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Roundup 12-2-2016

December 2, 2016

Contents

Transportation – FDOT Changes

Transportation – PTC Anyone?

Economic Development – Incubating

— And One More Thing

— Conclusion

Tampa Heights – Good News

West Tampa – Repurposing

Built Environment – A Kennedy Project

Moffitt – Growing

Downtown/Hyde Park – Update On the Trib Site

MacDill – Hurricane Hunters to Lakeland

Look At That Sprawl

___________________________________

Transportation – FDOT Changes

There was a strange occurrence at FDOT.

A top official at the Florida Department of Transportation’s local district who oversaw the controversial Tampa Bay Express project resigned last week.

Debbie Hunt was director of transportation development for the Tampa Bay district. She led new road and transit projects, including the $6 billion overhaul of the area’s interstates known as TBX.

“It was her decision,” district spokesman David Botello said. “It’s a big loss for us.”

* * *

Botello said he did not know why Hunt resigned and could not say if the decision was linked to TBX. The department faced heavy criticism from elected officials earlier this fall for how the project was explained to leaders and community members, especially the state’s plan to put a toll on one lane of the Howard Frankland Bridge. 

And we are not going to speculate.  It really does not matter.

Whatever the reason for the resignation, the questions about TBX and the process going forward remain and are amplified.  Just a reminder of where we are on that:

Emails obtained by the Tampa Bay Times showed that top DOT officials in Tallahassee paid close attention to the Howard Frankland controversy. DOT’s Tampa district office was instructed to send its responses to Tallahassee for review. When a story quoting angry local officials was posted online, DOT Secretary Jim Boxold replied to an internal email containing the article with a wry remark: “That went well.”

Boxold later stepped in to scrap the department’s plans for the bridge, and the department indefinitely postponed public hearings that had been set for October. District officials have said they don’t expect to have a new plan for the bridge ready before June.

Where we are is still having a mess of a plan that has some positive elements (like the intent to fix some completely messed up junctions) and a number of negative elements (like not actually fixing them fully, being way to wide through the core of Tampa, and express lanes).

The plan can be fixed.  The question is whether it will – and whether local officials will actually pay attention from now on – because, as the Howard Frankland plan screw up showed, TBX can be changed and the real problem with the whole TBX process was not FDOT, it was that local officials for the most part were just going along for the ride.  Regardless of FDOT staff, if local officials do not step up, it will still be a mess.

— Speaking of FDOT

While we are on the subject of highways and FDOT:

“Siemens is working with the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority to realize the first large-scale connected vehicle project in the United States,” said Siemens executive Marcus Welz.

Company leaders are in Tampa this week giving the new system a whirl.

* * *

As the car drove around town, the software determined if traffic signals ahead were red or green. That information helped the driver slow down or speed up as he approached.

“It also allows to give some harmonized speed recommendation in order to have the traffic flowing in a smooth fashion throughout the city with minimized stop,” Welz said.

The software will likely be built into future vehicles or drivers can put it in their existing cars.

It’ll also have the capability of warning drivers about pedestrians and bicyclists making roads safer for everyone.

We’ll set aside the possible privacy issues of having your car tracked by the roads every second.  As noted by URBN Tampa Bay, the article tells us this:

“It’s a technology where the U.S. Department of Transportation says it can prevent 80% of unimpaired vehicle accidents,” Welz said.

Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority leaders like the idea of using the technology instead of constantly re-building or re-developing highways and roads.

“You’re going to see more of the intelligent transportation systems used, especially in cities and areas where we don’t want to widen roads,” said Bob Frey of the Expressway Authority.

In 18 months, 40 intersections in Tampa should be equipped with the technology.

If so, even using FDOT’s logic, do we really need 18 lanes of interstate through the middle of Tampa?  And if it is not clear, should we really spend $6 billion dollars on TBX to destroy and disrupt neighborhoods before knowing?

Transportation – PTC Anyone?

Just before Thanksgiving, it was time for the new County Commission to board on committee assignments.

County commissioners met Tuesday to organize for 2017 and dole out assignments to various boards and committees. Commissioner Victor Crist begged to be taken off the Public Transportation Committee, where he just spent as chairman during the acrimonious and litigious Uber/Lyft debate.

“I’m respectfully requesting the board to allow me to move on from the Public Transportation Commission,” Crist said. “I don’t wish to serve on that board any longer.”

Commissioner Stacy White, a few minutes earlier named the county board chairman, then asked if anyone was willing to take the seat.

Can’t say we are surprised that no one wants to have to deal with the PTC mess.

Finally, Commissioner Les Miller, offered himself up as tribute.

“This hurts, Mr. Chairman,” Miller said, followed by a long pause. “I’m going to be a nut, lose my mind, jump off a cliff, and take the PTC.”

The board applauded.

Well, someone had to do it, at least until the PTC is abolished – which it should be.

Economic Development – Incubating

A few weeks ago, we wrote about economic development, clusters, etc. (See “Economic Development – Biotech, Clusters, and the Connection of Everything”)  We noted a report about our “entrepreneurial ecosystem” that, per a Times column, told us:

So how exactly is Tampa Bay’s entrepreneurial ecosystem doing? That’s tough to answer. Anecdotally, regional start-up activity appears strong. But it is scattered in incubators, accelerators, universities, coffee shops and (yes) garages across the bay area. One attending entrepreneur, SavvyCard CEO David Etheredge, noted that area start-ups tend to hit a ceiling here once they grow to a certain size and feel pressured to relocate to find stronger investor interest in the next stage of funding a company.

And that thought was echoed by the Lightning owner:

-The ecosystem is fragmented. There are pockets of organizations and communities. They’re not funded as well as they should be. They try to talk to each other, but everyone has to worry about their own success. I’d like to explore convening the leaders.

And that is all true, which was why it was interesting to read this in a column by the same Times columnist as the column referenced above:

A plan to build a major business incubator in downtown St. Petersburg — one big enough to catch the attention of entrepreneurs across Tampa Bay and beyond — has won key initial backing of the city and Pinellas County.

Here is a vision:

From the Times - click on picture for article

From the Times – click on picture for article

Setting aside that we do not know whose attention it may or may not catch, what exactly are we talking about?

The incubator would encompass at least 40,000 square feet, with an additional 10,000 square feet set aside for an anchor business tenant, at a cost of about $12 million. Funding would come from federal and state dollars.

“This is significantly larger than most incubators — by intention,” said Pinellas economic development director Mike Meidel. “We want it to be unique and a true asset to the county and all of Tampa Bay.”

So, naturally, this is a unifying effort for the area’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Three players are behind the new incubator.

The facility will be run by Elmore’s Tampa Bay Innovation Center. [St. Pete] will provide the land for the incubator, to be located at the southwest corner of 11th Avenue S and Fourth Street.

And Pinellas County would own and help develop and maintain the incubator. The Tampa Bay Innovation Center recently won a memorandum of understanding with Pinellas County to facilitate the next phase of the project, including tenant recruitment and fundraising.

Meidel says proceeds from the expected county sale of the old Star Center will assist in funding the new downtown incubator. Federal grants will be sought via the U.S. Economic Development Administration, while state funds will be pursued via a bill to be introduced in the Legislature.

Not exactly, though it sort of consolidates a bit of effort in Pinellas.  So what exactly will it be doing?

The as-yet-unnamed incubator is expected to house some technology startups. Beyond that, a choice will likely have to be made. The incubator may support life sciences and marine sciences startups. Or, more likely to Meidel, it may support advanced manufacturing sectors, including medical device startups and rapid prototyping businesses.

Of course, a few days later, the Times had a column about another “innovation district” initiative in Tampa. (You can read it here.) While it focused on actually revitalizing the area around USF, what do you think the focus of that innovation district is planned to be? You can be sure biotech is high on the list.

And what is the timing of all this?

Elmore says the new incubator is at least two years from opening, if the rollout happens as planned.

In other words, we shall see.

We are all for working to develop our start-up culture, but we do question how this actually works to create a more unified, effective effort for the area as a whole.  We get that it is near some hospitals and USF St. Pete, but if the area’s problem is a fragmented, uncoordinated entrepreneurial ecosystem, shouldn’t we work to get that effort less fragmented and more coordinated?  It really seems like everyone is still just going their own way (if not actively competing with other efforts in the area) without solving the basic problem first.

— And One More Thing

We have often said that we do not care about hype and proposals, we care about actual accomplishments.  Everything above is still in the conceptual phase.  The concepts have some merit, but they are still concepts. While running the columns referenced above, the Times also ran a yet another column that gives us a cautionary tale regarding economic development (though the story is not unique at all).  We are not going to go over the whole column, but here is the background:

In the spring of 2015, a growing tech firm based in Lakewood Ranch on the Manatee-Sarasota county line announced plans to move its headquarters to downtown St. Petersburg.

GeniusCentral Systems Inc. agreed to add 40 new jobs paying at or above 115 percent of the state average annual wage of what was then $42,446 a year. Those jobs would include some paying as much as $200,000, the company said. In exchange, GeniusCentral would be eligible to get an incentive package of as much as $320,000 from the state, county and city — if it met its jobs commitment.

The news conference that spring was attended by Gov. Rick Scott and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, among others celebrating what appeared to be another economic victory. A 50-employee software developer, GeniusCentral said at the time that in order to sustain its fast growth it needed better access to skilled technology workers. It said it had considered relocating to such tech-laden markets such as Austin, Texas, and Boulder, Colo., far from Florida. But in the end the firm said it found nearby St. Petersburg to be “ideal” for expanding its operations as a leader in website and loyalty marketing programs for the organic grocery industry.

Just not ideal enough.

The company had relocated to a 17,000-square-foot warehouse, bedecked with funky exterior murals and cool-vibe interiors, in the Warehouse Arts District on Fifth Avenue S.

Things soon went wrong. By this fall, GeniusCentral was out of St. Petersburg, relocating to a more run-of-the-mill (and cheaper) building on State Road 70 in Bradenton. That move back to Manatee County will likely nullify the company’s incentive package from Pinellas County and prompt a re-evaluation by state economic developers on the remaining part of the deal.

So what lessons does the column tell us we should learn?

Lesson One: It is easier to recruit a business with sweetened financial incentives than to hold on to it.

* * *

Lesson Two: It’s tough to recruit young, cost-sensitive companies to downtown St. Petersburg when employees struggle to find affordable places where they actually want to live.

* * *

Lesson three: St. Petersburg is enjoying a boom in apartment and hotel construction, new museums and artist studios, and a lively nightlife from entertainment venues, restaurants and bars. But the city needs more balance. And that means more businesses and good-paying jobs in the downtown area. The city prefers “cool” innovative firms that can pay decent wages and amplify the vibe St. Pete wants to nurture. The challenge: St. Pete may be pricing itself out of the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Fair enough.  But this is the key:

There’s a familiar pattern to economic development. First, an incentive deal is struck to recruit a business to the area. Second, public officials gush over the perfect fit of the new player coming to town.

* * *

We’ve heard versions of this before, especially in the hype around the recruitment of New York’s IRX Therapeutics, a cancer-fighting biotech firm, that won incentives to relocate to St. Petersburg — but never did.

Stuff happens. Predicting small tech company strategies in a changing economy is tricky. But St. Petersburg should be careful it does not become a punchline as the city that too often gets stood up (or dumped) at the prom.

Or, to put it another way: Announcements are not accomplishments, no matter how much you hype them.  Accomplishments are accomplishments.

That is not to say local officials should not be trying to grow, attract, and retain business.  They definitely should be.  But the success is when the company is well established and thriving, not the announcement.

— Conclusion

This is our take away: we are all for developing the economy of this area.  We are all for strong efforts to do so.  We only want this area to reach its actual potential.  But, the key is actually getting things done, not the gushing statements when something is announced.

Likewise, we are all for developing a good entrepreneurial system.  We are all for fixing up the area around USF in Tampa and south of USF in St. Pete. We should be aspiring to be better.  But if everyone agrees about a deficiency, maybe we should fix that deficiency rather than carrying on with business as usual.  Maybe.

Tampa Heights – Good News

For those who have been waiting to see if the Heights project was really going to happen, there was news this week.

Developers of an $820 million mixed-use development on the Tampa Heights waterfront have secured a construction loan for a portion of the project’s first phase.

* * *

That loan will fund the construction of The Pearl, a 314-unit apartment building with 28,500 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. In addition to The Pearl, The Heights’ first phase will include the revitalization of Armature Works, slated to house a market hall, event space and restaurant.

Adam Harden, a partner in SoHo Capital, confirmed the loan’s closing Thursday afternoon and said construction on The Pearl would begin Friday. The total project cost is $70.3 million, Harden said.

From the Business Journal - click on pciture for article

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

While we like the Armature Works project, we are actually more excited by the Pearl because it shows that the full project may actually get built – not just an event space or marketplace.

West Tampa – Repurposing

There was a report in the Times of something that could really make us happy.

The former Balbin Bros. Cigar Factory at 1202 N. Howard Ave. was purchased for $1.4 million this week by a partnership between a Tampa hotelier and a Louisiana-based hospitality company. Though still in the early stages, plans call for a hotel with about 70 rooms that likely will be part of a major chain but with a name reflecting its local heritage, partner Mike Desai said Friday.

 

From the Times - click on picture for article

From the Times – click on picture for article

Of the 200 or so factories that operated during Tampa’s cigar-making heyday between 1885 and the Great Depression, only about 25 survive. 

(You can see the area here) The fact is that the old cigar factories are some of the coolest buildings in Tampa.  We do not know any of the details and it is early days in the process, but, done right, it would be great if those old buildings were all brought back to life (especially since there are quite a few in the maybe soon to be hot, one can only hope, West Tampa).  We only hope that the City will care enough to have rules that any new buildings in this part of the city will be truly urban in design to take advantage of the old buildings in the area.

Built Environment – A Kennedy Project

For a city that has a history of settling and, even when appearing to try to build something urban (or claiming to want something urban, see retail on Westshore near Spruce), there was a small but interesting proposal for Kennedy near Dale Mabry.

A South Tampa church could be demolished to make way for a new retail development.

WPG, a Tampa-based developer, is asking the city to rezone the half-acre property at 3702 W. Kennedy Blvd. so it can build two multi-tenant strip centers totaling 22,600 square feet with surface parking, according to site plans filed Monday.

Here are a rendering (sort of) and site plan:

From the Business Journal - click on picture for article

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

From Business Journal - click on diagram for article

From Business Journal – click on diagram for article

Not extremely exciting, but based on those documents, the building actually is up to the street and even, shockingly, has front doors facing Kennedy and not the parking lot. It is only a proposal and a small one at that.  But it is nice if the idea of building something even mildly walkable and urban gets spread beyond a few isolated neighborhoods and around the city – even if the city does not require it.

Moffitt – Growing

A few weeks ago, we discussed biotech clusters and noted that one of the main anchors to any biotech cluster in this area would be Moffitt.  It seems Moffitt is working to grow:

The H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center is moving forward with an ambitious $800-million expansion that will include a new hospital wing, two research buildings, a clinical support building and additional outpatient facilities, CEO Dr. Alan List told the Tampa Bay Times Thursday.

* * *

The first step, scheduled to begin in 2017, will be the construction of the clinical support building to house faculty offices and laboratories, List said. The expected cost is between $38 million and $40 million.

The new space will allow the 206-bed cancer center to add beds — something that will be necessary if Moffitt moves forward with the immunotherapy treatments, List said.

But that’s not all:

Later, the plan calls for additional research space, where doctors can put more work into finding treatments and cures.

* * *

The plan will eventually include construction on a new bed tower so Moffitt can serve additional patients. The goal is to shift most of the center’s outpatient services to another facility nearby on McKinley Drive and free up the University of South Florida campus for in-patient services and research.

That is all quite ambitious.  We are all for it, if it can be done.  How will it be funded?

The entire expansion is expected to take 10 years. Moffitt leaders plan to raise $500 million and hope to finance the rest with a bond bankrolled by state cigarette taxes.

Though note:

The expansion will be mostly funded through philanthropic contributions, but Moffitt is asking the state for $300 million from cigarette taxes. The state legislature would have to approve that funding and Gov. Rick Scott would also have to approve it.

The plan is very ambitious, but can get done. And we hope it does.  Not only is Moffitt’s success good for the area economy, it is good for the people it serves.  (But it does leave open the question of connecting it to the USF Med School complex downtown.)

Downtown/Hyde Park – Update On the Trib Site

It seems that the Related project on the old Trib site is going to be delayed.

The Tribune‘s building will be razed to make way for an eight-story, 400-unit luxury residential building with a 10,000-square-foot restaurant on the ground floor. Related has also reached a conceptual agreement with the city to build a riverfront trail as part of the development.

Environmental issues stemming from the printing presses and ink contamination have delayed that process, said Arturo Pena, Related’s vice president of development.

* * *

Removing ink contamination and dismantling the printing presses have been underway for months, Pena said, and Related expects to begin demolition in December.

So how long will it take?

But don’t expect the drama of a wrecking ball. Pena said demolition will be done gradually over the course of several months and isn’t anticipated to wrap up before April or May 2017. 

We wish they would take that time to make the project better – including reworking the major feature of the project: the parking garage – but we doubt that will happen.

MacDill – Hurricane Hunters to Lakeland

A while back, it became clear that the Hurricane Hunters were probably going to have to leave MacDill, because the space was needed for other uses.  Now we know where they are going.

NOAA Aircraft Operations Center will be located at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport. “AOC serves as the main base for NOAA’s fleet of nine specialized environmental data-gathering aircraft, including the agency’s three ‘hurricane hunter’ planes,” the agency said in a release.

While it would have been nicest to have them at MacDill, Lakeland is about as good a choice as you can have, except maybe St. Pete-Clearwater.  We are glad they are staying in the area.

Look At That Sprawl

The Times had an interesting item on their website that showed how various parts of the area had developed over time. It is cool and can be seen here.

What is really interesting is that almost all of them are in areas that were filled in with sprawl.  There is no doubt that the growth has been impressive.  Then you remember that local governments did not really account for the cost of building and maintaining the infrastructure of all that development and that now you are going to pay for it.  What it really emphasizes is that planning decisions made now have an effect for decades and that this area could have avoided many of its transportation problems with a little more foresight, planning, and investment over the last few decades.

Roundup 11-25-2016

November 25, 2016

Contents

List of the Week I – Where the Millennials Are Going

List of the Week II – Who Is Nice to Business

______________________________________

Given that this is the busy Thanksgiving week, we decided to just provide a couple of interesting lists you can contemplate while digesting turkey and doing some shopping.

List of the Week I – Where the Millennials Are Going

There has been a lot of talk about attracting Millennials to the Tampa Bay area.  Some parts of the area make claims about how well they are pulling in Millennials, and some parts of the area may be.  But how are we doing overall and relative to toher areas?  Helpfully, apartmentlist.com did an analysis of census records for Millennial growth rate for major metros between 2005 and 2015.  (The list can be found here.)

So let’s look at the top 20 areas for Millennial growth (not the actual number of Millennials) including the growth rate (you’ll notice some of the top 20 actually have a negative growth rate):

Charlotte, NC 22.20%
Houston, TX 8.90%
Austin, TX 8.00%
Seattle, WA 6.90%
Omaha, NE 5.90%
Nashville, TN 5.30%
Indianapolis, IN 4.10%
Tulsa, OK 2.50%
Orlando, FL 2.00%
Columbus, OH 1.30%
Virginia Beach, VA 1.10%
Milwaukee, WI 0.30%
San Francisco, CA -0.70%
Pittsburgh, PA -1.30%
Minneapolis, MN -1.40%
Dallas, TX -1.80%
San Antonio, TX -2.60%
Raleigh, NC -2.90%
Oklahoma City, OK -3.70%
Kansas City, MO -4.00%

The Tampa Bay area came in 38th, with a -11.90% growth rate, just ahead of Miami, with a -12.50% growth rate.

Looking at the whole list is quite interesting.  We do not get their exact methodology, but even if you give everyone a boost across the board for something like an aging population (so Tampa would be only -9.9%), it does not really change our relative position.

With all the hype around Millennials, we were kind of surprised by these numbers. We leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

List of the Week II – Who Is Nice to Business

The Times has a column about a Forbes list of the states with best business environment.

Forbes‘ recently released its 11th annual “Best States for Business” list, which finds that Florida climbed more spots in the rankings than any other state, rising eight places to No. 12 from No. 20. We knew Florida was on the upswing, but this leap shows how much momentum is driving the Sunshine State over many of its peers.

Here’s how Forbes explains an ascending Florida: “The Sunshine State’s college attainment rate rose and the growth forecast rates are among the nation’s best. Projected job and population growth are both expected to be second best in the country over the next five years with income growth fourth fastest.” And, Forbes noted, Florida ranks second among larger states in the Kauffman Foundation’s “index of startup activity” — a strong plug for the state’s efforts to encourage entrepreneurism and small business.

Which is fine, we guess, though basically meaningless unless you know what they are measuring:

Forbes‘ Best States for Business list factors in 40 metrics from 17 sources across six categories: business costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life.

Florida rose to No. 12 based on gains in a majority of these key areas. It ranked a lowly 39th in business costs and 26th in quality of life. But it landed 14th in labor supply, 13th in regulatory environment, 8th in economic climate and an impressive No. 1 in growth prospects.

We thought quality of life and low-cost were Florida’ strong suits. So, who was above us?

Utah, North Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Colorado, Virginia, Georgia, North Dakota, Washington, South Dakota, and Ohio.

What is really amazing about this list is that so many of the usual suspects (even higher tax and higher cost states) are on a Forbes list. (note: Ohio had the highest quality of life, so we are not sure exactly what is being measured).

This is how the Times explained the list:

Eleven other states are ahead of Florida. Tops in the country, and dominating for years, is Utah. The state does a lot of things right for its pro-business supremacy. But let’s be frank. Utah’s hot and has been for years, in large part because it enjoys the enormous overflow of tech companies and other businesses that relocate across the state border from super-expensive but still tech-vibrant California.

Imagine how different Florida’s economy would be if California was its neighbor.

Of course, Utah is not across the state line from California (unless it has annexed Nevada), and Phoenix and Portland are as close if not closer to California than Salt Lake City (and Tampa is closer to Charlotte and Raleigh than Salt Lake City is to San Francisco) but still, the point that Utah is thriving is made.  The real question is why do companies and talent choose Utah instead of other states and is that replicable?

Roundup 11-18-2016

November 18, 2016

Contents

Transportation – You Can’t Go Back, So Move Forward

Economic Development – Biotech, Clusters, and the Connection of Everything

— Case Study

— Land Use

— Education/Talent

— Money

— Transportation

— Luck

— Where We Are

— The Report

— The Lightning Owner

— Conclusion

Downtown – Premature

Transportation – Under the PTC Big Top

Downtown/Hyde Park – More on Lafayette Place

Temple Terrace – Nothing

Westshore – Interesting but Not Convincing

Economic Development – Something

List of the Week

__________________________________________________

Transportation – You Can’t Go Back, So Move Forward

In the wake of the election, there was an article in the Times regarding lamenting Go Hillsborough.

Backers of the referendum now lament what they see as a missed opportunity to capitalize on an electorate they believe would have viewed the referendum favorably.

Before it failed, proponents said internal polls showed support as high as 65 percent. And it had backing from business groups like the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

“When I saw Hillsborough County vote for Hillary Clinton, when I saw Hillsborough County elect a new Democratic state attorney, when I saw those types of votes, I truly believed that if it was on the ballot we would’ve passed it,” County Commissioner Les Miller said.

Maybe, if transit referenda were a partisan issue.  However, as we explained last week, referenda are not partisan issues.

“In theory, are people in favor of transportation? Yes. Do they think there’s a transportation problem? Yes. Did they like Go Hillsborough? No,” said Bill Carlson, a Tampa public relations executive who helped rally opposition to the sales tax proposal.

“Right now, it’s just a lot of sour grapes. The people who promoted it are trying to blame the people who were against it. They’re not to blame at all. They thought it was done in an inappropriate way.”

As we explained last week, it is about the actual plan.  If there was a really good plan, it may have passed.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, the government agency that operates the county bus system, is doing a transit study to determine what, if any, transit expansions are feasible.

We’ll see what the study says.  (Frankly, it should have been done at the beginning of the Go Hillsborough process rather than having the years of delay.  But that is in the past.)

As demonstrated by Tuesday’s election, Hillsborough is inching from purple to blue in ways that should embolden leaders to push for it sooner rather than later, said Beth Leytham, the public relations consultant who worked on Go Hillsborough.

“You can’t go back, but I do believe it would’ve passed,” Leytham said, “And what we just saw gives you a really good reason to look at 2018 instead of 2020.”

We would rather do it sooner than later.  However, based on all reports, the studies will go well into 2018, so whether there can be a referendum that year is an open question.  And, of course, success will all depend on the actual plan.  We suggest local officials get to work on a new plan and, while doing that, actually find out what TBX is going to do, where it is ok, and where it will be harmful for decades.

Economic Development – Biotech, Clusters, and the Connection of Everything

Tampa has put hopes for redeveloping downtown on biotech for a while (and not just downtown, economic development groups have long seen biotech as a target industry).  All of that makes a column in the Times about Florida’s quest for biotech quite interesting.

All is not well in Florida’s biotech industry, a business whose future as a key player in the Sunshine State remains perilously unclear.

The latest controversy is now being played out in Orlando’s 650-acre, once highly touted health and life sciences park called “Lake Nona Medical City.” That’s the Florida home of Sanford Burnham Prebys, an elite California-based life science research organization recruited at great cost 10 years ago to expand to Florida.

Sanford Burnham was supposed to flourish, collaborate and create thousands of new industry jobs with nearby life science organizations. Instead, it’s on the verge of exiting the state.

Sanford Burnham blames a decade marked by a deep recession, major cuts in federal funding by the National Institutes of Health, a slump in grant funding and a resulting challenge in attracting top talent to Orlando.

“We do not have the critical mass of scientists or funding to sustain the Lake Nona site as an independent research facility long term,” Sanford Burnham CEO Perry Nisen stated this past summer.

Whether or not that is exactly the case, let’s go with that.  So how did we get to this point?

This confrontation of lawyers is hardly what Florida Gov. Jeb Bush had in mind in 2003 when he personally went to California to woo Scripps Research Institute to open a biotech arm in Florida. Bush, armed with what was then a stunning sum of $500 million in funds and the political advantage of being the brother of the nation’s president, persuaded Scripps to set up a life science research campus near Jupiter.

Bush was nothing if not optimistic. In a 2003 column for this newspaper, he wrote of the Scripps venture: “This development is a seminal moment in Florida’s history and future and will propel the Sunshine State to the forefront of the biotech industry.”

The Scripps arrival was likened to Walt Disney choosing Central Florida for his new theme park. Bush even said Scripps alone could transform Florida the way NASA had done decades earlier.

Three years later, Sanford Burnham followed Scripps to Florida with the state committing more than $800 million in public funds as sweeteners to the two companies.

* * *

Still, other companies with biotech credentials came to Florida on the heels of Scripps and Sanford Burnham. Organizations like the Max Planck Institute, Torrey Pines Institute of Molecular Studies and the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute all jumped on the Florida incentive bandwagon.

Of course,

None of those heavyweights landed in the Tampa Bay market, choosing as expected to cluster near one another for support. Locally, the biotech business is mostly confined to smaller startups and efforts by the likes of USF and Moffitt Cancer Center (including its promising cancer-fighting M2Gen spin­off) to try to commercialize academic research.

Needless to say, despite the hype, CAMLS did not do the trick (though Moffitt is great).  Setting aside the larger question for Florida, the big question for us is why we landed none of the heavyweights let alone develop a cluster.  Some would say it was the location of USF and argue that moving USF med school downtown will change all that.  That may or may not be the case.  Frankly, no one really knows.  (Though neither Lake Nona nor the other big cluster near Port St. Lucie/Jupiter are in downtowns, so that may part of the story, but not the whole thing. It is also worth noting that the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute in Port St. Lucie closed down. )

The column goes into a discussion about subsidies for such businesses to build a cluster, and that is certainly an issue.  On other hand, the bigger issue is identifying the reasons the clusters in other areas grew in the first place.  Scripps, Sanford Burnham, and Torrey Pines are all based in San Diego, which has a major biotech cluster, as does Philadelphia/Central New Jersey, San Francisco Bay area, Raleigh-Durham, and Boston. (The last few are obviously near some very major universities).  And, of course, Houston (where the medical center is the size of many downtowns).  Plus a number of hope-to-be-clusters basically everywhere.

— Case Study

There is not necessarily only one way to make a cluster.  Some form organically.  Some are planned.  However, there are conditions that make it more or less likely. Interestingly, last year, there was an article about San Diego’s path to biotech cluster-hood, which deserves some discussion.

. . . building a biotech cluster is harder than it looks. Top biotech hubs like San Diego’s possess several defining characteristics, all of which must be present. Money and science are certainly two necessities, but they’re not enough.

The biotech industry emerged in San Diego with patient planning, a long-range view of payoffs, a supportive culture, talented entrepreneurs, opportunity-seeking venture capitalists and good luck.

So let’s look at some of the elements identified:

— Land Use

The first issue is land.

Geography and land-use decisions are the pillars of a successful biotech hub, said Mary Lindenstein Walshok, dean of UC San Diego Extension and author of a book on San Diego’s innovation economy.

The city of San Diego made the biotech hub on Torrey Pines Mesa possible by zoning that area for research and development and light industry, Walshok said. So instead of allowing the usual commercial development on prime coastal land, it was kept open for science.

“These decisions were made in the late 1940s and early 1950s, before there was any idea of a University of California, by the way,” Walshok said. “That was because John Jay Hopkins, founder of General Dynamics, and Roger Revelle, the head of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, convinced the City Council that we would not be devastated by the post-World War II downturn if we focused on science and technology, particularly (projects) important to national security and the military.”

Those plans received a major boost when Dr. Jonas Salk, who led development of the first safe and effective polio vaccine, decided to establish his institute on Torrey Pines Mesa. In 1960, San Diego voters agreed to give a 27-acre site to the Salk Institute. A large part of the credit goes to then-mayor Charles Dail, a polio survivor who had campaigned to bring Salk to San Diego.

By reserving the land in advance, San Diego made it possible for research institutes and technology companies to cluster together, Walshok said. That proximity encourages collaboration and makes it easy for new companies to arise from a large talent pool.

World-class entities such as UC San Diego, the Salk Institute, the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, The Scripps Research Institute, West Health and the J. Craig Venter Institute’s La Jolla campus are spread along roughly two miles of North Torrey Pines Road, along with research facilities for major pharmaceutical companies such as Novartis, Pfizer, Celgene and Vertex.

And when they say cluster, they mean neighbors.  Setting aside that they do not focus on the fact that the land was near the Pacific (right on the golf course) and in San Diego, where exactly is that land in Tampa?  It is not clear downtown is the best spot, simply because there is not as much land, though land could be amassed if it did not have to be right downtown.  (There would be land around a redeveloped area around USF/Innovation Alliance area.  But the purpose of this discussion is to raise the issue, not pick specific lots.)  In any event, it seems that dispersing business over a large geographical area is not optimal (think USF, downtown, Westshore, downtown St. Pete).  In other words, a cluster should be an actual geographic cluster.

But, regardless, it needs to be identified, as is being proposed in LA (though the results are yet to come in).

Currently, there’s a lack of physical space for biotech companies to take root near universities in the Los Angeles area — in contrast to what has arisen on Torrey Pines Mesa.

“That’s a great asset, particularly in the startup phase where you’re relying on academic research to build technological know-how for the company, you’re hiring graduate students and you attract venture capitalists. That hasn’t happened in L.A. because of history,” Enany said.

A biotech plan commissioned by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors recommends ways to change that history. One proposal is to buy land for setting up a research park around USC Medical Center in east Los Angeles.

You could arguably do this near downtown, but then there is only one hospital in close proximity.  And the connection between USF main campus/Moffett/the VA and downtown/TGH is not good.  If the plan is to build a cluster, it has to be thought out and analyzed.  It will not be enough to just move USF med school downtown.

— Education/Talent

And there is this:

Major research institutions provide the core strength for a biotech economy, said Abigail Barrow, founding director of the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center. Created by Massachusetts in 2003, the center guides commercialization of technology from the commonwealth’s research institutions.

Barrow did similar work in San Diego, where she was managing director of UC San Diego’s von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and program director for UCSD Connect, which is now an independent nonprofit.

“If you don’t have those core institutions, you don’t have core regional capabilities and you don’t have the people,” Barrow said. “So it’s hard to build a cluster if you don’t have great employees around … and particularly if you’re moving into new technologies, you don’t get people who are trained in new techniques.”

The Boston region offers these pillars, notably the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard and Boston universities, along with research-oriented medical centers such as Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The clinical research hospitals provide a bridge from lab discoveries to commercialization because experimental therapies can be tested there.

USF is a start.  Moffett is good.  We need more.

— Money

And, of course, you need money:

Access to local capital is essential to keeping new companies in a region, and Gruber said that’s where USC should focus its attention. Doing so benefited the University of Pennsylvania, where he received his medical degree.

“I was on the board of the University of Pennsylvania, and they had a similar problem of how to commercialize their technology,” he explained. “My recommendation was that they set up a venture fund. And they did, and now they’re in the business of setting up companies in Philadelphia.”

Money is always an issue in the Tampa Bay area.  Our local capital is relatively low and usually locked up in more traditional Florida industries.

— Transportation

Which brings us invariably to transportation.  Obviously, we mean good local transportation, connecting the biotech entities and talent to other biotech entities and talent.  But also providing choices in lifestyle, because they have a choice of where to be.  And there is also this:

The Los Angeles International Airport offers many more nonstop overseas flights than does San Diego’s Lindbergh Field.

“That may not seem like a big deal, but when we travel internationally and talk about coming to do business in San Diego, it’s something that comes up,” Panetta said. “Los Angeles also has a reputation as an international city.”

Flights (domestic and international) and global connectivity are important.  You have to be able to reach money and markets.

— Luck

And the last thing is a bit of luck. Going back to the introduction on San Diego, you will note that General Dynamics, Scripps, and Jonas Salk liked the area (and looking at where it is overlooking the Pacific in southern California, who wouldn’t?).

— Where We Are

And a lot of this goes back to creating an environment where the people with the money, the talent, and the desire want to be.  Of course, you have to start small, that is where everything starts.  Frankly, nothing guarantees success.  However, good planning, a lot of thought, and providing the proper environment will maximize chances of success.

In bio-tech, we start with USF and Moffitt (and some facilities in St. Pete). Downtown Tampa is getting nicer but is not connected to other parts of the area efficiently.  Where is the land for the research facilities?  How will the people get around?  How do they connect to USF’s main campus?  Can we get other institutions (like UF) involved?  And where will the money come from?  (As we always say, everything is connected.)

— The Report

Coincidentally, there was a column in the Times on a report about the Tampa Bay area’s entrepreneurial “ecosystem.”

A deep-dive analysis of the state of Tampa Bay’s young “entrepreneurial ecosystem” — the foundation of services that supports innovative business start-ups here — finds the region is making fair progress.

But in a refrain all too familiar to other economic development groups here, an academic team assessing the ecosystem’s health concludes there’s a need for stronger leadership, less duplication of efforts and an investor base more attuned to the risks and opportunities of backing start-ups.

Last but most familiar of all: There’s a serious need to build a specific brand for Tampa Bay that will resonate broadly with entrepreneurs and investors across the country if not the globe that this region has its start-up act together.

So say some of the key findings of the Tampa Bay Ecosystem Study, a year-long project led by the University of Tampa and funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the premier advocacy and research group for entrepreneurship in this country. The project’s goal is to develop a model to strengthen not only this area’s entrepreneurial ecosystem but also those in other cities.

Actually, they all are familiar, but anyhow.  And:

So how exactly is Tampa Bay’s entrepreneurial ecosystem doing? That’s tough to answer. Anecdotally, regional start-up activity appears strong. But it is scattered in incubators, accelerators, universities, coffee shops and (yes) garages across the bay area. One attending entrepreneur, SavvyCard CEO David Etheredge, noted that area start-ups tend to hit a ceiling here once they grow to a certain size and feel pressured to relocate to find stronger investor interest in the next stage of funding a company.

Which leads talent to leave.  And the report provides some details:

. . . the UT study points to some “bottlenecks” slowing Tampa Bay’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Among them:

Aside from news coverage, which seems pretty high (and hype-filled), all that is quite familiar – namely because those are all persistent issues.

— The Lightning Owner

Which brings us to an article in Forbes on the Lightning owner’s sales tour.  We have not hidden our support for most of the things the Lightning owner does.  You can read the whole thing here, but we want to highlight two specific questions:

Guttman: What are Tampa’s competitive advantages?

Vinik:

-We have great proximity to Latin America.

-There’s a large population of older people in Florida, in general, which makes it a natural for medical studies.

-We’ve got tourism. There are plenty of new ventures focused on disrupting tourism.

– I don’t think you’ll find many cities that have as many college grads within 100 miles of here. (tampasphere: Of course, this would include Sarasota, part of Ocala, and parts of Orlando)

Guttman: What are some of the challenges Tampa faces?

Vinik:

-There are a lot of graduates who want to stay local, but they’re not finding the urban environment they want or the opportunities, the restaurants or the good jobs they want. It starts with creating those environments.

-The most significant weakness of Tampa is wages – we’ve got to have better paying jobs and higher wages.

-The ecosystem is fragmented. There are pockets of organizations and communities. They’re not funded as well as they should be. They try to talk to each other, but everyone has to worry about their own success. I’d like to explore convening the leaders.

-We need some success stories. We’ve got to have intellectual capital.

That’s how you get people to buy in.

That is a nice, mature summary of our issues.  For urban environment, include real transit, proper planning, and urban amenities.  Add to that low wages and there is a deterrent to attracting and retaining talent.  Toss in the lack of regionalism leading to a plethora of organizations, including a whole mess of incubators that essentially compete for talent and resources rather. (And, in biotech, a dispersal of assets around the entire area).  And, proximity to Latin America is best taken advantage of with more flights, better port connections (Tampa or Manatee, doesn’t matter to us).

Just looking at the list, it is clear that everything is connected, and failures in one area (like transportation and planning) bring failures in other areas.

— Conclusion

Going back to the Times column on the entrepreneurial ecosystem:

Then there is the more fundamental matter of regional self confidence.

“We have a bit of an inferiority complex,” White said of this metro region. “We are probably better than we think we are.”

SavvyCard CEO Etheredge thinks so. “Tampa already has a superior startup ecosystem that, if we solve the issues with access to capital and cooperation among entrepreneurial support organizations, could become the Austin of the Southeast.”

We’ll put it another way.  The Tampa Bay area is like a teenager that has quite a bit of puffery on the outside, insecurity on the inside, and much potential if it can learn to temper its hype, move past its insecurity, and work in a more mature way.

For decades, our economic development fine for low wage business.  But the whole country is chasing biotech (and other clusters).  To be successful in developing that and other high wage jobs, all the issues above have to be thought out so that we can answer the question: If a company, institution or person with unique talent can go anywhere, why should they come/stay here?

We can do this if it is well thought-out.  However, if we don’t create the right conditions and can’t give a very solid, non-hyped answer, we aren’t going to be very successful.

It’s time to hit the books because we also have a lot of work to do if we want to graduate.

Downtown – Premature

There was news this week about the library annex:

Mayor Bob Buckhorn is thinking about recycling another piece of downtown Tampa from the 1970s.

This time, it’s the annex behind the John F. Germany Public Library, plus the neighboring auditorium with the clamshell-shaped dome.

Once people and the city’s mainframe computers are moved out of the annex — a process scheduled to start next week — he said those two buildings could be demolished to create a new piece of vacant city-owned land near the Riverwalk.

“It’s been in the works for about a year now,” Buckhorn said this week. “We could potentially put out a (request for proposals) for redevelopment of the site. We could turn it into a park. There’s all kinds of things we could do. We haven’t decided.”

We agree that the building is not particularly good.  But, given that the City does not even know what it wants on this lot, plus that the City did this on an adjacent parcel:

Maybe the City should just put that RFP in its back pocket.  Sure, something better can go on that land.  But until we see how the building next door (if it gets built) will affect the lot and the area, why hurry? (Not to mention that the City has already sold land that later got flipped, sold land for projects that haven’t started, and proposed selling land for “signature” buildings that are far from signature).

To be honest, we would rather see a new library somewhere else and to maximize the whole lot, but we understand that is not necessarily feasible.  Regardless, just rushing to squeeze something into a lot the nature of which is likely to change drastically if the proposals around it get built makes absolutely no sense.

Transportation – Under the PTC Big Top

There was more news on the PTC.  First, the PTC approved an agreement with Uber and Lyft, which is fine, as far as it goes. The problem is that 1) it is not clear that the PTC has authority over ridesharing and 2), even if it has such authority, the agreement is not rules for ridesharing, it is an agreement with Uber and Lyft. So . . .

West Coast Transportation Services, a company chaired by Yellow Cab Company of Tampa owner Louis Minardi, is suing the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission in hopes of furthering its chances at success.

Minardi wants West Coast, which is attempting to break into the transportation network industry, to be able to enter into the same temporary operating agreement on the table for Uber and Lyft.

We don’t know if West Coast is really trying to break into ridesharing or just wants to have its cab service under the same rules.  We’ll take them at face value now.  Frankly, it doesn’t even matter in our opinion.

“We are amenable to considering the same or similar temporary rules and regulations for all Transportation Network Companies,” Minardi said.

But that can’t happen, according to Minardi. He said Hillsborough County attorneys informed him Friday that only Uber and Lyft could enter into the temporary agreement because they are both litigants in an existing lawsuit.

That is interesting.  Why are the PTC’s proposed ridesharing rules part of settlement that limits their application?

The proposal, negotiated by PTC Chairman Victor Crist, is intended to end two years of legal wrangling since the two ridesharing firms began operating in Hillsborough in 2014.

PTC inspectors have ticketed Uber and Lyft drivers for operating without the insurance and permits required for taxi drivers.

Uber and Lyft responded by suing the agency and asking the 2nd District Court of Appeal to overturn the tickets. They argued that rules drawn up for the taxicab industry should not apply to them.

The court has yet to rule, but approval of the new operating agreement this week would act as a mediated settlement to the cases, meaning there would still be no legal precedent establishing the agency’s authority over ridesharing.

That’s nice for Uber, Lyft, and the PTC, but it does not really open the market or give consumers full choices. If the PTC really has the power to regulate ridesharing, they should just regulate ridesharing – all ridesharing – and let the market decide which ridesharing it prefers. (It seems that the PTC just can’t get out of their habit of choosing champions.) If it doesn’t have the power, it doesn’t. And what about these guys?

At least two other ridesharing firms have expressed an interest in operating in Hillsborough.

DriveSociety, a new Tampa startup, is waiting to begin operations. Fare, one of the companies that moved into the Austin, Texas, market after Uber and Lyft left, has also expressed interest in operating in Tampa.

Maybe they have a good service that consumers will like. And now they are suing:

In a complaint filed in circuit court Friday, Tampa company DriveSociety claims that the temporary operating agreement approved by the PTC’s governing board Wednesday puts it and other competitors at a disadvantage.

The agreement allows Uber and Lyft to operate without having their drivers undergo a FBI fingerprint based background check or obtain public vehicle drivers licenses.

But it does not apply to other ridesharing firms like DriveSociety, which must fingerprint their drivers. The startup has also been joined in its lawsuit by several taxicab and limousine-rental firms that have indicated they want to offer ridesharing services.

The lawsuit also asks a judge to rule that the agreements are illegal and void because they do not follow the special state law that created the PTC that mandates fingerprinting.

We are not going to get into any of the legal issues in the actual cases.  But this is what the PTC is saying:

Citing attorney advice, PTC Chairman Victor Crist said during last week’s board meeting that the exemptions for Uber and Lyft are legally defensible because they are part of a settlement of lawsuits filed by the two firms seeking to overturn $700 citations given to their drivers.

That may or may not be true.  To us, it does not really matter.  What matters is that the PTC does not seem capable of just fairly regulating a market. We don’t really care about protecting the PTC (or limiting the market to Uber and Lyft). The fact is that the PTC can’t seem to get out of its own way.  Just another reason to get rid of it.

And if that wasn’t enough for you (plus one member resigning in protest to the agreement and the on again off again resignation of the director) :

Just days after his stint as its chairman ended, Victor Crist is calling for the Public Transportation Commission to be scrapped.

In an email sent Friday, Crist called on state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, to abolish the agency at the center of the regulatory battle with ridesharing giants Uber and Lyft. 

Crist, also a Hillsborough county commissioner, said the agency he led for four years is too bureaucratic and too slow to adjust to new technology like ridesharing.

The PTC also allows taxicab, limousine firms and others to block and delay regulations they do not like, he said, adding that  its role should now fall to county government.

“At this juncture, the way the special act was written gives too much influence to the companies of the business we regulate,” he said.

Pretty much.  Just get rid of the PTC.

Downtown/Hyde Park – More on Lafayette Place

If you were excited (or saying “Wow”) about Lafayette Place and its parking garages, you may want to just hold off.

For a project that could total 1.7 million square feet — roughly equivalent to the 42-story 100 North Tampa, SunTrust Financial Centre and the Tampa City Center skyscrapers combined — Hillsborough River Realty Co. doesn’t appear to be in any rush to break ground.

Ok.

In fact, Hillsborough River Senior Vice President John LaRocca says the company, an affiliate of Jeffries Travis Realty Corp., is anxious to see other, seemingly competing projects — namely Strategic Property Partners’ $2 billion Channelside redevelopment; Feldman Equities and Tower Realty Partners’ 52-story Riverwalk Tower; and Related Group’s revamp of the Tampa Tribune site, to name a few — succeed.

“We’re not pressured to make something happen immediately,” LaRocca says. “For those projects already in the pipeline in downtown Tampa and those that are close to getting permits, we want them to be successful, because that will mean our project stands a chance of being successful. Success will breed success.”

We accept that logic to a point. The more thriving the area gets, the more likely to draw more business. On the other hand, the predecessor plan from the same developer, the Hillsborough River Tower, is an idea that was around for quite a while without getting built, so waiting does not ensure anything.  More to the point:

LaRocca acknowledges that pre-leasing the office space to obtain financing would be “the challenge,” but that critical mass generated by other projects could bring with it a corporate relocation that would need a large block of contiguous space and desire a river view. 

The need tenants.  And we get that.  It is the big unknown for a number of major projects in downtown Tampa.

Temple Terrace – Nothing

Temple Terrace’s long attempt to build a “downtown” took another hit.

The company that planned to become the anchor of Downtown Temple Terrace has withdrawn its proposal to locate there.

In a letter to City Manager Charles Stephenson dated Wednesday, Roy Eriksson, president of Eriksson Technologies Inc., stated that “the risk associated with moving forward exceeds our comfort level.”

Eriksson was the first company to seek a spot in the redevelopment area since the city parted ways with its last developer in 2015.

Florida Hospital proposed putting an emergency department on the site, but quickly withdrew its proposal after mounting criticism of the idea.

Eriksson had offered $250,000 for the 1.5-acre parcel on the southeast corner of Bullard Parkway and 56th Street, where the company had planned to build a six-story office building as a focal point of the development, which stretches to the Hillsborough River.

But complaints from a number of residents and council members that the offer was too low left the company believing that it was being asked to take on too much of the risk, Eriksson said.

This is too bad.  We understand that the purchase price was pretty low, but the project was pretty good, especially considering what is there now and past proposals.  We generally think that investors should pay market prices for public land, especially when there is no lack of nearby private projects on private land (see downtown, Ybor City). However, in some cases, you really need to jump-start development to transform an area.  It is not like suitors were banging down the doors to make urban-ish buildings in Temple Terrace.  We’ll see what happens.

Westshore – Interesting but Not Convincing

A while back, we discussed a proposed development on Frontage Road in Westshore.  One of our major concerns was that the site plan was laid out facing Frontage Road in a sprawling model.  That is still the case, but we will set that aside right now.  A rendering of phase one (a 13 story office, hotel, and small amount of retail building) was released:

From URBN Tampa Bay - click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

Nice enough.  But the plan does not seem to consider that TBX is going to take a big chunk of the property.  So, ignoring the site plan issue, we are cautious on the likelihood of this whole project.

Economic Development – Something

We are all for brining manufacturing to this area, which is really a service based economy.  This week, there was a little news:

AFLG Industrials in Tampa has signed an agreement for a multimillion-dollar joint venture with Hidral-Mac Group, a Brazilian company that makes hydraulic presses and related equipment.

The joint venture operation will be headquartered in Tampa, said Freddy Russian, president and CEO of AFLG Holdings, a private equity firm. AFLG Industrials is a subsidiary.

Initially, it will focus on selling Hidral-Mac equipment, but the company also plans to add a facility to assemble hydraulic machines in the United States and distribute them throughout North America.

In the first year of operation, Russian expects the joint venture to create 50 jobs, with another 80 to 100 jobs over the next three years.

It seems that initially it is just a sales office, but may move to manufacturing.  It is not a huge announcement, but good nonetheless.  And, maybe it can bring the port some business at some point.

List of the Week

As you may have noticed, we have stopped doing a weekly list. Part of that is because other local media have reported on more lists, and part of it is because most lists are not that edifying.  However, this week, there is a relevant list.

There are many ways to determine how big an area is (population not land).  There are population measures like metropolitan statistical areas (msa).  For some areas, depending on commuting patterns (that is the main criteria), those msa’s may be put together into combined statistical areas (csa).  However, there is another way – media market, which is basically the reach of various media.  The Tampa-St. Pete-Clearwater msa is the 18th largest in the US, between San Diego and Denver (though Denver has a bigger csa).  So let’s look at the TV media markets list from Nielsen, which comes out a bit differently.

The top 20: coming in first (not surprisingly) is New York, followed by Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas-Ft. Worth, San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, Washington (DC), Houston, Boston, Atlanta, Tampa-St. Pete, Phoenix, Detroit, Seattle, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Denver, Orlando-Daytona Beach, Cleveland, and Sacramento.

We are 11th. You may wonder why our media market is so much bigger than our msa. Simply put, Sarasota, Manatee, and Polk counties (plus some smaller counties) are not included in our msa (we have no csa), but they are in our media market.  The fact is that our area is actually quite large; maybe we should start acting like it.  And we should really have much more influence than we do (in addition to our central role in elections).

Roundup 11-11-2016

November 11, 2016

Contents

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country . . .

— Wake County, NC (Raleigh)

— Marion County, IN (Indianapolis)

— Atlanta area

— Los Angeles County, CA

— San Diego County, CA

— Sacramento and Placer Counties, CA

— San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, CA (BART)

— Virginia Beach, VA

— Charleston, SC

— Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland, and Macomb Counties, MI (Detroit area)

— King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties, WA (Seattle)

— Kansas City, MO

— New Jersey

Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida . . .

– Broward County/Cities, FL

Conclusion

________________________________________

This week, we were sort of distracted by the elections.  There has obviously been a lot of talk about the election, trends, voters, etc.  There has also been a lot of talk about a transit referendum in Hillsborough County.  At the nexus of those things were transit referenda around the country.  So we decided take a look at the major ones, especially the ones involving rail.

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country . . .

— Wake County, NC (Raleigh):

The proposal:

The Wake Transit Plan calls on the county to build a commuter rail system between Garner and Durham with stops at N.C. State University, downtown Cary, Research Triangle Park, Morrisville near RDU International Airport and Duke University in Durham.

The plan also aims to introduce Bus Rapid Transit, which runs buses in dedicated lanes and gives them priority at traffic signals. BRT buses would mostly run along four main corridors in Raleigh’s core: Western Boulevard, Capital Boulevard, New Bern Avenue and Wilmington Street. They would also connect to downtown Cary, WakeMed Raleigh and the Tryon Road-U.S. 401 intersection near Garner.

Result:

Wake County voters agreed to raise the sales tax to expand public transit options.

With all precincts reporting, about 53 percent of voters supported a referendum to raise the sales tax by a half-cent to help pay for a 10-year, $2.3 billion plan to add commuter rail and increase bus service throughout the county.

— Marion County, IN (Indianapolis):

The proposal:

The transit question, which was included on all Marion County ballots, asked voters whether they wanted to give the City-County Council the authority to impose an income tax of up to 0.25 percent—25 cents per $100 of income—to help fund the Marion County Transit Plan. For a resident earning $50,000 a year, that 0.25 percent equals an additional $125 in annual income taxes.

The plan calls for $390 million in improvements aimed at strengthening IndyGo’s bus service—extending hours of operation, increasing the number of bus routes that run at 15-minute frequencies, and running every route seven days a week. The transit tax also would fund the operational costs of three rapid-transit lines, which feature buses that run more often and make fewer stops.

For clarity, that is three BRT lines (though, in reality, it is partial BRT with much of the service not on dedicated lanes).

Result:

Marion County voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly agreed to a tax increase to pay for an expanded transit system, which means it’s now the City-County Council’s turn to consider the issue.

With 99 percent of precincts in the county reporting, voters favored the measure 59 percent to 41 percent.

— Atlanta area:

There were a number of referenda in the Atlanta area.  The proposals:

One of the taxes voted on by Atlanta residents will raise $2.5 billion for MARTA to add more buses, light rail and infill stations. The other will add more than $300 million to city coffers to synchronize traffic signals, fix roads, add bike lanes and pay for other projects. Atlanta’s sales tax is currently 8 percent.

In addition, $66 million will be dedicated to buying the remaining right-of-way to complete the popular Atlanta Beltline.

* * *

Fulton’s measure would raise up to $655 million over five years. The county and its cities spent more than a year hashing out the details of the plan. Each city and the unincorporated area formed their own lists of transportation improvements that would be funded by the tax increase.

Results:

MARTA will expand in Atlanta, according to the city. Voters overwhelmingly approved a half-penny sales tax that will last for 40 years, and is intended to raise more than $2 billion. 

* * *

Atlanta voters approved another sales tax: four-tenths of a penny that will go towards transportation, including the BeltLine, sidewalk repairs and overhauls on some big streets.

A transportation sales tax in areas of Fulton County outside the city of Atlanta also appeared to have passed as of Wednesday morning. Funds from that tax will go towards infrastructure needs and addressing congestion, not towards transit.

— Los Angeles County, CA:

LA County had one of the biggest proposals. The proposal:

Measure M would add a half-cent sales tax and extend the existing Measure R half-cent increase passed by voters in 2008. Both increases would be permanent unless voters act to repeal them.

The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority estimates the tax increase would generate $120 billion over 40 years, funding massive rail expansions, highway improvements, biking and walking infrastructure and local street repairs.

Among the biggest projects proposed are a subway under the Sepulveda Pass connecting the San Fernando Valley to West Los Angeles, an extension of the Gold Line to Claremont, a northern spur of the Crenshaw line, possibly into West Hollywood, a light rail connecting Artesia to downtown L.A. and acceleration of construction of the Purple Line subway to Westwood to be finished 10 years earlier than scheduled.

Under California Proposition 13, the tax increase must get two-thirds voter approval to pass. This would be the fourth sales tax increase to support transportation in L.A. County.

Result:

In giving the Measure M transit tax roughly 70% support, a full 3 percentage points above the super-majority it needed to pass, county voters virtually guaranteed that L.A. will finally build the mature, comprehensive public transit system it has been working toward, often haltingly, since the 1980s.

There is plenty of money for roadway improvements in the measure, but a remarkable $860 million in estimated revenue each year will be earmarked for mass-transit projects. Some are ambitious enough to radically remake the region’s public transportation map.

Another countywide proposition, Measure A, passed with an even higher margin, earning more than 73% of the vote. It will boost investments in park space and could accelerate plans to open much of the Los Angeles River to public access. (Measure M will help do the same, in part by funding improvements to the network of bike paths along and leading to the river.) And make no mistake: A city with more open green space is a more urban and public-minded city, one at long last moving beyond the radical privatization that accompanied postwar growth in much of Southern California.

— San Diego County, CA:

Sticking in California and the 2/3 requirement, there was a vote in San Diego.  The proposal:

The 18 cities in the region would have had discretion to use the revenue on road and pothole repairs, fixing sidewalks and open space acquisition.

Other projects listed under the ballot measure include freeway and connector improvements, addition of carpool lanes, extending a trolley line to Kearny Mesa, increasing trolley frequency, synchronizing traffic signals and separating road and rail grades so vehicles don’t have to stop for trains.

Though, really hurting the chances:

The measure created odd bedfellows, uniting environmental groups and some Republicans against the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and several Democratic elected officials.

* * *

The local Republican and Democratic parties along with a coalition of about two dozen environmental groups, labor unions and transit advocates opposed Measure A, albeit on divergent grounds.

Environmentalists and other advocates of mass transit said both SANDAG’s long-range transportation plan and the ballot measure should do more to boost bus, trolley, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

Result:

Measure A, the half-cent sales tax to fund public transit and freeway projects in the county, fell short of the needed two-thirds vote.

With most votes counted as of 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, the measure had received support from only about 57 percent of voters in the region.

— Sacramento and Placer Counties, CA:

In yet another California proposal:

The Sacramento tax would raise an estimated $3.6 billion over 30 years to finance major fixes and upgrades throughout the county, starting with filling potholes and repaving rutted streets.
* * *

Sacramento Regional Transit, which operates buses and light-rail trains throughout much of the county, also would be required to spend 75 percent of its tax allocation in the first five years on shoring up basic operations, such as replacing buses, doing maintenance, upgrading stations and improving security.

The measure also would provide money to advance several major county projects, including a $700 million widening of the Capital City Freeway between midtown and Interstate 80 near Watt Avenue, the region’s most congested freeway. Other projects include widening Grant Line Road into an expressway, and a light-rail extension to Natomas and the airport.

Result:

Measure B, the proposed half-cent transportation sales tax in Sacramento County, fell short of the two-thirds support it needed to pass.

With all precincts accounted for early Wednesday, the measure had just shy of 65 percent approval. It needed to top two-thirds, or 67 percent, to pass.

A similar transportation tax measure in Placer County, Measure M, had won nearly 64 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting, but it also needed a two-thirds majority to pass.

— San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, CA (BART):

One more California proposal:

Measure RR asked voters in the BART district — San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties — to increase their property taxes by an average of $35 to $55 a year to help pay for an overhaul of the 44-year-old (BART) transit system.

* * *

Measure RR, unlike most transportation tax measures, lacked marquee projects like a new extension, a new station or a second Transbay Tube. Instead, it featured a collection of decidedly unsexy projects, including replacing 90 miles of original rail, waterproofing San Francisco subway stations, rebuilding the electrical equipment that delivers power to the tracks and trains, and replacing the original train control system.

The plan also called for money to refurbish train yards, maintenance shops and stations, including replacing escalators and elevators.

Result:

The Bay Area’s regional transit agency is set to receive a major boost in funding after voters Tuesday appear to have passed a $3.5 billion bond to bolster BART.

— Virginia Beach, VA:

The proposal:

The question read: “Should City Council of Virginia Beach spend local funds to extend Light Rail from Norfolk to Town Center in Virginia Beach?”

The extension would have added three new stations.

This was a non-binding referendum on extending Norfolk’s Tide Rail into Virginia Beach.

Result:

The voters of Virginia Beach have spoken: They overwhelmingly don’t want light rail.

No: 57 percent.

Yes: 43 percent.

— Charleston, SC:

Proposal:

. . . half-cent sales tax increase, raising the total sales tax rate in the county to 9 percent. The additional tax will raise $2.1 billion to fund mass transit, road improvements and more greenspace.

* * *

More than half the money will be spent on about a dozen road projects, including the widening of S.C. Highway 41 and Dorchester Road. About $600 million will go to the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority to improve its fleet of buses and develop the area’s first bus rapid transit system. 

Result:

Passed. 

— Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland, and Macomb Counties, MI (Detroit area):

Proposal:

The heart of the RTA master plan was bus rapid transit, with lines on Woodward, Gratiot, Michigan and Washtenaw avenues. BRT, with its limited stops, fixed stations and buses running often in dedicated lines, designed to provide a faster trip and give a sense of permanence approaching that of light rail. But the master plan also added expanded local bus service, premium express service to Detroit Metro Airport from the various counties, commuter express routes as well as more paratransit and on-demand options and commuter rail connecting Detroit and Ann Arbor.

The plan was designed to address the kinds of structural problems inherent in the story of marathon commuter James Robertson, Detroit’s walking man. The plan would not merge the Detroit Department of Transportation and Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, but it would prevent communities from opting out as many do with SMART.

Result:

The Regional Transit Authority millage appears to have been defeated, with unofficial vote tallies for all but one precinct in the four-county area where it was proposed.

The tax appears to have failed by about 18,000 votes.

Voters in Wayne and Washtenaw counties supported the tax, approving it 359,244 to 322,447, and 93,994 to 73,270, respectively. It fell short, by 1,109 votes in Oakland county, where the tally was 293,510 against and 292,401 in support. But, the opposition was greatest in Macomb county, with a vote of 222,806 no to 148,159 yes.

— King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties, WA (Seattle):

Proposal:

The $54 billion Sound Transit 3 ballot measure would add 37 stations and 62 miles of light rail by 2041, and extend bus and commuter-train lines. It is among the largest transit proposals in U.S. history.

You can get more detail here.

Result:

Sound Transit 3, the $54 billion plan to finance light-rail, commuter-train and bus-line extensions over a quarter-century has passed, despite Pierce County voters’ rejection of the measure.

The measure also known as Proposition 1, was logging 58 percent approval in King County on Wednesday and 51 percent in Snohomish County. In Pierce County, 56 percent of voters were rejecting the tax proposal. Overall, in the three-county Sound Transit district, 54 percent were voting to approve.

— Kansas City, MO:

In one of the stranger proposals, a voter initiative was on the Kansas City ballot:

This was Chastain’s ninth Kansas City petition initiative in 20 years, and all but one of those failed with voters. The one that passed in 2006 did not involve a tax increase and instead reallocated an existing bus tax. The Kansas City Council repealed the measure, calling it unworkable.

This time, Chastain proposed a 40-mile light-rail and electric bus system from KCI to the Cerner Corp. campus near Bannister Road with an east-west spur from Union Station to Arrowhead Stadium.

To help pay the estimated $2 billion cost, he sought voter approval for two new sales taxes totaling three-eighths of a cent, starting in 2017 for 25 years. He also proposed redirecting an existing three-eighths-cent sales tax from the buses to his system for 25 years, starting in 2024. 

And the proposer did not even live in Kansas City:

Chastain had a website, KCLightRail.org, but no campaign committee or funding. He moved out of Kansas City in 2001 and did little campaigning from his home in Bedford, Va.

Result, not surprisingly:

With nearly all precincts reporting, Kansas City voters opposed Chastain’s latest vision for a light-rail system from Kansas City International Airport to south Kansas City. The margin was 60 percent against versus 40 percent in favor of the plan, in unofficial results.

— New Jersey:

The proposal:

On its face, ballot question 2 asked voters to protect the new revenue from future raids, ensuring it goes to road, bridge and mass transit projects. It also protects some existing revenues not already constitutionally dedicated. Less obvious is that it also allows the state to finance $12 billion for transportation.

The state expects to collect $1.16 billion a year from the new gasoline tax, $31.1 million a year from increased taxes on non-motor fuels, and $39.6 million a year from a diesel surcharge.

Result:

New Jersey voters on Tuesday approved a constitutional amendment dedicating gas tax proceeds to transportation projects, locking in more than $1 billion a year in new revenue from the recently enacted 23 cent gas tax.

Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida . . .

– Broward County/Cities, FL:

Finally, Broward County had a vote that has some lessons for us.  The proposal:

A proposed increase in the sales tax in Broward County failed Tuesday when voters said they’d support a tax for transportation improvements but not for city infrastructure.

The taxes were entwined; if one failed, neither would be enacted.

Had they passed, the sales tax in Broward County would have increased from 6 percent to 7 percent, or 7 cents on the dollar. But with the mixed voting results, the tax will remain as is. It was the fourth sales tax referendum to fail in Broward since the 1980s.

* * *

Because of the support in Broward on Tuesday for the transportation tax, though, it likely won’t be the last attempt.

* * *

City officials didn’t trust the county to disburse the money from a transportation tax, so they added their infrastructure tax to the ballot because it would flow directly to them.

With the defeat, the county’s plans to improve bus service, make sidewalks and school zones safer, and build a light rail system will be shelved.

In other words, there was a county proposal and a city-tax proposal that were tied together.  Basically, a general cluster.

Plans for the infrastructure tax were spread out in 31 cities’ lists of projects that didn’t equate to the cities’ projected surtax income. Pembroke Pines was projected to receive $540.3 million over 30 years, for example. Its plans showed $179 million in projects. Hollywood was expected to get $495.5 million. Its plans listed $1.9 billion in work.

The county side of the tax also was difficult to decipher.

A full 82 percent would have been spent on operations and maintenance, mostly of bus and light rail systems. Lists of projects contained sparse details, with little financial information. A “transit surtax funding plan” showed that even with the tax, the county would face a $198 million deficit in its transit budget over 30 years. And traffic light synchronization was promised, even though county traffic engineers said the light timing already is optimized and any technological improvements wouldn’t make a discernible difference.

Some voters said they thought transportation and infrastructure need improving, but they weren’t sold on this tax.

“If they were more competent about what they were doing, I would have voted yes,” said 67-year-old marble sculptor Andrew Recupero in Plantation.

“Everything is about how you sell it to somebody, and whether it’s believable,” said Mona Malbranche, a retired nurse in Tamarac. “It wasn’t believable.”

Apparently, the cities out-smarted themselves. This is one reason why we are not sold on the city-tax idea. It has the potential for all sorts of issues, and not just in the first stage, but after that.  We need a real comprehensive plan that people will buy into.

Conclusion

The results were mixed, but overall most of referenda, not just what we highlighted, passed nationwide (above 65% of them including what we listed and a number more).   The results were not determined by red state or blue state.  And there is not a clear line about starting new systems or expanding. Some proposals that were new ideas got approved; some expansions were rejected – and vice versa.

And it is worth noting the muddle in Broward, where it actually passed in the county.

Once again, transit, and rail in particular, is simply not a partisan issue.  And there is no broad-based rejection of transit – on the contrary.  The real key is the quality of the vision and the plan.

We just don’t know if local officials here are paying attention.

Roundup 11-4-2016

November 4, 2016

Contents

Development – It’s Good, But . . .

— Started:

— Sort of Started:

— Ideas:

— Missing:

— Conclusion

Transportation – Here Comes the Ferry

Transportation – Downtown shuttle

Transportation/Economic Development/International Trade – Airport Goals

— One More Thing

Transportation – Whatever, It’s Bad

USF – Making a Campus

St. Pete – Channeling 1980’s Tampa, Cont

Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida

— Miami Signature Bridge

— Port of Miami

Some Interesting Reads

— 10 Streets

— An Idea for the CSX Tracks

__________________________________

Development – It’s Good, But . . .

For as long as we’ve been interested in development in this area, there have been articles that come along listing a number of proposed projects and how great everything will be.  Inevitably, a bust comes, a number of them do not get built, then a new boom and a new crop of proposals (and articles). These days there are some good things happening in the area and a number of proposals.  And right on cue, there is another article, this one in the Times.

A cool commercial project here, another there. That’s great. But it’s easy to miss the critical mass gathering in Tampa Bay without looking at the area’s best and biggest commercial real estate developments now under way (or about to be) at the same time.

Wow!

From the frenzy of downtown projects in Tampa and St. Petersburg to Tampa International Airport and east Pasco, big-dollar and innovative developments are in high gear. Alone, they signal confidence in the urban strongholds of Tampa Bay. Combined, they send a strong message that the economic vitality of the Tampa Bay region in the coming years has been noticed and recognized by savvy developers near and far. It bodes well for the region.

Try this sampling. I’ve picked 10 area commercial projects, ranked by their Wow! factor.

We are going to break down the projects (a bit out of the article’s order) into projects that have started, projects that have sort of started, and ideas that may or may not happen.

— Started:

-Tampa International Airport expansion: We are not even going to get into what the article has to say.  The airport expansion is, like most things at the airport, well-done, attractive and promises more efficiency.

-The Heights: Here’s what the article has to say about it:

Why Wow!? Just north of downtown Tampa, site features 1,200 feet of frontage along the Hillsborough River with potential to become the northern hub of the Tampa Riverwalk boardwalk. At the project’s core is transformation of the 106-year-old, brick warehouse known as the Tampa Armature Works into an in-house market, co-working space, two restaurants and event space. The Heights Market will comprise a 22,000-square-foot open market hall.

Frankly, that is the least “Wow” inducing part of this project, though it is the part that has actually started.  This project will be “Wow” inducing (though it could be improved) if it is fully built out with all the housing, retail and office space proposed.  The Armature Works portion is nice, but if the rest of the land stays empty or is underdeveloped, then it will be disappointing.

-One St. Petersburg condo and adjoining hotel:

Why Wow! The 253-unit One St. Petersburg condo promises to be 41 stories high, making it one of the tallest buildings in the area. When the hotel was first proposed, Kolter expected it to be branded as a Hyatt Hotel. The construction site, however, no longer identifies the location as a Hyatt. We’ll see what hotel brand appears.

From One St. Petersburg - click on picture for website

From One St. Petersburg – click on picture for website

This is a nice project with a new tallest building for St. Pete and a hotel filling in a central block to downtown St. Pete.  And it has the benefit of actually being under construction.  There is the noted question about the hotel brand.  Not really “Wow,” but it is a nice project.

-Downtown Publix stores in both Tampa and St. Petersburg:

Grocery stores are needed downtown but they are not “Wow” inducing other than to say “wow, why did it take so long for Tampa?”  The fact that they show up on the list is telling.

— Sort of Started:

-Vinik-Cascade joint venture (as yet unnamed): This project is in this category because road and utility work is under way.  Still, there are no buildings coming out of the ground.

Why Wow!: It’s the most significant urban, multi-use project for Tampa Bay in more than a generation. Sets a high bar to reinvigorate broader downtown Tampa. Makes Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the biggest real estate mover and shaker for the region. Cascade Investment partner, which manages mega-billionaire Bill Gates’ money, puts a gilded seal of approval on the extensive project. If Bill likes it, it’s got a great shot at being a winner — right?

That is not our standard for “Wow.” However, there is no question that if this project gets built out as planned (which is basically half of downtown and actually urban), it will be a big “Wow.”  It and the Heights are the two projects (and maybe the airport, but it usually gets a “Wow” from first time visitors anyway) that are actually likely to draw a “Wow” from people not from this area.

-Raymond James Financial Pasco campus: This project has started in the sense that Raymond James actually closed on the land.  What does the article have to say?

Why Wow! It has been five years since Raymond James said it would buy land for multiple towers in eastern Pasco. The planned expansion was backburnered during the recession and slow economic recovery. Last month, Raymond James finally closed on the 65 acres, another concrete step toward eventual expansion. The company won’t say when the Pasco property will get more attention but it will be a coup for Pasco to get a Fortune 500 company’s presence when it does.

While it would be a coup for employment in East Pasco, the only “wow” this will get from us is likely to be “wow, Pasco County is such a sprawling mess.  How could they not learn any lessons from all the mistakes around them?”

— Ideas:

-Tropicana Field redevelopment: Redeveloping this area has potential, but only that right now.  Who knows what will happen?

-Lafayette Place: We discussed this last week.  Our “Wow” would be “wow, those are big parking garages,” but what did the article say:

Why Wow!: Unveiled this past week. The significance, of course, is this project of tall vertical buildings would push the city’s “downtown” feel across the Hillsborough River — priming the pump, perhaps, for the western side of the river to become increasingly connected to the city’s center. 

Maybe, but note this from 83 degrees media:

The project is designed in a way that allows for development phasing. HRRC says it expects to get approval from the Tampa City Council in March 2017, and then begin more detailed design work, pricing and assessment of the marketplace for timing of certain phases of the development.

Then, thorough plans would be submitted for review and permitting through the City of Tampa. The company says it’s considering Lafayette Central as the first phase of the project, but construction would not begin before the end of 2018.

From the Business Journal - click on picture for article

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

And some more information from URBN Tampa Bay:

The total stats of the project:

– 690,000 sf of office
– 375 residential units
– 350 hotel rooms
– 60,000 sf of retail
– 3,905 parking spaces

Lafayette Place would be 642 feet tall, making it the tallest building in the Tampa Bay Area, even including the proposed Riverwalk Tower. Central and Parkview would be 330 feet tall each.

It is not completely clear how tall the garages will be, but they will be 15 stories, so probably at least 150 feet.

From URBN Tampa Bay - click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

From the Accela filings it seems that the apartment/condo buildings do have retail on the street (though some is of very odd sizes and layout).  Regardless, that is welcome.  But there is no clear retail on the Riverwalk, which would be very odd, to say the least.

There is a long way to go before anything happens (note: Hillsborough River Tower never happened). And those parking garages – we don’t need 1990 downtown jumping the river.  If they fix that and get it out of the ground, we may say “wow.”

-Port Tampa Bay: This “vision plan” requires no comment other than to say the Port needs to concentrate on being a port until the private land in downtown is filled.  Then, we’ll see.

-400 block of Central Avenue:

Why Wow! What’s striking right now is the huge crane and wrecking ball methodically smashing into bits the empty and decrepit Pheil Hotel. The goal is to make room for a mixed-used tower possibly as tall as the 41-story St. Petersburg One condo just three blocks down Central Avenue. The developer provided a rendering early on but suggests the building’s design is flexible at this point. Odds are it will be big, whatever goes up on the block. As billionaire Catsimatidis told the Tampa Bay Times: “St. Pete needs a skyline.

From Stpeterising.com - click on picture for website

From Stpeterising.com – click on picture for website

In other words, there is potential here.  We would like to see something, but there can be no “Wow” without even a firm proposal.  And, even then, for one building to be a “Wow” it would have to be very special.

— Missing:

-Feldman Trump Tower lot project: this would be a new tallest (if Lafayette Tower does not get built), mixed use, riverfront building in downtown Tampa.  If Publix and 400 block of Central Avenue make this list, we have no idea why this didn’t make it.

-TBX: How the list does not include TBX is beyond us.  Making the interstate 24 lanes right through the redeveloping urban heart of Tampa definitely deserves a “Wow” for stupidity.

— Conclusion

There are a lot of ideas out there, but there almost always are this late into a national recovery.  The bottom line is that the only thing that counts is what is actually built. We’ll withhold our Wow’s until then. (For a list of unbuilt previous proposals look at this list.)

And if you really want a “Wow,” then get a real transit system built.

Transportation – Here Comes the Ferry

This week, the ferry trial program started to much hype (and some realism).

The crowd of politicos buzzed on the deck of the Cross-Bay Ferry as it made its first journey Tuesday from the Vinoy Basin in downtown St. Petersburg across the bay to downtown Tampa.

The wind whipped around them. Women searched for hair ties as groups huddled close, shouting over the din of the engine.

“I can’t believe how fast it’s going,” said Pat Kemp, transportation advocate and Hillsborough County Commission candidate.

“The future right here, baby,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, looking across the water toward Tampa’s skyline. “This is it.”

It was a 50-minute journey full of expectations. To many, the trip represented not just a cruise across Tampa Bay, but a glimpse of what life could be look like if people had more transportation options than just driving their cars.

More on that last point shortly.  First, the first mile/last mile issue:

As far as options go, the ferry could be an attractive one. The trip was smooth, the bathrooms clean and the view hard to beat. There are plenty of chairs and tables to work on. There are plans to seel beer and wine. Snacks, too. People can bring their bikes on board, which makes getting to their destinations easier on land. And the onboard WiFi makes it easy to respond to emails or post selfies during the voyage.

But concerns about the frequency and reliability of ferry travel will be an issue as people test it out during the six-month trial period. The 98-foot catamaran will make two or three roundtrips each day, with weekday hours focusing on commuter times and weekend trips catered more toward evening events.

One issue: Those who take the boat over to Tampa at 7 a.m. on a weekday will have to wait until 5:15 p.m. for the return trip. That can be difficult to depend on, said Katharine Eagan, CEO of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority.

“The success of this is going to be tied to how quickly you can get back during the day if something happens,” Eagan said. “A boat going back and forth makes sense during rush hour, but you’re going to need a reliable service to get you back during the day if the water main breaks or the school calls and your kid is sick.”

That means other parts of the regional transportation network — such as busses, trolleys and rideshares — need to be robust enough for people to rely more on.

Indeed.  The connections at each end of the ferry are important, as is the limited schedule.

State and federal funding is available to help pay capital costs, such as buying more boats, but Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Paul Steinman, who oversees the bay area’s district, said that depends on whether ridership during the pilot program reveals a strong demand for ferry service.

“If people aren’t going to use it,” he said, “then obviously it’s not going to be something we’re going to invest in.”

The ferry runs through April 30. Then local leaders will then have to decide if there is enough interest in the project and funding available to continue, and possibly expand, the service.

And there is the rub.  First, as related in a Times editorial on transit planning generally:

Regionalism is not simply a slogan; in the Tampa Bay area, it’s a way of life. . . .

It is a way of life for most people.  For local government on real issues, not so much.

And it’s a trend that will continue — and grow. Consider these facts from the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority. In 2010, about 260,500 workers in the eight-county area in the region crossed county lines for their employment. By 2014, that figure jumped to 423,878, an increase of nearly 63 percent.

The proportion of those crossing county lines for work increased in all eight area counties, and in four — Hillsborough, Polk, Citrus and Sarasota — the percentage of the workforce crossing their home counties at least doubled. A majority (54 percent) of Pasco commuters crossed county lines for work in 2014.

* * *

Commuters leaving each county

By percentage and total number

Hillsborough commuters

2014: 18% (98,823)

2010: 8% (43,471)

Pasco commuters

2014: 54% (95,503)

2010: 48% (83,140)

Pinellas commuters

2014: 21% (83,195)

2010: 12% , (50,562)

First, how many of those people are going from downtown Tampa to downtown St. Pete or the other way? We feel pretty confident in saying downtown to downtown travel is not the biggest flow of people back and forth between the counties. Our transportation/transit issues are not just a downtown issue.

Second, even for people making that trip, the schedule is limited, and there is the cost – $10 each way.  It is likely that a number of people will take the ferry just for the curiosity of it.  It is nice to get out on the bay.  But it is $20/person roundtrip.  That is quite steep – especially if there is more than one person (note that parking in downtown Tampa is maybe at the highest end, unless you want a reserved space, is maybe the cost of two weeks per month of this service.) How many people will use that?  Four people in a car will still not spend $80 on gas and parking for a game, especially if they are willing to walk a few blocks. (Also, consider an adult day pass for Phoenix’s light rail and local bus system, which is much more useful, is $4 – notably it is also less expensive than a Tampa streetcar day pass)

And if you are a commuter, you need to get to and from the ferry as well – which neither Hillsborough nor Pinellas are set up to really do.

We are sure the ferry ride is fun.  But that is not the most relevant thing.  Price, schedule, and market are key. At some point a ferry service may form a cog in a larger transportation system.  But for now it is much more a novelty than a solution.  Not that we are against the trial.  We just think people need to enjoy they ride and then go back to work on the real transportation issues.

And we are still wondering what happened to the proposal that actually served real commuters from South County to MacDill?

Transportation – Downtown shuttle

There were a few more details about the autonomous shuttle concept for downtown:

Plans are under way for driverless shuttles — “autonomous vehicles” — running up and down the Marion Street Transitway in eastern downtown, a route restricted to buses and other public transit.

Two boxy electric vehicles carrying six to 12 passengers would run from the Marion Transit Center south to Whiting Street, a 0.6-mile stretch with 11 intersections.

An attendant would be on board, but the vehicles, now in use in cities including Phoenix and across Europe, are designed to “see” 360 degrees around them without human assistance, using lasers, radar and other sensors.

A test of the Marion Street system is scheduled for late next year.

We are not sure why it will take a year to get the trial underway, but so be it.  It will be interesting to see, even if the utility is limited.

One thing to note is that these vehicles do not remove the need for a full transit system, as made clear by their use in Phoenix and in Europe.  This area seems to love nibbling around the edges of the problem without really addressing it.

Transportation/Economic Development/International Trade – Airport Goals

We have been writing recently about how competition never stops, using the airport as an example. The airport has announced the list of favored target flights:

The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority voted unanimously to update and extend the airport’s incentive program, which is used to help lure new airlines and routes. As part of the presentation given to the aviation authority board this morning, airport staff shared the top markets they plan to go after next.

In Europe, the targets are new flights to Dublin, Amsterdam and Manchester, England. Manchester is the most undeserved European route to Tampa Bay, said Chris Minner, the airport’s vice president of marketing. He also noted that the international airline KLM recently resumed direct service from Miami International Airport to Amsterdam after a five year absence.

In Latin America, the airport hopes to land new flights to Lima, Peru; Bogota, Columbia; and Mexico City, building on the service Copa Airlines already offers to Panama City, Panama.

Domestic goals include new nonstop service to San Diego, Portland, and Salt Lake City. 

We are not going to rank those targets.  For a number of reasons, we would like to have flights to all of them. (We would add Brazil to the list).  That being said, we note that specifically in the European realm,  Manchester is very interesting for volume of traffic, and Amsterdam on KLM is very interesting to get connected to the SkyTeam alliance in a European hub, which would give us nonstop European flights on the three alliances (though there is that Gatwick thing).

Yes, it only counts when you actually get them, but they have a record and we are  glad that the airport is staying aggressive.  Air connections are key to economic development in so many ways.

— One More Thing

Keeping up with some transatlantic Florida air service developments,

British Airways is the latest international carrier to announce new service from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

The U.K.-based carrier said Thursday it plans to begin nonstop service between Fort Lauderdale and London’s Gatwick Airport on July 6.

The new route will operate three days a week (four during the peak summer season) using 275-passenger Boeing 777-200 aircraft with 40 business, 24 premium economy and 203 economy class seats, the airline said in a news release.

Colm Lacy, British Airways’ head of commercial for Gatwick, said he expects the flight to be popular with tourists headed for South Florida’s beaches and cruises.

British Airways will become the second carrier, after Norwegian Air Shuttle, to offer nonstop service between Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International and Gatwick. It currently flies to London from Miami, Tampa and Orlando.

Miami already has flights to London, including Heathrow, and, as noted above, Fort Lauderdale already has service to Gatwick.  Like we keep saying, the competition never ends.

Transportation – Whatever, It’s Bad

This week, there was some news about an I-4 superlative.

Floridians may want to proceed with caution the next time they’re behind the wheel.

Three of the United States’ deadliest interstates go through the Sunshine State, according to a new study ― including the top offender, Interstate 4.

The 132-mile roadway, which runs from Daytona Beach to Tampa, has seen 1.4 deaths per mile in the last six years. It has consistently ranked among the country’s top 10 most dangerous interstates in that time period, according to an analysis by EverQuote, a service that compares auto insurance companies.

The other two were I-95 and I-10, but they go through other states.  I-4 doesn’t. (You can check the report here.) Though, the Orlando Sentinel took issue with the ranking.

Transportation experts said a study based on deaths per mile puts the short, congested I-4 in the same category as a long, rural freeway.

“It’s a pretty crude instrument,” said Robert Wonderlich, director of Texas A&M’s Center for Transportation Safety, who didn’t discount an underlying message of EverQuote’s finding.

We aren’t going to get into the weeds on this argument.  Whether it is the most dangerous or just dangerous, it’s dangerous.  We have seen our share of horrible driving and accidents (as they occurred as well as the aftermath).

Of course, what to do about it is the question.  We are sure some, FDOT among them, will tell us that express lanes are the answer (though news from Miami about express lanes would tell us otherwise).  We would say that adding capacity in some limited form may be needed at some point simply because of volume, though express lanes are an inefficient way to add capacity as they purposefully limit the number of cars in the lane.  And, of course, I-4 was already expanded and does not appear to be much safer.

We also need alternatives.  We could have had high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando already (of course, there is the question of getting around once you reach either destination, but that goes to comprehensive planning.)  There are some other things we can think of, but we aren’t going to get into them now.  The point is that we lack alternatives and just trying to squeeze more traffic on ever-growing highways that just get congested again is of limited utility.

USF – Making a Campus

For a while now, we have thought that the USF campus was a bit lacking.  The original architecture was quite uninspired (it has gotten better) and the layout was a bit odd and completely unconnected from the area around it.  While we accepted that it is not really going to be properly connected to the sprawl that now surrounds it (note, when it was first built the area was mostly empty so it did not have to be the way it is now), steps have been taken to make it more campus-like.  This week, there were some details on the next stage.

The University of South Florida has begun construction on the first phase of what it’s calling a “transformational new housing village” on its Tampa campus.

The project is a $134 million public-private partnership with Capstone-Harrison Street LLC, which is a partnership of Capstone Development Partners LLC and Harrison Street Real Estate Capital, the university said in an announcement.

So what does that mean?

Named “The Village,” the community features the following buildings: Beacon, Summit, Endeavor, Pinnacle and Horizon. The dining hall will be named “The Hub,” and a wellness facility will be called “The Fit.” (See renderings in the photo gallery.)

Setting aside those names (because, really, what could we possibly say?),

It is being built on the north portion of campus and will replace the Andros housing complex, built in the 1960s.

In addition to the wellness facility and dining hall, the residence project includes suite and traditional style residential beds, an outdoor pool and retail spaces.

Phase I includes Beacon, Summit, The Hub and The Fit. Phase II will include Endeavor, Pinnacle and Horizon, according to USF.

The first phase includes about 900 beds and is expected to be complete in time for fall 2017. The second phase is expected to be complete one year later, USF said.

It will eventually be home to about 2,000 students.

That is all fine, though only a very small fraction of the enrollment.  Here are some renderings:

From the Business Journal - click on picture for article

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

From the Business Journal - click on picture for article

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

First, it is definitely better than what is there now. And it will create a much more campus-like environment (at least for some).  That is all good. On the other hand, it is quite bland, and we are not sure how the colors, while being school colors, will look in real life. (and we hope getting to and from the complex is not a scorching hot as getting around USF can often be.)

Regardless, it is an upgrade that USF definitely needed, and we are definitely for upgrading USF’s campus.

St. Pete – Channeling 1980’s Tampa, Cont

Last week, we discussed a proposal to build a hulking, ugly building on the historic First block (where Janus Live is) in St. Pete.  There are developments, from Creative Loafing:

Last week, St. Petersburg City Council voted 4-4 not to protect this historic low-rise block from potential demolition. Both city staff and preservation commissioners had recommended approval of a local historic designation to protect these buildings, so the “no” vote came as a shock.

Since the buildings’ owners were not supportive of protection, there needed to be a super majority vote, 6-2, to carry the day, but a tie vote leaves the block vulnerable. Peter Belmont, an attorney and vice president of St. Pete Preservation (SPP), decried the vote, saying that protecting this block is central to the town’s history.

Initially, preservationists assumed that the matter could be revisited this week, but city lawyers clarified that since this was a quasi-judicial hearing, it’s a done deal. The only potential change would occur if a property owner came to understand how valuable this designation would be for tax credits and would request designation willingly.

We are not going to get into the whole discussion of why the block is historic (you can read the article) but here is a taste:

For all the furor over preserving St. Pete Pier, it was a johnny-come-lately compared to First Block, which, with its 15 historic structures, is the true epicenter of downtown. Built between 1885-1937, the block was the site of the city’s first commercial buildings, created there by the town’s most prominent movers and shakers. 

It is a bit shocking that the First Block has not been protected before.  But it hasn’t.  Now, this might get ugly (like the proposal):

From the Times, click on picture for article

From the Times – click on picture for article

Last month Amico submitted preliminary plans for the tower, which city planners say are incomplete. St. Petersburg officials said they won’t consider the plan until other property owners within the block sign off on it. The Federal Aviation Administration must also determine that the project will not interfere with flight paths for Albert Whitted Airport.

Amico’s proposal, the mayor said, just doesn’t work.

“It’s totally out of character with the surrounding neighborhood,” Kriseman said.

The mayor said as long as he’s in office, the city won’t vacate the alley running down the middle of the block. That would make development difficult, the mayor said.

Amico disagreed.

“I don’t need his alley,” he said of the mayor. “He’s going to stop … me from cleaning up that stinking alley. Okay, I’m in.”

Though, on the bright side:

The project requires approval at several levels, and Amico said he probably won’t build anything for years. “I want to know the market is ready,” he said. “I don’t want to build a building and not have a market.”

Allowing this proposal to go forward would be basically what Tampa has done to most of its history (though it has started to learn, somewhat).  It would truly a step backwards for St. Pete.

Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida

— Miami Signature Bridge

With all the talk of the Howard Frankland, TBX and limited money, we thought it was time to check in with the Miami Signature Bridge project.

Five design firms have earned the right to submit a final design proposal for what’s being called a “signature bridge” on I-395 in downtown Miami and one of them should get a contract by spring, according to state transportation officials.

The Florida Department of Transportation anticipates construction to begin in late 2017 and last five years. A state website devoted to the I-395 improvement project lists December 2017 as the construction start date.

A change from the original plan is the addition of three related components, which adds more than $200 million to the overall cost, bringing it to $800 million, according to Maria I. Perdomo of the state transportation department and project manager for the I-395 project.

The bulk of the project is to rebuild 1.4 miles of I-395 from the I-95/Midtown interchange to the west channel bridge of the MacArthur Causeway in Miami.

* * *

The maximum construction funding for each component is $555 million to improve I-395 including the new bridge; $186 million to improve MDX SR 83611; $25 million to reconstruct I-95 pavement; and $35 million for the work on the westbound connector.

Remember, recently we were told that:

But Pinellas County controls the Howard Frankland portion of the project with nearly $500 million in funding secured to replace the aging bridge.

So, this small project is more expensive than the Howard Frankland, which is many miles, not just 1.4 miles.

And we have been told that each element of TBX is contingent on the other components for funding, but there is apparently money for Miami.   Nor is the Howard Frankland (or any part of TBX) getting “signature” bridge treatment.

— Port of Miami

Speaking of Miami, there is news from their port:

In preparation for a new era of sea travel that will bring larger cargo and cruise ships to South Florida, PortMiami has been awarded $33 million in state grants over the next five years, the port announced Friday.

The opening of the Panama Canal has already brought larger cargo ships to Miami with more growth projected, the port said. It invested $1.3 billion to dredge and widen PortMiami, complete the port tunnel and purchase four Super-Post-Panamax cranes and build an on-port rail link. The port increased containerized cargo traffic by 14 percent in 2014-15, and another 2 percent in fiscal year 2015-16.

On the cruise side, the port broke a world record in fiscal year 2015-16: Nearly 5 million cruise passengers sailed through PortMiami. That industry is projected to boom in the coming years.

In November and December, the port will welcome Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Vista and Regent Seven Seas’ Seven Seas Explorer, the largest and newest ships for their respective lines.

We know their cruise business (some more on Miami and Ft. Lauderdale cruise business here) is going to do well, while though the long-term plan for our cruise business is still not clear (though the addition of a ship is nice for now).  And note that they are growing their container business (which is already very big).  Does it make sense for our port to not pursue (not say they are open to it, but actually pursue) all container opportunities, including potential with Mariel in Cuba?

Some Interesting Reads

— 10 Streets

Curbed.com had an interesting item on “10 Streets That Define America.”   The title might be slightly hyperbolic, but the item (really items) is interesting nonetheless. The two most interesting sections are on building an urban environment out of urban decay, which looks at Pittsburgh, Denver, and Louisville, and transportation, which looks at Phoenix and Honolulu.  We highly recommend it (here).

— An Idea for the CSX Tracks

The second interesting item is from Europe.

Germany is set to introduce the world’s first zero-emission passenger train to be powered by hydrogen.

The Coradia iLint only emits excess steam into the atmosphere, and provides an alternative to the country’s 4,000 diesel trains.

Lower Saxony has already ordered 14 of them from French company Alstom, and more are likely to be seen around the country if they are judged a success, reports Die Welt.

We have proposed using DMU’s on the CSX tracks.  However, it makes sense to use hydrogen, especially because theoretically it can be produced locally (see Gulf of Mexico), and has zero emissions (regardless of whether you believe in global warming or not, why would you want more emissions using a non-local fuel?)

Roundup 10-28-2016

October 28, 2016

Contents

Downtown/Hyde Park – A Big Project Proposal

— One More Thing

Transportation – Autonomy Downtown

Transportation – A Lesson In How It All Works

Transportation – The PTC Investigates

Economic Development – The Annual Meeting

Downtown/Westshore – Office Market

Channel District/Built Environment – Compare and Contrast

Airport – The Competition Continues

Economic Development – No Fiber

St. Pete – Channelling 1980’s Tampa

Rays/List of the Week

_______________________________________________

Downtown/Hyde Park – A Big Project Proposal

Since the early 1980’s, there have been plans to push downtown across the river.  (see this and “InVision Tampa – Of Will, DNA, and Familiar Pictures” )  Everyone who goes downtown on Kennedy has seen the big, empty lots on the west side of the river across from UT.  Many years ago, there was a hotel and restaurant there.   That was torn down, and a big office building, Hillsborough River Tower, was proposed for the lot.   However, due to our boom, bust cycle, that never got built.  This week, there was another proposal for that area.

A new mixed-use development is being proposed for downtown Tampa at the former Lafayette Street Bridge, that will add to the city’s skyline and aims to bring in new office, hotel, retail and residential space.

Tampa-based real estate firm Hillsborough River Realty Company (HRRC) is applying for a mixed-use development rezoning of six acres near the Kennedy Boulevard Bridge that will be known as “Lafayette Place,” according to a release.

The three-parcel development plan will provide for a blend of residential, hotel, office and retail uses and will total approximately 1.7 million gross square feet.

So what exactly are they proposing?

Lafayette Place will offer three new structures:

A sky bridge is planned to connect Lafayette Tower with Lafayette Parkview. Additionally, the development Lafayette Place will also expand the Riverwalk to the west bank of the Hillsborough River.

And

Lafayette Tower, with 355 linear feet of Hillsborough River frontage, is planned to be 40 stories tall. The skyscraper will be home to office, hotel and retail uses. The other two buildings, Lafayette Central & Lafayette Parkview are planned to be 26 stories tall to be used as residential units and parking spaces.

So far, so good (for the most part).

There will be parking well in excess of requirements, HRRC said. The original plan contemplated a high-rise office tower with ancillary retail space and two 10-story parking structures devoted to the office tower. 

And that is where it gets a little tricky.  But first, here is a map of the project:

From the Business Journal - click on map for article

From the Business Journal – click on map for article

And here are some renderings of the main buildings:

From the Business Journal - click on picture for article

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

From the Business Journal - click on picture for article

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

From the Business Journal - click on picture for article

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

And the other building:

From the Business Journal - click on picture for article

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

We like the mixed use, the addressing the river and Kennedy, and the general look of the main building (not super exciting but nice enough).  We even like that they are trying to add some decorative elements to the parking garages.  And we like the name and its reference to the past (That portion of Kennedy used to be Lafayette. See here and here)

But as you may have noticed, those parking garages. . .  those are some huge parking garages.  They dominate the Grand Central neighborhood and dwarf all the buildings there (as well as the Related project on the river.  The article says they are 10 stories, but the renderings have them more like 15 stories (though renderings are notoriously inaccurate.)  Regardless, they are really obvious (and look to be taller than pretty much anything at UT).  We get they need parking, but there has to be a better way to design it.  Maybe cover them up more.  Something.

Moreover, we do not know if they have retail on the street or just a more parking (the renderings and one of the quotes above seem to indicate that there is no retail on the street, just dead streetscapes), but the garages are way too prominent.  And since the developer is overdoing the parking anyway, maybe they should reduce it some.

It is still early in the process and there is much to recommend this proposal.  We would really like to have downtown jump the river there.  If only they would do something about all that really bad parking and lack of street interaction.

— One More Thing

 

From URBN Tampa Bay - click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

 

From URBN Tampa Bay - click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

That is one huge parking garage (as is the Slade’s across the street, though the Slade put some retail space on the street).  Once again, we get that parking is needed (especially without real transit).  However, the City surely can avoid just having hulking parking garages sitting right on the sidewalk.

Transportation – Autonomy Downtown

There was an interesting article on HART seeking autonomous vehicles.

The Florida Department of Transportation is making available $1 million to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority to fund an Autonomous Vehicle Circulator Service in downtown Tampa. 

Setting aside that $1 million seems kind of small, what is the plan?

The service, expected to launch sometime in 2017, will run from the Marion Transit Center through downtown along the Marion Street Transitway. That road is closed to driver traffic and offers only low-speed transit and emergency vehicle access.

“Our mission is to help solve the transportation needs of our area utilizing all transportation modes, while maximizing the use of the funding sources available,” FDOT District Seven Secretary Paul Steinman said in a release.

HART describes the project as “one of the first of its kind in the U.S.”

The vehicle type has not been determined because the project is still in its early stages, however passengers will ride in something smaller than a bus but larger than a car, HART said.

The service will provide an additional transit option for downtown commuters and could serve as a solution to first mile/last mile problems for commuters coming into downtown on public transportation.

Other than running on the Marion Street Transitway – basically a dead road downtown – there do not seem to be many details other than it will be some sort of autonomous shuttle, which is interesting, though it sounds basically a rubber tire people-mover.  How that would work with an extended streetcar is unclear, as is the price (of course, it should cost money if the streetcar does).

We have nothing against this experiment conceptually.  But the thing is that HART’s big problem is not the first mile/last mile thing.  HART’s big problem is the 10 miles in between.  It does not provide enough service.  The service it provides takes too long and has few clear benefits to someone with the choice of whether to drive or take the bus (which is basically being stuck in the same traffic but for longer). HART, by design, is basically a service for people who have no other choice.

Nevertheless, maybe the shuttle can move people from parking lots in downtown (though more people work in Westshore where there won’t be such a shuttle).  Like we said we have nothing against the experiment, it just does not solve the real transit problem in this area.

Which brings us to an editorial in the Times’ Tribune section:

From Seattle to Atlanta, communities across the country will make decisions Nov. 8 on whether to raise taxes to pay for transportation improvements, chiefly mass transit. Tampa won’t be one of them. The Go Hillsborough transportation initiative was supposed to be decided on Election Day, too, but county commissioners failed to assemble a plan they felt confident they could take to the voters.

Their two-year effort wasn’t a complete waste of time. The Hillsborough County Commission last week approved $600 million to tackle a serious backlog in road improvements using a list drawn in part from the Go Hillsborough public outreach effort.

But catching up on roads while so many other communities are moving forward with transit — in many cases, their second and third generations of transit — just points up how far behind Tampa is falling.

Setting aside the well documented flaws in Go Hillsborough, that is accurate.  The editorial then lists a host of transit referenda in other cities, touches on the need for transit for proper economic development efforts and concludes:

Whether any of these measures will pass remains to be seen. But they represent, at least, a community consensus strong enough to get transit improvements on the ballot.

And they serve as a reminder that while Tampa may dither over the future of mass transit, many of the communities we compete with for jobs, influence and matching federal transportation money do not.

We could not say it better.

Transportation – A Lesson In How It All Works

There was an article in the Times regarding the new shuttle service downtown (not the autonomous vehicles – but it seems like there sure is a lot of focus on downtown and not much anywhere else)

The 12 electric vehicles took to Tampa’s streets offering free rides to anywhere within the downtown district, which spans from the north end of Harbor Island to Interstate 275, and from the University of Tampa area to the Channel District.

The only tips exchanged are advice from drivers, who are also trained Tampa tour guides.

“They’ll know where goods and services are, what events are coming downtown and when, and can be a great touch-point for all of our visitors and residents,” said Greg Minder, chairman of the Tampa Downtown Partnership.

The mobile app-driven service works similar to Uber or Lyft. Users request a ride to a certain location on their smartphone or tablet, putting in their location and the number of people in their party, and the app shows who will pick them up and how long it will take. Links to download the company’s app are available at ridedowntowner.com.

* * *

The electric vehicles only travel 25 mph and are allowed on all roads where the speed limit is below 35 mph.

The Tampa Downtown Partnership estimated the shuttles, which seat 5 passengers, would net about 860 riders a day, or about 26,000 a month. 

And that is all fine.  We are not opposed to shuttle idea.  But how is it funded?

Funding from the Tampa Downtown Partnership, the City of Tampa, the Florida Department of Transportation and local businesses will keep the service operating for the next three years for seven days a week — 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

The total cost of the service was not disclosed. In April, Tampa City Council agreed to pay $560,000 from downtown and Channel District community development funds to launch the project, and the Florida Department of Transportation pledged $150,000 for three years.

Once funding runs out, the hope is the vehicles will pay for themselves through advertising or help from the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, which regulates the county’s for-hire vehicles, such as taxis.

“This kind of thing wasn’t really considered when the PTC was formed,” Minder said.

And there is the rub.  Why?  Because, as we have pointed out previously:

A similar shuttle service operated in downtown Tampa until the PTC shut it down in 2010, saying it competed with taxicab services and that the open-body vehicles were unsafe.

Unlike the old privately run services, some of which carried passengers as far as Ybor City and Hyde Park, the Downtowner has a limited area of operation and PTC members have indicated they would not oppose the project. 

So let us summarize.  There was a service that was entirely private, with no public money involved.  It could have covered the first mile/last mile issue and saved the taxpayers money. It was killed by the PTC because the cab companies complained it went to Hyde Park and Ybor.  Many years later, a similar service comes in with more limited coverage and using public money.  And when that money runs out, the PTC might subsidize it, even though we could have had the service years ago for free.  (Note that the article says “hope.” No one knows.  Chances are there will be a bigger, taxpayer subsidy.) And even better, the previous service was a local company while the new service is not so local money is taken out of the economy.

You would be hard-pressed to find a better example of our local government in action.

Transportation – The PTC Investigates

Speaking of the PTC, last week, we discussed all the interesting emails that showed that the Director of the PTC was working with cab companies against ridesharing companies.  Now, the PTC wants to investigate (as though no one knew).

“It is clear to me that the public has lost trust in this agency,” Crist said.

But PTC members Frank Reddick and David Pogorilich described Crist’s actions on this issue with words like “unethical” and “sham” and described the process as “a circus.”

“Let’s keep our eye on the bad guy here. Uber and Lyft are the ones breaking the rules,” Pogorilich said.

Pogorilich and Reddick both supported Cockream’s actions, claiming he was doing his job. Cockream’s personal attorney compared his client’s actions to an attorney reporting another colleague to the Florida Bar.

But board member Ken Hagan contended Cockream should have known better.

“The executive director should enforce the laws. However knowing the agency’s history, the sensitivity with the ridesharing issue and the public perception of the agency, the executive director should have the utmost prudence and discretion,” Hagan said. “I do not believe that happened here.”

We are not sure if the difference in perceptions is legitimate or the result of perceived self-interest, but, given the divide, you can guess how this might go. A better solution is to eliminate the PTC. Why should we waste more time on the dysfunction?

Economic Development – The Annual Meeting

The Hillsborough EDC held their annual meeting this week:

One of Tampa Bay’s premier economic development groups gathered Tuesday evening to celebrate a strong year of regional growth, broaden its mission to encourage millennial entrepreneurs here, and hand the baton of leadership to a new chairman.

Held once again at the Amalie Arena, the annual meeting of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. featured an upbeat mix of speakers and a heavy dose of rousing pro-growth videos pitched under the evening’s theme of “Thrive.” 

You can read the article for the highlights.  One thing that apparently was missing was a lot of talk about “swagger,” which is a welcome change.  As is this tone from the Times column covering the meeting:

Granted, annual meetings like this one are designed to be feel-good events that highlight the positive. Still, it’s important for this entire metro area to understand that saying “Tampa” or “Tampa Bay” is the hottest metro commodity around is one thing. Proving it day after day is another.

Yup, especially when we are failing to address our main issues, like transportation and planning.

The think tank Brookings recently identified Tampa, accurately, as a “middleweight” city aspiring to raise its bar and join those metros like Atlanta, Boston, Austin and Denver (among others) that have the deeper economic and educational horsepower that Brookings says makes them “knowledge capitals.”

That is a category leap Tampa Bay certainly desires but is still years from achieving. And there is no guarantee it will happen.

One of the well-recognized but underlying weaknesses Tampa Bay suffers from is a limp identity or brand in the eyes of the bigger world. Incoming CEO Richard cited that to me in our first breakfast together last summer. Others say much the same.

Some cities have strong or at least emerging brands. Atlanta’s got one (even a new TV show by the same name.) Nashville’s got it. Charlotte’s working on one. Orlando has one based on its theme parks but is trying to broaden that brand to something beyond mass tourism.

It’s all good. The EDC seems headed in the right direction and on Tuesday had much to crow about. Its meeting theme – “Thrive” – felt right for the times, even if there is much yet to do.

We don’t know about “all good,” but without the swagger talk, it is much better. Other than that, the column is pretty much on point.  As we always say, we are getting better, but so are other areas that are already ahead of us. In fact, the main thing holding us back is ourselves. We need to seriously address our issues without hype.  Real accomplishments speak for themselves.

Now, it is time to really address the main question we keep asking (because it really is THE question), which will help clarify the branding issue and a whole host of other issues:

If someone can go anywhere, and with other places that already provide amenities that they want, why should they come here?

Downtown/Westshore – Office Market

As everyone knows, there are a number of office project proposals in downtown. Which leads to the question: how is the office market doing? This week, the Times, in an article on St. Pete, provided some numbers.

Tampa Bay Office Rents and Vacancies*

Area Average square foot rent Vacancy rate
Downtown St. Petersburg $25.67 7.1%
St. Petersburg Gateway $19.93 18.9%
Downtown Clearwater $17.07 11.8%
Downtown Tampa $25.20 12.6%
Westshore $26.43 8.9%

*Third quarter 2016

Source: Cushman & Wakefield

First, the vacancy rates overall (except Gateway) are pretty good.  It is interesting that downtown Tampa has lower rents than downtown St. Pete (though there is much less space in St. Pete).  And note:

And though it’s gone up, the average rent for prime Class A office space in downtown St. Petersburg is just $25.67 per square foot — well below the $33 to $35 needed to justify the cost of new office construction, experts say.

That was for St. Pete, but the same goes for Tampa.   That does not mean there are no potential tenants for new construction downtown – there are.  However, it remains to be seen if downtown can attract a big enough tenant willing to pay $8-10 more a square foot for a large amount of space, especially when they have to pay for parking because there is no transit for what would be a large work force.

Channel District/Built Environment – Compare and Contrast

Now that the Channel Club/Channel District Publix has broken ground (and we have seen the coverage), it seemed like we should revisit the design issues.  First, coverage from the Channel Club groundbreaking, from 83 Degrees media.

Longtime residents of downtown Tampa say they’ve been waiting for a supermarket for at least 15 years.

They will have to wait a little while longer — about 620 days — but a Publix supermarket is definitely in the works as part of The Channel Club mixed-use development project in the Channel District. 

And it is definitely a good thing.  We do not question that.

The 40,000-square-foot grocery will be built adjacent to The Channel Club, a 323-unit complex in a 21-story building near the corner of East Twiggs Street and Meridian Avenue. The city plans to spend $1.5 million on a public park next to the grocery, further enhancing the area’s attractiveness to current and new residents.

“It’s the ultimate amenity,” Tampa lawyer Ron Weaver says of the park-grocery nexus. “It’s hard to compete with this. You’re two or three minutes from the concerts and the museums.”

Not unless you run, but, yea, it is close.  It is a necessary condition, though not an ultimate amenity.  It is what you are supposed to have – and the lack while all around (including Orlando, St. Pete, and Sarasota) had them says something.

So is the addition of Publix to the downtown core really such a big deal?

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, no stranger to hyperbole, called the coming of the grocery store a “signature project that has told the world that we’ve arrived.”

Definitely no stranger to hyperbole.

He compared the Publix to other recent blockbuster events such as the University of South Florida medical school moving to the 40 waterfront acres being redeveloped by Strategic Property Partners and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, and completion of the city’s Riverwalk.

“But I’m here to tell you, in terms of rounding out that mosaic and making this a true live, work and play environment, a grocery store is absolutely critical to that equation,” the mayor says.

Setting aside that USF hasn’t even broken ground, once again, yes, a supermarket is a must to having a real urban neighborhood.  But what is more interesting is this:

Ken Stoltenberg, a director at Mercury, says he tried for nine years to get Publix to build a store in the shadow of the 12- and 14-story buildings at Grand Central at Kennedy. The company turned him down five times, he says.

“They wanted a prominent, drive-by location, and our spot at Grand Central didn’t give them that unfortunately,” Stoltenberg tells 83 Degrees.

But it only took one phone call to the Lakeland-based grocery chain to get a positive reply after they saw the plans for The Channel Club. The big difference? The proposed complex is near an on-ramp for the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway.

“It was the traffic pattern,” Stoltenberg says. “Everyone leaving downtown this way, either taking the Crosstown or going on (Highway) 60, goes right by it.”

Publix was interested in the traffic.  And the design shows it.

From the Business Journal - click on picture for article

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

It is ok, but, as we have noted before, the store creates an unshaded wall with nothing at all of interest on Meridian and a faces Twiggs with a quite boring front (though at least it has an awning).   It is also not integrated in the urban environment (though it has parking on top) and the entrance is about as far from the apartment building entrance as you can get which creates almost two blocks of inactive space, aside from the curbcuts for the garages.

It is also interesting that in Tampa Publix insisted on the need for traffic, because in Orlando, they have no such insistence.  This is where their downtown Orlando Publix is located.  Nowhere near a highway.  And this is what it looks like:

From LRK Architects - click on picture for website

From LRK Architects – click on picture for website

As you can see, it is fully integrated in the building on a nice shady street with parking integrated into the larger building.  Frankly, it is much nicer.  And the difference in location and design tells you about where we still are in developing downtown.

So while, yes, it is great to get a grocery store in the Channel District (and really we are happy about it), it is what we should have to have a decent downtown.  We will have arrived when being by the highway (and serving people rushing home to Brandon) is not so important and much more attention is paid to design.  If it can be done 90 (or 20) miles away, there is no reason it can’t be done here.

Airport – The Competition Continues

Last week, we brought you a history lesson about flight development at the airport.  In it, we lauded the present airport administration for building our portfolio of international flight.  And they deserve it. (And also getting ranked 3rd best airport in the US by Conde Nast.) However, we also noted that the competition never ends.  This week, we have another example.  As many know, London has two major airports: Heathrow and Gatwick. (There are others but those two are the biggest.) Heathrow is actually much bigger, has a lot more connections (especially on British Airways), and is more business oriented. Gatwick is thought of as more an airport for tourist based flights. Thus, it is better for long-term business development and connections to have a flight to Heathrow.  But that is hard because the airport is pretty much full.  So flights from places like Orlando and Tampa (and Las Vegas) tend to go to Gatwick.

As we said, we have a flight to Gatwick, which we love. But we would rather have Heathrow.  This week, we saw this:

British Airways is to launch a new route from Heathrow to New Orleans next year.

The four times-weekly service will start on March 26, 2017, and will be operated with a three-class B787-8 Dreamliner aircraft.

New Orleans?  Heathrow?  Really?  Yes. Our flight is more frequent and has a bigger plane, but Heathrow sure would be nice, especially since Phoenix, Denver, and Austin, and other usual suspects have flights there.  Maybe when Heathrow expands . . .

Just a sign the competition never ends. Which brings us to this, from the Business Journal:

Tampa International Airport has its eye on Dublin, Ireland as a possible new route to Europe.

“Dublin is on the list,” said Joseph Lopano, TIA’s chief executive officer, at the Tampa Bay Business Journal‘s Business of Transportation event Tuesday morning, attended by 130 local business executives. “We’re analyzing that right now.”

The airport is in the middle of creating its next strategic plan, which includes new flight routes, and will be making presentations to the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, he said. The authority is the governing body for the airport. 

Despite the headline, which is a little more definitive, it is not clear if a Dublin flight is close or if the airport is just considering pushing for it.  Given the destination, it is likely that the Dublin route would be Aer Lingus and rely on connecting through the Dublin hub to other parts of Europe, especially a lot of UK cities), which was alluded to previously.     It is also notable that Aer Lingus, which already flies to Orlando, is owned by the holding company that owns British Airways (and Iberia)  but is considered a “low-cost” carrier.  (It also appears that, like Canadian airports, Dublin has immigration pre-clearance, which is nice. )

We are all for getting another European flight, be it Dublin or elsewhere.  And we like that the airport is still pushing heard for more.

Economic Development – No Fiber

A while back, Google was reportedly considering pulling back on its potential Google Fiber expansion, including in Tampa.  Now it is official.

Google Fiber is stepping back from plans to bring its superfast internet service to a handful of cities, including Tampa.

Google announced about one year ago that Tampa was a finalist to compete for the fiber service— a move that drew a quick response from Mayor Bob Buckhorn and others as a key piece of what makes a city technologically advanced and appealing to businesses and workers.

(For possible reasons, see here) Of course, Tampa already has a fiber-optic network.  It just does not function at the speed of Google. Frankly, nothing has changed except the hype.  Tampa could still get superfast internet for some other provider or do it itself, like Chattanooga.

St. Pete – Channelling 1980’s Tampa

St. Pete has made admirable progress on its downtown.  Part of that involves new buildings – with street interaction.  Part of that involves renovating old buildings to create a nice mix of old and new.  This is in contrast to Tampa – at least past Tampa – where old buildings were demolished en masse to be replaced with buildings that had little or no street interaction.  (That has changed somewhat in Tampa.)  Given all that, we were pretty surprised by this as related by URBN Tampa Bay:

“City Council denied historic district designation for First Block in a 4 to 4 deadlock vote late Thursday night. Mayor Kriseman and city staff had recommended approval. Thanks to councilmembers Darden Rice, Amy Foster, Steve Kornell and Charlie Gerdes who gave an elegant explanation for why voting for designation was the right thing to do. Thanks to our many supporters who sent in messages of support. Unless Council decides to reconsider their decision next week, the denial is final. Block owners have submitted a redevelopment plan calling for much of the block to be demolished.”  

First, it is crazy to destroy the Janus block.  It is a block central to the renaissance of downtown St. Pete.  Even worse is what is proposed for that lot, which the Times described as a “conceptual plan to develop that resembled some of the recent high-rise development downtown.

From URBN Tampa Bay - click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

Really? That is a mess, and it could be built anywhere in St. Pete (and still be a mess).  We have no idea what possessed the St. Pete City Council to not protect the Janus block and why they would ever consider that project.  The one bright spot is that the City Council still has time to change its mind.  Whether they do or not is anyone’s guess.

Rays/List of the Week

Speaking of St. Pete, Wallethub came out with a list of best baseball cities.   The methodology is here.

Looking at the list, what is clear is that the presence of a major league team in the respective cities is the biggest factor in the score. Given that, it is not surprising that St. Pete is 16th, especially when you factor in accessibility of the stadium (from St. Pete) and the price of tickets.  Before you start thinking that said accessibility would pull up scores from other area cities, note that Tampa is 86th, Clearwater is 250th, Lakeland is 251st, and Bradenton is 269th (Sarasota did not make the list).

It is only an internet list, but it is just another statement (the biggest being attendance, of course) about the location of the Trop.

Roundup 10-21-2016

October 21, 2016

Contents

Transportation – Persistently Accomplishing Nothing, Co

— The Congestion Creation Program

— South County-Palooza

— There Is Another Way

— Conclusion

Transportation – Thanks, PTC

Transportation – A (Very) Brief History of Tampa Air Service

— And One More Thing

Economic Development – Let’s Wait for Results

Economic Development/International Trade/Latin America – Cuba Developments

Bayshore – Moving Forward

__________________________________________________________________

Transportation – Persistently Accomplishing Nothing, Cont

Once again, transportation took center stage this week.

— The Congestion Creation Program

This week the County Commission moved on its latest “transportation plan.”

Hillsborough County commissioners are expected to decide next week how to spend the $600 million they set aside for transportation projects over the next 10 years.

“It’s time to get started,” Commissioner Al Higginbotham said.

But not everyone is happy.

The two candidates running for the open District 6 commission seat think their potential colleagues should wait until after the election before finalizing a blueprint.

“I’m stunned that they would try to move forward with such a plan with a lame-duck County Commission,” said Democrat Pat Kemp.

Republican Tim Schock, her opponent, agreed.

“One of the biggest issues in the race is transportation,” he said, “so I would absolutely want to have some input into what that’s going to look like.”

Both also thought the public should have more time to view the plan before a vote is taken. County staff unveiled the list of recommended projects Friday.

“That’s been a big deal with these proposals in the first place,” Schock said. “It was a trust issue.”

Setting aside that the county commission’s “plan” is not really a plan and that it is all roads and nothing else, there is bi-partisan candidate agreement that the County Commission should not act right now. So why act?

“The sooner we get them started, the sooner we get them finished,” he said. “It was under this board’s watch that all this work was done, and a new commissioner that is seated will have opportunities to propose changes, if they want.”

Wait?  It can be changed?  So what is the point exactly?  As far as we can tell, the point is to be seen to do something rather than have to really do something.  And, even if they stick to the plan, since the County has neglected to plan appropriately and is constantly creating more problems on the roads, you get a work list like this:

The spending list, which totals $763 million after adding in new mobility fees, is heavily focused on road work. It includes:

Of course, they are focusing on roads.  (And, of course, the County cut a deal to reduce the transportation improvement that booming Waterset development had to do – like widening Big Bend Road and an I-75 overpass, and will now stick taxpayers with the cost. ) That is what the Commission does while they plan poorly then plead poverty.  (And  make a mockery of the idea of promoting infill development that mobility fees supposedly represented.)

Not only that, but from this screen shot you can see the “congestion relief” portion of the road plan:

From Hillsborough County courtesy of Sunshine Citizens - click on chart for Facebook page

From Hillsborough County courtesy of Sunshine Citizens – click on chart for Facebook page

Yes, there are a few road projects on the outskirts of other populated areas but nothing for the core built up area, and most of the money is for South County and little of East County. If you want congestion relief elsewhere – like where you live and pay taxes (say Dale Mabry or Memorial or Hillsborough or SR 60) – you are out of luck.  The fact is that, when you look at the list, it is congestion creating not congestion relief. It just helps get cars to the congested areas and then abandons them on the already overburdened roads.

And as uninspired as that list is (and it should have been funded by impact fees the county Commission did not enforce anyway), there as this:

County administrator Mike Merrill said Tampa residents will benefit from many of the major road projects planned for unincorporated Hillsborough. The county isn’t going to spend money on city roads it doesn’t own or for transit projects Tampa should pay for on its own, he said.

First, most of the road improvements won’t even benefit most residents of the County.  And, while we understand the County not fixing City owned roads, we completely reject the idea that the County and City are separate when it comes to transit.  The fact that the Administrator would say that just emphasize how broken the system is, though, since he works for the Commission, we assume he is just reflecting their (collectively) views.

Nevertheless, the Commission passed their “plan.” (The lone “no” vote coming from a Commissioner who is leaving office.)

Because it is a 10-year plan, commissioners said it wouldn’t be enough to fund transit, which typically requires long-term local commitments to get the federal government to pitch in.

County Administrator Mike Merrill called it an interim plan until further action — including potential funding for transit — can be taken.

“Transit is a much bigger issue,” Merrill said. “The 10-year time period really makes it difficult to draw down any serious federal money.”

Setting aside the apparent contradiction of saying that transit is up to the City to pay for and then saying will the County address it – someday, the County Commission has manifestly failed to deal with that in a serious way, so that is no excuse.  And why should anyone think that the Commission will magically start dealing with transit in a serious, methodical, and logical way?

Commissioner Ken Hagan, along with others, said there is nothing to stop commissioners from considering additional transit funding in the future.

“This is a starting point,” Hagan said. “We can, and likely will, amend the list going forward.”

Wait.  So is it a firm plan or just something tossed out there to look like the Commission is doing something that will be changed later?  What is the point of passing something they are already talking about changing?  More likely, the Commission will stick to their congestion subsidy.  That is the one thing the County is consistent about regarding transportation.

“Today’s plan was essentially taken from what the board approved six months ago,” Hagan said. “It’s essentially the same list we’ve had for three or four years.”

Exactly. It was bad then.  It is bad now, and does not even have the (not adequate) transit element of Go Hillsborough. Do not expect anything better.

As we said when Go Hillsborough died, the Commission had a chance to go back and create a really good plan, to show us what they can do.  Instead they have done nothing other than prove their critics right – which is sad for all of us.

— South County-Palooza

Coincidentally (or not), the Times ran a series of articles on South County. They are worth a look because they tell us a lot about the County’s priorities, and how its policies helped create the transportation problem in the first place.

As the first houses started going up in the Kings Lake community 15 years ago, there wasn’t much else in Hillsborough County south of the Alafia River.

No Amazon distribution center. No St. Joseph’s Hospital. No Publix within 10 miles.

Now there’s all that and more, including a huge master-planned community, Waterset, directly across Big Bend Road from Kings Lake.

Southern Hillsborough — or SouthShore, as it has been rebranded — has seen an explosion in new home construction since the real estate crash sent one of every five houses in Kings Lake into foreclosure. In the 12 months ended in June, work began on nearly 3,000 SouthShore homes — more than a third of all housing starts in the entire Tampa Bay area.

And the building boom comes as Kings Lake and other communities developed before the crash have yet to fully recover.

“We’re not back to our peak value yet, I can tell you that,” says broker Craig Beggins, whose Century 21 Beggins has handled hundreds of SouthShore transactions. “We’re probably 20 percent off the peak.”

One reason: People trying to sell older homes face increasing competition from new ones in attractive, sprawling communities like Waterset. It is so large that the entrance on Big Bend Road is three miles from the “walking tour” of lavishly furnished model homes by major builders including CalAtlantic, West Bay and Lennar, which built many of the houses in Kings Lake.

Unlike Kings Lake, though, Waterset can boast of two pools, a splash park, a dog park, a fitness trail, basketball, volleyball and tennis courts and a community center with a café. Prices including lot run from the high $100,000s — competitive with Kings Lake prices — to more than $500,000. Most builders also offer generous incentives to help with down payment and closing costs.

Today, with 87 homes sold in a single three-month period this year, Waterset is the fastest-growing new-home community in Tampa Bay. When finished it could potentially have as many as 5,000 single-family homes. That’s in addition to the hundreds of houses going up in other parts of south Hillsborough.

Setting aside that older (though not old) houses have not recovered their value (See also here), note that use of land: miles of underused land for a sprawling entry.  And that not good but we would not completely object if the residents and developer are paying for the full cost of the building and upkeep of all the roads and utilities in the development and their impact.

But the key, for our purposes, is this:

With scores of new restaurants, stores and other amenities, south Hillsborough is in many ways a much more desirable place to live than it was when Kings Lake was developed more than a decade ago. But whether in new homes or older ones, residents share a common gripe: traffic problems that will only get worse as the area grows.

“The traffic on Big Bend is crazy,” says Gail Sisouphone, who rents a house in Kings Lake. “It takes 20 minutes to get to here from the interstate.”

That’s a distance of less than a mile. 

And this keeps coming up:

Back in 2003, the community thought it would need to accommodate a 50 percent population boost through 2023. But by 2010, it had already grown by nearly 500 percent, from 12,035 people in 2000 to 71,050 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census.

Riverview is now a traffic-ridden hub overwhelmed even with its seven-lane highway, U.S. 301, running through the middle. School overcrowding has become a major concern and the community has added two new movie theaters, a hospital and two Publix grocery stores. The community is in the heart of SouthShore, which has attracted half of new all construction in the entire Tampa Bay region.

The reality is that if the area is so popular, the County should not need to subsidize development.  And, while we don’t have any problem with major development (we are for it), the planning is awful.  Yes, there is a lot of building, but all it is doing is clogging up roads for which everyone else will have to pay.  There is nothing in the South County development pattern that indicates that the County has learned anything from all the mistakes it has made in the past that caused the huge backlog in road work and created the congestion. As the Commission has told us for years, Hillsborough County has billions of dollars in road work to do (not to mention the need for transit) that they can’t fund.  Why are they approving development patterns that make it that much worse?  All the County Commission is doing is digging a deeper hole then coming to the taxpayers in the rest of the County to fund fixing it without giving them much of anything.

— There Is Another Way

What really makes this sad is that it does not have to be this way, even in the suburbs, per the Urban Land Institute:

While urban areas are becoming more and more expensive, the urban lifestyle is becoming more and more popular, so suburban towns and developers are increasingly catering those looking for a more walkable, dense community. A new supply of smaller homes with little or no yards in high-population areas will meet the demand to commute less and live closer to restaurants and entertainment. The report calls this “Surban” development; suburban development that brings the best of city living to more affordable areas.

There’s a wide continuum of suburban development, says Stockton Williams, Executive Director of the ULI’s Terwilliger Center for Housing, and many vibrant examples of denser design, aligning with these predictions, are popping up.

“Plano, Texas, is an example of a suburban area that’s developing a town center while maintaining suburban residential patterns and affordability,” says Williams. “That’s one of the reasons why the city just convinced Toyota to move its North American headquarters to Plano.”

Robert Bowman, President of the Residential Neighborhood Development Council and a ULI member, believes in a model for walkable urbanism he’s calling “The Great American Neighborhood.” These aren’t new ideas, he says, but seeing contemporary suburban developers executing on them in an industry filled with typical developments suggests their seen as a great opportunity. Laying down the old formula won’t work anymore.

What they are basically saying is that suburbs can be built like ring towns rather than blobby messes and still keep housing costs down. (And much of Hillsborough County is actually closer in to Tampa – and indistinguishable from it – than parts of Tampa, though the Commission does not interested in that part.) And there is the added benefit of not having expensive, sprawling roads to maintain (saving old and new residents’ money).  They also would be much more transit ready. As shown by this graphic highlighted by URBN Tampa Bay, urban style development is far more efficient than what the County gives us:

From Public Square - click on chart for website

From Public Square – click on chart for website

But even if you don’t want to live in a fully urban area (and some don’t), as indicated by the ULI, urban ideas can work in the suburbs and be much more efficient in their use of land and resources. So why don’t we get them?  By government choice:

Imagine we have two systems for building communities that exist side-by-side and can be studied empirically—call them System A and System B.

System A works better for the economy, environment, health, and social welfare.

Our policies give advantages to System B.

That sounds like Bizarro world. It is America in most places.

System A is the walkable, mixed-use neighborhood. It has smaller streets, simpler intersections, and small blocks. It includes many kinds of places, from downtowns to main streets to mixed residential neighborhoods and even leafy suburban blocks of single-family homes.

System B is conventional suburban development (CSD), or, simply, “sprawl.” It has very large blocks, intersections, and main roads. These arterial roads are lined with single-use shopping centers, office parks, and subdivisions with looping streets and cul-de-sacs.

Mixed-use communities are more marketable today than they were 20 years ago and planners and many developers have come to favor walkable design, but that hasn’t changed the underlying rules and infrastructure that make CSD the only reasonable option in large areas.

Street construction policies and zoning regulations adopted during the last seven decades make walkable neighborhoods very difficult to build.  If you want System A, you must fight the system and make painful compromises—or use the streets built 100 years ago by our ancestors. The latter option is the route developers are taking to meet market demand—but those old street grids are in finite supply.

Simply put, smaller lot fronts mean a smaller amount of pavement to build and maintain.  Closer retail means people can walk and bike and, once again, less pavement to maintain. It also allows for transit.  (And that last mile that HART keeps talking about gets shorter.)

But that is our problem. The County government is trapped in the 1980’s and 1990’s. (Though, in truth, some areas were already working on new urbanism and transit in the 1990’s.)  It’s planning is flawed.  It has no real transit (and little hope of getting any).  And it costs every taxpayer more money in upfront subsidization and then in road construction and maintenance.  That is a choice made by local officials and paid for by you.

— Conclusion

The bottom line is that the transportation issue is the result of a number of interconnected choices: choices in planning, choices to not build real transit, choices to not make anything walkable (sidewalks to nowhere do not make something walkable), choices for not just road-centric but sprawling road-centric development, and choices to stay trapped in the past and not learn best practices.

We understand why the County passed its road plan – that is the logical continuation of the Commission’s decades’ old economic development and planning policy.  However, it is that very policy that has brought us a low wage, boom and bust economy with the large deficit in transportation funding that Go Hillsborough identified. It is a problem of their own making and the plan passed this week will do nothing to make it better (in most of the County it will do nothing at all), nor will it insulate this area from the next bust.

There is a better way to do planning, development, transportation, economic development – all of it.  It is just a matter of choosing to do it.  Other areas have (you know, the areas we are chasing).  It is well past time that we do, as well.  For all the talk of a booming area, while there is a little movement, we are not on a tear up the metro area population (and we are at risk of being passed by some of the usual suspects on this) or per capita GDP (everyone is already ahead of us on this) charts because other areas are also moving forward.  We could do so much better, if only we would choose to.

Transportation – Thanks, PTC

We have been saying for quite a while that the PTC was a protectionist, anticompetitive, cartel supporting organization that was just protecting the legacy cab and limo companies.  That was clear from its history.  That was clear from its activities.  That was clear when the Executive Director went to Palm Beach County with a cab company owner to speak at a Palm Beach County Commission hearing (he said he would resign soon thereafter, but didn’t . . . surprise).  Well, now you don’t have to believe us.  The PTC has been good enough to write it down for you:

Sting operations conducted by the PTC in May to fine rideshare drivers were coordinated with local taxicab and limousine firms that were invited to attend, records show.

The collaboration didn’t end there.

The taxi and limo firms — which the PTC is supposed to regulate — were active participants in the stings. They provided the pretend “passengers” who used smartphone apps to lure Uber and Lyft drivers to locations where PTC enforcement officers were waiting to dole out $700 fines.

Their involvement took place with the full knowledge of PTC executive director Kyle Cockream, the emails show. Cockream, who is paid about $143,000 a year, also used his work email to apply for other jobs.

* * *

PTC chief inspector Brett Saunders emailed the times and dates of the sting to other inspectors and also to Dave Morris, the owner of the Kings limo firm.

“Shoppers will be provided by Dave Morris and Louis Minardi,” he wrote on April 29, using the term for the pretend passenger.

On May 5, Saunders sent an email to Minardi, who is the owner of Yellow Cab, ahead of another sting.

“Louie, good afternoon. Is everything a go for tomorrow’s operation? We are planning on meeting on Channelside Drive in the parking lot next to the Hooter’s Restaurant at 1:30 p.m. If you can have three assistants, that would be great.” 

Sure, they’ll claim it is evenhanded and fine.  It isn’t.

PTC board chairman Victor Crist called the documents “alarming and concerning.” He said he wants an investigation into the agency’s relationship with the firms that took part in the stings and also Cockream’s role.

“There should be a review or investigation into the appropriateness of his behavior,” said Crist, who is also a Hillsborough County commissioner. “There seems to be a much closer relationship between the staff and the companies we regulate than what would be considered best practices.”

Not quite best practices?  That depends. It is a best practice if you are a protectionist enterprise.  If you are a government, not so much.  But it is not a surprise either – and the Board chairman either knew or should have known.

Cockream said the taxicab and limo staff who participated in the stings were not paid by the PTC. He said using the volunteers saved the agency money. In previous stings, the agency hired Orlando audit firm A & L Associates, which cost up to $4,000 per sting operation.

But Cockream acknowledged it has created a perception problem for the agency.

“In hindsight, I probably would not have done this,” he said. “I can see how it can be perceived in a negative light.”

Yea, usually when one is busted publicly doing something questionable, one would not do it again – at least not publicly.  The problem is that they did it in the first place.  And that is not all:

An analysis of more than 11,000 emails over a seven-month period raises new questions about whether the executive director of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission has a blatant bias in support of the taxi industry he is supposed to regulate.

Emails dated between Sept. 4, 2015 and April 2016 show PTC executive director Kyle Cockream repeatedly partnering or siding with local taxi and limo companies.

The emails range from asking staff to play an anti-Uber ad in the PTC lobby to telling taxi and limo heads he’s lobbying local reporters to write about an alternative to transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft.

The type of collaboration evidenced in Cockream’s relationships with industry leaders shows what critics have long argued – that the PTC is a puppet for the taxi and limo industries.

And

Cab company owners were privy to emails between PTC executive director Kyle Cockream and his agency’s attorney and lobbying firm. They were reassured that the PTC would fight a bill that would legalize ridesharing.

* * *

Cockream was also involved in a taxicab firm’s lobbying efforts with state Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City.

He attended an October 2015 meeting where Yellow Cab Co. of Tampa owner Louis Minardi and his attorney, Seth Mills, pressed Raulerson to make changes to a draft version of his bill to legalize ridesharing in Hillsborough.

But apparently these activities do not bother at least one PTC board member/County Commissioner:

Other PTC board members agreed with Crist that using taxicab staff was ill-advised but said it should not affect Cockream’s leadership.

“Kyle still has my full support and confidence,” said County Commissioner Al Higginbotham.

Cockream was scheduled to step down from the PTC in July but agreed to stay on through the end of the year, in part to help usher the agency through its dispute with Uber and Lyft.

He said almost all of his job-hunting efforts were done outside the office and estimates it took up only about 20 minutes of total work time.

“I think it’s important to keep that in perspective,” he said.

Yes, keep it in perspective:

“This is crony capitalism at its worst,” said State Rep. Dana Young. “Now we have proof.”

So

State Rep. Dana Young is calling on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to formally launch an investigation into collaboration between the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission and taxi companies uncovered, in a series of emails released last week.

In a letter to the state law enforcement agency, Young asks that PTC Executive Director Kyle Cockream, the agency he oversees and members of the local taxicab industry be formally investigated. (Read the entire letter below.)

That’s great, but why not just abolish the PTC?  We all know what it really is, so why wait?

When people speak of “corruption” in government, they usually mean some sort of bribes or criminal activity.  However, something can be legal but degrade the process (especially if the people making the rules are part of it) when it causes decisions or activities that are unfair and by not acting for the benefit for those it is supposed to serve.  Some examples are when decision makers favor their friends over others or write the rules to favor their supporters, even if there is no good basis to do so. (Say when a government allows a whole area to be polluted to support one company.)

We do not know if what is going on at the PTC is corruption in the illegal sense.  That is for investigators, if there are any, to figure out.  But, if the purpose is to protect the consumers, the PTC process, which plainly does not do that, sure seems to be broken.

But we have known that for years. It has been broken from the beginning. Just another in a long list of reasons to get rid of the PTC.

Transportation – A (Very) Brief History of Tampa Air Service

It is time for one of our occasional history lessons. A few years ago (man, time flies), we wrote about how, long ago, Tampa had the opportunity to be the base for the international service of a predecessor of Pan Am, but, despite popular support, local officials chose to blow it off. (See “A Bit of History – Tony Jannus”)  Admittedly, the airline wanted to have an airport off Bayshore, which may have not been the best idea, though something could have been worked out.  In an event, the airline went to Miami. and the rest is history. (See Miami International Airport)

Of course, eventually, the present airport was built, which, ironically was extremely innovative, introducing the people mover concept (real mass transit) to airports. It also introduced color coding for parking and pick-ups and drop-offs. (As anyone who has flown much knows, both ideas are now standard. We can do it when we want to)

Skip forward to 2009, when the airport was under the previous airport director, the Times had an interesting article:

Portland yens for flights to Tokyo. New Orleans had the hots for Mexico City. Tallahassee just wanted a few more planes from Florida cities to bring down fares.

The common denominator: a willingness by local officials to give airlines financial incentives to start or expand service.

* * *

So, are subsidies a good investment?

* * *

Tampa International takes a more conservative approach. The airport waives its $3-per-passenger inspection service fee for new or expanded international service. Officials also kicked in $20,000 for billboards promoting JetBlue’s daily Cancun flights that began in December.

The 100-seat jet service was catching on in the spring when the swine flu pandemic swept through Mexico, said airport director Louis Miller. Passenger loads plummeted. JetBlue stopped flying the route Sept. 9.

Incentives can help bolster a new route, but “you have to have demand for the market first,” Miller says. Tampa International is often handicapped by its proximity to Orlando, a world-class tourist destination with connecting flights to cities across the United States, he says.

That was his line (especially that demand thing), which was supported by much of the local political and business community (though you probably would be hard pressed to find anyone to admit it now), but not all:

A critic of the airport’s efforts to recruit international carriers says more needs to be done.

“The role of incentives is to prove the routes,” says Jason Busto, owner of a Tampa plumbing company who sits on the airport’s committee on developing international air service. “They’re critical to economic development.” 

Thankfully, there was a small group of people who kept pushing, eventually managed to get a new airport director, and, this week, the Times had a very different article:

So far under Lopano’s leadership, the airport has achieved a number of firsts. The Edelweiss Air service to Zurich, Switzerland began in 2012. Copa Airlines’ service to Panama City, which began in 2013, was Tampa Bay’s first nonstop flight to a major Latin American hub. A flight to Frankfurt on Lufthansa in 2015 connected Tampa Bay to one of the largest international airports in the world. Tampa will become one of the first cities in the U.S. to offer direct commercial service to Cuba on Southwest Airlines beginning in December. Icelandair will begin service next September from Tampa.

As with most economic development, you either choose to compete or surrender the field.  For a years, we had surrendered on international flights (and we are still surrendering on other things), but now we are competing and having success (because there is demand):

The incentive program is one way for Tampa International Airport to generate more revenue in the long run. The airport is publicly owned. The aviation authority runs on revenue generated by airline fees, rent from concession tenants and parking fees in the airport garages. It doesn’t collect taxes to pay for operations but does receive grants funded by federal and state taxes.

“Incentives are one tool we use to support solid business cases that win air service,” said Chris Minner, vice president of marketing at the Tampa airport. “With the support of our partners, our incentive package is often the tiebreaker between new service to TPA and other similarly profitable routes.”

Tampa is unique to other airports, too, in that it has several community partnerships that offer cash to new airlines. The bay area’s two tourism bureaus contribute cash for marketing campaigns for new flights. Visit Tampa Bay, Hillsborough County’s tourism arm, gives $50,000 each year for up to two years, on average, for new international flights. Visit St. Pete-Clearwater, the Pinellas County tourism agency, has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to airlines each year, the amount depending solely on the flight.

And they get monetary support from a number of other local agencies – one of the few real signs of regionalism in this area (of course, led by the airport).

The incentive program is one way for Tampa International Airport to generate more revenue in the long run. The airport is publicly owned. The aviation authority runs on revenue generated by airline fees, rent from concession tenants and parking fees in the airport garages. It doesn’t collect taxes to pay for operations but does receive grants funded by federal and state taxes.

“Incentives are one tool we use to support solid business cases that win air service,” said Chris Minner, vice president of marketing at the Tampa airport. “With the support of our partners, our incentive package is often the tiebreaker between new service to TPA and other similarly profitable routes.”

And there is room for more success:

As airline companies have consolidated over the years, there are fewer flights to go around. That has changed the competitive landscape for airports, especially in tourism-driven Florida.

Tampa has benefited in recent years from the saturation of international flights at airports like Orlando and Miami, said Ken Qualls, CEO of Flight Management Solutions in Boca Raton. It has helped put Tampa on par with its competitors. “The demographics are fairly similar across the state, and it’s a much better option to start a new route there than to force travelers to connect in Atlanta,” Qualls said. 

For an area with where complacency is the rule on so many issues, it is really refreshing to have an example where an aggressive, methodical approach to truly compete shows that we can be successful – not just full of hype.  We have actual achievements.

As we keep saying, if only more local officials would learn from the airport.  Yes, there is still room for improvement, but they show all the signs of being dedicated to improvement.  You do not hear the airport staff saying things are good enough or filling up quotes will hype.  They acknowledge successes (as they should) and get to work trying to get the next one.  Like most things, there will be ups and downs, but, from what we can tell, they are mostly moving forward in a methodical, business-like, and decidedly not hype-filled way (like the Lightning owner).

If only we could say that about planning, transportation, and, yes, even, economic development.

— And One More Thing

Just in case you think this competition ever ends (or shrinks),

United Arab Emirates (UAE) carrier Emirates Airline is to expand its network in the US state of Florida, but it has again chosen to avoid its largest international gateway of Miami International Airport. After successfully launching flights between Dubai and Orlando in September 2015, Emirates will before the year’s end add a link between its Gulf hub and Fort Lauderdale, with JetBlue Airways’ activities at Hollywood International Airport believed to have been key in the route selection process.

The new daily link between Dubai International Airport and Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport will commence from December 15, 2016 and will primarily serve the South Florida area, including Fort Lauderdale, Miami and West Palm Beach. It will be the airline’s eleventh direct route into the US and will be flown using a Boeing 777-200LR configured with 8 First Class suites, 42 Business Class lie-flat beds and 216 Economy Class seats and a bellyhold cargo capacity of 15 tonnes.

It doesn’t.

Economic Development – Let’s Wait for Results

There was news from the Tampa Bay Partnership.

The “new” Tampa Bay Partnership regional economic development group was unveiled Monday with veteran business leader Rhea Law, Florida head of the Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney law firm, serving as the partnership’s first chairman.

* * *

As planned, the partnership began its new fiscal year on Oct. 1 as a privately-funded advocacy organization, governed by a what it calls “regionally-minded” chief executive officers.

“The great thing about these CEOs around the table is they expect results and they expect big returns,” Tampa Bay Partnerhip CEO Rick Homans said Monday. “They are challenging this organization and this community to move to a different level.”

We hope by “a different level” the Times columnist does not mean this regarding taking away a free lane on the Howard Frankland:

Rick Homans of the Tampa Bay Partnership, a strong advocate for TBX, said business executives care more about the bottleneck at Westshore, where four lanes currently narrow to two, than the number of lanes on the bridge. The plan aims to fix that by adding an extra through lane at the interchange.

Setting aside that the bottleneck fix keeps a bottleneck (See “Transportation – TBX Is Not Set In Stone” ), this area doesn’t need that kind of tone-deaf comment (especially with the seventh worse income inequality in the country).

On a more positive note, there is this:

A transportation working group will examine the current and future state of transportation in Tampa Bay. Vology CEO Barry Shevlin and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik of Strategic Property Partners will serve as co-chairs of the group. A second group chaired by Sykes Enterprises CEO Chuck Sykes will develop a set of regional economic indicators to help Tampa Bay better measure its progress — or lack of it — on a range of economic development measurements.

The names listed there have given this area some quality ideas and give some hope that the results will be better than the TBX quote above.

Maybe the changes at the Tampa Bay Partnership will create something good.  We shall see.

Economic Development/International Trade/Latin America – Cuba Developments

There were a couple of developments on Cuba last week.  First,

Foreign ships that dock in Cuba for trade purposes can now travel directly to the United States to load or unload freight. Previously, such vessels had to wait 180 days, a trade killer.

The change is seen as a major step toward connecting Port Tampa Bay and Cuba’s Port of Mariel, enabling the local port to use the Cuban operation as a stop for cargo moving to and from major global shipping centers.

“The new regulatory changes announced today represent the continued progress for families and businesses,” U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, said in an email. “I am particularly pleased to see the changes address the so-called ‘180-day rule,’ an onerous restriction on shipping between our two countries. Port Tampa Bay is ‘Cuba-ready.’ “

The Panama Canal, a major global shipping route, was widened to fit new, larger vessels that carry more cargo.

Port Tampa Bay cannot accommodate these ships, but the Port of Mariel can. Cargo from larger ships that stop in Mariel could be loaded onto smaller vessels and brought to Tampa for distribution in a process called transshipment.

There’s the Port’s transshipment model.  It is a big development, though more needs to be done:

Transshipment might still be blocked by a separate U.S. regulation that forbids any items offloaded in Cuba from entering the United States.

But T.C. Mariel considers the 180-day rule the biggest obstacle to trade with Tampa.

Meantime, eliminating the 180-day rule can connect Port Tampa Bay and the Port of Mariel in other ways.

Cargo lines may now be more interested in using Port Tampa Bay for direct trade with Cuba. An embargo that only Congress can change remains in place, but U.S. companies can still sell goods such as agricultural products and building supplies to the island nation and Port Tampa Bay claims to be the closest U.S. port to Havana.

In addition, as long as nothing new is loaded onto a vessel in Mariel, a ship carrying freight such as automobiles, furniture, toys or clothing can now unload some cargo in Cuba then continue on to deliver some of it to a U.S. port, said Doug Jacobson, a sanctions lawyer with Jacobson Burton Kelley in Washington, D.C.

As we noted previously, the Port of Mariel has indicated a large amount of interest in shipping to Tampa:

In September, a spokesman for TC Mariel, the company the runs the Cuban port’s container shipment operation, said his firm has its eye on Port Tampa Bay as a transshipment center because of its proximity to Orlando, home to regional distribution hubs serving all Florida — the nation’s third most-populous state.

Meanwhile our port has waited to be courted (or just to lose the potential business).  We still have no explanation why. (Are those new big cranes breaking down from overuse?)

In another development,

Mayor Bob Buckhorn has been cool to local efforts to bring a Cuban Consulate to Tampa. But on Friday, all six candidates running in City Council District 7 said they like the idea — and not just because they think it would be good for Tampa business.

As the entire City government should.

Bayshore – Moving Forward

There was news about the proposal for a condo on the old Colonnade site:

A condominium tower on the site of the former Colonnade Restaurant took a key step forward Thursday evening — and with that approval, the developers have revealed more details on the project.

Tampa City Council voted unanimously to approve plans for a 24-story tower with 71 units at 3401 Bayshore Blvd., Ascentia Development Group and Batson-Cook Development Co. announced Friday.

From the Business Journal - click on picture for article

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

That’s fine.  This project does not really inspire strong feeling one way or the other, aside from our wish it actually addressed Bayshore as a street.