of that $30 million amount, and Visit Tampa Bay is focused on a mission to cross that threshold in three years, joining Orange, Miami-Dade and Pinellas counties, among others.
Note that it is a goal of the Governor to have a hundred million tourists per year visit Florida and Orlando already has over half of that at 59 million. Given that and that Miami, Pinellas and other areas are ahead of Hillsborough, clearly Hillsborough County is nowhere close to Orlando (and probably not close to Miami). Setting aside that hyperbole,
According to Santiago Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, the numbers show Tampa is fast becoming a destination for leisure travelers and conventioneers who couldn’t find the city on a map just 10 years ago.
“People used to ask me where in Miami is Tampa,” says Corrada, who served nine years in a variety of roles under two Tampa mayors and was hired to run the nonprofit Visit Tampa Bay about 18 months ago.
Apparently, all the Super Bowls and other events, marketing pushes, mayors, etc., back then were not successful. Why didn’t the Tribune report about the failures back then? In any event,
The area would not be setting tourism records had the community not made sensible investments through the years in developing such attractions as the Florida Aquarium, the Lowry Park Zoo, the Riverwalk, the Tampa Bay History Center, Amalie Arena and the Tampa Convention Center. Historic preservation efforts, particularly in Ybor City, have also paid off.
Once again, it is good there are more tourists. And the listed investments were useful, though when they were first proposed many were oversold as panaceas, which they were not. (See “USF Med School – Rhetorical Rerun”) Nevertheless, we’ll take it the increase, for now.
On the other hand, a dose of reality. We are not alone setting tourism records. In fact, it seems that tourism generally is on the rebound. Some other places setting tourism records are Pinellas, Miami , Orlando, Jacksonville, Sarasota, Galveston , Abilene, Georgia, Illinois , Louisiana, and the Alabama beaches. (Frankly, we got bored searching all the places setting records.)
The point is this: tourism is fine, and we are glad we are breaking records. On the other hand, it is part of a state and national trend, so let’s not get giddy.
And getting back to that economic engine thing. Yes, tourism is an economic engine (especially if you own the hotels) but it is way down on the list of accomplishments. Most hospitality jobs are low wage jobs, which is a recurring problem for our area. (See the next sub-item.)
Yes, tourism brings some money into the economy. But the best thing about tourism is that it provides exposure to people who could potentially chose to move here and build the economy and it allows us to grow things like air service and restaurants that can also help attract more lucrative businesses to the area. To parlay tourism into more than just low wages jobs requires viewing tourism as a tool, not an end in itself.
Go ahead, build tourism and be happy that it is growing, but keep the hype in check because it is not the real prize.
– Yes, It’s Cheap, but Can You Afford It?
Economic development leaders like to tout the low cost of living and low cost of doing business to promote this area. However, despite the hype, what that has historically attracted is companies focused on low wage jobs (to go along with the tourism jobs). And that creates problems – for instance:
Stung by a median income that ranks dead last among the nation’s 25 largest metropolitan areas, middle-class families in Tampa Bay are unable to afford median-priced homes, according to a new study by financial adviser website interest.com.
Home affordability isn’t the problem. In fact, Tampa Bay’s median home price of $156,000 is fourth most affordable among the biggest 25 cities. Only Pittsburgh, Detroit and St. Louis are more affordable.
But that median income figure is a major drag for Tampa Bay and leaves middle class families with incomes 3 percent short of the money needed to buy even the most average of homes. (The 3 percent shortfall is a slight improvement from last year, but still not much to brag about).
So the houses are not very expensive, but, because of low wages, they are still not affordable to the middle class. In other words, the low cost of living does not help much if you make even less money – which is the case for far too many here. (Yes, the market is a roller coaster, like this, but the point remains). Aside from housing, that affects the market for other amenities, including everything from clothes to dining to cars. It is all a result of policies that have pushed real estate, services, and hospitality as the key to growth. As we have said for years, we need to focus on higher paying jobs to build up the income levels. The spin-off effects will lift others, pushing the economy to a new level. Yes, that is a common talking point now, but, based on the consistently poor rankings, the real successes are still not very common.
And then there is this:
The latest evidence of hardship comes courtesy of the U.S. Department of Commerce, which released data Thursday showing per-capita personal income rose a tepid 1.3 percent in Tampa Bay in 2013, trailing the nationwide average of 2 percent.
Bottom line: Tampa Bay residents, on average, made $40,425 in 2013, up from $39,903 in 2012, but far shy of the U.S. average of $44,765 and even more distant from the per capita income in all metro areas: $46,177.
Among area counties, income in Pasco grew at the fastest clip of 2 percent. But with per capita income of $32,975, Pasco has a long way to go to catch up to Pinellas ($45,574), Hillsborough ($40,680), and even Citrus ($34,380). Only Hernando, which also historically suffers from the highest unemployment rate in the region, posted a lower average income: $31,422.
Starting low and growing slow. And “all metro areas” includes more than just “major” metro areas.
When people speak of our boom, keep in mind what that means – one of the lowest per capita gross metropolitan products and the lowest average income of major metros in the country is doing better than it had been (especially if you do not count pre-recession). But the numbers above make it clear, we are still not doing very well.
– Forever Blowing Bubbles?
Another place that there is boom talk, at least as far as proposals (though not yet in actual buildings), is in downtown Tampa. Given our economic performance, that raises questions which we have raised and that were echoed by a column in the Times.
Not to pooh-pooh the growing celebration of more and more apartment and condo towers proposed or already under construction in downtown Tampa. But — please — let’s not become so euphoric that we end up in a real estate bubble in the core of this emerging city.
It’s the tower craze that begs caution. More than nine major residential towers are going up or preparing to do so with enough combined housing to add at least 10,000 new people to the downtown area. That number is practically the size of the city’s downtown residential population just a few years ago. Nor do those numbers include lesser-sized residential buildings in the works as well as those rising along Bayshore Boulevard or in the massive Encore project just outside the downtown core.
The question is how many towers — the vast bulk of them expecting to charge monthly rents ranging from $1,200 to more than $3,000 based on apartment size, amenities and view — can be introduced into a modest market all at once.
For a variety of reasons, we are all for building up downtown. But it is legitimate to ask who is going to fill all these buildings. (Probably not med students.)
We have been here before (note that the County Center is a speculative building in a previous “boom” that never had a single tenant and was bought at a large discount by the County. Also note that in the last boom there were a number of large proposals for downtown/Channel District that never came off (just look at the items on this list with proposal dates). A fixation with towers, or even non-tower projects – really just fixation on real estate – alone is misplaced, as nice and exciting as they may be. Without developing the full economy (including, but not limited to, real estate), the buildings will eventually struggle. As we have noted many times, all these things are connected.
If we were in downtown Miami, city leaders would ridicule such concerns. Miami goes through real estate booms and busts like the Bucs go through quarterbacks. The glaring difference between Miami and Tampa is that Miami is the lucky recipient of a firehose of Latin American flight capital, money that gets plowed into its giant condo towers (even those still on the drawing boards) as safe investment havens beyond the reach of grabby Latin governments.
Tampa gets very little of that action. Miami might wince at only nine new towers going up in its downtown, where 1.25 acres of mostly vacant land along Biscayne Bay sold this summer for $125 million and where nine of 10 buyers are typically from abroad.
The fact is that Tampa has always lacked really strong dynamics. Sure, some people have made good money in development, but there is a constant boom-bust cycle because the fundamentals of the market are based on real estate and other low wage industries, not a strong, diverse, relatively high income, business base. Additionally, we start our booms late and begin our busts early because of that and, as has been noted a number of times recently, it takes a while for investors to decide Tampa is worth the risk. See here. Though this is not an issue with the Lightning owner’s plans.) We have no idea how long the boom, such as it is, will last, but until the economy is fully addressed, the boom-bust cycle will continue.
We hope there is good amount of building downtown, which be an achievement – though years behind our competitors. (See a couple of Austin pictures here and here and this Denver blog. It should come as no surprise that the per capita GMP in Austin (29.8%) and Denver (53.4%) is much larger than that in the Tampa Bay area and the development is a result of that. See “Economic Development – How Are We Doing?”) However, we are not sure how having the lowest income levels of any major metro is “our time.”
Yes, there are successes – like getting Lufthansa and Bristol-Myers Squibb (and, though nothing has happened yet so it cannot be a success now but in the future, if built as advertised, the Lightning owner’s development). Yes, things have gotten better over the decades. Yes, the area has matured some. But other places have improved and matured more, which is the real issue. We are not competing with the 1995 Tampa Bay area. We are competing with other similarly sized metros today and in the future, and, right now, we are not even average.
The reality is that, even though we may have a good line-up of potential assets, we are starting from so far behind – and lack some crucial things like proper transit and multiple, real urban areas in our cities (not just downtown) – that even some good accomplishments will not necessarily get us to where we need to be while other keep moving ahead.
Even if we get nice development downtown and an HQ (things we are all for), it will take a long, sustained effort to really get the Tampa Bay area to where it should already be – among the usual suspects. And being among that group of cities should be the expectation. Be pleased when good things happen, but know where we really stand and do not be satisfied.
– Half Lessons/Incomplete Analysis: Pittsburgh
Speaking of improvement, one of our consistent mistakes as an area is to latch onto an idea that may have merit and then treat it as though it were a magic key that will unlock amazing prosperity. Recently, it has involved the push to move the USF Med school downtown, an idea which has some merit. We have documented how the idea been promoted in the same fashion as previous ideas that did not panned out as advertised. (See “USF Med School – Rhetorical Rerun” and “USF Med School – The Editorial”) This week there was an article in the Business Journal regarding Pittsburgh as a model for our redevelopment.
Between the redevelopment of the Kress building and a potential medical school in downtown Tampa, there’s an undeniable buzz around the urban core. And yet the city has been here before — poised for a downtown renaissance that would make it the next great Sunbelt city.
You can say that again. When do we stop being next and actually get there? (and note that being a great city involves also looking beyond downtown.)
What could make this push a success goes beyond development deals. The key to revitalizing downtown Tampa lies in fixing a fundamental problem: Growing a highly skilled, highly paid workforce — the type of demographic that entices real estate investors and developers, because they have assurance that there will be sustained demand for their projects.
That’s what makes a University of South Florida medical campus in downtown Tampa so compelling; the potential ripple effects are enormous. It would be an anchor for Tampa Bay Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik’s plans for downtown, if a deal comes to fruition. But it would also likely spin off ancillary businesses, as biotechnology and health care companies want to cluster near the medical school — and the talent pool there.
Setting aside that the article ignores what happens to all the existing institutions near USF’s main campus that were supposed to build the knowledge based economy there (for instance see here) and about which there is no apparent plan if the med school leaves, we are all ears.
Today, Pittsburgh has a technology workforce that includes more than 600 Google Inc. jobs and has racked up innumerable “best place to live/eat/work” accolades from national media outlets. But it wasn’t always that way — the city was on a steady decline from the mid-1980s until the early 2000s, with Murphy serving as mayor from 2000 to 2006.
There’s a parallel between Pittsburgh’s crisis and the effects of the housing market crash on Tampa, though Mayor Bob Buckhorn said Pittsburgh was in a much more dire situation than Tampa. There’s also a similarity between the two mayors, with Buckhorn’s unyielding emphasis on downtown Tampa mirroring Murphy’s approach, characterized in the Pittsburgh Business Times as ” hard-nosed, take-no-prisoners” leadership. (Though it’s important to note that Murphy wasn’t without his critics, who opposed the amount he spent on downtown projects, some of which failed.)
Here the article – and whatever point it is trying to make – loses direction. It started off talking about developing downtown, then goes to knowledge based economy, then to Pittsburgh and Google. So what is the problem?
It says that Pittsburgh was worse off than Tampa, and in many ways that is true – weather, loss of a main industry, population loss, etc. On the other hand, regarding the knowledge based economy, Pittsburgh was much better off (just not downtown). Pittsburgh is home to Carnegie Mellon University, which is not downtown but has long been an innovation hub. (see here, here, and here) It also has the University of Pittsburgh, which is almost immediately adjacent to Carnegie Mellon – a real knowledge cluster (just not downtown).
As for Google, it first came to Pittsburgh to be part of a Carnegie Mellon center. It then moved to a renovated Nabisco factory and expanded. (And note that the factory is even farther from downtown than the Carnegie Mellon campus.)
Moreover, Pittsburgh already had and infrastructure to reinvent itself: large local benefactors, a large corporate presence, the Carnegie and other long established institutions, transit, and strong local loyalty. Also, the redevelopment push in Pittsburgh began decades ago with things like the Pittsburgh Technology Center, work on which started in the 1980s on the site of defunct steel mills. (You can read more in this 10 part blog series that was referenced by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. And note that the Post-Gazette portion indicates the failures of the mayor referenced in the Business Journal article.)
So why is that relevant? Because the discussion about using Pittsburgh as a model for downtown redevelopment is not based on facts. Moreover, the areas are not really comparable. (If you are talking about region wide development, they may be a bit more comparable.) No doubt, there are things to be learned from Pittsburgh (and other area brought up in the USF med school discussion). But to learn those things, you have to deal with the facts as they are, not as you want them to be. And you have to set aside the hype. And that has simply not been done.
While we agree that developing nice, urban neighborhoods is a key to attracting talent and higher paying jobs and we are all for developing downtown – and we are not even opposed to moving the USF med school provided it is a done with a good plan for the related institutions it is leaving behind on and near the main campus (of which we have heard nothing) – it has to be remembered that the promises made about USF med school have been made over and over again about other developments (the failure to meet those promises is made clear by the perceived need to move the USF med school). And there are other factors to building the economy and creating sustainable growth for a whole area (including planning how to maintain momentum in the institutions on the main campus).
We believe the Tampa Bay area has many assets and a great amount of potential. However, to maximize those assets and reach that potential requires a broad-based approach and dealing honestly with what we have done wrong and what needs to change. And, while we need a good downtown, it goes far beyond that. The real lesson of Pittsburgh is that developing a sustainable economy requires decades of sustained effort based on a sober assessment of reality.
TIA – Breaking Ground
The airport broke ground on its very large, master planned, expansion project this week.
A well-tilled box of soil took center stage atop the economy parking lot at Tampa International Airport today as aviation officials, politicians and local economic gurus celebrated the largest expansion in the airport’s history.
With construction set to begin in just a few short days on a $1 billion expansion at the airport, CEO Joe Lopano couldn’t wipe the grin off his face. “I can’t stop smiling,” he said as he took the stage to kick off the ground breaking event, which drew several hundred to the sixth floor of the parking garage.
So let’s review.
The new 2.6-million square-foot facility will allow TIA to move the car rental counters out of the terminal and the rental cars out of the short-term parking garage. That would extend the life of the airport’s roads and also give it a new revenue-producing building for shops and restaurants.
The new rental car center will be connected to the main terminal by a 1.4-mile automated people mover, a $417.5 million project that will build a bigger version of the shuttles that now whisk passengers from the terminal to the airsides and back.
The main terminal itself will also undergo a $122.5 million renovation. The third-floor transfer level will be gutted and replaced by a sleeker, wide-open space. New outdoor terraces will be created for dining and drinking, and the third-floor’s footprint will be expanded by 55,000 square-feet by extending the four corners outward.
All the concessions in the terminal and airsides will also be redone, and the airport is soliciting bids from local brands — restaurants, bars, breweries and shops — to bring more local flavor into TIA. Those contracts will be awarded next year.
The Taxiway J bridge, which drivers pass while traveling on the George J. Bean Parkway, will also be replaced at a cost of $30.7 million. Other projects include $21.4 million in road improvements and a new concession warehouse that will be built for $17.2 million.
That’s all good. The airport is really a model for other organizations in the region. It began as a well-planned, innovative, forward thinking, and expandable facility. The new master plan works off that excellent, original model. The present administration runs the airport well and aggressively seeks out business without excessive hype. It is sober and deliberate.
It is, and really nothing in the area rivals it for that status. Why is that?
“We’re not Democrats or Republicans, we’re not Pinellas or Hillsborough,” said Buckhorn. “We’re not divided by these bridges … We are the bay area and if we stand together and we don’t let them divide us nothing — nothing — can stop us.”
A bit rhetorically excessive, but there is a truth there. Getting money for the airport was a regional effort that was not impeded by officials’ personal political considerations, unlike most other issues in this area. It is local division that holds up transportation. It is local division that holds up economic development. (We won’t even mention the Rays.) The airport transcends those divisions. It is just unfortunate that it is about the only thing that does – and it shows.
Seminole Heights – Interesting
There was an announcement of a development proposal in Seminole Heights.
The Warehouse Lofts is slated to cost $5.5 million to $6 million and will begin construction in January. Burdette is the equity investor, putting down $1.5 million, and has secured a construction loan from Sunshine State Federal for the remainder of the costs.
Smaller projects like the Warehouse Lofts can help create the type of urban density that most neighborhoods in Tampa lack. It’s typically entrepreneurial developers like Burdette, whose day job is in mortgage banking, who pursue them.
For us, while much smaller, this is far more interesting than many of the projects around downtown. To be a real city, urban, walkable areas must be developed in various neighborhoods, not just downtown. Not everyone can afford rents downtown and not everyone who wants an urban neighborhood wants to live downtown.
Seminole Heights is ripe for this kind of development, especially with so much underused land on Florida (think used car lots). Areas with lower rents should be where more innovative, less established and start-up companies can find space and still provide urban amenities, creating lively culture (such as in food, retail, and even tech companies) and, ideally, economic clusters. The workers for these companies should be able to have an urban experience near those jobs.
Moreover, by creating such walkable, urban neighborhoods, the entire City’s culture can be transformed. Frankly, without such neighborhoods, downtown will not thrive because the area will remain car-centric, without effective transit, and without a culture to support real urban development. (Downtown may be the heart of the city, but a heart without arteries and other organs really does not do much.) But there is a problem:
We do not blame them. The City has failed to really push redevelopment in these neighborhoods beyond InVision Tampa (though it goes back before this administration), even though they should be thriving, urbanizing areas. We hope this succeeds, and we see more.
PTC – Same Old
There were a number of articles this week about ridesharing. (And, yes, we know about the possible issues with Uber nationally, but that does not apply to Lyft or the entire concept of ridesharing and how government deals with innovation.) We are not getting into them all, because it is mostly the same old stuff.
An Uber attorney asked Hillsborough County to make new rules to fit the trendy ridesharing movement pioneered by his company and Lyft, but was told flatly on Wednesday that Uber is an illegal taxi service.
The county’s Public Transportation Commission unanimously affirmed that an appointed officer had enough evidence to fine Uber, based in San Francisco, for providing hiring and public taxi services without proper licensing.
What we will note is that there is a different approach in Orlando. While right now the rideshare companies are not within Orlando’s rules, drivers are getting tickets, and Orlando International is trying to get them to stay away because of it,
At the same time, city officials are working on changes to a city ordinance that would allow ride-share companies to operate legally. The proposal would drop many of the requirements now in place, such as a $35 minimum fare for town-car service.
Drivers would likely have to go through a background-check process different from the ones currently used by the companies themselves, and comply with state insurance requirements. They would have to get a permit from the city and another permit if they want to pick up at the airport.
One proposal — price — likely would have the biggest impact on consumers. Uber and Lyft set their own rates and are typically about 30 percent cheaper than traditional taxi companies. Both companies recently cut their rates in Orlando even more, by an additional 20 percent and 25 percent, respectively.
We have no problem with a background checks. The insurance is an open question right now. We are not sure anyone should have to get multiple permits.
The key difference – Orlando is showing it cares about consumers, not the cab companies because it is dropping silly things like minimum pricing. The PTC has never offered to fully drop its protectionist bent. (here is an interesting article on protectionism and ridesharing. ) Until it does, as far as we are concerned, all the other issues are just cover for its bias.
Port – The Director Gets a Raise
The Port Director got a raise this week, notably without the drama that surrounded a raise for the airport director in 2013.
Port Tampa Bay President and CEO Paul Anderson on Tuesday got a four-year contract extension and a 4.5 percent pay increase. And if he stays for five more years, he’ll get $50,000 each year in deferred compensation.
All seven of the Tampa Port Authority board members gave Anderson a grade of “outstanding” on his annual performance review, then extended his contract and gave him the raise, bringing his salary to $365,750 from $350,000, not including the deferred compensation.
“Personally, I think he’s done an outstanding job and taken the necessary steps to market this port,” said Port Commissioner Patrick Allman. He said the port saw declining revenue for six straight years until Anderson took the helm “reorganized the staff, changed the culture and its marketing. If we don’t do anything, it’s like professional sports. If you don’t extend the contract, he’s a lame duck, he’s out of here.”
We are the first to say that you need to pay for talent and accomplishment. So what are the accomplishments?
Maintaining a strong financial balance sheet at one of the busiest ports in the nation, driving new projects like one in the works to bring new automobiles here from Mexico and working to lure new manufacturers to the port are all important accomplishments, Anderson said.
Two new gantry cranes coming to the port in 2016 will help increase the volume of cargo coming here even more, Anderson said. The cranes, which will replace two at the port that are some 42 years old have a longer reach to off-load cargo from wider ships.
While fewer ships are coming into Port Tampa Bay those that are coming are larger than in the past and carry more tonnage and cargo, he said. And he’s working on bringing even more here, but noted that such deals tend to take a few years.
That is something, though not an unvarnished success. Anything else?
Anderson said he is putting a great emphasis on increasing container volume here, which tends to bring with it more jobs for not only crane operators, but for truck drivers, terminal operators, laborers and logistic services.
The number of containers coming to the port has fluctuated through the years, but the port has an aggressive plan to grow its business, said Wade Elliott, vice president of marketing and business development.
In 2013, 42,198 containers, or TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) came through the port. In 2014, the number increased to 47,265. “We definitely have targets,” Elliott said. “Looking out over the next five years, we’re shooting for 200,000” containers coming into the port.
While some ports are dredging deeper to prepare for mega ships coming through the newly expanded Panama Canal, Anderson said he will be going after “trans-loadable cargo,” or cargo moved from a mega ship to a slightly smaller ship, that can navigate in to Port Tampa Bay.
If they get to 200,000 in five years, that would be good. (Though, as we noted recently, Port Everglades is already at 1,000,000.) However, the “trans-loadable cargo” strategy does raise some questions about the aggressiveness of the Port’s approach. And there is no news of the cruise ship problem and we have not seen its new master plan.
Right now, unlike the airport, the jury is still out on the Port. We hope the Director is successful and justifies the confidence the board has shown in him.
List of the Week
This week’s list goes back to tourism. It is trekaroo.com’s Top Picks for Where Your Family Should Be Heading in 2015. There does not seem to be any methodology.
We are not sure the list has any specific rankings but we will list the destinations in order of appearance on the website: Sunriver (OR), O.A.R.S. Rogue River (OR), Paso Robles (CA), Oahu, St. Simons Island (GA), US Virgin Islands, Sevierville (TN), Quebec City, Tampa Bay, Coronado Island (CA), Indianapolis (?), Blue Ridge (GA), Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, Kyoto (Japan), Kings Canyon (CA), NYC, Vermont, Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains (CA), Southeast Alaska, Big Sky (MT), and, the top trek, Cape Cod.
Ok, so with cities, states, regions, a couple of foreign locations, and parks, the list is a mess, but at least we made it. Then again, when listing things to do in “Tampa Bay” they tell us this:
From Clearwater Beach to St.Pete Beach, Tampa Bay is only an hour away from the tropical, postcard-perfect, paradise vacation you’ve dreamed of! Our friends to the West have sugar sand beaches and sunsets like no other. Clearwater’s Pier 60 has “The Sunsets at Pier 60 Festival,” a nightly sunset celebration. This free, family event features artisans, crafters, street performers and musical entertainment. Another local favorite is Pass-A-Grille beach in St. Pete where you can enjoy beachcombing and boating abound in this barefoot wonderland. Grab a bite to eat at The Hurricane, a local favorite, and watch the sunset while dining on fresh seafood.
For reasons beyond our control, this week’s Roundup is being posted on Thursday.
TIA – Willkommen in Tampa
For those who may not know, Tampa used to have flights to Frankfurt on Condor which went away under the previous airport director. (And, at the time, few officials or aspiring officials really pushed hard for international flight. The push came from a vocal few from the outside.) This week, we prepared an item about comments by the Lufthansa CEO that Lufthansa may bring a new, more leisure based product to Tampa (See here and here). Well, happily, we have had to scrap that item because
Mit einer Florida-Verbindung steigt Lufthansa im Herbst 2015 in den touristischen Langstreckenverkehr ein. Tampa wird ab 25. September fünfmal wöchentlich von Frankfurt aus angeflogen, im Winter viermal. Neben Miami und Orlando ist es das dritte Lufthansa-Ziel in Florida. „Großes Interesse und hohe Nachfrage erwarten wir vor allem bei Privatreisenden“, sagt Passagevorstand Karl Ulrich Garnadt.
Die neue Verbindung wird mit einem Airbus A340-300 durchgeführt. 261 Gäste finden in der Economy Class Platz, 19 in der Premium Economy und 18 in der Business Class. Die Preise für Hin- und Rückflug sollen bei 739 Euro beginnen.
Whoops. We meant
That’s because TIA’s latest international route is to Frankfurt Airport, one of the world’s busiest commercial and cargo hubs. Through Frankfurt, the bay area can catch flights to Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.
The new Frankfurt service will start on Sept. 25, 2015, and there will be five flights a week. Lufthansa will fly Airbus A340-300s into TIA that will offer about 298 seats. It will be an 11-hour flight between Tampa and Germany.
It is a great addition (especially starting with 5 flights a week). Congratulations to the airport administration on a job well done. Their vision and organization has really lifted the area’s game and expectations (and surely it helps with the issue in the next item).
We have faith the airport administration will be able to get that done in time (San Francisco is especially important for business development).
Economic Development – The Quest for an HQ
There was an article in the Times about the quest to bring an HQ to the Tampa Bay area.
As an adolescent in the 1980s and 1990s, the Tampa Bay business community was delighted to be dubbed the nation’s Call Center Capital. During its latter teen years, the metro area tried on such nicknames as Wall Street South, eager to leverage its ability to attract more sophisticated back office operations of major financial institutions and corporations based elsewhere.
Maybe some business people were delighted with those steps, but not everyone was, especially all the people with talent that left the area in search of better opportunities. The reality is that being “delighted” with such things is just indicative of the culture of diminished expectations (you know – settling) that has long been a feature of the local scene. But, anyway:
Now Tampa Bay’s economic developers want the world to know the economy here has become an adult, capable of recruiting and sustaining corporate headquarters — ones with real name-brand recognition. That’s why the first meeting of a task force devoted to recruiting corporate headquarters was held here this past Tuesday.
Its mission: to start crafting an in-depth strategy to find, woo and relocate the headquarters of better-known companies. Not some A-level name like Apple or Google or Procter & Gamble. The early aim is to target recognizable B-level brands, especially companies based in the more expensive (and colder) metro areas of the Northeast and Midwest.
And there is nothing wrong with that (though getting an A-level company would be better, if very hard). In fact, it is about time. Why the change?
The surprising and successful headquarters relocation in 2013 of Hertz, the rental car giant, from New Jersey to Estero, north of Naples, was a clear wakeup call to Tampa Bay that, under the right circumstances and the right timing, many major corporations might consider a move to warmer and typically far less expensive Florida.
Right, setting aside a unique circumstance around that deal (the CEO had a home in Naples), we got caught napping with our diminished expectations. The question was not about the unique success in Southwest Florida, it is why was Southwest Florida pushing it but not the Tampa Bay area? (Just like the previous airport director not pushing to get international service while other areas pushed hard for it – diminished expectations.)
In any event, so what is the task force doing?
To help identify more likely candidates, the headquarters task force and the Tampa Hillsborough EDC are calling on relocation experts for guidance. Ellen Harpel, the founder of consulting firm Smart Incentives, specializes in helping communities like Tampa Bay evaluate the competitiveness of their incentives offerings when recruiting businesses.
And Barry Quarles, a consultant with Market Enhancement Group in San Diego, has worked with economic developers here for years. Twelve years ago, Quarles surveyed hundreds of CEOs across the country to capture their perceptions of the Tampa Bay business market. Now he is doing it again, polling 50 CEOs based here, 50 CEOs with some kind of regional ties (perhaps a subsidiary operates here) and an additional 250 CEOs with no connections to this area.
CEO attitudes about the Tampa Bay market have changed since 2002. Quarles will share those insights with the headquarters task force later this month. “There’s a lot of good news in there, but also some wakeup calls for us,” Homans says.
Ah, consultants. Setting aside the consultants and why these things have not been determined already, we will be interested to see if the “wake-up calls” are anything new or just what everyone should have known and been dealing with for years, but just chose to ignore.
The EDC already has produced some compelling testimonial videos praising this metro area from such area executives as Bloomin’ Brands CEO (and Manhattan transplant) Liz Smith, Tampa Bay Lightning owner and former Boston hedge fund manager Jeff Vinik, and John and (son) Chuck Sykes talking about their own headquarters relocation of Sykes Enterprises from Charlotte.
That is all fine. We are all for it. It would also be helpful to really look at the issues that lead to our culture of diminished expectations, local government’s failure to address transportation (not just referendums but the prior failure to plan and invest which is what leads to all the referendums in the first place), failure to plan, and the manifold other issues that keep dogging us. That may help us recruit companies. (As we have asked before: Why should we expect companies to invest in us if we do not invest in ourselves?)
At least now we are lucky enough to have some nationally known deep pockets. That should help. Yes, it is a quirk of fate, but so what? Other cities have also had quirks of fate. The point is to take advantage of those quirks of fate and build on them.
We are glad for the push. May it be sustained and successful.
– So, What is Happening?
We thought it would be interesting to do a quick search on what is going on around the country in company relocations. The first few pages of results gave us this:
Bridgestone is America is moving is HQ to downtown Nashville from a more suburban location.
On the other hand, Charlotte has scored a big and small relocation. The big one is Sealed Air Corp., which is bringing 1200 plus jobs and “[t]he jobs will carry an average salary of almost $120,000, Sealed Air says.” The HQ will go near the Charlotte airport. The small one is Velocity, a tech firm. (Not all HQ’s are equal.)
Meanwhile, Boston seems to have some appeal, maybe at Charlotte’s expense. One analyst is driving rumors Bank of America might move its HQ from Charlotte to Boston. (no idea if there is any truth to it.) There are also rumors that Baxter International will move from Chicago to Boston , though that is denied. Schnieder Electric is also moving from Illinois to the Boston area. It seems that all the engineering and biomed talent in Boston is very attractive.
Economy – the Housing Market
There was news last week about the housing market.
Well that explains Naples and Sarasota, but it does not explain the other areas where prices rose while ours fell. Any other explanation?
“Most of the new construction in the last 15 or 20 years is not that type of home, but we still have those homes in our market, which is a good thing for seasonal people or first-time home buyers,” said Charles Richardson, senior regional vice president of Coldwell Banker.
Right, because the rest of Florida doesn’t have any of those. That does not explain why prices fell here. Anyway
Statewide, single-family home sales rose 7.6 percent in the third quarter and the median price of $182,000 was up 4 percent. Sales of townhomes and condos dropped by 4.6 percent, though prices rose almost 7 percent to a median of $139,000.
Overall, “The housing market has settled into a stable pattern of activity that is reminiscent of the market before the craziness of the last few years,” Florida Realtors chief economist John Tuccillo said in a release.
“Sales and prices are up for single-family homes but at sustainable rates. The condo market is reflective of the general declines in new investor purchase in Florida. . . . The good news is that this type of progress in the real estate market is likely to continue.”
That’s fine, but we are concerned about the Tampa Bay area and why we are lagging. It seems the housing market it is in for a sustained period of inconsistency.
Transportation – Some Post Election Thinking
There were a number of articles about what is in store for the future of transit. Because it is so soon after the election, we are not going to get into detail, but we will note a few things.
Hillsborough County tried to pass a transit tax four years ago and failed. Similar efforts in Pinellas and Polk counties crashed even harder last week. Could they try again at the same time and succeed together?
Tuesday’s defeat of the Greenlight Pinellas ballot measure and Polk’s My Ride/My Road referendum sets up a possible scenario in which all three counties try to pass transit taxes two years from now. Hillsborough leaders have been laying the groundwork for a proposed 2016 referendum asking for a 1-cent sales tax increase to pay for a combination of road construction and bus service.
“We’ve got to really think differently and ask ourselves what’s going to make that winning format,” Rogel said. “If it’s a regional solution, with the understanding that we all have the same transportation needs, more or less, and we all need to be connected, then I think we need to explore that as an option.”
Yes. The real obstruction to a regional approach right now is the government entities and officials themselves. (You can search “HART/PSTA” to see our past discussions.) They do not plan together because they have not wanted to. Really, there needs to be a regional plan even if it includes some county specific elements (look to the other Bay area for an outline of the concept), not just coordination, but at least it is a start. And it also should be noted the transit hand up is more of a local issue:
The addition of another penny sales tax on top of Penny for Pinellas made Greenlight an easy target for critics who highlighted that it would saddle the county with the highest sales tax rate in Florida.
The Orlando area’s $1.2 billion SunRail commuter rail system used federal and state funding with the state buying an existing rail line from CSX and agreeing to cover the first seven years of operational costs.
After that, participating counties including Orange, Seminole and Volusia say they plan to pay their share of operating subsidies from general funds. Orlando will pay its share from revenues from a special downtown taxing district.
We agree (long time readers will know that).
There was even a column in the Tribune about how the streetcar could help move people around. There have been ideas floating around to expand it for years. (We have no idea why the column acts as though this, or most of what is going on downtown, is a new idea. Regarding the streetcar, check out the map on page 3 of this old document from 10 years ago – looks like 2004 – which envisions extension to around Waterworks Park and the Arts District and looping around. And don’t forget this article from the last station opening in 2011 when the Congresswoman from Tampa says that it should go to the Arts District and the last mayor says the streetcar should go beyond tourists. ) And, as we have said for a while, the streetcar should be part of a comprehensive transportation system. The idea is not new, but, as the column notes, maybe enough local officials have finally gotten on board and it may be time to do it. (And it is worth noting that the proposed USF med school downtown is caddie-corner to a streetcar stop which could be very useful if the streetcar is actually operated as a real transportation system.)
Reagardless, do not expect hard-core opponents to just go away. Their opposition is to the whole idea of robust public transit and reimagining how our cities are built. (Which many of them think is a UN plot. See “PSTA/HART – Record Ridership For This Bulwark Against the UN,” here, here, and here) And, as this report shows, spruced up sprawl (aka “the American way of life”) is likely most of what Pinellas will be for the foreseeable future.
It is good that people are thinking. We will see if anything real happens. We are still waiting for the results of the punt to consultants in Hillsborough.
Transportation – US19, Almost Done With This Portion
It seems like our roads are always under construction and traffic is beyond capacity. Well, at least it seems that the latest work on US19 will be finished soon.
Earlier this year, Gov. Rick Scott promised an extra $4.8 million to get cars on the main highway by October, which included $3.2 million to hire more workers and a $1.6 million incentive to hit three key deadlines.
Perhaps the most important of these milestones — getting traffic onto two northbound and two southbound lanes — came and went on Oct. 16. That means contractor Hubbard Construction has been losing $41,666 in bonus money with each passing day, officials with the Florida Department of Transportation said.
That means thousands of cars crowding frontage roads along a 2½-mile stretch of the highway between Gulf to Bay Boulevard and Whitney Road finally will be able to zip along the raised roadway with no interruptions.
We are glad. The road should have been fixed long ago.
– Let’s Look at the Numbers
For those who are counting, that is 5 years and $44 million/mile, and would have taken longer without the close election that brought extra money. (We assume that is 2009 – or earlier – dollars. If so, according to the handy inflation calculator, the cost would be $124,270,000 and $49.708 million/mile in today’s dollars.) Of course, that does not count the cost of the fixing the rest of US19 and probably does not include much right of way acquisition since most of the road was already there.
It seems like a good time to look back at our segment on a consultant report produced for the Hillsborough Transportation for Economic Development group:
So what does this say, really? It says that BRT is cheaper than LRT (which is true in many cases, though not all[)], which can be seen from the charts on pg 12 which gives a cost range in millions of dollars for BRT of $30-$168 and Light rail of $48.3-$436.2. Those numbers are drawn from charts on pg 9 (light rail) and pg 7 (BRT). Those charts have some issues. First, the light rail chart does not mention that the Pittsburgh light rail number, which is at the very high-end, involved tunneling under a river, which is quite expensive.
If you take the Pittsburgh outlier off the list, the LRT average is $66.95 while the BRT is $52.6, even if you include the Eugene and Grand Rapids – which is not really true BRT because it just closes lanes in rush hour – numbers which are likely to have no bearing on the cost of going through a decently populated area. Once that is done (and even before, really) there is a decent amount of overlap in the cost range that is not explained. Pg 9 gives a list of four cities where the light rail cost was under the high-end of BRT (Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Phoenix, and San Diego.) So light rail is not necessarily more expensive right off the bat. The TED group needs to get details – and AECOM should have provided them.
(See “Transportation – More Muddle” ) Compared to $44-49.7 million/mile to just upgrade an existing road.
In the words of a local columnist, just saying.
Downtown – Will Kress Finally Get Renovated?
There was news of something we have been waiting for (other than the Lufthansa flights) – there are new plans for the Kress block.
The historic Kress building in downtown Tampa is on the verge of a transformation from vacant to vibrant, with plans under way to redevelop the building into a hotel, possibly with residential components.
A group of Tampa real estate veterans has teamed up with an Atlanta hotel developer to redevelop the five-story Kress, which was the home of five-and-dime store S.H. Kress & Co. The Tampa team includes father-and-son construction executives Sam and Casey Ellison; Anthony Italiano, a partner with the Ellisons in EWI Construction; and Tampa developer Alex Walter.
Tampa developer Jeannette Jason, who owns the building with her father, Miami-based broker Doran Jason, declined comment. Walter said Jason would play a role in the redevelopment, though he declined to give specifics of the deal structure.
That is a bit of surprise, though not completely a surprise given the on again, off again efforts to redevelop the block over the years and the Oxford Exchange, the Le Meridien, and the Floridan showing that renovation is possible, even in Tampa (not sure why the Tampa Theatre did not give that lesson years ago). So what is the plan?
As proposed, the Kress would remain, along with the old Woolworth and Newbury buildings, but a new 287-foot-tall tower would rise above them with 190 hotel rooms, 58 apartments and 15,200 square feet for restaurants.
The Kress building is on the 800 block of N Franklin Street, south of E Cass Street, between Franklin and N Florida Avenue. Along with the old Kress store, the Woolworth is historically significant as the site of the first sit-in that led to the peaceful desegregation of Tampa’s lunch counters in 1960.
A previous (not very good) proposal for the lot involved demolishing pretty much everything but the Kress façade, which caused a ruckus because the other buildings are also historic. (see here, here, and here) In one of the rare instances of not settling, the City Council objected to it – forcing a wait for a new plan but also allowing something much better to be proposed. This time around, the group is working with one of the better local architecture firms, so it is likely that they will deal a bit more sensitively with that.
Let’s see what they have proposed:
That looks much better, even with the parking garage behind one of the façades. Moreover, if you look at the submitted site plan on the handy accela website, it is clear that most of the ground floor is useful space. It looks like a much better concept (Full opinion is withheld since things can change and we have no idea what the materials being considered are. Regardless, we are thankful that the most recent economic upturn coincides with a growing architectural awareness by many in the area.) In any event,
Construction is scheduled to begin in the second or third quarter of 2015. Walter said the project “definitely has a lot of interest” from capital sources. Historic renovation projects can be difficult to finance because the costs can fluctuate wildly if unforeseen issues surface during construction.
That would be nice, though we shall see. (Though, while we are for striking while the iron is hot, there has to be a bit of a concern about the area supporting all the apartments and hotel rooms announced. Not all proposals get built.)
It would be great to resurrect this block (and the Grant block just north of it where there is also a proposal) after decades of nothing. Not only would it revive one of the nicest old buildings in downtown, it would add depth and connectivity to northern downtown, hopefully leading to the future development of the surface parking.
If it comes off, all the credit goes to the developers who are actually putting up the money and building the concept. It is just too bad that the City settled for allowing the demolition of the Maas Brothers building, which would have been really nice to see renovated, before realizing that historic buildings can be revived. Maybe, we have finally learned.
Rays – Maybe Something
There were a flurry of reports (like this one and this one) that the Rays and St. Pete are near an agreement to let the Rays look outside St. Pete (read: Hillsborough) for a stadium location. We are not going to really get into it because nothing has happened yet, though we will note these two statements:
“If the Rays simply do not want to be here any longer, then they should be given the opportunity to compensate our city in order to look at other locations in the Tampa Bay area,” Kriseman said during last year’s mayoral campaign. “Throughout the negotiating process I will ensure that our taxpayers are protected.”
Right. Unfortunately, that was the case wasted years ago, too. Maybe soon we can all get on with it.
Downtown – Have Drink (From Preapproved Locations), Cont.
The City Council, not surprisingly, approved the plan to let people drink alcohol on the Riverwalk, as long as they buy it from the right place. That does not answer any of the questions raised when we previously wrote about it, (See “Downtown – Have Drink (From Preapproved Locations)”) though we did not expect any answers. That is not the Tampa way.
Downtown – Context
A few weeks ago, there was news that the Tampa City Center office building had been sold for a very large sum.
“It’s got to be in the top five or 10,” said Mike Davis, executive director of Cushman & Wakefield, which represented the seller. “It’s the largest square-footage deal that’s ever happened in downtown Tampa, that’s for sure.”
There is no doubt that rising values for downtown buildings is a positive sign. Yet, it is hard to really get context on the relative size of the sale (such as the price per square foot). Interestingly, there was a recent sale of an office building in downtown Ft. Lauderdale.
In March, a division of Deutsch Bank spent $204 million for the Las Olas Centre, a two-building signature office complex. In July, 200 E. Broward Blvd., a 214,000-square-foot building, sold for $66.4 million.
That is where we are now, though not necessarily where we will be in a decade.
Lessons in Branding
As regular readers will know, the Tampa Bay area is always trying to figure out how to brand itself – some attempts are ok, some not so good. There was an interesting article on Citylab.com about city branding. The article discusses three branding efforts – using Taylor Swift in NYC, an effort in Leeds, and effort in Hamburg, and St. Louis. We are not really interested in NYC because that is unique. (We have no idea why they are even trying branding. Do they really need it?) The Leeds example was amusing because they inadvertently chose a campaign that used the same slogan as Hong Kong.
The interesting examples were Hamburg and St. Louis because they both sound so familiar:
Hamburg, 2009: Things got a bit more heated in Hamburg when residents reacted strongly to an ongoing marketing of the German city as an arts and culture capital and, ultimately, a watering post for the new global and globalized “creative class.” The branding was meant to communicate “stereotype images of Hamburg as ‘city on the waterfront,’ with ‘rich’ and ‘creative’ residents, offering a various range of cultural programs like ‘musicals’ to its visitors,” social scientist Erick Braun and his team wrote in 2010.
St. Louis, 2010: A local economic development group put out a series of videos meant to “raise awareness of the vitality and richness of experience downtown St. Louis provides for those who live, work, and play there.”
Sound familiar? You can read the articles to see what issues arose. The real point is that branding yourself like everyone else is not really creating a brand, it is just adding to the muddling of identity. Before you get an effective brand, you actually have to know who you are. And, while highlighting desirable components of your area is necessary and good, simply reiterating what everyone else says does not create a brand, it creates a muddle.
Just something to consider.
List of the Week
Tampa loves it airport (and we do, too). It is one of the points of pride. So we were interested in this week’s list is Yahoo Travel’s list of best airport food. In it, they rank “every important airport” in the US, a total of 72. We will list the top 30.
Coming in first, is DFW, followed by San Francisco, LAX, JFK, Newark, Portland (OR), San Diego, Denver, Nashville, Atlanta, Minneapolis-St. Paul, O’Hare, Austin, La Guardia, Seattle, Sacramento, Phoenix, Boston-Logan, Philadelphia, Raleigh, San Antonio, Charlotte, Kansas City, Houston-Hobby, Salt Lake City, Miami, Houston-Bush, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Chicago-Midway.
Really? Even airport food goes to the usual suspects?
Orlando came in 52nd. TIA was 56th. Ft. Lauderdale was 65th. Apparently, West Palm Beach, SW Florida Regional, and Jacksonville are not important (though, oddly, the list includes include Portland, Maine)
This is what they said about us:
Do yourself a favor: next time you are visiting your cousins who live in Tampa (NOTE: everyone has cousins that live somewhere around Tampa) — it doesn’t matter if you are in any of the other terminals — just go to Airside C, and go to Cigar City Brewing. They make some of the best beer in the country. Drink several of their beers. Then maybe go to Shula’s Bar and Grill, and talk knowingly about Mark Duper.
At least we have the beer (and maybe some wurst) – and more international flights.
Transportation – The Uncertain Path
As everyone knows by now, the Greenlight Pinellas proposal was defeated.
Sixty-two percent voted no on the Greenlight Pinellas transit referendum, refusing to pay an extra penny in sales tax to expand the county’s bus service and build a 24-mile light rail system connecting St. Petersburg and Clearwater. The sales tax would have increased to 8 cents on the dollar, eliminated the bus system’s property tax and brought in about $130 million annually for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority to make the $2.2 billion plan a reality.
In fact, it did worse than the 2010 Hillsborough referendum (which makes one question the analysis that the reason the 2010 referendum lost was the economy.) This is the map of how the voting went:
One can propose a number of reasons why it failed – PSTA missteps, poor campaign, lack of north Pinellas service, etc. Clearly, there is a constituency in St. Pete that is different than the rest of the county – but then St. Pete has developed into something of a city, which is different than the rest of the county. It is possible is that there is a disconnect within the parts of the county on aspirations for what they want the county to be.
The Tea Party folks said this:
But it was opponents No Tax for Tracks’ message that resonated with voters. The group warned that having the highest sales tax rate in Florida would hurt business and it questioned the wisdom of building a $1.6 billion train that did not connect directly to Tampa or the county’s beaches.
“Our message of rejecting the highest sales tax in the state was a message people agreed with,” said Barbara Haselden, No Tax campaign manager. “They agree we don’t need a light rail system in Pinellas County.”
Setting aside that the Tea Party opponents were completely anti-rail (and buses) – not only opposing the plan because it did not connect to Tampa or the beaches – the sales tax issue carries some weight. (Especially when you look at the even worse result in Polk, which had no rail element. . Apparently, it is not about rail.) It is likely that more creative financing, like Orlando did with SunRail, should be considered.
The news articles had some more “direct” analysis, which probably explains some of the multitude reasons people did not vote for Greenlight.
One man at the Yard of Ale offered the most plainspoken analysis. “It’s typical,” he said. “People come to Florida from elsewhere and say, ‘I’m here and I’m not paying any more taxes. Screw transportation and social services. I have my little piece of paradise and that’s it.’ They don’t realize that their children and grandchildren will pay a helluva lot more than that.”
Both of those have some merit. There is no question that there are many people in this area who do not want to invest in the area. It is also true that the lack of a regional approach (something Orlando and almost everywhere else has but the HART/PSTA argument showed this are does not) hurts the effort. Until the counties stop acting a though they live in their own universe (even if some officials talk as though they see the region, most vote and plan as though they don’t) it appears hard to convince the voters, who live in a region and know it, to pay for disconnected ideas.
While the officials like to stay on their respective sides of the water, it has to be understood that to the people in the region, the connection across the bay is key. Transit needs to be seen to connect us.
– Meanwhile, Across the Bay
So where does that leave Hillsborough County?
“We’re going to go make the case to the voters in Hillsborough County, which I think are far more progressive, far more inclined to believe that our future is better with a robust transportation system,” Buckhorn said. “It’s got to include bus, it’s got to include rail, it’s got to include additional roads, and it’s got to include fixing potholes.”
That is all true – but what is the actual plan? What do you want to see? (And why are the discussion and plan always outsourced to consultants?)
County Administrator Mike Merrill wants to avoid the snarl of 2010, when the hot-button term “rail” dominated discussions about approving an extra penny of sales tax to help pay for transportation projects. His goal is to build consensus by first asking people what their needs are — instead of jumping into a conversation about whether light rail is the best solution.
“We want to acknowledge it, but we don’t want to go down the path where it’s all about rail,” Merrill said last week. “We really don’t want to get into the habit of saying it’s all about transit. . . . It’s about fixing what we have. Repaving. Safety projects. Community projects. That has as much value as the transit conversation.”
Sure. It is not all about rail. On the other hand, the Polk referendum was not about rail, and it did worse than any of the referendums with rail.
People still need to know what they are voting for and being vague will not do that. Moreover, saying nothing about transit will just lead opponents to say that officials are trying to sneak rail by the voters.
Fixing what we have is necessary, but the real problem is that the County government has not done what needs to be done to maintain what we have and give us what we need in the first place. It all needs to be done, including be real, effective transit. Better to keep trying and being straightforward – such as relying only on roads will always cost too much, not relieve congestion, and not really develop the economy.
But Hillsborough Commissioner Mark Sharpe said he expects to get an exceptional, methodical product from Parsons Brinckerhoff that starts with a “foundation of why and works toward the how” instead of mistakenly jumping to the conclusion that one particular mode is the solution.
“It really needs to be based upon a careful analysis of our own build-out, how we’re constructed, how we maintain what we currently have, and how best to connect our key economic development areas along defined corridors using current and future technology.”
Aside from expecting an exceptional product (though, we guess it might be true that he expects it), that is all true, but it neglects one major (in reality THE major) point: what do we want to be? We should not just invest based on what we were or what we are. The point of investment is to help determine what we will be.
The sprawled, relatively uncompetitive, economically lagging area that we are now is not due to law of nature, it is the result of policies instituted (and often subsidized) by government. We did not, nor do we in the future, have to be that way. It was and is a choice, which is made even clearer by places that first made the same choices, then changed direction, like Denver and Phoenix (and here is a good interview with the mayor of Phoenix about transit in that city.)
Will we be a thriving, vibrant, major metropolitan area that competes with the best (not necessarily the biggest, but the best) or will be we bringing up the rear (or will we be some middling area)? So far, we (voters and government) have chosen the easy and ineffective path (we are getting better but others are still moving ahead faster in terms of development, income, economic power, etc) and to make sure that other areas are far better positioned to compete in the present and near future.
So what will we do in the future?
Yes it is. In fact, it will become more important as the generations change and other areas develop their infrastructure, built environment, and high wage economies while we lag.
The one consolation is that, as we have noted before, almost every area has to go through numerous referendums to get transit moving forward. We are not sure the reason for this – maybe the electorate has to become more acquainted with the idea, maybe the officials have to fine tune the plan, maybe both, maybe something else. Whatever the case, it is not unusual. The problem is that time is wasting, and we are falling further behind.
– And One More Thing – Irony
Interestingly, the Times had an article that listed some of the failed ideas of the past that brought us to where we are. It is worth quoting the whole list (because the quotes bold the whole quote, we underlined what was bolded in the original):
Lost highway: A highway running the length of Pinellas, the most densely populated county in Florida, would have been really useful. But the county got left out when the interstate highway system was birthed in the 1950s. When the county finally got included in the 1970s, Interstate 275 only went through southeastern Pinellas, skipping the county’s northern half.
Geography and politics played a role. Tampa, seen as the commercial center of the metro area, got crisscrossed by more highways. Democrats who controlled highway money didn’t want to help Pinellas, then a Republican stronghold. And the parochial concerns of Pinellas’ 24 cities kept politicians from uniting behind a single plan.
St. Petersburg-Clearwater Expressway: In the 1960s, this was envisioned as a toll road linking Pinellas’ two biggest cities. Opposition along the proposed route, an unused railroad, killed it in 1969. That right-of-way later became the bicycle-friendly Pinellas Trail.
That resounding defeat wiped out any future Pinellas toll roads, even as the surrounding counties would go on to build the Selmon and Veterans expressways and the Suncoast Parkway. (The tolled Pinellas Bayway, a product of the ’60s, already existed.)
U.S. 19: So the quest for the long-lost Pinellas north-south freeway shifted by default to U.S. 19, a heavily developed surface road that’s being retrofitted into a limited-access highway. That’s time-consuming and expensive. County Commissioner Karen Seel figures that taxpayers have spent $1 billion on U.S. 19 construction in the last 15 years — most of it on buying rights-of-way for overpasses.
A decade ago, the last rejected plan envisioned a commuter line following a railroad freight corridor between the downtowns of St. Petersburg and Clearwater, then heading east to Oldsmar and Westchase, then south to Tampa.
Ferries: Commuter ferries have been proposed for Tampa Bay many times, to no avail. Companies’ attempts to launch a St. Petersburg-to-Tampa water taxi as a business venture foundered. Government officials have never been convinced that a taxpayer-subsidized ferry would be worth it. Now a high-speed ferry linking MacDill Air Force Base to downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg is in the works — maybe.
Bi-County Thruway: Pasco County’s lost road. Conceived in the 1980s, it would have been an east-west toll route linking I-75 with the Trinity area near the Hillsborough-Pasco border. The county scuttled it in the 1990s when traffic projections failed to support building it.
Brandon Beltway: In 2006, the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority proposed a 70-mile toll road circling north Manatee, east Hillsborough, south Pasco and north Pinellas. The idea was dropped after critics dubbed it the “sprawlway.”
High-speed rail: In 2011, Gov. Rick Scott killed a high-speed Tampa-to-Orlando rail line that was slated to get $2.4 billion in federal funds. Florida was going to pay a fraction of the cost, $280 million, but Scott fretted that overruns would put state taxpayers on the hook for more cash.
They should have added the Gandy Connector. (And we do not endorse all the projects listed, but it just shows how many times this area has rejected attempts to fix things that everyone knew needed fixing).
Everyone says they dislike the congestion and something needs to be done. The irony is that all those proposed solutions were rejected, some because they were just bad ideas, but most either for political expediency or because people did not want to pay for them. Not surprisingly, the problems did not go away and now we will all pay more – either to fix the problem or suffer the continuing consequences of it.
Even more ironic is that the same areas that say they do not want transit so often rejected roads, which supports the view that a large number of people just don’t want to invest in anything – at least until the thing is built, when many start using it. Now, even if they want the roads, there is not enough money to pay for them or land to build them (see Veterans Expressway), and, in the rare case some money can be found, the projects take forever – like US19.
The bottom line is that, unless your goal is stagnation, waiting does not solve anything.
USF Medical School – Of Plans
We have been saying since the USF med school move was first revealed to the public that there needs to be a full plan. We decided to look for an example of a plan, and found one, not surprisingly, in Austin. The University of Texas in Austin is working to develop a medical school with adjacent hospital (like a medical school really should have). We thought it would be useful to provide links to some of the planning to see what we mean. You can see it here and here. Of course, that entire university is in the center of Austin, so it is a bit different than the USF issue, but at least they have a real development plan and agreement to have a hospital.
And, here you can look at the Buffalo master plan for the downtown medical school, which is more like the USF issue though with a hospital As you can see by reading the landing page
In 2001, the BNMC was created through a unique partnership in which the University at Buffalo, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Kaleida Health, Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, and Buffalo Medical Group Foundation began working in collaboration with the surrounding neighborhoods and local government to cultivate a world-class medical campus in downtown Buffalo. Over the years, Olmsted Center for Sight, Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center, Unyts, and the Center for Hospice and Palliative Care have joined the collaboration.
In other words, they worked with related institutions to get success for all (whether it works or not is not the point) and had a real plan.
And speaking of a plan, in the coverage of the trustee committee last week, there was this exchange:
But Genshaft said she doesn’t want USF Health split apart forever. One day, she hoped, mass transit could connect the new downtown campus to the main campus. Hillsborough County could vote on such a system in 2016.
It was probably a joke, but it holds an important reality. There is no guarantee that there will be a real connection anytime soon and that issue is likely to be left to other officials, like so many other issues in the area. And looking at the list of failed ideas for transportation above, no one can assume there ever will be a real transit connection between a downtown med school and the main campus (or TGH or planned TGH facilities on Kennedy). That needs to be figured into the plan and all the calculations.
TIA – Making Money
The airport had a good year.
TIA reported a record $197.2 million in operating revenue in fiscal year 2014, which ended in September. That’s an increase of 7 percent, or nearly $13 million more than last year, when the airport set the old record of $184.3 million in revenue.
Good deal. How were passenger numbers?
The airport served 17.3 million passengers in 2014, which was a 2.4 percent increase from the 16.9 million who came through TIA the previous fiscal year. It was the fourth straight year of passenger growth for TIA, and the first time it has hit 17 million since 2009.
But 2014 was still 2 million passengers shy of the airport’s all-time record of 19.3 million in 2007. That record was set in a much different economic climate for the country and the airline industry, however. For TIA to get back to 19 million passengers, Lopano said, depends on a number of factors the airport doesn’t control.
Once again, more evidence that everything is connected – transit, jobs, economy, built environment, airport – and subject to the choices this area makes. One of those choices, after much debate and a push from a forward-looking minority against a prevailing “go along to get along” attitude, was to seek international routes. That is paying off, like this
TIA’s biggest growth has been in international flights: Copa Airlines started flying direct to Latin America in December 2013, Edelweiss Air added a second weekly flight to Switzerland and the Cuban market added a flight to Santa Clara, Cuba. The airport had almost 600,000 international passengers in 2014, a jump of 14 percent from 2013.
And it could get better.
In December, Copa started service to Tampa four times a week, giving the bay area its first direct flight to Latin America. Copa’s passengers can use the airline’s hub at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City to catch connecting flights all over Central and South America.
But TIA wants Copa to start flying daily. Heilbron, who was at TIA on Thursday as the 2014 winner of the Tony Jannus Award, said strong passenger numbers this holiday season would go a long way toward convincing the airline that Tampa is ready for daily flights.
And don’t forget the Edelweiss service increases.
You can see pictures, like the one below of the main terminal people mover station, here.
Port – Talking Trade
There was a recent confab about exports at the port.
Florida’s road to success depends on its ability to compete outside of its borders, he said. Davidson helped lead an export pep rally of sorts on Thursday at Port Tampa Bay, with some 200 attendees. The recurring theme: the Tampa Bay business community must work in unison as a region if it is to become an export powerhouse.
A statement of the obvious, yes, but there is no harm in a little reminder since it seems so hard for people to do. And, at this point, we would settle for pretty successful export area. Powerhouse is a bit of a way off.
Davidson helped the Florida Chamber Foundation pen a paper called Florida: Made for Trade, a document that looks at projected growth, demographics and economic trends, as well as the expansion of the Panama Canal, which is nearly complete.
“We need to move more trade through our ports and airports,” he said, noting that much of what is now shipped out of Florida is actually trucked here from manufacturing states like Georgia and Alabama. Moving manufacturing here means more jobs here and more exports from here, he said.
And that is good, but there has been no real plan in this area for dealing with the expanding Panama Canal, at least as far as really taking advantage of it.
Then there was this:
Back when Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman served in the Florida Legislature (1996-2004), no one talked about incentive packages for business, she said. “There is a new energy in the community. The recession was a total wake-up call. The climate has changed in the state to support economic development.
“It is our time, but it will only be as good as us getting the job done,” said Murman, who serves as a member of the Hillsborough County Port Authority. “We’ve got to have incentive packages lined up” and ready to lure new businesses here, she said.
In other words, it is our time (whatever that means), unless it isn’t.
Setting aside the rhetoric, we need to lure business, but how about incentives to build a strong business base, not retail, strip stores and golf driving ranges? And maybe investing the community to create a 21st century infrastructure, rather than a late-mid 20th century one. And about all the sprawl . . . In other words, if you want to attract strong business, you have to do more than just throw money at companies. Talent wants amenities and lifestyle (including proper transportation) – which will lead to business.
But we digress.
At least the port is doing this:
The port is adding 25 acres and expanding to seven total docking cruise lines in time for cruise season starting Sunday, CEO Paul Anderson said. It’s in negotiations with manufacturers, including a handful from Latin America, to open in Tampa Bay.
That’s good, though we have no indication of the quality or scale of the manufacturers. Hopefully, that can move some containers. We look forward to hearing more about it.
So what is the rest of Florida doing?
For the first time, the seaport moved more than 1 million TEUs in a single year. TEUs, or Twenty-foot container Equivalent Units, are the standard measure for containerized cargo. Freight moved in shipping containers is widely considered the most profitable business segment for seaports.
That is a milestone and does not include Miami’s container traffic, which is close. At least the Port talks about one day getting there. Though, we are really far behind, and it is not clear how being a spoke on a hub and spoke system will accomplish that.
Harbour Island – A Ground breaking
The former Hiku, now apparently HI Apartments, has broken ground in Harbour Island.
Forge Capital Partners and Intown/Framework Group, developers of HI Apartments on Harbour Island, held a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday morning. The 21-story tower, which will be built on an empty lot at Knights Run Avenue and South Beneficial Drive, will include a mix of studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments as well as townhouses.
This is the latest rendering.
Fine. Now that Skyhouse is topped out, it is nice to know that at least one crane will be visible in the new year.
Transportation – Road Diet
The City is going to alter Platt Street to make it friendlier to alternative transportation.
We are not opposed to the idea, but it will be interesting to see what happens with traffic, given the dearth of transit. It will also be interesting to see if the few projects with some urban form going up on Platt are joined by more or it stays much the way it is, which is not particularly pedestrian (actually, in many areas, not very inviting at all). Hopefully, that can change.
List of the Week
Our apologies, but we found no good list this week.
USF Med School – The Latest
This week, the Tribune had another article on the USF med school which mostly ignored the question of how to deal with what is on the main campus now. However, it did give this vision:
“If you’re sitting in Judy Genshaft’s seat, the opportunity to create a signature building in the downtown core with USF establishing a footprint there is a game-changer for USF and for downtown Tampa,” said Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
“If we are able to pull that off, that’s going to change the whole dynamic. Not only will the medical school come down, but probably pharmacy will come down, the Heart Institute, the College of Nursing. You create a whole economic engine there that will fill up the apartments and condos that are being built. It will bring in retail.”
Oh, wait, that last part was about the Tampa Innovation Alliance. What is that (and it is easy to forget)?
At the same time, USF president Judy Genshaft was thinking — not only about roads, but about how the university could work with some of its biggest neighbors to become more of a force for economic development.
Nearly a year later, those thoughts have led to the creation of the Tampa Innovation Alliance, a new venture between USF, the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, University Community Hospital and Busch Gardens.
The plan is to clean up the northeast neighborhood those institutions share, centered on 30th Street from Fletcher Avenue to Busch Boulevard, bringing in new businesses and housing and creating a research and innovation zone and an area where people would want to live, work and play.
Note that, while not downtown, the area does include portions of the City of Tampa. (The Alliance had issues soon after its creation. ) And, as we learned this week from the Times columnist who is quite reticent to disagree with the Mayor:
Sharpe, 54, leaves to be director of the Tampa Innovation Alliance, to build “an innovation district” and push to make us a destination for medical tourism. Already he talks a mile a minute on this — we’re a “fabulous community” but “underperformed.”
Ok. That’s fine and the downtown and north Tampa goals (maybe) could be all be done (though likely not through as hoc steps), but a number of issues would have to be worked out. How is moving so many parts of USF’s health facilities downtown going to accomplish any of those goals? How will the move work with all the facilities on and near the main campus? What happens to those jobs of the future that are (or were) supposed to go near the main campus but, if there is a move, are supposed to go downtown? Are there enough jobs to go around – and will they get spread around?
It is odd that a officials so concerned with masterplanning have not revealed a full, thought out plan for the USF med school and associated institutions, though at least, this week we have this from a meeting where a committee of trustees gave a completely expected preliminary endorsement to the move (we are not going to get into the hyperbole, which is now totally out of hand):
The projected cost of the new, 12-story medical school is between $150 million to $163 million. USF has assembled around $130 million in funding and would need to find other sources to complete the project. The new medical school office tower could have 287,824 square feet of usable space.
USF President Judy Genshaft said that building a downtown medical school would allow USF Health to expand its cramped nursing and public health programs using the room created on the main campus. It would also allow USF Health to expand specialization in other medical and research areas on the main campus. And Genshaft said a downtown medical school wouldn’t cost USF any more to build than it would along Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.
That is more than anyone has said before, but contradicts the previous idea that the nursing school and other USF health facilities would go downtown, so who knows (which is our point about a plan).
And if new medical facilities (other than the med school itself) are all going to go in the vacated main campus land, how does it accomplish this:
As we have said, we are not opposed to moving the med school if all aspects of the move are properly thought out, which still does not seem to be the case.
– Just for the Record
Just for the record, here is a what we assume to be a massing rendering (the yellow box), as the drawing is not full of really happy people dancing with balloons:
Not much to say other than we hope there is some street interaction at the base of all of it, including that very large garage, and we hope there is room for expansion somewhere.
Port – In Search of Regionalism and an Identity
There was an interesting article in the Bradenton Herald about local ports getting together for talks rather than bickering.
Given that the ports have been arguing for no apparent reason, this is a good thing. What was the stated goal of the meeting?
Moderated by Richard Biter, assistant secretary of intermodal systems development for the Florida Department of Transportation, the initial meeting gave the three ports a start on fixing an identity crisis that has long plagued the Tampa Bay region. Simply put, potential overseas clients know Florida through Miami and Orlando. Tampa Bay is relatively unknown.
That is surprising (can you hear economic development officials gagging). How could it be that the port of Tampa – Florida’s “largest” port – is relatively unknown? How is Tampa Bay unknown after the RNC and IIFC and all that? What exactly is going on here?
Then again, at least the issue is being recognized, and FDOT is doing something about it.
The goals of the talks are to further a positive public image and private communications about the relationship between the ports, to begin crafting a joint marketing campaign and to develop a regional leadership structure. Those objectives were laid out at an Aug. 13 meeting FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad called to convince port leaders to work together on marketing.
Thursday’s meeting, held at FDOT’s District 7 headquarters, drew Port Manatee Executive Director Carlos Buqueras, St. Petersburg Executive Director Walter Miller, and the general council and vice president of government affairs from Port Tampa Bay.
You’ve got to start somewhere – why not try joint marketing brochures.
It is not clear why Port Tampa Bay’s CEO did not attend, but hopefully he will be there in the future. The fact is that this area must work together because of things like this:
Buqueras said the discussion was productive, particularly where it came to giving Port Manatee greater worldwide exposure. A globe-trotting salesman for the port, Buqueras has found overseas customers don’t know where Manatee County is. He said he often refers to Port Manatee as “Orlando’s port” to express the general location and service area in a way clients in Brazil, Spain and Mexico can relate to easily.
First, Tampa is closer to Orlando (but so is Port Canaveral). Second, feeling like you have to say you are Orlando’s port is just kind of sad. Hopefully, these new efforts will bear fruit and that feeling will go away.
In more port news:
Cranes are a big deal at ports, so the Port Tampa Bay board’s approval Tuesday to spend $24 million — half of which comes from state funding — for two new gantry cranes is a boon to the facility’s emphasis on building its container business.
It’s part of a strategy that finds the port growing its container footprint from the current 40 acres to 160, making way for the capacity to handle 1 million containers a year. A port statement said, “These new cranes will position Port Tampa Bay to capture the cargo that has long been moving via out-of-state ports … and provide a more efficient and enhanced supply chain alternative to the fast growing I-4 corridor region.”
We are all for getting new cranes. Hopefully, potential customers will know where to find them.
Channel District – Skyhouse Tops Out
This week, Skyhouse topped out. That is good.
The Tribune article on it also had a list of proposed (and a few completed) projects:
♦The Residences at the Riverwalk may boast the highest height, at 36-stories, with 380 units planned adjacent to the Straz Center along the Hillsborough River. After dismissal of lawsuits seeking to block the project, the tower is well into the planning phase, and Tampa expects to begin rerouting some streets to straighten out the now-twisted routes around the Straz and make way for a promenade of shops and restaurants.
♦That tower is backed by Greg Minder of Intown Group and Phillip Smith of Framework Group, who also are planning for a new tower on Harbour Island called — for now — the Harbour Island Apartments. That 21-story tower at the northeast corner of Knights Run Avenue and Harbour Post Drive could see completion in 2016. It will have 235 units, including several two-story units near the base. Compared with other residential towers in the area that focus on studio and one-bedroom apartments, this site is characterized by developers as more of a luxury living complex with hotel-like services.
♦The Martin at Meridian in the Channel District will be a 24-story tower with 316 units. That project has been proposed in several forms during the peaks and valleys of the housing market and is a frequent target of speculation for a downtown grocery store.
♦Atlanta-based Carter & Associates plans a yet-unnamed tower that will take up an entire block in the core of downtown, bordered by Florida Avenue, Cass Street, Franklin Street and Tyler Street. That project could include 375 units in an L-shaped 23-story tower. If all goes according to plan, that tower could break ground in the beginning of 2015.
♦Sugar producer Florida Crystals Corp. this summer bought a Channel District property for $3.8 million and plans to build 270 luxury apartments on the former Amazon Hose & Rubber Co. site at 222 N. 12th St.
♦Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik plans to put a hotel-resident combination tower at Florida Avenue and Old Water Street. Though largely a hotel, that property may include 50 luxury residences. If built like other hotel-apartment projects nationwide by Ritz-Carlton and Hyatt, the property would offer residents the concierge and gourmet room service of a five-star hotel.
♦Though not technically a tower, the new Crescent Bayshore apartment complex at Bayshore Boulevard and Beach Place significantly ramped up the luxury level of apartments near downtown when it formally opened this year with a two-story fitness center, a yoga studio overlooking the bay, a business lounge and a Resident Club Room with wine bottle lockers.
♦The 18-story Bliss condo project, planned to overlook Beach Drive from Fourth Avenue in St. Petersburg, will feature floor-to-ceiling windows in all bedrooms to take in views of Tampa Bay, with private elevator foyers and car lifts to whisk residents to their parking spaces on the first few floors.
♦The Salvador, a 13-story tower at Second Street South and Dalí Boulevard in St. Petersburg, will offer a concierge staff five days a week, a third-floor deck with a spa and heated saltwater pool, and gas cooktops in all 74 condo homes.
♦Just outside downtown St. Petersburg, the Water Club at Snell Isle gives residents direct access to the water, with boat slips and plenty of space to entertain guests at a waterside cabana, resort swimming pool and whirlpool spa.
♦Many of the rental apartment complexes going up in the city also offer amenities like the 3,000-square-foot fitness center at Beacon 430, at 430 3rd Ave. S., that will be open 24 hours a day with in-house exercise classes.
It is a fine list. Those who have lived here for a while will have seen many similar lists. It will be interesting to see which projects actually get built. Hopefully, it will be all of them (some with changes that make them better), but history would suggest that will not be the case. We look forward to finding out.
Rays – Parle ou Ne Parle Pas?
There was bad news about the Rays losing trusted members followed by a column in the New York Daily News that claimed the Rays owner had talked to some friends about moving the team to Montreal. Here is what the column said:
As for the Rays, the Friedman/Maddon defections signal a return to losing baseball and irrelevance in Tampa. Yes, both of them opted out for significant increases in salary, but after last year’s disappointing 77-85 fourth-place finish, they both realized they’d done all they could do in Tampa, and despite consistent 90-win seasons with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, the Rays played to a half-empty (or worse) stadium night after night. That, more than anything, wore on Maddon and his players, the manager told confidants. Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has been frustrated in his efforts to get out of Tropicana Field in St. Pete and move to a new stadium in Tampa, but there is growing belief that the economically depressed Tampa Bay area won’t support the Rays no matter where they play. And according to sources, Sternberg has had discussions with wealthy Wall Street associates about moving the Rays to Montreal, which has been without a major-league franchise since the Expos were transferred to Washington in 2005. As one major-league official put it to me Friday: “Say what you will about Montreal, but the Expos drew well over two million fans four times there in their heyday, while the Rays did that only once, their first year.
Setting aside the “economically depressed” comment (apparently our national media relations are not quite as good as advertised), the local media said the Rays denied the report, issuing this statement:
“We are committed to making baseball work in the Tampa Bay region. We will do everything we can to make that happen and right now things are moving in a productive and positive direction. We have not spoken to Montreal – or any other city, including Tampa – about relocation at any point.”
Which, if you actually read both items, is not a denial of the report. The Daily News report said the owner talked to associates, not Montreal. We think the Rays would like a new deal here, but it is very likely that the owner has talked to people he knows about options, even if he has not entered into discussions with Montreal (or other) officials. Frankly, as things stand, that only makes sense.
The fact is that as long as St. Pete stops the Rays from looking locally, the likelihood they will be sold and/or move (and the likelihood they cannot sustain their success) grows.
Transportation – HART Board
There were a few changes to the HART board.
Earlier this month, Mickey Jacob, founding principal at Tampa’s Urban Studio Architects and executive vice president of BDG Architects in Tampa, applied and was appointed to the HART board. Two others, Wallace Bowers and Karen Jaroch, were reappointed.
Frankly, we reserve judgment, except to note that the County Commission reappointing someone who is vehemently opposed to rail and most real transit is quite odd and to say the architect choice is interesting and may bring a new perspective, until we see what happens.
Transportation – Streetcar
The Port Board decided to hold some money from the streetcar.
The Tampa Port Authority voted Tuesday to delay paying a six-figure subsidy to the city’s struggling trolley until its nonprofit operator, Tampa Historic Streetcar Inc., shows the board a new business plan to turn around the streetcar system.
But this time Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman, who sits on the port’s governing board, wants the streetcar’s board to hire a consultant to look at ways to improve its operations before she votes to give it any more money. She also wants the streetcar people to work with the port as it develops a master plan for its downtown holdings in the Channel District and the Channelside Bay Plaza outdoor mall.
The trolley suffers from low ridership and low revenue, limiting the cars to 20 minutes between stops. But transit times can’t be improved until the streetcar gets better funding, a conundrum local officials have yet to solve.
Whether this will do any good or not is an open question. The streetcar needs to be operated as a real transportation element within a larger transportation system, not a novelty ride. That should be dealt with by the Transportation for Economic Development (TED) group, but nothing has been dealt with by them yet. Not paying now – especially when proposed by a member of the same TED group – seems a bit odd and hardly productive, but so be it. This is Hillsborough County.
Ybor – A Hotel Proposal
There was news this week of a hotel proposal for Ybor.
If approved and built, the hotel would include highlights of classic Havana and Tampa architecture, blended with elements of sleek, contemporary design. Along the way, backers plan to resurrect “Las Novedades,” one of Tampa’s original restaurants, reborn into a new space inside a four-story,180-room hotel wrapped in balconies overlooking the street.
Partners include Alfonso as architect, plus Broadway Development Inc., which is a joint venture between the families of Joe Capitano Sr. and the late Alfonso Garcia Jr., plus C. Samuel Ellison who recently left the construction giant Beck Group to join his son Casey at EWI Construction. A national hotel developer HRV Hotel Partners has also signed on. (The backers are negotiating with a lead hotel brand, but declined to identify it.)
This is a rendering:
And this is, as far as we can tell, the lot.
We have nothing to say but “Great,” especially since the project fills in a parking lot and also does not require any deal for city land. Not only that, but, even though we cannot real tell any details of the project from the rendering, the architects have done some of the best work in the area, in our opinion. It just goes to show that we do not need to settle.
Downtown – WiFi
WiFi downtown has started.
Bright House Networks has launched the service, free of advertisements but limited for Wi-Fi users who aren’t Bright House customers. Anyone using a personal computer, tablet, smartphone or other Wi-Fi-enabled device can connect to the Internet free for up to two hours per day, capped at 1 gigabyte per month. After reaching the daily or monthly limit, non-Bright House customers can buy more time online.
So it is not exactly free. As we said when this was initially announced, having WiFi is good. Having it free for a time is good (most people just wandering about will use it and be happy). It is unfortunate that there is a daily/monthly cap for those people who might use it intensely, even if we get BrightHouse’s reasoning.
New Port Tampa Bay – Reborn?
There was news that a large piece of land on Westshore south of Gandy which was the site of some grand plans (and some construction) before the recession that looked like this
has been taken over. (Note – grand plans that did not materialize.)
A Fort Lauderdale development company, BTI Partners, said it has acquired title to 51 waterfront acres once planned for 1,250 luxury condo units at the east end of the Gandy Bridge. Convenient to St. Petersburg, downtown Tampa and the West Shore district, the site is one of the most desirable undeveloped tracts in the entire bay region.
* * *
“We are currently investigating several avenues by which to restart New Port,” he said. “There actually (are) some condo parties interested in the project, lots of retail is interested, what with that location having frontage on both Westshore and Gandy, and the Tampa multifamily (rental) market is very strong right now.”
That’s all fine. However, this is the website of the developer. If you look over the projects, all of them are quite suburban or just really bland, 1980’s Florida style developments. This lot really is not a suburban lot (and it is not the 1980s). And then there is this:
Daniel said his company, working with international investment bank Houlihan Lokey, will take the next few months to consider options. “But, there has already been a lot of demand from high-end multifamily rental, retail and even for-sale condo and single family developers.” Local and national developers have expressed interest in buying portions of the site “or the project in its entirety,” he said.
“In this recovering real estate environment, we look forward to being a part of something that will not only be successful for our company and partners, but also a celebrated new destination for the community, as well,” Daniel said.
Single family? That property is not big enough to have real “live, work, play” and single family homes.
While the company has the land and can propose what it wants, it would be a shame (and a waste) for this property to be used for its standard style of development. Hopefully, it will do better.
Built Environment – Settling, An Example
Which leads us to the issue of settling. We have often complained about the City settling, and now we have an example. Back in 2012, the developers of No Ho Flats were allowed to close streets and have surface parking in their project:
That was not true then (and it is not true now), but it did help the developers make a really good profit when they sold the project soon after its opening.
Just coincidentally, we just ran across an application on the City’s handy Accela system by the No Ho Flats developer for “400 N Rome Ave.” (essentially right next to No Ho Flats.) Looking over the attachments what does one find but a large apartment building with a garage in the middle.
Apparently two years is “a long time.” The point is that we are going to be stuck with No Ho Flat’s surface parking and a closed road for years – probably decades. Two years later, it is clear there was no need to settle for that. Market conditions were fine (other contemporary projects had garages). It was just settling, and it was unnecessary.
At least the developer has changed its approach. It’s just too bad that we got stuck with a poorly designed development first.
Why Not Here?
One of the major local companies is planning a new prototype.
The Lakeland-based grocer has been working on a 20,000-square-foot model for several months, as sister news organization the Orlando Business Journal first reported. Real estate sources in Jacksonville and Tampa say Publix is continuing to work on that model, possibly for a Charlotte location.
“At this time, we can’t confirm plans for a 20,000 square foot prototype,” said Kim Reynolds, a Publix spokeswoman in Charlotte. “Therefore, we can’t confirm where that first prototype might be located.”
Publix’s current urban stores are about 28,000 square feet, and the company’s traditional stores are about 49,000 square feet. A new smaller model would be a more feasible way for the grocer to enter more high-barrier-to-entry markets, like urban locations, college towns and coastal areas. Those areas typically can’t accommodate a full-size store, and stores in those locations tend to do extremely well, as there’s no space for a competitor to come in and build another store.
We are glad that Publix is working hard to stay competitive and creating new models. We just wish they looked to the Tampa Bay area for their urban prototype rather than Charlotte. (Especially with the growing competition in the area for niche groceries.) But that should tell you something.
Speaking of Publix, there was a nice donation made to the University of Tampa this week.
Howard Jenkins, 63, is the chairman of the executive committee of Publix Super Markets and a member of UT’s board of trustees. Patricia Jenkins, 59, founded Apollo Environmental, which specializes in hazardous materials consulting and analysis, expert witness testimony and regulatory compliance.
Both UT and USF are doing a nice job of bringing in donations, and locals are doing an admirable job showing their generosity and supporting those institutions.
It would be nice if the area around UT could now be redone to take advantage of the growing population of students living right near downtown. After all, for all the talk of USF med school, UT already is a downtown university.
Cars of the Future?
There has been a lot of talk about autonomous cars being the transportation of the future. They may be. Or maybe not. We found this interesting article in Slate about some of the issues with autonomous cars that may indicate they are not nearly as close to reality as some would have us believe.
List of the Week
There will be no list this week.
Transportation – Just Trust Them
After a big break, there was action on the Hillsborough transportation front.
Setting aside that we thought the transportation for economic development group was supposed to come up with a plan, it seems like a high price, but that is how Hillsborough functions.
Parsons Brinckerhoff was hired at the insistence of county commissioners, who wanted a consultant with transportation experience to lead the county’s outreach effort. The firm has worked on transportation referendums in Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver and statewide in South Carolina and Louisiana.
Ok, we understand the outreach part, but why outsource the plan? Because it is all confused:
County Administrator Mike Merrill has already been meeting with business groups and community service organizations to discuss the policy group’s preliminary plans. These include road, bridge and trail projects; a doubling of the HART bus system; and a light rail line from Westshore to downtown Tampa.
Nothing wrong with that. A completely reasonable step. But:
If Hillsborough County voters are asked in 2016 to approve an extra sales tax for transportation, the ballot question might not mention the words “light rail” — or any other specific mode of mass transit.
In a move that sharply differs from the Greenlight Pinellas referendum, a Hillsborough plan that could be the backbone for a referendum here would refer only to “fixed guideways” — a term that includes bus rapid transit and all types of rail, including heavy, light or commuter.
The transportation plan, which an engineering and design consulting firm is being paid nearly $900,000 to complete by March 2015, would not speak to route alignments, station locations or modes of transit.
“In terms of transit projects, it would be focusing on corridors rather than specific modes of transit,” Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill said Tuesday. “I don’t think the referendum is going to refer to any specific mode.”
Wait a minute. If you thought the 2010 referendum was confusing and that people do not get the distinction between light rail, intercity rail, high speed rail, etc., what makes you think they get, or even care to get, “fixed guideways?” (and why discuss light rail if it is not part of the plan?) And you are going to ask people to vote to tax themselves so that the HART board – either the present structure or a new one – can spend billions of dollars on who knows what? No route alignments, no station locations, no technology? Are they to just have faith that the same organizations that have created the problem will solve them if they just get more money?
Greenlight Pinellas looked at the 2010 Hillsborough Referendum and decided that being very specific and open about the plan was the way to go. Hillsborough County has now gone the other way – success through vagueness. And, even if Hillsborough’s strategy works, then what? The same arguments replayed forever with no idea when anything will happen. The referendum should answer the questions not multiply them.
After all this time and all those meetings, the best that the TED group could come up with is outsource and be vague? In other words, punt.
USF Med School – The Editorial
This week, the Tribune editorial page did what was expected and endorsed the idea of a downtown medical school. That is totally understandable. We get the idea of the downtown school. In fact, it was so expected, we were not going to even mention it. But then we read the whole thing and thought a few things were noteworthy.
First, because the strength of an argument rests on the facts:
As members of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce learned on trips over the past few years to Pittsburgh (University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University), Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania) and Baltimore (John Hopkins Medical School), academic institutions, particularly medical schools, bring vitality and investment to the urban core.
A downtown complex would help the medical school compete for the best and brightest students and researchers. As Buckhorn stresses, young people like a dynamic urban environment. There is a good reason the University of Central Florida medical school is considering a downtown Orlando location.
As we asked before:
Is that the case?
1) Carnegie Mellon is about four miles from downtown Pittsburgh – basically the distance from downtown Tampa to Dale Mabry. (Not to mention the much bigger Pitt is between Carnegie Mellon and downtown, and Duquesne University is downtown. ) So the effect of Carnegie Mellon on downtown is tangential at best.
2) Johns Hopkins is close to, but not in, downtown Baltimore. (Though Hopkins medical school is closer to downtown Baltimore than the main campus). However, if you have been to Baltimore, you know that neither really drives the downtown.
3) Penn is arguably in Center City Philadelphia but is not even close to the main driver of the quite developed Center City area. And Thomas Jefferson Medical School is in Center City proper, anyway Yes, there are two medical schools in relatively close proximity, though we are not sure you would want to walk – and you don’t have to because there is decent transit.
(See “Of Downtown, Rays, Med Schools, and Money”) You can see more detail, including medical schools that are actually going in downtowns in “USF Med School – The Push Begins.” And just to add a little more detail, Carnegie Mellon’s program is coordinated with Pitt, which is not downtown. And that does not even deal with the failure to develop vitality around UT in Tampa.
And then there is UCF’s downtown proposal. We do not know why the Tribune said that the proposal had to do with UCF’s medical school, because, as far as we can tell, it doesn’t. See “USF Med School – The Push Begins,” plus articles here, here, and here. (Not to mention UCF’s downtown campus will have dorms.)
The location of the UCF med school, just like the Pitt, Penn, and Hopkins med schools, is not that important, except that, as we said, arguments should be based on facts. If properly built (which is an open question), the USF med school downtown would bring people and activity to the area. (How much and what effect that would have depends on how it is built and what is built around it.) That has always been clear – and not the question.
But setting that all aside, the crux of the matter comes up more in this part of the editorial:
Relocating some USF medical programs would not undermine its commitment to the North Tampa campus, which would surely retain parts of USF Health operations. The move would allow more growth at the main campus.
With no known plan to make sure it doesn’t, it is hard to say that putting it downtown would not undermine USF Health on the main campus. If you take all those people who are supposed to revitalize downtown Tampa away from the main campus, you are clearly hurting that campus and that area. What will replace it? And what of the word that does not appear anywhere in the editorial: Moffitt? And the other related institutions? That is the question – what is the plan?
We have no problem supporting the idea if there is a real plan. The problem is that there is an idea, but there is not a plan. As we showed last week, based on local history, it is not enough to say: “It is a cool idea. Just do it on faith.” And note, this is what the Tribune editorial said about CAMLS when it opened:
It’s a “game changer for downtown,” says Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and he’s right. The University of South Florida Health’s Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation will bring the city, in the mayor’s words, “exactly the kind of jobs we want.”
It should attract makers of medical devices and other health-care-related businesses to the area. Dr. Stephen Klasko, CEO of USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine, says CAMLS already has gotten the attention of CEOs around the country.
But, as nice as CAMLS is, it did not change the game downtown. And the same editorial lists all the institutions around the present USF med school about which we have heard nothing of a plan if the med school moves:
The Pepin Heart Center at Florida Hospital-Tampa specializes in heart disease. The state Legislature recently allocated $6.9 million to USF’s medical school to help establish a heart institute in partnership with Pepin and other hospitals. This venture will need more public and private support but promises to make the region a national leader in heart disease research.
But the heart Institute, for which ground was already broken on the main campus, is part of the downtown proposal – very far from the Pepin facility. So what about all that? (or the other things in this map) How will it be handled?
And then this, about downtown:
And what is the plan with this?
Of course, they are entitled to their opinion, but we wish the Tribune had said something to this effect: “It sounds like a great idea, but it needs a fleshed out plan.”
Because, while moving the med school is an intriguing idea with a good amount of possible upside, it is incumbent to make sure that before anything happens USF makes sure to follow this simple idea: Do no harm.
The move can happen and be a success if it is the best thing for USF med school, but, because the entire campaign for it is based on the standard rhetoric used for every project (see last week) and precious few details, no one knows.
That is not enough. There are a large number of expensive and valuable moving parts here. For success, there needs to be a plan for the potential new campus as well as the old one. Make the case. Tell us the plan.
Economic Development – Show Us Your Supercilious Pomposity
There was a column in the Times about an economic development pep rally.
Such was the can-do theme at Tuesday evening’s fifth annual meeting of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. A pro-expansion group with a too-long name, the EDC in short order emerged quickly as the region’s high-energy leader in pushing forward bolder economic ambitions.
Gathering at Channelside’s Amalie Arena before hundreds of business and political leaders, the EDC briefly saluted such big successes as recruiting Amazon’s immense distribution center with more than 1,000 jobs. And there was applause aplenty for the potential looming behind Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik’s massive Channelside redevelopment plan. That transformative city project recently won financial backing from billionaire Bill Gates.
Vinik even appeared on the arena’s huge screen in a promotional video in which he told why Tampa was his top choice after he had searched for the right community and right NHL team to acquire. Tampa’s slogan should be “The Welcoming City,” Vinik states in the video.
Setting aside that the Amazon warehouse is not a “big success” nor is it taking us to the “next level,” there is nothing wrong with getting excited for economic development or supporting the outline of the Lightning owner’s (as yet not revealed) plans – and note that at least the reporting has the Lightning owner being quite reasonable in tone, as opposed to swagger.
In that sense, the column was not particularly interesting. However, there were two notable items:
USF College of Public Health dean Donna Petersen floated the growing possibility of the Morsani medical school and other USF health assets relocating downtown from the Tampa campus as yet another catalyst for growth.
Yup. Doesn’t sound like a done deal.
It is fine rhetoric, though we are not sure who he means. But it is always worth remembering that capacity is not the same as achievement. It is the settling, lack of proper planning of all sorts, and people selling “ok” as “excellent” (and other such diminished expectations, like a warehouse being a “big success”) over the decades (and not just in government, but generally) that has held us back more than anything else. This area has always had the ability to much better than it does.
As for swagger, we discussed it last year. See “Insecurity Watch – Welcome to Swagger City” We’ll just quote from that:
But let us go back to “swagger.” Merriam-Webster defines it as such:
(A good example of swagger would be the Mayor of Toronto, which is undergoing quite a boom, whose excuse for smoking crack was that he was hammered. What could be more swagger-ful than a Mayor smoking crack while trashed, yet having an economic boom?)
On the other hand, “confidence” is defined like this:
In other words, “swagger” and “confidence” are not the same thing. Confidence is belief you can get the job done – and belief in what you are selling. Swagger is arrogance. In reality, swagger is often a misplaced confidence or a cover for insecurity. It is an affectation. And swagger is usually off-putting. Confidence is has substance; swagger is puffery. (Houston and Dallas do not have swagger, they have confidence and we doubt their elected officials think a Bass Pro Shop is “economic development at its best.”)
Our point is that confidence in the economic development mission is fine, necessary even. It instills confidence in others and helps move things along. Confidence is quietly understood and effective. Moreover, real success instills confidence in you and those with whom you speak because they know that you can get it done without you telling them. Swagger is hype without substance.
For illustrative purposes:
(Setting aside [ ] who “they” are.) Telling yourself that for three decades while people still do not do it is swagger. (See this article from January 1986.) Methodically doing all the things you need to do so that those people actually say it on their own without prompting is confidence. (And, as much as we like getting the new jobs, great cities do not have to subsidize back office operations to get them to relocate.)
We’ll just assume the economic development officials were just having fun and really meant “confidence,” but, unfortunately, we cannot really be sure.
Though if people keep saying “swagger,” we’ll have to assume they really mean it. Aside from that (and substituting “Amazon warehouse” for “Bass Pro Shop”) and nothing has changed.
PTC – More of the Same
Sadly, there was more of the same from the PTC this week.
Several intractable points have created a bitter stalemate in negotiations, at least in the eyes of local taxi regulators, in contrast to the optimism that once flowered earlier this summer that ride-sharing start-ups Lyft Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. might soon operate here legitimately.
“We’ve bent over backwards, many times, to try and accommodate them,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist who chairs the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission. “They have done nothing, nothing, to accommodate us, and the bottom line is that we’re now asking them to do one simple thing. Abide by the rules like everyone else.”
Sure. Go on.
Wilson with Lyft said the company simply cannot work with rules that create minimum fare charges, and minimum wait times, as is required for limousine rides. And she contends Lyft more than adequately screens potential driver backgrounds, and more than complies with insurance requirements. PTC officials counter the opposite is true, and have offered to subsidize fingerprint scans for Lyft and Uber drivers.
Again with the price fixing and minimum wait times. You can’t complain about good faith/bad faith if you insist on rigging the game. Just drop it and see what happens. But, no:
“They don’t want to be legal,” he said. “Their business model is to come in, cheat the system, and undercut taxi prices, and claim they don’t have to play by the rules. And once they get a sizeable market share, then they say ‘Ok, now maybe we’ll play by the rules.’”
Ok, we’ll say it again: the minimum pricing is stupid, as are minimum wait times. (And why should anyone pay for a medallion? We get paying the cost – the actual cost – of a background check, but why pay an additional tax just to operate?) There has been no justification given for them other than to protect the cab companies from competition – which is no justification. So what if ridesharing undercuts taxi prices – that is competition and the market. (As for insurance, it seems that the rideshare companies are closer to having their insurance okayed. And in further news, the PTC’s attempts to enforce their rules have run into some issues.)
Once again, the PTC is telling us how they view their role – to protect taxi companies. And, once again, until thy drop those protectionist rules, the PTC lacks credibility.
And this all makes one wonder: Uber and Lyft have money and media attention behind them to keep the issue going. What other ideas and innovations have been smothered or never launched because they are stifled by protectionist regulation before they ever get off the ground?
Economic Development – A Look at the Home Market
There was news this week about home sales.
Good, though not as good as the state as a whole. Previous increases in sales and prices were driven by investors. What is happening now?
More than a third of the single-family home sales in Tampa Bay were in cash, reflecting continued activity by investors hunting for properties to rent out or flip. But don’t read too much into that, one Realtor says.
“Right now, most investors would tell you that they’re priced out of the market,” said Irwin Wilensky of St. Petersburg-based SunRaye Realty. “I would contend that most cash sales are second-home buyers or trade-down buyers” such as empty-nesters who are downsizing.
Wilensky’s firm specializes in bank-owned properties, which accounted for 874 of bay area single-family home sales in September, or almost 50 percent more than at the same time last year. In Pinellas County, the median sale price of foreclosures jumped by nearly 9 percent to $95,180.
So, maybe it is driven by investors or maybe not. In any event, on the down side, foreclosure sales are up, especially on more expensive houses.
It seems the market is getting better, but previous news makes it clear that there are going to be ups and downs. It is also not completely clear how strong the improvement is. Nonetheless, despite some blips, overall the latest news is good.
Economic Development – Whither the VC?
Once again, venture capital numbers came out and Florida did not do well.
Venture capitalists invested $9.9 billion in 1,023 deals nationwide in the third quarter of 2014. Although that’s a 27 percent drop from the second quarter of the year, 2014 totals thus far have eclipsed those for all of 2013.
In Florida, VC investing dropped to $36.8 million among just six deals in the third quarter. That’s down 67 percent from the second quarter’s investing of nearly $114 million in 13 deals in the state. The numbers come from MoneyTree data compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association based on data from Thomson Reuters.
Or as the Miami Herald explained: “Florida reaped just a tiny sliver — about a third of 1 percent — of the U.S. venture capital pie in the third quarter, according to statistics released Friday.” And most of that is not in the Tampa Bay area, which is the most important thing for our purposes.
Just note this about the next batch of numbers:
Next quarter’s Florida numbers are likely to look off the charts with reports that Google Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz are involved in a $500 million round for Broward-based Magic Leap, the cinematic reality company founded by Rony Abovitz, cofounder of Mako Surgical. Magic Leap closed a $50 million Series A round in February.
So the state’s numbers will be better. We are not sure about Tampa Bay.
Downtown – Have Drink (From Preapproved Locations)
There was news of an interesting idea for the Riverwalk:
The Tampa City Council is developing a “specialty center” and open-container area encompassing the full Riverwalk that will allow patrons to carry beer, wine and cocktails as they take in the downtown Hillsborough River view.
Ok. There is some sense in allowing people to stroll with their drinks. How is it going to work?
Patrons at eight licensed alcoholic beverage providers included in the specialty center will be able to get their drinks in a special plastic cup that bears the Riverwalk logo and has been approved by the city. They can then leave the site and walk up or down the Riverwalk from its southern end, near the Tampa Bay History Center along the Garrison Channel, west to the Hillsborough River and north along its east bank to Water Works Park.
The ordinance covers the Riverwalk itself, not the parks that line the trail, unless they hold a special-event permit. And there’s no bringing beverages purchased outside the specialty area onto the Riverwalk.
We understand the idea of limiting the alcohol that can be brought in – though that is not going to stop people from being drunk, just certain people. On the other hand, it is a bit odd to force people to have to go to specific places to buy their drinks in what is essentially a public park.
And it raises some questions: who exactly will be allowed to sell approved alcohol? Will it only be businesses located on public-ish property, like the museums and convention center? Or will waterfront establishments get special privileges? Will they have to pay more for their licenses? What about bars and restaurants a block away from the Riverwalk – are they excluded? Will that hurt their business? What about two blocks? Three blocks? Across the street from a park? The Marriott but not the Embassy Suites? If so, why is the City deciding to hurt some local businesses and favor others? How do you stop people from going into parks that appear to be part of the Riverwalk? (It is not like there are no events with drinking in City parks right now.) Where exactly does the Riverwalk end and the park start here and here?
The reporting does not say. Like we said, we get the idea and it makes a certain amount of sense. But, if it is going to be restrictive, there are a lot of issues to work out – especially if it is to be fair.
Meanwhile in the Rest of Florida
– Seeing Clearly
We found this interesting nugget about the Orlando area:
Osceola County and the University of Central Florida broke ground Thursday on a new high-tech manufacturing facility near Kissimmee. Originally aimed at producing smart sensors, the facility may also include a broader focus on photonics.
The Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center, originally announced in June, is expected create a new hub for manufacturing, attracting thousands of jobs and eventually growing into a $200 million project. The sensors would be used in appliances, cars, surgical devices, mobile phones and other technology – known as smart sensors.
Good for them. Both high tech and manufacturing – both targets of our local economic development officials. What was also interesting was this:
The center is a partnership among Osceola County government, the Florida High Tech Corridor Council and the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission. Enterprise Florida, the University of Florida and the University of South Florida also are partners.
USF is a partner (which we understand since there is no facility like that here, though that brings up the question of why). So what is UCF collaborating on to build the Tampa Bay economy (aside from UCF building their own med school and large biomed complex, including a VA simulation training center, in Lake Nona to compete with USF)?
– Pretty, Pretty Bridge
Miami is getting their signature bridge downtown.
Major improvements to I-395, including a new signature bridge, are funded for 2018 and preliminary design work continues with an eye toward a January 2015 design completion date, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.
“The design has not yet been chosen,” said Tasha Cunningham, spokesperson for the transportation department. “The department is working with the Aesthetic Steering Committee. At this time, both the Wishbone and Lotus designs are being considered.”
Twenty years in the making, Miami city leaders had to fight to get the I-395 project back on track. City commissioners in July announced an agreement with the state for reconstruction of Interstate 395 that calls for a new “signature” bridge near the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.
That’s nice. The much longer Howard Frankland northbound replacement is budgeted for $ 425 million (and FDOT is making one of the four existing free lanes a toll lane). Kind of odd.
List of the Week
This week’s list is actually a number of lists from a report on where educated Millennials are moving. The report has received a decent amount of local coverage like this:
Think tank City Observatory released a report this week with data on how the nation’s 51 largest metros are faring in terms of attracting a young, educated workforce. Between 2000 and 2012, the population of 25- to 34-year-olds with a college degree in Tampa Bay grew nearly 41 percent, from 74,341 to 104,532.
Charlotte — the Southeastern finance hub Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn often cites as a top competitor for young people and the companies that follow them — grew its population of that demographic by about 30 percent, from 76,718 to  100,073.
But Texas — which just outranked Florida for best business climate— appears to be doing a better job at winning Millennials. Houston and San Antonio saw 50 percent increases in that demographic, and Austin saw a jump of 44 percent.
How do we compare in this megatrend to other large metro areas? Yes, Tampa Bay is adding better-educated young adults at a robust clip. But the region is building from such a small base of the general population that it still lags behind other areas perceived as cooler places to live.
Why do we care about this particular study? It was done by Joe Cortright, the same regional economist who a decade ago authored a “Young and the Restless” study on this area’s educated young. That study found that Tampa Bay was perceived as a place where you spend the last part of your life.
Both those are generally correct. The Tampa Bay area has shown decent growth in percentage terms in educated Millennials, but the lower the basis, the easier to get higher growth. Moreover, an area like Charlotte is much smaller than the Tampa Bay area so it should have fewer educated Millennials in general, though it is very close. Consequently, another measure of how we are doing is the percentage of the population that is educated Millennials. The report goes into both, so we will provide detailed info.
First, the increase in the number of educated Millennials. While the Tampa Bay area’s percentage increase is high, the list is ranked by the actual number of educated Millennials in 2012. We list the top 40 and note with an asterisk the areas with a smaller overall population than ours. (Florida cities in italics.) It is notable how many metro areas smaller than ours (a top 20 metro) are listed above us. (Of course, if the difference in growth continues, we will pass a number, but we are ranked 27th).
|25 to 34 Year Olds with a BA Degree. Change, 2000 to 2012||2000||2012||Pct. Chg.||Number|
|12||Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL Metro Area||179,077||223,287||24.7%||44,210|
|19||San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA*||134,357||141,942||5.6%||7,585|
|27||Tampa Bay area||74,341||104,532||40.6%||30,191|
|38||Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News*||54,252||69,034||27.2%||14,782|
From pdf, pg 14. (**Note the Denver CSA is larger than the Denver metropolitan area and is slightly larger than the Tampa Bay area. The Denver metropolitan statistiacal area is smaller in population than the Tampa Bay area.)
It is also notable that some locations with a higher base Millennial population, like Portland, OR, have a smaller percentage increase but much higher actual increase. So the growth numbers are interesting and good, but they are not the last word.
The second list gives us the percentages of educated Millennials in the population. It is ranked by the percentage of the overall population. The Tampa Bay area is 47th out of 51, so we provide the whole list.
|Metro areas, ranked by percentage of population 25/34 with a BA||25 to 34 Year Olds with a BA Degree as a Percent of 25/34||25 to 34 Year Olds with a BA Degree as a Percent of Population|
|4||San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||43.9%||50.0%||7.7%||7.5%|
|21||Salt Lake City||26.4%||31.6%||4.2%||5.3%|
|29||Saint Louis, MO-IL||30.5%||36.3%||4.0%||4.9%|
|40||Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News||23.7%||27.6%||3.4%||4.1%|
|44||Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL Metro Area||25.8%||29.6%||3.6%||3.9%|
|47||Tampa Bay Area||24.5%||29.7%||3.1%||3.7%|
From pdf, pg 16.
That gives a good view of where we really area.
USF Med School – Rhetorical Rerun
This week, there was more on the push to put the USF med school in downtown. While the explanation of the real plan and how it would work for the entire med school ecosystem was pretty thin, there were statements, like that it
is a game-changer for the University of South Florida and the city of Tampa and will attract industry leaders and medical experts from around the world. . . [and that they will make it] a national center for transforming medical education and create a hub for biomedical research in the downtown area.
Oh, wait, that was about CAMLS. About which:
Officials say that tens of thousands of doctors, nurses, radiology technicians, anesthesiologists, residents, emergency medical personnel and others who require medical training are expected to travel to Tampa to visit the center. As with many economic forecasts, the numbers aren’t precise. In January of 2011, when dirt was first broken, a story on USF Health’s website reported “some 60,000 health care professionals are expected to visit Tampa each year.” That figure has been readjusted down to 30,000 annually (with as many as 10,000 of those professionals coming from the Bay area), but according to figures from USF, CAMLS will still have a $5.7 million impact on the Tampa Bay economy.
Although CAMLS hasn’t been open for a full month yet, everyone associated with it expects it to grow. Deborah Sutherland says in fact that Trammell Crow and Colliers Arnold are developing the lot across the street from CAMLS for a hotel and mixed use retail area, which could also house more of the office components of the current structure. But don’t call it “CAMLS II,” since that’s what officials are calling a possible project in the works in Panama.
Of course, that part about the complex across the street did not happen because of lack of demand, and the person who led that effort now works with the Lightning owner’s development group.
Here is the info on the med school:
Making the argument for it:
Civic leaders also hope [it] will help the convention center and hotel, . . . performing arts center and a marketplace and hotel already on Harbour Island. The latter two have so far not been successful.
Whoops, that was the aquarium in 1989.
And about the convention center, which seems to always need help (including from the Lightning owner’s planned hotel), when it was built around 1990, there were claims that it would allow Tampa to host the biggest conventions, including political conventions. There was a political convention, but only after there was an arena built nearby to actually host the event.
And let’s go back to CAMLS for a minute:
To much of the public, the details of what takes place at CAMLS have taken a back seat to its potential as an economic driver for the Tampa Bay area. During the Tampa mayoral campaign in the winter of 2011, the facility shared center stage with high-speed rail as a touted instrument for economic renaissance.
Indeed, that was how it was sold, but not how it functioned. It is a good facility, but not the driver of an economic renaissance.
The point is this – we are not opposed to the convention center, the aquarium, CAMLS or potentially moving the USF med school. Each one is a potential element in building a solid downtown. However, each one was sold as being the solution to downtown’s issues. They were not (though the final consensus about that usually came years after the hype). The convention center lacked (and apparently lacks) enough hotel rooms nearby and is too small for the largest conventions (and cannot readily be expanded). The aquarium (which we love for a number of reasons but view realistically) sadly has underperformed, though it has gotten better. (see here and here) And it has many competitors, including the one that will be built in Clearwater. CAMLS may have been cutting edge when built, but it was obvious that other facilities would be built in other locations to compete with it. And none of it was part of a comprehensive plan to make them work well together.
It is true that a city is built in steps. Each step should add to the whole, eventually making it a thriving, enjoyable place. We get that the idea to move the USF med school is part of that – which is why we do not reject the idea out of hand. (In fact, we like the idea provided the relevant questions have proper answers.) However, if it shows anything, the history of downtown efforts in Tampa shows that when these steps are executed without a real plan – not a 4 or 8 year plan – but a real, long term plan, they fall short and you should not believe the hype.
Frankly, the USF med school idea, while looking like it is a done deal, also looks like it was spur of the moment idea. There is as yet no evidence that it is well thought out. There is no public explanation of how it will work and what will happen to the related, existing institutions. That is why we keep saying the case needs to be made, though we doubt it will be because:
Details — should USF lease or buy? What other parts of USF Health might come, too? How big would the building be? — are “to be worked out between Jeff and Judy,” the mayor said, “but I think that’s eminently doable.”
So they are on board with what exactly? It does not matter because we are told they are on board. Why discuss it? (The “local players” were on board with the other projects discussed in this segment, too. That did not make the excessive predictions verify.)
We are all for the Lightning owner’s outlined project concept. We think it can really change downtown, assuming the actual product resembles what is advertised. If it is built, we plan on enjoying it. We get why he wants the USF med school as part of his project, and we get why he did this:
The land that Vinik has proposed donating to USF is “about an acre,” Freeman said, at the corner of Channelside Drive and S Meridian Avenue, across the street from an arena parking lot Vinik owns next to the Tampa Bay History Center.
That is both a nice move and also a private business decision to benefit his project. That’s fine. Our concern has nothing to do with that (though that choice of specific lot seems a bit odd).
Our concern is crystalized in this comment on downtown Tampa from 1985 coverage of the opening of Harbour Island:
He was one of the original members of the Tampa Downtown Development Authority and was its chairman from 1978 through 1980 during the time after leaving the sports authority and joining Harbour Island Inc.
The problem is that the downtown med school idea is being sold solely on the basis of predictions of economic development, and, as demonstrated above, we have seen that movie before and it did not end that well (like this). If everything we had been told over the years by local officials had been true, downtown would not need the USF med school as an activity center in the first place (and the Tampa Bay area would be a “usual suspect” on the List of the Week). Such rhetoric should not be relevant to the decision.
The threshold question should be whether moving is the best thing for the USF med school and associated institutions. It may or may not be, but that has not been part of the discussion.
We don’t care about the hype. Give us the details of the full plan and why it is best for USF and the entire biomed ecosystem of the Bay area.
In other words, make the case.
Economic Development/Downtown – Long Live the CRA
This week, the County Commission approved extending the CRAs.
Tampa has CRAs in seven parts of the city, including downtown, the Channel District, Ybor City and East Tampa. Along with extending the life of several CRAs, commissioners agreed to the creation of an eighth in West Tampa.
That’s all fine with us. Like we said last week, it is not clear that the County would use the money particularly well.
CRA’s have their uses. The bottom line is that they should not be judged when they are authorized, they should be judged by the outcome of the projects they fund. Time will tell.
Economic Development – Building Something
There was news about construction rebounding in Tampa.
“We knew we were trending this way,” Buckhorn said from Pittsburgh, which he was touring with members of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. “What’s exciting for us is that we have gotten to this point this quickly, which tells me that we are really accelerating out of the recession.”
Still, Buckhorn said the upward trends in both the numbers of permits and total values of residential and commercial projects show that Tampa is growing. The pace of the growth, he said, convinces him that changes he’s made to make City Hall’s permitting faster, more efficient and user-friendly have paid off.
Well, that is good, but the article did not really give useful information about how good. Because costs are subject to inflation and a change in the value of a dollar, rather than looking at plain dollars, it is better to look at constant dollars. Luckily, the Federal government has this handy website to help you look at inflation. If you plug in $2000 in 2014 dollars (you can’t do billions), it says that is about $1740 in 2007 dollars. So, adding a few zeros, it can be determined that building permit values are around the peak. Whether it is a record or not is not material. (The article was sufficiently vague so that exact comparisons cannot be made.)
The streamlined process may have helped (and we like the Accela website), but an improving national economy probably did more. There is likely much pent up demand being met and, if the Lightning owner moves forward, that value should still go much higher.
The article makes the comparison with past performance in Tampa. The other relevant comparison – in many ways far more relevant – is with other cities. It is hard to get overall numbers for specific cities, but we did find that Denver had $1.8 billion in projects under construction in downtown alone in 2013. Whether that is building permits or not is unclear.
We also found this handy census bureau website that provides information about “Annual New Privately-Owned Residential Building Permits” for cities. The following chart has numbers from the website for 2013 residential permits (note: the website had only numbers for Mecklenburg County, not the city of Charlotte)
Conclude from that what you will.
Economic Development – A Look at Reality
We were gratified to see a recent column in the Times that, as we have done many times, looked at per capita metro area GDP numbers.
At first glance, Tampa Bay’s $115 billion gross domestic product, a measure of this metro area’s economic output of goods and services last year, seems quite respectable, growing 2.3 percent in 2013. After all, the nation’s 300-plus metro areas combined averaged just 1.7 percent growth.
Also, the pace of Tampa Bay’s GDP isn’t improving much over time. Over a dozen years, from 2001 to 2013, Tampa Bay’s GDP per person rose a mere 3.1 percent. (Notably, Orlando’s per-person GDP actually fell 4 percent in that same period but still remains bigger than Tampa Bay’s.) Meanwhile, Indianapolis enjoyed a 5.2 percent bump, and Cleveland soared by 12 percent in the same period.
As we have noted before, it is startling, as is the lack of broad discussion of this reality over the years. The column then notes the low wages in the area and looks at causes of our poor performance:
The severity of Florida’s recession discouraged much of the earlier economic development efforts to pursue higher-wage jobs in manufacturing and biotech. The once-common pitch by economic leaders describing Florida tourism and agriculture as the state’s industries of yesterday is rarely heard these days.
While this metro area remains economically diverse, it boasts few significant corporate headquarters. Only three of Florida’s 14 Fortune 500 companies are based in the Tampa Bay metro area and are split among the three larger cities. None of the three ranks among the Fortune 100, and none shows a propensity to serve as significant regional leaders in the economy.
We have a few issues with this list, but the overall themes are about right. The column concludes:
Given such dour trends, Tampa Bay may want to remove the rose-colored glasses long enough to rethink how to get back in the economic game. It’s a game that’s certainly not going to get any easier in the years to come.
As regular readers know, that has long been a Tampasphere theme, and we could not agree more. Far too often reality is drowned out by all the hype. The more people who are discussing these realities, the more likely we will get some solutions – which is the ultimate goal.
PTC – They Just Don’t Get It
After, thankfully taking a week or so off of talking about the PTC, it is back.
Regulators who oversee Hillsborough County’s for-hire vehicles want to create a countywide transportation smartphone app similar to ones used by Uber and Lyft — only without including those ride-share companies in it.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the Public Transportation Commission heard pitches from two companies proposing the agency get its own app featuring legal transportation options — such as licensed taxi and limo companies and buses — rather than the ride-share services currently operating here against the rules.
Commission executive director Kyle Cockream said he would put together a draft of a request for proposals from companies interested in creating the app, which he will present at the next board meeting.
Of course, that misses the point. It is not just the app. It is the service, the cost, the price fixing, the lack of competition, etc. And why is the PTC making an app? Is it in competition with Uber and Lyft or regulating them? Shouldn’t the cab companies develop their own app or is the PTC now their agent?
Meanwhile, there was a little hubbub about a recent transportation confab that included rideshare companies. One cab owner (the same that worked to eliminate the independent, free electric shuttles downtown) sent a letter complaining.
Minardi concludes his letter by stating, “Simply put, you have leveraged public monies to support illegal business operations, validated breaking the law in Hillsborough County, and called into question the ethics of elected officials to support it. I believe you should publicly apologize to Commissioner Sharpe and Senator Jeff Brandes and retract your support of Uber and Lyft until they are in full compliance with the law.”
But Minardi says when the PTC attempted to cut the minimum fares and minimum times over the summer, neither Lyft nor Uber were interested in that compromise. And regarding those companies’ insurance and background check policies that have come under severe scrutiny in jurisdictions across the country, Menardi says, “Whether you agree with the law or not, you follow it.”
Modifying price controls is not the same as eliminating price controls. They should not have to compromise. The PTC’s protectionist position is the problem.
Brandes says that there should no longer be any minimum fares, minimum times to ride in a vehicle and no caps on licenses to own or run a cab in Hillsborough County. “If the argument is that they feel there’s an unfair playing field, well, then let’s make the playing field level, and let them compete. Ultimately, consumers will decide.”
Instead, now the PTC wants to subsidize cab company apps, which shows the problem with the PTC once again. It does not represent the public. And, even though we have no problem with having background checks (we encourage it, actually), until the PTC eliminates minimum prices and other policies that favor the cab companies over competition and over the consumer, it is very hard to take what it says seriously.
Built Environment – Hyde Park Forward to the Past
There was news that Hyde Park Village might be getting renovated.
WS has not yet formally filed its plans to the city, and the conceptual renderings will likely change as they go through the public vetting process, Masiello said. He said it was too soon to attach a cost to the renovations. But so far, he said, the reaction from the surrounding neighborhoods has been positive.
The mostly vacant, 35,000-square-foot H building — across Snow Avenue from Piquant Epicure & Cuisine — would be demolished and rebuilt, Masiello said. Plans now call for a one- to two-story building in its place, possibly with a rooftop bar or restaurant. Snow Avenue will be widened, and on-street parking will be added. WS also plans to repair sidewalks and rework some of the public space in the village, to make it more enticing to pedestrians.
The renovations to the remaining buildings will focus on “freshening the facades” to make storefronts more visible, Masiello said. Retailers and restaurants will be able to remain open during that construction, he said.
There is nothing wrong with that. You can check the article for renderings.
So what is the goal?
WS Development, which has owned the property for just more than a year, shared its early-stage plans with the Tampa Bay Business Journal on Tuesday. The plans will likely change as WS goes through the public process — WS will file plans with the city in the next one to two months — but the overarching theme is a pedestrian-friendly district with highly visible storefronts.
If brought to fruition, those plans could attract cutting-edge retail, dining and entertainment concepts and become a regional shopping destination — think the Gulch in Nashville or Charlotte’s Plaza Midwood. Those types of neighborhoods help build a sense of place in a city and attract a Millennial workforce, thought to prefer urban environments and local shops and restaurants.
And there is the irony. When it was first built, that was exactly what Hyde Park Village was. The problem is that the City then settled and allowed all sorts of poor development nearby on Swann that did not take advantage of what the original complex offered – which was a core of an urban walking neighborhood around which to build, connect down Swann to Howard and create a full district. Instead, you got the Kash and Karry with its massive, street facing parking lot, some random playing fields with no streetscaping, and the Post apartments that belong in an exurb (though, in fairness to Post, they later built some pretty good projects in other places). That cut Hyde Park Village off from what was happening on Howard, which, in many cases, was no better design-wise but was contiguous and now is, at least partially, getting filled in. The Hyde Park Village story just shows how easy it is for the City to settle its way out of quality.
We wish the owners luck, and we hope the City stops settling and starts actually planning (especially in relatively open areas like much of the land north of Kennedy closer in to downtown).
USF – Business Means Business
Besides the med school, there was other news about USF.
On Friday morning, USF officials unveiled the business school’s new name — the Muma College of Business — and announced that the couple, married now for decades, had donated $25 million. The money is part of USF’s ongoing “Unstoppable” campaign to raise $1 billion.
“It’s a landmark day in the history of the University of South Florida and the College of Business,” USF President Judy Genshaft said. “It’s very unusual and special for a university founded in 1956 to receive this kind of gift.”
The donation brings to $41.2 million the total the Mumas have given to USF, making them the largest individual donors in the university’s history. Their name already was attached to the Pam and Les Muma Basketball Center, home of the Bulls’ men’s and women’s hoops programs since it opened in 2011.
Nothing to say but “Great,” and “Thank you.”
Downtown – The Search for Groceries
There was an article in the Tribune about efforts to get a downtown grocery store. It noted the attempt to get Wal-Mart at Encore, which the housing authority rightly rejected. It also noted that the Lightning owner’s project might include a grocery store, though that project is, we have been told, a few years away. As noted in the article:
Innovation, at Least Locally
We ran across something interesting in Creative Loafing. First, the issue:
St. Petersburg independent, non-corporate commerce has been growing by leaps and bounds, but Tampa has a long way to catch up to the city across the bay. Many blame the fact that commercial spaces downtown and in Ybor are owned by a handful of landlords who won’t let go until they can score a big return on their investment from a real estate developer.
Indeed. So what do you do about it:
Sanchez’s team at Mercado has developed a plan that would ostensibly provide much needed affordable space on a 3.25-acre piece of land by Nebraska and Columbus avenues, land owned by the Florida Department of Transportation.
You can see their website here.
It could work, though we are not sure about the traffic at that location, but why not try it?
This week both papers ran articles on the Travel & Leisure list of snobbiest cities. (see here and here) The list is a bit tongue-in-cheek as in “you have the right to be a snob,” listing Tampa as #5 and praising the Epicurean, Bayshore and Howard. (At least tt neglected the article where mayor(s) past and present discuss “high society” and “posers.” [ed. note: the link in this paranthetical was oringinally incorrect. It has been fixed.)
In any event, the Tribune article had this:
The Big what? It’s Big Guava, not Big Apricot. The “Big Apricot” is the nickname of the fictional Metropolis in Superman comics.
List of the Week I
Our first list this week is a follow-up to the best beer cities poll in USA Today.
Coming in first was Grand Rapids, MI; followed by Tampa; Asheville; Bend, OR; Fort Collins, CO; San Diego; Portland, ME; Portland, OR; Denver; and Burlington, VT.
List of the Week II
Our second list this week is wallethub.com’s 2014′s Best and Worst Foodie Cities for Your Wallet. The methodology is here. They rank 150 cities, so we will stick to the top 43, because Tampa came in 43rd.
First is Orlando; followed by Grand Rapids; Madison; Boise City; Cincinnati; Reno; New Orleans; Austin; Lexington-Fayette, KY; Pittsburgh; Huntington Beach, CA; Modesto, CA; Brownsville; Santa Ana, CA; San Francisco; Denver; Spokane; Oakland; Salt Lake City; Fort Lauderdale; Garden Grove, CA; Springfield, MO; Des Moines; Worcester, MA; Providence; Rochester, NY; Seattle; Glendale, CA; Albuquerque; North Las Vegas; Tacoma; Milwaukee; Atlanta; Tempe; Fort Wayne; Omaha; Cape Coral; Sacramento; Jersey City; Tucson; Sioux Falls; Oceanside, CA; and Tampa.
Other major Florida cities: Miami is 46; Hialeah is 49; St. Pete is 65; Tallahassee is 73; and Jacksonville is 131.
USF Med School – The Beat Goes On
There was more roll out of the idea of moving the USF Med School, including, among a slew of articles, an article in the Times this week entitled “USF to seek money for new medical school; key players favor downtown.” Of course, we knew that. What we did not know is if moving downtown is best for the medical school. As we have noted before – it may be or it may not. Unfortunately, even with the number of articles on the subject, there really are not details.
The Times article does not really shed much light, though it does say:
Freeing up space in the medical school would also allow USF Health to expand enrollment and offerings in its nursing program. This past fall, the nursing program had to turn away 331 of its 431 qualified applicants in the prelicensure nursing program because of space limitations. Enrollment in the nursing school exceeds 2,000 students and “will not be able to accommodate further growth without additional space,” the USF document says.
Of course, we already knew that. It is a question of where that expansion takes place. (And wouldn’t any new buildings create more space, regardless of location?)
USF Health officials would not comment on such details. “A decision of this magnitude, it’s more important we make the correct decision rather than a decision by a particular date,” said spokeswoman Lisa Greene.
Buckhorn said he’s confident talks are moving well based on discussions he has had with Vinik, his business partners, Genshaft, medical school dean Dr. Charles Lockwood, outgoing state House Speaker Will Weatherford and several members of the USF board of trustees.
We have no doubt, but that is not the issue. The issue is that the case that it benefits the USF med school and the institutions connected with them more than leaving it where it is has not been made. As we have said, we understand putting it downtown. If it had originally been downtown, it would be a no brainer because the ecosystem would have been built around it. But it was not built downtown. If you are going to make a decision of this magnitude, at least make the case that the actual institution as it exists and its ecosystem would really benefit. That’s all. It should not be difficult.
Which is a point that must be considered.
USF officials say they are still weighing whether to expand on their current campus or build in downtown Tampa. But members of the Florida Board of Governors’ facility committee said USF risks missing out on state construction money in the next legislative session if it doesn’t make up its mind by the end of the year.
Which, in due course, brought up something else:
USF officials on Wednesday threw another complication in the mix. If the medical school does indeed go downtown, USF would consider adding another project to downtown: the proposed $50-million USF Heart Health Institute that already has a planned location on the current campus on the main campus, on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.
After the meeting, Genshaft said it would make sense to move the heart institute with the medical school. The heart institute has already received $34 million in state funds and needs another $15.8 million next year for construction to begin.
USF plans to ask for a total of $62 million in state funds over the next three years, including $17 million next legislative session, for the new medical school project. Total costs would likely top $80 million, but USF plans to make up the difference with private donations, primarily a $20 million gift from Frank and Carol Morsani.
If the medical school goes downtown, Lockwood said he hopes to combine it with the nursing and pharmacy programs, as well as the Heart Health Institute, now planned as a 100,000-square-foot, five-story research center in the university’s medical corridor on the main campus.
And, yes, it would make a certain amount of sense to have the Heart Institute next to the new med school – but then that is the issue with all the other stuff that is located near the present med school – like Moffitt, which has not figured into the (public) conversation at all, and the Byrd Alzheimer complex. If the main institution is downtown, what happens to the other facilities and institutions? So far, no one has said. And moving nursing and pharmacy does not seem to fit with a bifurcated med school program. So how will this all work? No one has said. And how much will it cost?
Committee members told USF that their plans sound necessary, but lacking in key details. “It sounds a little bit like you don’t have an idea of how much it’s going to cost,” said committee member Wendy Link.
We assume they mean the expansion plans – not necessarily the downtown plans. In either case, knowing the cost and how it will all work is part of not only making the case but the actual analysis of whether it makes sense in the first place – Is it cost effective? Does it work properly? Is it the best thing?
Why is there so much discussion without even knowing the costs?
It would be best if the facts were known and the case made before anything is decided, though apparently that is just not going to happen.
– One More Thing
The aforementioned Times article also had this rendering:
With the caption: “A preliminary artist’s rendering shows what the new USF Health Morsani College of Medicine building might look like. [State University System of Florida]”
We are just going to assume that this is a generic rendering and not anything that anyone would consider building downtown. You would be hard pressed to build anything less urban or beneficial to an urban area (or even a university campus) than that. If the med school is built downtown, it better not be laid out like that.
– And One More Thing
Finally, the aforementioned Times article had this:
The Orlando Sentinel reported that the university has been exploring the idea of a downtown campus since January. That’s when UCF administrators saw Arizona State University’s campus in downtown Phoenix.
Aside from being downtown, it is not that similar, but regular readers would already know that. See “USF Med School – The Push Begins”
Once again, we are open to the idea of a downtown location, but it would be helpful if, before the decision, the facts were actually determined (which apparently they aren’t), then discussed.
In other words, make the case.
Downtown – Show Us the Money
With all the ideas floating around for downtown, there is almost always a call for public funds to help in things like infrastructure. Most, if not all, of the money for such things will likely come from the CRA. But there is a catch.
Before we get into that, let’s review what the CRA is.
The CRA revenue — often known as tax-increment financing — must be spent to foster private development inside the downtown redevelopment area. In 2015, it is expected to top $15 million. Currently, the city uses most of that money, about $13.5 million, to repay bonds for building the convention center. Those bonds are scheduled to be paid off in October 2015, freeing up the money for other uses.
So the catch is that, when the present system expires, the County Commissioners want some of that money, and they control the existence of the CRA. Now, there may be a deal.
With the downtown Community Redevelopment Area, or CRA, scheduled to expire, Tampa and Hillsborough officials have spent about a year in on-and-off negotiations to extend it.
Frankly, we have no strong feelings about the deal itself. It is hard to believe that the County would do anything particularly useful with the money. (Maybe, they’ll can invest in a tech startup.) On the other hand, there are a lot of requests for the money downtown, but it is pretty clear where it would go:
That’s still possible, but these days Buckhorn first mentions Vinik’s plans to create an entertainment and office district — including, maybe, a new medical school for the University of South Florida — on 24 acres he’s bought around Amalie Arena.
“I think they’re ready to go,” he said of Vinik’s development team. “Once they lay out the master plan, they’re going to have a feel for what their needs are, where the county and the city can be helpful. Out of that will come an opportunity.”
There is some logic to that, though the actual costs and changes are not publicly known (though we assume they have been discussed privately). Nor is it clear that all the money should be tied up for this one, as yet unknown project. (Maybe it should be, but there is no way to know without information).
So what is the time frame on this?
The County Commission could consider the proposed CRA extension as soon as next week. Over the 28 years of the extension, Hillsborough officials estimate — conservatively, they say — that the county could end up keeping at least $280 million that it now gives away.
Of course, why let anyone be able to consider the plan with all the relevant facts? But that’s how this area rolls.
– One More Thing
One thing we will note is the Mayor saying that the money may be required before transit comes up.
City officials have had conversations about doing this kind of infrastructure work in conjunction with Vinik’s master development, but there’s no formal agreement, said Bob McDonaugh, Buckhorn’s top economic development aide.
It would, but there are a limited number of ways into and out of downtown. There are natural bottlenecks. Even if you “fix” the grid, it may not help grid lock in a redeveloped area around the arena because people will have a hard time getting in and out (especially if the City eliminates main exits and entrances to downtown and “calms” traffic, as suggested in the InVision Tampa plan). Transit is key to the success of the Lightning owner’s project and all of downtown.
Greenlight – Calling “Shenanigans”
As we have noted often, the “debate” about the Greenlight proposal in Pinellas has mostly focused on opponents creating distractions, leaving the real issues just hanging out there. This week, that was pointed out by proponents:
Leaders of Connect Tampa Bay on Monday launched an attack on No Tax for Tracks, painting the Greenlight foe as a rebranded extreme wing of the Tea party and saying its leaders have a long history of distorting facts, smears and spreading misinformation.
With far fewer resources — its campaign has raised just over $78,000 — No Tax for Tracks has highlighted that the plan will give Pinellas the highest sales tax in the state, while using email and social media to highlight how few people ride the bus in Pinellas and to criticize PSTA and county leaders.
Willis highlighted a video parody created by a No Tax supporter titled “Hitler loses it over Greenlight train fiasco.” The clip from the movie “Downfall” shows Hitler lambasting his top officers who in the parody are named as Greenlight leaders. The video was briefly posted on McKalip’s website before being removed.
Par for the course. How did No Tax for Tracks respond?
Which is fine, except for the part about completely misrepresenting what was in the picture. But that is the type of thing we have expected all along. Facts are not relevant.
The Connect Tampa Bay guys are on to something. The loudest, most activist opponents, as opposed to just some people who might vote “no,” are ideologically opposed to transit, especially rail. They approach transit from a position that finds it a threat to the American way of life, even though it is in almost every big American city – blue state, purple state, AND red state. (See “Does God Hate Trains?” and “PSTA/HART – Record Ridership For This Bulwark Against the UN.”) It is not an issue of facts or solutions to a problem. It is not logic. Opposition to Greenlight just is.
On the other hand, the proponents approach transit from the idea of solving problems and increasing economic activity. For instance, there was a column in the Times that laid out a strong argument for transit.
Whether approved or defeated by county voters next month, the Greenlight Pinellas mass transit plan that promises more robust bus service and a 24-mile light rail line from Clearwater to St. Petersburg won’t go away. Ultimately, a regional mass transit system, whether kick-started first in Pinellas or in neighboring Hillsborough County, is going to happen.
Well, we do not think it inevitable. There have always been places that just refuse to compete (and usually stagnate), but the basic theme regarding competition is right.
In the long run, if Tampa Bay can’t get it together on an effective mass transit system, its economy will be outdistanced by the likes of Orlando, Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Denver, San Diego and any of dozens of other metro areas. These cities boast the leadership and economic desire to embrace a more efficient way to move lots of people around a large, multicounty region.
Many of those like-sized metro areas already outmuscle Tampa Bay with better-paying jobs and more robust economic output. It’s not only because these areas have superior transportation, many with light rail and better bus systems. But there’s no question — it’s already making a difference.
“This area must understand that mass transit is long term and very expensive,” corporate scout and former Largo resident Larry Gigerich of the site selection firm Ginovus, told area business and political leaders last month in Tampa.
And what of the opposition?
Funding in support of Greenlight Pinellas dwarfs the opposition. Recent numbers indicate the pro-Greenlight movement has raised more than $775,000 through August. Contrast that with the $46,000 and change collected by the anti-Greenlight, tea party-flavored group No Tax for Tracks.
This is the organization whose leader has suggested Pinellas’ bus windows are tinted to hide the lack of passengers. Funny. I thought, like Florida cars, windows are tinted to help deflect the intense heat from the sun.
A related group known as Ax the Tax paid $500 to Cato Institute libertarian think tank contrarian Randal O’Toole to write a report criticizing the light rail portion of Greenlight Pinellas as a loser — like other light rail systems in the country that somehow keep expanding. This is the same anti-mass transit guy who, last month in Minneapolis, remarks against a new rail line to St. Paul, called planners the “Ebola of urban living.”
My favorite part of O’Toole’s hatchet job in St. Petersburg last month was his suggestion that people sharing driverless cars will render mass transit “superfluous” as people “simply call for a self-driving car to come to their door.”
Veteran site selector Dennis Donovan’s corporate clients include about a third of Fortune 500 companies. He told a Tampa audience last month that large metro areas that lack the means for young, highly skilled people to commute longer distances easily to their jobs will increasingly be passed over by companies in favor of cities with stronger mass transit options.
It’s not just creative talent that benefits. Beach resorts say they endorse Greenlight Pinellas because a strong bus system will make it easier for more hotel and restaurant workers to commute to the beaches, where parking is at a premium, and leave their cars behind.
And that is all true.
And that is true, as well. But this columnist is looking at goals and how to reach them. The opponents are looking at ideology. That explains the complete disconnect in the debate, which is unlikely to end regardless of the vote.
At least election day is almost here.
Economic Development/List of the Week – A Look at Job Growth
There was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal regarding employment growth in the last few years.
Which is interesting. However, what was really interesting was chart that listed 350 metro areas and their job growth numbers from August 2009-2014. We are not going to list them all, but we show the top 50 (because the Tampa Bay area was ranked in the 40’s in percentage growth) in terms of percentage growth (first column) and a second ranking by jobs added (second column). You can play with the chart for yourself to see about other areas.
|Jobs Added||Change||Metro Area||Jobs Added||Change|
|Midland, TX||25,699||36.52%||Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA||389,614||6.8%|
|Odessa, TX||19,692||30.55%||Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX||374,474||14.18%|
|Elkhart-Goshen, IN||19,602||26.5%||Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL||350,424||14.05%|
|Naples-Marco Island, FL||25,146||20.65%||Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX||347,560||11.82%|
|Columbus, IN||6,496||18.86%||New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA||334,817||3.85%|
|Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX||148,481||17.85%||San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA||245,056||12.11%|
|Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL||41,972||17.61%||Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI||184,354||4.21%|
|Palm Coast, FL||4,740||17.03%||Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV||175,692||6.12%|
|Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI||57,044||16.73%||Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL||151,285||15.27%|
|Holland-Grand Haven, MI||18,808||16.66%||Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX||148,481||17.85%|
|Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL||151,285||15.27%||Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA||140,798||9.24%|
|Provo-Orem, UT||31,786||15.27%||Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL||121,573||10.55%|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||119,565||14.99%||San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||119,565||14.99%|
|Bakersfield-Delano, CA||45,913||14.54%||Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH Met NECTA||115,712||4.92%|
|Greeley, CO||15,943||14.24%||Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA||114,755||6.69%|
|Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX||374,474||14.18%||Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO||114,749||8.97%|
|Casper, WY||5,386||14.09%||Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI||108,438||6.35%|
|Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL||350,424||14.05%||San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA||104,193||7.42%|
|North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, FL||36,509||13.68%||Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA||101,294||4.2%|
|Kokomo, IN||5,093||13.57%||San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX||97,464||10.7%|
|Victoria, TX||7,271||13.39%||Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC||87,133||11.25%|
|Punta Gorda, FL||7,920||13.15%||Indianapolis-Carmel, IN||75,058||9.05%|
|Boise City-Nampa, ID||34,140||12.76%||Jacksonville, FL||74,170||12.1%|
|Raleigh-Cary, NC||65,674||12.61%||Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN||72,358||9.99%|
|Auburn-Opelika, AL||7,173||12.11%||Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA||72,013||6.86%|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA||245,056||12.11%||Baltimore-Towson, MD||67,931||5.18%|
|Jacksonville, FL||74,170||12.1%||Raleigh-Cary, NC||65,674||12.61%|
|Lafayette, LA||15,111||11.99%||Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI||65,078||3.63%|
|Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX||347,560||11.82%||Salt Lake City, UT||57,375||10.22%|
|St. George, UT||6,341||11.62%||Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ||57,045||3.03%|
|Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC||87,133||11.25%||Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI||57,044||16.73%|
|Laredo, TX||9,667||11.24%||Las Vegas-Paradise, NV||56,697||6.63%|
|Anderson, SC||8,335||11.22%||Richmond, VA||53,705||9.04%|
|Port St. Lucie, FL||17,679||10.94%||Columbus, OH||50,431||5.66%|
|Winchester, VA-WV||6,437||10.86%||Bakersfield-Delano, CA||45,913||14.54%|
|El Centro, CA||5,741||10.71%||Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD||45,004||1.64%|
|San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX||97,464||10.7%||Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Roseville, CA||44,269||4.75%|
|Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL||121,573||10.55%||Oklahoma City, OK||43,742||8.23%|
|Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodaux, LA||10,187||10.46%||Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL||41,972||17.61%|
|Boulder, CO||16,440||10.22%||New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA||38,850||7.78%|
|Salt Lake City, UT||57,375||10.22%||North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, FL||36,509||13.68%|
|Columbia, MO||8,501||10.04%||Pittsburgh, PA||34,502||3.02%|
|Tuscaloosa, AL||8,839||10.04%||Boise City-Nampa, ID||34,140||12.76%|
|Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, SC||28,989||10.02%||Provo-Orem, UT||31,786||15.27%|
|San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, CA||11,941||10%||Honolulu, HI||31,232||7.54%|
|Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN||72,358||9.99%||Baton Rouge, LA||29,411||8.33%|
|Dubuque, IA||4,763||9.75%||Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, SC||28,989||10.02%|
|Merced, CA||8,810||9.69%||St. Louis, MO-IL||28,935||2.22%|
|College Station-Bryan, TX||9,790||9.51%||Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC||28,892||3.77%|
|Napa, CA||6,603||9.5%||Fresno, CA||28,666||7.59%|
Of course, that does not tell us anything about the quality of jobs. Nevertheless, looking over time, we have job growth, but not at the rate of Florida and most of the usual suspects. On the other hand, raw numbers are relatively high (though it does not indicate how hard the recession hit various areas – the lower the base, the easier to have a higher growth rate).
In any event, it gives a window into how we compare.
Economic Development – Lots of Tourists
It was finally confirmed that tourist tax revenue for the past year was a record high.
The tourist tax is a 5 percent surcharge levied on every hotel room and short-term rental in the county. The tax is considered a reliable indicator of the county’s tourism market because it tracks the volume of accommodations booked in the county.
That is all good, and people should be pleased. And it is not unique to Hillsborough.
In Pinellas County, tourism officials reported that they’re also on the verge of another tourist tax record. Pinellas collected $33.1 million in bed taxes in the first 11 months of fiscal year 2014, according to tourism agency Visit St. Pete/Clearwater. That’s already better than the record $31 million the county garnered in the full fiscal year of 2013.
Once again, great. And that will lead to some jobs, though mostly low income. You can read this article about Orlando’s low wage problems to understand why, while tourism is nice, it should not be that much a cause for celebration.
We can only hope that soon our quest to increase annual income and attract high paying jobs – which are the real key to the local economy – will do as well.
Economic Development – (Part of) A Movie
It seems that parts of a new movie will be filmed in Tampa.
The bulk of the film apparently will be shot in England, which offers government incentives of up to 25 percent and is home to production company Good Films. The company was on the verge of shooting most of the film in Tampa when state incentives dried up during the spring session of the Florida Legislature.
That’s good. We have nothing against movies being shot here (even if it is just part), but just having a few movies shoot some scenes here is really not that big a deal in the overall scheme of things.
Remember that? Of course, there was this:
Huh? $5 billion? Over what time frame and with how much indirect impact? Sounds like an analysis based on the six degrees of Dolphin Tale.
In any event, we are all for a film/commercial/visual arts industry here, but we are realistic.
Harbour Island – New Starts
As we have noted over the last few weeks, the Harbour Island apartment project once called Hiku, was rumored to be breaking ground in October. Well,
Good deal. We look forward to it.
Downtown – Trail in the Mix
The Selmon Greenway, a trail under the Selmon Expressway in downtown Tampa, has started construction.
The expressway authority awarded Ajax Paving Industries of Tampa a $1.6 million contract to design and build the trail. The greenway’s route will start at the Riverwalk near Brorein Street and mostly go east under the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway to 19th Street.
That is all fine. We have nothing against the project and filling in blank spaces. Hopefully, at some point, it will connect cleanly to other trails and across the river, though we have to say, with all the cross streets, we think it more likely that it will be more beneficial to walkers than bikes. Either way, it is better than not having it – and at least there should be some shade.
Crew Art – Protection?
The Tampa City Council has begun looking at protecting crew art in downtown.
On Thursday, council members heard a report from City Attorney Julia Mandell on potential actions the city can take, but she noted that the issue quickly delves into concepts such as the first amendment, one’s definition of “art,” and when “graffiti” becomes “art.”
The city will look at limiting the activity to a certain area and whether it can specify what type of art would be allowed. Mandell said currently, graffiti is a crime under both city code and state statute.
This should be interesting.
List of the Week II
While we already had lists above, this week was noteworthy because Travel & Leisure’s America’s Best Cities survey came out this week. We are not going to go over all the rankings, but it was noteworthy because Tampa showed up in some. We didn’t know that Travel & Leisure even knew we existed. (You can look at all the lists here.)
So where did Tampa rank? Cleanliness, #5; Weather, #5; Rude, #2; Beach Getaway, #2; and Family Vacation, #2. Setting aside all the categories which Tampa did not rate (and there are a lot), that is an odd list of rankings.