Bro Bowl – Learning the Nuances
In the latest Bro Bowl action:
But when it comes to the Bro Bowl skate park, Buckhorn is learning there’s no short cut around a federally required historic review process — even if the city offers to pick up the Bro Bowl and move it to a new home.
Because the bowl is on the National Register, federal law stipulates that moving it would require state and federal officials to consider whether its listing on the register would be compromised by a move.
First, other than the Mayor, who said moving the Bro Bowl was the proper thing to do? Why should the City get a pass on the law just because the Mayor wants to do something?
In any event, lacking a pass to not follow the law, what did the City do?
At the moment, one local review already is under way on whether and how the planned redevelopment of Perry Harvey Sr. Park would affect the Bro Bowl. The process, known as a Section 106 review, is required because the city plans to use federal funds — specifically, $2 million from a $30 million housing and urban development grant — on the park. Federal officials don’t want to spend money on projects that harm historic resources.
As part of the Section 106 review, local officials are required to come up with a plan to avoid, minimize or mitigate the project’s impact on the bowl. Considering those questions is a cultural resource committee consisting of skaters, black residents with ties to Central Avenue, historic preservationists and city officials. An engineering firm has told the city that a move is technically feasible, but it’s only one option the committee has discussed.
The committee is making progress, but it takes time for people coming from very different perspectives and positions to understand each other, get beyond their emotional responses and respect each other’s opinions, said Ken Hardin, president of Janus Research. Hardin’s firm is facilitating the Section 106 review for the Tampa Housing Authority, the recipient of the $30 million federal grant.
We are pleased that the City now has a dialog involving a number of parties, including the previously derided skateboarders.
Of course, just because there is a some committee does not mean that the they are truly representative or that, even if they are representative, the Mayor will listen to them, as explained in this article from front page of the November 23, 2013 Tampa Tribune which mysteriously failed to make it to the Tribune website (which can be a little slow posting some articles but not usually a month or more slow. . . so we scanned the article)
In the article, the Mayor explains what he thinks of citizen advisory committees he does not appoint (we had to type the quote so if there is a typo, we apologize):
City staffers brief the council’s budget committee, which is populated by financial experts, on the inner workings of the government to help them make decisions. “We spend time with them as a courtesy,” Buckhorn said this week.
And what he thinks of the committees he handpicks:
He may say he does not know everything, but he sure does know that he thinks the council’s advisory committees are composed of a bunch of naïve rubes.
Applying this to the Bro Bowl – we do not know if the Mayor appointed the committee. One thing that is still clear is that the entire Bro Bowl/Perry Harvey Park issue is only being dragged out because the City is dragging it out and there has been no good explanation for why the City cannot just compromise. Given the Mayor’s attitude, there is good reason to wonder if the review committee can accomplish anything useful. The City could have avoided all this if it just made adjustments to the park project similar to the ones we proposed months ago. (Not necessarily exactly what we said, but something like it.)
This all could have been solved long ago, but, apparently, we just do not understand the “political ramifications.”
Transportation – Transit Referendums and the Polls
The Times had a new poll out regarding transportation spending in the Tampa Bay area.
Enthusiasm for a mass transit expansion was greater in Pinellas, where 55 percent of voters surveyed said they would back the referendum, 36 percent said they would oppose it, and 9 percent were unsure.
In Hillsborough, where voters defeated a similar referendum in 2010, 51 percent of respondents said they would support raising the sales tax to pay for buses and rail, and 44 percent opposed the idea. Five percent were unsure.
Good for Pinellas, though support seems to have slipped a bit which should be addressed immediately. Nothing should be taken for granted.
What did the elected officials in Hillsborough have to say about the poll?
Let’s look at this different dynamic in the polls. Here is a Times poll from October 2010, right before the Hillsborough Referendum:
A slight majority of voters like the idea of a 1 cent sales tax to pay for light rail and other transportation improvements in Hillsborough County, according to a St. Petersburg Times/Bay News 9 poll.
In a survey of 601 probable voters, 51 percent said they favor the tax and 39 percent say they oppose it. Ten percent are not sure. The poll was conducted Oct. 1-3 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The dynamics are apparently so different that the exact same percentage of people polled (51%) support a tax for transportation. In fact, there is not much difference in the overall numbers except a firming up of opposition and this nugget which gives some hope for the future:
The Times‘ latest poll also looked at whether voters’ ages bore any relationship to their response. It found no connection in Pinellas, where equal percentages of people 18 to 54 and 55 or over supported the referendum.
But in Hillsborough, the link was clear, with 56 percent of respondents 18 to 54 saying they supported a mass transit expansion. Among older respondents, only 43 percent said they would support such an initiative.
It looks like sign that the 70-80s sprawl model so beloved in the County Center (and, in all honesty, city hall) is not really the wave of the future. On the other hand, in looking at these numbers there is the question of 1) population numbers in those respective groups and 2) turnout in any vote.
So, given the new polls, where are we with the transportation in Hillsborough County?
“There’s a lot of momentum towards resolving our transportation issues,” he said. “I think it’s a recognition that rail must be a component of that — not all of it, but a component. It’s also an acknowledgement that we can’t build our way out of the problem with just roads.”
We agree that we cannot just keep building roads – but we knew that decades ago and nothing was done. It is not at all clear that now there is any consensus to stop trying to pave our way out of our problems, especially at HART or in the County government. There is also no evident momentum, though the Mayor is planning on wasting more time on this:
“It’s going to be an uphill struggle,” Buckhorn said. But he sees progress from a transportation policy leadership group that includes the Hillsborough County Commission and the mayors of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City.
We suppose it is easier to advocate for something that will not work than to propose a real plan that might actually be debated. If the Mayor is going to keep pushing the city tax, the least he could do is say what he would actually like to do with the money.
The bottom line is still this: Polls are not particularly relevant right now, and Hillsborough County elected officials probably are not going to do anything substantive until Pinellas votes.
Bass Pro – Not a subsidy?
Just before Christmas, we learned how Santa-like the County really was:
We were told in the Bass Pro/Estuary debate that Bass Pro Shops was not getting a subsidy because the landowner had to do the road improvements. However, if Bass Pro Shops is going to actually be the party building their building, they would have to, in theory, pony up some impact fees for the traffic they were creating or fix the roads. Therefore, whether directly or indirectly, the County paying for the road upgrades is basically subsidizing Bass Pro Shops.
How’s that for transparency?
Hillsborough County – Adventures is Bad Governance
Next, we return to the completely bungled Hillsborough County homeless program. As regular readers will know, Hillsborough County had/has a program to find shelter for the homeless that routinely sent people to substandard housing and apparently never checked . . well, anything other than maybe the bottom line.
A Tampa Bay Times review of thousands of county emails shows that the county attorney, the deputy county administrator over social services and three department heads received urgent warnings about Homeless Recovery and took no immediate action.
Merrill said no one told him about the problems. He said he first learned of them on Sept. 8, when a Times story detailed county payments to the politically connected former chairman of the Tampa Port Authority — who housed the homeless in the trailers and in filthy, bug-infested apartments.
If no one, including the County Attorney and Deputy County Administrator, told the County Administrator about the obvious problems, what does that say about the County organization? In any event, apparently no one cared about the people because apparently all that counted was the money:
In an interview with the Times, Merrill acknowledged that county leaders missed opportunities to head off problems in the housing program. He said internal scrutiny in the run-up to the scandal focused more on the program’s finances than on the quality of the places it was sending the homeless.
Which would account for the County forcing people with disabilities to pay the County back for sticking them in what basically are slums.
Merrill has acted as county administrator for the past four years, but he said he only became aware of the area’s homelessness problem when the federal government approached the county two years ago. “For the first couple of years, the issue of homelessness was not on my radar at all,” he said.
Now it’s a priority, he said. In the short term, the county already has rolled out reforms to Homeless Recovery. Officials moved people out of the worst properties identified by the Times. Merrill transferred the program to a different department. And he plans to shutter it by Tuesday and hand it off to nonprofits.
That timeline is a bit odd because it already was a big issue in Tampa in 2011 without Federal involvement, not to mention the fact that anyone who drove around the area would know there was a homeless issue.
Regardless, it is fine to pass the buck to nonprofits since no one in the County is willing to take responsibility, but that does not answer the question of why public money was being handed to landlords of slums with no oversight.
The real question is still why did no one seem to care?
PTC – Safety Regulations?
Over the holidays, we also learned that the PTC – an organization justified as an organization that ensures the safety of taxis in Hillsborough County – really can’t make safety rules.
An association representing drivers is pushing for bulletproof windows between front and back seats, saying drivers are vulnerable if a passenger attacks them from behind, even to the accidental discharge of a firearm.
Either way, added security will come only on a voluntary basis: A 1989 opinion from the Attorney General’s Office says Hillsborough County leaders cannot compel cab companies to install safety devices.
We do not have a position on whether there should be a rule specifically about bulletproof windows. We do have a problem with having an anti-competitive, market distorting governmental organization that ostensibly exists to promote safety in, among other things, the taxi industry, that cannot actually create rules to promote safety.
Channelside Complex – Hmmm
Last Roundup we wrote about the Liberty Group suing the Port over Channelside. One issue involved in that whole mess was that the Port wanted Liberty to deposit money in an escrow account to guarantee that money to be spent on fixing up the complex actually went to the complex – which was logical given the history of neglect at the complex. Liberty did not want to do that – which is their choice. So there was no deal – now Liberty is suing.
In any event, we recently learned that another subsidiary of Liberty which is creating the Aloft hotel downtown recently got a loan to finish the work there:
Nothing major there, except the original reports set the building renovation budget for the hotel at $6-7 million.
Just another reason it made sense for the Port to require an escrow – why deal with another loan or risk a low ball figure to make a deal? Those are the kind of things that created the Channelside mess in the first place.
Downtown Tampa – Something Rising Soon?
It was reported that the Skyhouse project in the Channel district might actually be moving forward soon:
We are glad. It would be nice to see something relatively tall go vertical soon. (The Tribune says it will start construction in February. We’ll see if that holds true, as it was first announced that construction would start in fall 2013.)
Additionally, there is more news on a possible project on Harbour Island:
A deed recorded in Hillsborough County on Dec. 18 shows that Forge Capital’s entity, Harbour Island Residential, bought a little less than an acre on Harbour Island for about $2.9 million. The land is just east of The Plaza Harbour Island condominium. The seller was an entity called Knights Harbour LLC, which is controlled by Tampa’s Sierra family.
Some Harbour Island residents have been watching for signs of development on the property, a bit nervous that any major project there would bring more traffic to the area. Their curiosity was piqued last month when a real estate broker for the Eshenbaugh Land Co. said an unnamed apartment developer had a contract on the land. The developer was planning a 22-story building with about 230 apartment units.
It wasn’t clear this week if Forge Capital Partners is the apartment developer mentioned by the real estate broker or if it has other plans for the property. While Forge Capital couldn’t be reached, a member of the Sierra family that sold the land, Sebring Sierra, declined comment.
It will be interesting to see if anything comes of that as well. Downtown Tampa is already years behind comparable downtowns in the latest building surge. It needs to get moving.
Downtown Tampa – InVision Takes a Step
Just before the end of last year, InVision Tampa did something, which is a first.
By adopting the plan, the city will also show it’s serious about redevelopment when it competes for federal grant money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said Randy Goers, urban planning coordinator in the city’s Planning and Development department.
The only accomplishment of InVision of note listed in the article was restriping Ashley, which was not as advertised. (See Ashley Drive – What Exactly Happened?) Hopefully, no more roads will be messed up in the name of the plan.
As we have said from the beginning – the reality is most of the recommendations in InVision Tampa have been around a long time and were obvious. (Except the really weird idea choking of downtown by narrowing all the streets from the north.) Those obvious things should have been done long ago. Talking about doing the obvious should not be taking up basically a whole first term of the Mayor.
And frankly the original Heights concept, the Riverwalk, the original discussion on North Boulevard Homes, and Curtis Hixon Park are signs the focus of thinking about downtown was already river-centric before this Mayor.
Just like with transportation, local government has been wasting time talking about the obvious when it should have been doing.
Built Environment – Gateways
We noticed an article about Adamo Drive recently that pretty much said everything you need to know about the built environment of Tampa. What was really notable was the use of the word “gateway,” which seems to be to real estate what “game changer” is to economic development – a word used to attempt to justify and beautify anything. For instance:
Developers are demolishing a 112,164-square-foot warehouse along Adamo Drive, the first of several buildings on roughly 26 acres they’ve acquired in pieces since 2004. The project will take some time, as some miscellaneous retail tenants along Adamo Drive have leases that run through 2016, meaning they’ll either need to run the course of their leases or be persuaded to make way.
“We’ve got several developers chasing the site, so it’s just a matter of time,” said Bob Dickman, chairman and chief executive of The Dickman Co. real estate services firm. “Adamo is a gateway to city, so it’s about time to really open it up and clean it up.”
We can think of a lot of things that might be nice on a redeveloped Adamo that has much of the truck traffic from the port removed due to the I-4 Connector. Very few of those involve massive parking lots for big box stores that are in abundance everywhere in Hillsborough County. Maybe there will be a Wal-Mart stuck on Adamo, but that would not make it a gateway – it would make it a generically sprawled out road that is essentially indistinguishable for any other sprawled out road in Hillsborough County.
We find that prospect less than exciting.
Lowry Park Zoo
Lowry Park Zoo is looking for money for an expansion/renovation of facilities.
In early 2015, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums will return to review Lowry Park’s fitness. It’s not clear what might happen if the new features aren’t operational by then, said Steve Feldman, spokesman for the association.
Hoping to jump-start construction, zoo officials have asked the Tampa City Council to help them borrow up to $6.5 million to get the work going. The city owns the zoo, which is operated by a private foundation. Council members will take up the request when they meet Jan. 9.
Even with the loan, the zoo still must raise another $3 million to finish the upgrades, which include a research center and improvements to the boardwalk and the manatee hospital, said Craig Pugh, the zoo’s executive director and CEO.
It is hard to know if these facilities are required or if the cost is high, low or normal. As a general principle, Lowry Park Zoo is a fine public facility and should be maintained and improved as possible. The City says it will not be on the hook for the money. If that is true and the facilities are needed and not overpriced, we are good with it.
Meanwhile In the West
There are often comparisons between the Tampa Bay area and Charlotte. This makes sense on a certain level. However, Charlotte is much smaller than the Tampa Bay area. One area of relatively similar size is Denver (the msa is smaller, the csa is larger.). Recently, Bloomberg ran an interesting article on a boom in Denver, which routinely outperforms the Tampa Bay area in various rankings. We will not review the whole article (you can read it here), but we will quote some of the various attributes that are said to aid Denver’s boom.
“What’s working for Denver is that it’s less expensive than San Francisco and New York, but that at the same time it has a growing and diverse industry — mutual funds, natural gas, technology,” Frampton said. “Denver now has a vibrant downtown. It never used to. So now you have a true mix of city and sky.”
Of the top 25 U.S. metropolitan areas, Denver was tied with Seattle for the third-biggest increase in 25- to 34-year-old residents from 2008 to 2012, data from the Census Bureau and Moody’s Analytics Inc. show. The 9.1 percent gain trailed only Washington, with a 12 percent jump, and Baltimore, with a 9.6 percent gain. Los Angeles and New York were among areas with the smallest increases in that age group.
The city is attracting young companies seeking an educated workforce, according to Ferris. DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc. (DVA), the country’s second-biggest dialysis provider, relocated its base from Los Angeles in 2010, lured by Denver’s affordability, diverse talent pool and accessible mass transit, said David Maughan, senior vice president of operations.
“We have found it’s much easier to recruit to Denver with lower taxes, lower cost of living and so many sunny days,” he said. “We were surprised at the number of people that chose to leave places like L.A. and other cities to move to Denver.”
So let’s review: big money/high tech jobs; vibrant downtown; young population/young professionals; affordability; talent pool; mass transit.
For the sake of argument we will say that our water balances out their mountains – Denver is still more like what Tampa Bay claims it want. The reality is that focusing on retail jobs in strip malls or warehouses will not get us there. Nor will just having some buses cruising sprawlsville. Nor will allowing suburban buildings in major business centers. Nor will waiting interminably to get transit and real planning while other cities keep building. (Did you notice the almost 1300 biomed jobs in an office downtown?)
Read the article and decide for yourself if we are truly competitive with a place like Denver and, if we are not competitive, then why not.
Life Imitates the Onion
While not really the usual fare of Tampasphere, we just couldn’t pass up this local news story with the once-in-a-lifetime headline “Man hit girlfriend with banana, Pasco deputies say.“ Yup, he got arrested, but, much better is the description of the crime and the crime scene:
At some point, Smolinsky threw a banana at his girlfriend, striking her beneath the right eye, deputies said. Smolinsky denied hurling the banana and told deputies his girlfriend was the one who threw the fruit.
The girlfriend’s face was slightly red where the banana struck her, the report said. Additionally, part of the peel from the banana was on the floor near the couch where she had been sitting, according to deputies. The remaining portion of the banana was found in the garbage.
Awesome. What else can you say?
List of the Week
Our list this week is Condé Nast Traveler’s Top 20 Hotels in Florida.
Coming in first was The Brazilian Court Hotel, Palm Beach; followed by The Setai, Miami Beach; Pillars Hotel, Fort Lauderdale; Mandarin Oriental, Miami; King & Grove Tides South Beach; Marquesa Hotel, Key West; Waldorf Astoria Orlando; Epic, Miami; Gardens Hotel, Key West; Moorings Village, Islamorada; Four Seasons Hotel, Miami; Ritz-Carlton, South Beach; Viceroy Miami; Il Lugano, Fort Lauderdale; Casa Monica Hotel, St. Augustine; Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove; Seagate Hotel & Spa, Delray Beach; and 3 way tie between Grand Bohemian, Orlando; Island City House Hotel, Key West; and Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel.
Hey, at least we snuck onto the list, though it is fitting that our one hotel is at the mall.
On the other hand, in the list of resorts, we did ok:
A list of the “Top 40 Resorts in Florida” included the Sandpearl Resort in Clearwater Beach at No. 7, the Longboat Key Club & Resort at No. 12, the Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club in St. Petersburg at No. 22, and the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota at No. 28.
Though we have to confess that it is not readily apparent how hotels in downtown settings like the Ritz in Sarasota and Vinoy in St. Pete are “resorts” not “hotels.” (must be the presence of tennis courts.) As long as it gets people to visit. . .