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Roundup 11-17-2017

November 17, 2017

Contents

Economic Development – The Latest Report

– Talking About Talent

— Some Other Findings

— Conclusion

Transportation – All Sorts

— Less Help

— Less Ferry

— More on the Autonomous Buses

— More on the ex-HART Director

— More Ideas

— More of the Same

Rays – The Rundown

Downtown – Kress Moves

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the State

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the World

____________________________________


Economic Development – The Latest Report

 For years, local officials and economic development agencies have been putting out reports and holding meetings discussing this area’s economy and how to improve it.  And yet, year in, year out, it seems the same issues keep popping up, like low wages, lack of economic heft, talent issues, etc.  This year, there is a new report, which may (or may not, depending on what is done with it) make a difference.

If a broad spectrum of Tampa Bay leaders can agree on a common set of regional data that objectively measures over time how this metropolitan area is doing in comparison to other key U.S. metros, then our weaknesses can be better identified and improved, our strengths bolstered and celebrated, and this region can emerge a more competitive and prosperous place.

Sounds simple enough. Believe me, it isn’t. Yet the first steps have been taken to make it happen in Tampa Bay.

In what may be an unprecedented example here of regional collaboration and buy-in, the greater Tampa Bay community will soon unveil an in-depth, objective set of data tracking this metro area’s performance across six sweeping categories.

It’s called the “Regional Competitiveness Report” and will monitor Tampa Bay’s progress — or lack thereof — across more than 50 measurements in categories ranging from job vitality, innovation and infrastructure to talent, civic quality and outcomes (including poverty, unemployment and migration to this area).

And that is a good thing.  For a long time the Partnership had a much more limited survey (see for instance here).  This one sounds better.

And — this part is important — the report will compare on an ongoing basis how well Tampa Bay is competing in each of these measures against 19 other metros across Florida and the country. Some of those metros are “peer” places like Orlando or Charlotte, meaning they are of similar size and clout as Tampa Bay. Others among the 19 metros are “aspirational” — places like Austin, Atlanta, Dallas-Fort-Worth or even Seattle that a growing Tampa Bay might want to resemble in some positive fashion in the future.

Armed with such insights, relevant Tampa Bay leaders from business, government, education and non-profit sectors can then decide what most needs fixing, and who among those nearly 90 participating groups has the drive and resources to make it happen.

* * *

“All of this starts with the premise to manage by fact, not conjecture,” says Sykes Enterprises CEO Chuck Sykes, a respected veteran of economic development efforts who was asked to chair the Tampa Bay Partnership’s 29-member regional indicators task force. “Otherwise, we are relegated to who has the loudest voice in the room or who has the biggest pull in the community.”

You can see it on their website here and download it directly, at least for now, here. Setting aside that, especially if you include the areas covered by the partnership, Charlotte is not the same size, though has the same or more influence, that last comment is exactly on point.  It is well past time to deal in facts, and we have often said that, while we are improving compared to where we were, the key is whether we are improving relative to our competition. Treated properly, this effort could help clarify the situation and help point us in the right direction.  We’ll start with one aspect that is essentially at the nexus of all the others: people, and more specifically, talent.


 – Talking About Talent

In discussing economic development, both why companies do move and why they should move, one thing that often comes up is this area’s talent pool.  It is usually portrayed as deep and wide. (For instance see here,  here, here, and here)  Of course, it is unlikely that, in making a sales pitch, the person making the pitch will say anything else.  And it is unlikely that someone having made the decision to move and playing up that decision would say anything else, either.  We get that.

On the other hand, if one is trying to determine where one actually stands and what one needs to do to actually improve, the insistence on maintaining the sales pitch (which has too often been the case) is problematic.  One needs to be clear-eyed about deficiencies or they will never be fixed. So, what does the new report tell us?

Every tracked metro has strengths and weaknesses. Seattle, Denver and Dallas-Fort Worth rock in economic vitality, and Tampa Bay’s not far behind. Raleigh-Durham and Austin come up as talent powerhouses while Tampa Bay — along with South Florida, Jacksonville and Orlando — falls near the bottom. In most of the measures, Tampa Bay ends up in the middle, neither leading nor lagging.

Setting aside that, looking at the report, it sure seems like we are lagging in quite a few categories and that some are stronger than others, one could put the talent issue another way:

Talent, for example, is identified in the regional report as lagging behind many competing metro areas.

And drilling a bit deeper:

. . . The new Regional Competitiveness Report . . compares Tampa Bay and 19 other metro areas by more than 52 indicators. Its initial findings show Tampa Bay’s primary weakness — when compared to the other metros — is it is thin on talent. Among 20 metros, for example, Tampa Bay ranks 18th in high school graduation rates, 19th in its share of people 16 to 24 who are neither enrolled in school nor employed, and dead last in people 25 years or older who have attained at least a bachelor’s degree.

“I was not totally surprised by the talent indicators,” Taylor says. “We did our research when we came here, just as other companies will be doing their own research on talent. Look at the Amazon HQ2 (Amazon’s hunting for a place to open a second headquarters) search. Talent availability, Taylor says, is at the top of Amazon’s wish list.

Nor should anyone who is interested be surprised.  It’s not that there are not talented people here – there are.  And it’s not that we do not have certain areas where we are relatively strong – we do, but they often are in lower paying fields. (There is also the question of the use of talent, but that is for another time.) The most telling – especially in terms of higher paying jobs, significant clusters, and the knowledge-based economy – is the item on holders of a bachelor’s degree (and graduate/postgraduate degrees), though that has been known for a while. So what do we do about it?

“We have to be very cognizant of that. We have to address that weakness in this region,” he says. “There is no silver bullet here. This will take multiple years to address.”

Among issues Taylor’s group may address: Raising graduation rates; adding more certification programs to give workers more focused skills; and attracting more workers as they approach the peak of their careers.

Those ideas are all good.  And we like the last one, but it should also include attracting workers who are skilled and talented but at the beginning of their careers and retaining the ones who are already here.  Looking at the bachelor (and higher) degree issue (and our addendum) brings us back to the same old question:

if a person can live anywhere (or almost anywhere) they want, why would they choose to live here as opposed to another area that already has so many amenities that we are still talking about?

Because to address talent is to address a broad array of things – certainly education and training, but also opportunities (including to advance and availability of investment money to build companies), diversity of economic opportunities, diversity of lifestyles and the ability to choose among a variety of them (and, yes, that includes transportation alternatives and urban, suburban, and rural development), diversity of amenities (including beyond the “pop” realm to the cutting edge), taxes, connectivity (physical and otherwise), etc.


— Some Other Findings

There are other interesting things in the report, though they often circle back to attractiveness to talent. For instance,

USF business school dean, Moez Limayem, praised the depth of the Regional Competitiveness Report, but added that the indicators raised as many questions as answers. He and two data analytic experts from the school showed how Tampa Bay has struggled over the past decade or so to keep up with the nation’s gains in household income, higher graduation rates and gross regional product per capita — how much we produce in value per person. Even Tampa Bay’s seemingly low-and-getting-lower unemployment rate actually ranks this metro area 15th among the 20 metros tracked in the report.

First, we are happy they are paying attention to per capita gross regional product, a measure we have been discussing for years, and where we lag badly. Second, looking closer at income,

Tampa Bay residents have a mixed bag when it comes to disposable income. According to a recent income study by Trove Technologies, a California-based storage company, Florida residents have the highest amount of discretionary income in the southeast. But within Florida, Tampa Bay residents have the second-lowest amount, ranking No. 22 out of the 24 metro areas in the state.

“Non-housing expenses in Tampa are the highest in the state, while salaries are lowest in the state among large cities,” Michael Pao, cofounder of Trove, said in a recent release.

Non-housing expenses in the area are about 10 percent higher than the rest of the state, the study said. Despite the low ranking within Florida, Tampa Bay ranked No. 29 for disposable income out of the largest 63 metro areas in the country.

Low housing costs are nice, but not if the savings are 1) not covered by higher wages and 2) eaten up by other costs.  And one of the largest costs is transportation, where this area is far behind other areas.  So it is noteworthy that:

Tampa Bay was second-to-the-last among the 20 metros average wages, and at the bottom of the pack in the supply of transit.

Tellingly, on pg 49 of the report, we are ranked third from last in affordability, which is:

The Center for Neighborhood Technology calculates housing and transportation costs as a percentage of income, taking into account regional demographic and socio-economic data.

And third and second from bottom in housing and transportation affordability, respectively. (About the utility of those variable rate toll lanes . . .) That is not good for attracting and retaining talent.

That is all problematic and may have something to do with this:

While Tampa is third among the 20 metros for attracting new residents, it ranked No. 14 for attracting millennials.

And that goes back to the whole talent issue, now and in the future.  As does this from page 17 of the report regarding “advanced industry employment”, which is defined as:

The percentage of non-farm jobs that are in “advanced industries,” characterized by high levels of technology research and development (R&D) and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) workers. According to the Brookings Institution, “the sector encompasses 50 industries ranging from manufacturing industries such as auto-making and aerospace to energy industries such as oil and gas extraction to high-tech services such as computer software and computer system design, including for health applications.”

We are sixth from the bottom.

And some more nuggets from the report: On pg 19, we learn that the regional GRP growth rate in that sector is quite high. However, we are starting from a low level and adding people, so that is not surprising (and note it is not per capita).  On pg 20, we learn that our exports of regionally produced good to other countries is actually shrinking.  On page 25, we see that we are near the bottom of patents per capita. On pg 28, we see we are second only to Jacksonville in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities per capita (Florida cities make up the four worst). On page 30, we see we are in the middle regarding commuters with a 1 hour plus commute time but dead last in transit vehicle revenue miles per capita.  Though on pg 31, we rank third best in driving time in traffic congestion.

We could go on, but you can read it for yourself.  The report is actually well laid out and accessible.  The point is that we have a lot of work to do.


— Conclusion

We are all for this effort.  Quantification of our relative position is well overdue.  But the real question is what will be done with it.  If efforts are narrowly focused on certain metrics without looking at the whole ecosystem that drives decision-making and what people want, it will not reach its full potential, and neither will we.  It has to be understood that most of these categories are interconnected and require a holistic approach to improve.

And one of the biggest enemies of getting to where we should be has been (and to a large degree) is complacency (including institutional and political) caused by the fact that merely by attracting new residents, there is some growth to hang hats on.  This is summarized nicely by one of the drivers of the effort:

Chuck Sykes, who chaired the Regional Competitiveness Report task force and runs call center Sykes Enterprises from downtown Tampa, spoke of how easy it would be for an area like Tampa Bay to just let itself grow naturally — thanks to a steady population of new people moving to the area. “That is not what we want,” he told Tuesday’s audience, citing a need for “smart and sustainable growth.” Sykes, who relocated to this area from St. Louis — a major metro he said was “hard to believe it is shrinking” — and reminded Tampa Bay how fortunate it is to have a growing population.

He is right on both counts: we are fortunate that people want to move here, but that is not enough to get us where we want to, and should, be.

“Because we are growing, that gives us opportunities to solve problems that we wouldn’t have if we weren’t growing,” Law said.

That is definitely true.  However, we have grown for decades with reports and studies without taking the opportunity to fix those problems.  Maybe finally that is changing.  But, it has to be said again, this area has seen many studies, reports, announcements, and columns before, without much changing.  We hope this time is different, but, as always, the real proof will be not what happens at the beginning but what actually comes of it.

And, in the end, we need to be able to answer our constant question of why, if they can go anywhere, someone should choose here if we are ever going to get this area to where most of us want to be.


Transportation – All Sorts


 — Less Help

There was an odd report in the Business Journal:

Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are left out of Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s transportation improvement budget as part of his 2018-19 proposed budget.

Of the $10.8 billion in recommended expenditures, none goes to either of the Tampa Bay region’s two most populated counties even as the region struggles with increasing congestion and a lack of mobility options. Local officials have acknowledged woeful transportation could be a detractor in the bid to attract Amazon’s HQ2.

Setting aside the very small portion of the budget set aside for transit and that we have needs beyond anything related to Amazon, we get that money has been allocated for some projects already.  And we get that there are a number of studies going on.  However, even with that, there are enough needs in this area, and enough people, that the lack of money seems kind of odd.  We’ll see what the legislative delegation does about it.


— Less Ferry

There will be no Cross Bay ferry this year.

Still waiting for the Cross Bay Ferry to return? It’s going to be a while — say, 2018 at the earliest.

The ferry’s supporters, most notably St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, had hoped to bring the boat back for another season after the first six-month trial run ended in April.

But lack of regional cooperation and funding, the same things that routinely bedevil Tampa Bay’s transportation system, stymied those efforts. In the end, there wasn’t enough support from local governments — and by support, that means money — to run it again this year.

“We ultimately kind of ran out time for when we had to pull the trigger in order to get the boat reserved, to get it here and start service on time,” Kriseman said. “We decided to take a step back from this season, look at next season and really start planning for next year.”

In all honesty, we really won’t notice.  The ferry was an interesting experiment, but the price and lack of frequency made it more a novelty than real transit. It’s not that we are opposed to ferries, we just did not find the Cross Bay ferry as it was operated to be effective transit (yes, it may have been fun and even a nice attraction, but, for the most part, it was not transit).

So what held up the ferry this year?  In short, a mix of practicality and politics.  We are pretty sure that without the politics (which we will not get into here), it would have found the money needed to run again.  Whether it should have run again as it did last year is another question.  In any event,

But ferry supporters such as Ed Turanchik, a former Hillsborough county commissioner and lawyer who advises ferry owner and operator HMS Ferries, are hopeful the ferry will be back in 2018. For real this time.

To help with the cost — and the potential loss of Tampa as a partner — St. Petersburg applied for a Florida Department of Transportation grant. The state awarded St. Petersburg $438,131 to help pay the operating cost of the ferry in 2018-19. That could substantially reduce the funds needed from the cities and counties, and perhaps convince doubters like Buckhorn to sign-up for another year.

It’s a one-time award, though, DOT spokeswoman Kris Carson said, meaning St. Petersburg would either have to re-apply each year — the state program usually has less than $1 million to give out annually — or look elsewhere for the money.

What could help, Turanchik said, is the cost of a second season would likely be lower than the $1.4 million pilot program. For one thing, some of the initial overhead costs and necessary infrastructure were taken care of during the pilot program.

He also believes that if the ferry returns it will have “higher revenues” once poorly attended weekday trips are eliminated and the service focuses on beefing up night and weekend service.

That sounds like even more limited service than last year.  We are for developing a transit system – including potentially the largely disappeared from view idea of a ferry from South County to MacDill and, if properly organized a Cross Bay ferry type of service.  But we do not favor what sound like essentially party cruises.  That is for private business.  This area needs to focus on a real comprehensive, coordinated transit system and does not need distractions.  If there is a proposal to make the Cross Bay ferry a workable part of a real transit system, we are all ears.  If it is to make it even less than it was before, not so much.

The real question is what happened to the South County – MacDill ferry?


— More on the Autonomous Buses

There was some more news on the autonomous buses downtown.

The P-1 electric shuttle, an autonomous vehicle without a human driver, will be on display at the Fifth Annual Florida Automated Vehicles Summit, Tuesday and Wednesday at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay. The shuttle begins serving the public for free on a trial basis in January.

The P-1 has seats for 14 people plus standing room for six and will run 0.6 miles along Marion Street in eastern downtown from the Marion Transit Center south to Whiting Street and back.

Which we sort of knew, but it may fill in some gaps.

Manufacturer Coast Autonomous, based in Pasadena, Calif., loaded up the P-1 with information about its environment by recording a three-dimensional map of all possible Marion Street pathways. Sensors will enable the P-1 to get smarter over time, detecting and reacting to pedestrians and other vehicles in a 360-degree range.

The vehicle has never been put into public use before.

It won’t cover much ground at first, but Coast managing director Adrian Sussman said it will fill a gap in transit for people working in a section of downtown.

“Every transit agency in the country has the same issue of trying to convince commuters to leave their cars at home and take public transportation,” Sussman said. “But the biggest hurdle to this is the first mile from your house to the bus stop and the last mile from your office to the bus.”

Well, yes, many transit agencies have a first mile/last mile issue, but we submit that even fixing that would not get commuters in this area to leave their cars at home and take public transportation.  It may help them park a little farther away but not at home, namely because the biggest problems in our area are the first one to five miles and last one to five miles and all the space in between including the fact that service is slow, not convenient, and chronically underfunded.  Transit here, where it even exists, is not set up for commuters and other choice riders but for people who have no choice.

Plus the autonomous buses will only travel 25 mph.  Also, it is not clear if they will stop at every light, but the Marion Street tranistway has stops on basically every block making it even slower. That lack of speed and potentially excessive number of stops is not a plus.

Nevertheless, we are all for trying this system out and figuring out where it may fit.  It may form a piece of the puzzle, but, it needs to be remembered, just a piece.


— More on the ex-HART Director

As we discussed last week, the HART director is leaving.  So why did she decide to leave?  Because Pittsburgh has a different attitude:

But the Port Authority of Allegheny County enjoys a lot more support than HART and the agency has more money to work with.

“Rich Fitzgerald [Allegheny County’s top elected official] says good transit is coming even if there’s not federal funding,” Eagan said. “They’re very, very focused on making sure transit is funded.”

Fitzgerald’s commitment, Eagan said, is echoed by other elected leaders in the county in a place that has prioritized transit.

That’s not the case in Hillsborough County, where efforts to fund transit failed in 2010 and 2016. 

“I come to them and say, for example, we could run a downtown shuttle, and the response is, we like the idea, we just don’t want to pay for it,” Eagan said. 

And, as described in a Times editorial:

Eagan will leave in January to become chief executive of the Port Authority of Allegheny, Pa., which provides public transit in the Pittsburgh area. That system includes nearly 800 buses and more than 80 light rail vehicles on a 26-mile line serving about 200,000 riders a day. Compared to Hillsborough, the Pittsburgh authority serves five times the number of riders and fields four times as many buses as HART. It spends twice as much as the bay area does on bus service alone, even though the two regions have similar populations, and its overall transit spending is four times that of Hillsborough and Pinellas combined.

Pittsburgh also has dedicated bus routes in their own right of way.  (And, notably, the organization is the port Authority of Allegheny County, with a population of around 1.25 million, which is smaller than Hillsborough County, let alone Hillsborough and Pinellas or the Tampa-St Pete metro area.)  And as noted by the Times:

Mass transit in other metro areas is a preferred option for those across the financial spectrum. It is the lifeline between downtowns and the suburbs, airports and major employment centers. Reducing the need for a car also can free up 25 percent or more in household incomes, putting money into the pockets of lower-wage earners, giving middle-class residents the chance to buy first homes and making older neighborhoods ripe for revitalization. A 2012 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that earnings of transit riders in Pittsburgh were about 80 percent of the median of all area commuters. None of the four Florida cities included in the survey (Tampa Bay was not represented) had ridership with anywhere near that mix of incomes.

Nothing to argue with there.  And just remember that when discussing talent searches and economic development.


— More Ideas

There was some interesting stuff in a Business Journal article about St. Pete’s mayor and his second term.

As Rick Kriseman begins his second term as St. Petersburg mayor, he’s turning to creative solutions — think gondolas as aerial transit — to problems plaguing his city and the Tampa Bay region.

What is the advantage?

“I’m fascinated by aerial elevated transit,” Kriseman said. “It allows riders to travel at a faster speed. It’s about a fifth of the cost of light rail. It doesn’t have the same impact as your existing roadways because it’s above the right of way.”

Those things are true, especially given funding issues for transit.  However, in addition to other issues, if a system has to shut down at rush hour through much of the summer due to storms, that could be a problem.  Anyway, by all means think about it.  And there was this:

. . . Kriseman is looking at more than the one lofty ambition.

The city is continuing work with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority on a bus rapid transit line connecting downtown St. Pete to the Gulf Beaches along First Avenues North and South in a dedicated bus lane. Kriseman is also working to bring back the Cross Bay Ferry next fall. Efforts to do so this year failed due to lack of funding.

Setting aside that we have already discussed the issues with the ferry, gondolas, and problems with the bus (it’s mostly not BRT), there is a bigger issue.  If all this is brainstorming about how to build a comprehensive, coordinated transportation system, that is fine.  However, it very well may just be a number of ad hoc, cobbled together ideas that are not really coordinated or systematic at all.  And that would be a problem.  We, as an area, do not need to spend time and money on a number of unconnected pieces.  We need to get something that really connects us in a coordinated and systematic way.

In other words, brainstorm all you want, but keep your eye on the prize.


— More of the Same

Sometimes, there are news items that are not particularly surprising.  We got one this week:

I-4 has been named the most dangerous highway in America by GPS tracking company, Teletrac Navman. Using federal data, they found I-4 is death road with 1.25 fatalities per mile.

You can read more here and see a graphic from the company here. Whether it is just really bad or actually the worst depends on your criteria.  Regardless, it is bad and has been for a long time. And, it should be said, it is bad in Orlando as well as here – and in between.

And the most dangerous section of the most dangerous highway in America happens to run right through the happiest place on Earth from Lakeland to Orlando.

Then again, by government choice, there are no real alternatives to using it.


Rays – The Rundown

There was a nice little summary article in the Times regarding different sites that have been considered for the Rays stadium in Hillsborough.   We are not going to get into the whole thing, but it shows clearly why some of the ideas floated were not very good.  It also has some (somewhat funny) graphics that Photoshop present day stadiums onto aerial shots of the proposed sites.  While they do not follow MLB rules and mostly show open air stadiums, the one for the proposed site in Ybor is interesting:

 

From the Times – click on picture for article

What it shows is how close both the Channel District and the heart of Ybor (and parking garage) actually are to the site.   We are neither endorsing nor rejecting the site, but it does have some advantages.  One question that we still have is whether a retractable roof stadium can actually fit on that site.  And, of course, there is financing.

Which brings us to this from the Rays owner:

In speaking specifically for the first time about the site pitched last month by Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, Sternberg told the Tampa Bay Times:

We are glad he sees the need for a roof but a fixed roof will be a huge mistake.  Regarding the $150 million, it may be an opening bid or it may be more solid, but, given that the stadium will cost anywhere from $600 million to $800 million and maybe more, it seems a bit low.  How did they get the number?

He said several times the amount of their contribution to the public-private partnership would be based on detailed projections on increased sales of season tickets and sponsorships that were still in the works, and could be influenced by “a drive” or other public effort — such as “businesses knocking on the door” to take part — illustrating additional support, and thus proving that moving from St. Petersburg would be the catalyst.

But he also said they had enough preliminary information to use the $150 million — the same amount they were talking about committing to a failed 2008 proposal on the St. Petersburg waterfront — as a working number.

“We’ve tried to make some guestimates, some estimates on what would be prudent for us, what would give us the ability to take this step in committing to a physical place for another generation or two, and our thought process is it’s probably in the $150 million range,” Sternberg said. “We might find out that’s too much. We might find out that we can afford more.”

So it could change.  We hope it does.  We have a lot of things to pay for in this area.


Downtown – Kress Moves

After a couple of decades of basically nothing happening, the Kress block has been sold.

The historic city block containing the old S.H. Kress & Co. department store and a former F.W. Woolworth’s where 1960s sit-ins led to the peaceful desegregation of the city’s lunch counters was sold this week for $9 million.

The buyer is The Wilson Company, a real estate firm headed by president Carolyn Wilson, who is no stranger to ambitious projects to reclaim old buildings in downtown Tampa.

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

That leads inexorably to the issue of what are they going to do with it.

Wilson said she fell in love with the Kress, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, when she went to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s state of the city speech there in 2013.

“We’re just in love with the whole block,” she said Thursday evening. “We’re going to restore it. We’re not going to tear down anything.”

Though

Wilson said there is no immediate development plan and no tenants lined up for the building. An event space is a possibility for the Kress. She’s thinking she would like to restore the historic lunch counter at the Woolworth’s.

“We think it’s jewel in the rough,” she said. “We have fuzzy plans, but we don’t know exactly what we’re going to do, except we’re going to restore it.”

That is fine.  We’ve been waiting a long time for the block to be restored. And we are thankful that it managed to escape being ruined by some of the past proposals. We can wait a little longer if it is done well.


Meanwhile, In the Rest of the State

Tampa and St. Pete are not the only cities in Florida looking to develop/grow institutions of higher learning in their downtown areas.  Orlando is also working on it.

More than $100 million of financing has been approved for construction of a student high-rise at the University of Central Florida’s proposed downtown Orlando campus, lenders say.

Holliday Fenoglio Fowler LP, a commercial real estate and capital markets group, helped assemble three loans to underwrite the 15-story building planned to house 600 students and provide 600 parking spaces. The project will also include 102,500 square feet of educational space to be leased by UCF and Valencia College. Valencia’s education space will be the home of hospitality and culinary arts programs.

Completion is slated for August 2019 with an expected 8,000 students, faculty and staff members. The project is at the northwest corner of Livingston Street and Terry Avenue in downtown Orlando. Future phases would include 600 to 900 additional beds on the land to the west of the site.

And they are selling their downtown campus the same way we are. It is just another example of competition being constant.  (We wish the University of Tampa would take a similar approach to integrate its growing campus more into the surrounding area.)


Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

Given that a major investor in Water Street is an investment company for Bill Gates, we found this interesting:

One of Bill Gates’ investment firms has spent $80 million to kickstart the development of a brand-new community in the far West Valley.

The large plot of land is about 45 minutes west of downtown Phoenix off I-10 near Tonopah.

The proposed community, made up of close to 25,000 acres of land, is called Belmont. According to Belmont Partners, a real estate investment group based in Arizona, the goal is to turn the land into its own “smart city.” 

“Belmont will create a forward-thinking community with a communication and infrastructure spine that embraces cutting-edge technology, designed around high-speed digital networks, data centers, new manufacturing technologies and distribution models, autonomous vehicles and autonomous logistics hubs,” Belmont Partners said in a news release.

* * *

According to Belmont Partners, 3,800 acres will go towards office, commercial and retail space. Then, 470 acres will be used for public schools. Plus, there’s room for 80,000 residential units.

“Comparable in square miles and projected population to Tempe, Arizona, Belmont will transform a raw, blank slate into a purpose-built edge city built around a flexible infrastructure model,” said Belmont Properties.

He is a busy man.  We just hope that there is no cannibalization of potential tenants.


Meanwhile, In the Rest of the World

There has been talk for a while of using the CSX tracks for transit.  Previously, it had been in proposed that DMUs, which are more like light rail cars running on diesel, be used.  More recently, ideas have involved commuter rail, like SunRail in Orlando (which we do not favor here) that also uses diesel.  It seems there soon will be another option:

Commuters in northern Germany will be able to travel on the world’s first hydrogen-powered trains in four years’ time.

French engineering giant Alstom says it has signed an agreement to deliver 14 fuel-cell trains to LNVG, a rail company in Germany’s Lower Saxony state.

* * *

Hydrogen engines emit only water vapor and are considered one of the cleanest forms of transportation. The trains will replace diesel vehicles on non-electrified tracks.

There are plans to produce the hydrogen using electricity from Lower Saxony’s many wind turbines.

And hydrogen can be obtained from water, of which we have a lot.

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Roundup 11-10-2017

November 10, 2017

Contents

Rays – More Hillsborough 

– Of Maps and Money

— A Little Something

Downtown/Channel District – Of More Maps and Money

Downtown/Channel District – One Hit, One Miss

— The Hit

— The Miss

Transportation – A Little HART

– Autonomous Buses

— Leaving

Walkability/Bikability – Give Us Shelter

Westshore – Good for Groceries, But . . .

Temple Terrace – We Give Up

Port – Cruise Terminal 6

Airport – Some More Competition

Travel News – Cuba

Pasco – Those Who Ignore History

Pinellas – They Said Yes

_____________________________


Rays – More Hillsborough 


– Of Maps and Money

Among all the Rays news regarding Ybor City, there was one point that deserves consideration:

While the site may check several boxes on the Rays’ list of priorities in a new stadium — things like access to transportation, fans and a place in the urban core — it lacks the ability to tap what could be an important funding source.

Downtown Tampa is part of a massive Community Redevelopment Area that generates more than $11 million a year in revenue collected through property taxes as property values rise. That money can be used for economic development projects and has funded things like museums, large theaters and convention centers.

But while the proposed site, located on the southern tip of Ybor City at the gateway to the Channel district, is also in a CRA, its amount doesn’t come close to that of the downtown CRA. The Ybor CRA generates $250,000 a year.

It is an interesting point.

But, first, let’s look a little closer at the CRAs. Checking the City’s website on CRAs, it is a little more complicated. The Ybor CRA is actually two different CRAs.   The first is the what most would consider the main part of Ybor, named Ybor CRA 1 (see here) Then there is a second Ybor CRA, creatively named Ybor CRA 2 that is more the outskirts of the area (See map here) Likewise (though with possible technical differences), there is the downtown CRA made up of two parts, which has the “core,” which is not the core, and “non-core,” which is actually the core, though, to be even more confusing, the City website also refers to “old core” and “new core.” (see “non-core” here and “core” here) and the Channel District CRA which comes up to but does not include the land at issue (see map here) Ok, now that you’ve got that, it can be simplified a bit by looking at the 2016 annual CRA report from the City:

From the City 2016 CRA Report – click on picture for report pdf

Incidentally, pages 6-7 of the report pdf give you some financials (where we also learn that the “non-core,” which is the core, of downtown generates more than 4 times as much revenue as the “core,” which is not the core and that Ybor, overall generates about 1.5 million a year, but the limited the CRA segment  where the land in question is generates a small portion of that.)

Basically, the Ybor, Channel District, Downtown CRA’s intersect somewhere around the property in question. Looking at this map of the downtown “core” and this diagram:

From the Times – click on picture for article

It seems that, if it includes anything west of Channelside at all, the land involved may actually partially be in the downtown CRA ( though reports seem to keep the included land to the east of Channelside) while some (but not all) is in the Ybor CRA and touches the Channel District CRA.  What that really means is an open question.

And there is this:

Another option to help the county fund a new stadium is hotel bed tax revenue. However, the tax plan President Donald Trump’s administration released Thursday would block local governments from purchasing tax-free bonds to fund professional sports venues, which is how bed tax dollars are used to pay for expensive projects. If that provision sticks, it’s bad news for both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Hillsborough County currently charges a 5 percent tourist development tax on hotel stays, which is referred to as bed tax. Pinellas County used a portion of its bed tax dollars to help pay back bonds on Tropicana Field, where the Rays currently play.

This is where the extra cent of bed tax when you hit the magic tourism tax revenue number Visit Tampa Bay has been waiting for comes in, if you can bond it. (For more on the bond issue, see this Bloomberg article. ) Hillsborough will likely get to the point of the extra tourist tax level this year or next – and that money has statutorily limited uses, including stadiums.

And this:

The Florida Legislature will consider a bill during its 2018 Legislative Session that would block local governments from leasing publicly owned land to professional sports teams. A similar bill died in this year’s session.

Which could be another wrench, though, it has not passed yet.

What do we learn from all that?  First, we learn that the CRA process is very complicated.  But we could have guessed that. (As an aside, we do not favor the legislative moves to get rid of CRA’s because they can be useful, but in all honesty, one can see how some could think there is room for shenanigans here.)

We also learn that, not even including the team’s portion, the funding for a new stadium will be very complex and fraught with issues. And that this particular lot probably should include land from the west side of Channelside and south of Adamo.


— A Little Something

And if you are at all curious about the private sector guys who helped make even the possibility of the stadium at this site happen, the Times had a good story here. We are not going to get into the details but will say that so far they have been helpful.  Hopefully, they continue to be so.


Downtown/Channel District – Of More Maps and Money

Speaking of CRA’s and the like:

The Hillsborough County legislative delegation has voted to support the idea of creating a commercial improvement district for the $3 billion Water Street Tampa project.

The proposed Water Street Tampa Improvement District would collect assessments from commercial property owners to help pay for or maintain everything from parks to transportation facilities to landscaping to district-wide Wi-Fi.

The district would be meant “to provide a long-term solution for sustainability — without relying on Tampa’s taxpayers for financial support,” according to Ali Glisson, spokeswoman for Strategic Property Partners, the development company created by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment capital fund.

The district would “solely assess the commercial owners only, meaning those assessments will be borne by commercial property owners — not Tampa’s existing residents nor future residents of the neighborhood,” Glisson said.

A 93-page local bill to create the independent special district has been drafted, and on Friday the legislative delegation supported it by a 9-0 vote.

You can see the draft bill here. We like keeping the burden off residents. Though, as a practical matter, this seems to be an all SPP plan for the benefit of SPP’s project.

The district’s borders would be Florida Avenue on the west, Whiting Street on the north, Meridian Avenue on the east and the Garrison Channel on the south. It would include only properties owned by Strategic Property Partners, plus publicly owned sites like Amalie Arena, the Tampa Bay History Center and Cotanchobee Park.

That puts the proposed district inside the downtown Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) and the special services district administered by the nonprofit Tampa Downtown Partnership. The partnership-run district staffs downtown with guides for visitors and a “clean team” that picks up litter and focuses on marketing, business development and issues like transportation.

Developers say the new Water Street improvement district would not affect the CRA, which diverts the property taxes generated by new development in a redevelopment area to pay for roads and other public improvements that will foster more growth in the area. Already, Tampa and Hillsborough County have agreed to reimburse Water Street Tampa’s developers up to $100 million in CRA fundsfor the cost of putting in new roads, water and sewer lines and other infrastructure at the project.

We’ll be honest, we did not map the long description of the boundaries on pages 22-27 of the proposed bill. to make sure. In any event, how will it work?

The improvement district would create a five-member board to oversee decisions and would cap property tax increases at three mills, which is $3 per $1,000 of assessed value. Residential units, particularly condos, would not be subject to the additional tax.

SPP doesn’t anticipate collecting ad valorem taxes because that would require a voter referendum, but it does plan to use the special district to levy special assessments on commercial properties. Now, those are owned by SPP and the company doesn’t plan to sell any of its real estate any time soon, said SPP Executive Vice President and General Counsel Jim Shimberg.

That means SPP is asking to tax itself. Doing so allows it to use tax-free bonds to fund enhancements to the district.

* * *

The board would function similarly to a city council or county commission. Any proposed taxes or special assessments would be subject to public noticing requirements and public hearings where owners could express their opinions on proposals. The board would be subject to the same public records laws as democratically-elected boards.

The board would have bonding authority and the ability to take on debt, but would not be allowed to create comprehensive plans or handle zoning and permitting within the area.

Interestingly,

The city of Tampa is asking for some additions to the bill as it’s currently written, including requiring an inter-local agreement ensuring the city maintains some local control over decision-making in the district.

The City thought it was a little too much. That’s interesting. What will it do exactly?

Strategic Property Partners said Monday the district:

Once again, SPP will essentially be taxing itself and figuring what to do with the money. Generally, we are fine with that theoretical idea (we like the City’s request) as long as it is over and above normal property taxes, which on pg 65-66 seems to be the case. If it takes normal tax revenues away, then you are still burdening the local taxpayer indirectly.  (And, in truth, there is no guarantee that the taxpayers would never be asked for more money at some point.)

And in all those pages are a lot of powers that seem very much like a self-governing sub-city (including the ability to have ad valorem taxes, see pg 65) – right now kind of a company town – that probably should have a discussion and be subject to some analysis, economic and legal. On the other hand, given the scope of the SPP development and how local politics works, we doubt any official would have really opposed it.

Right now, with SPP owning it all, there is a unity of ownership, interest, and governance (in that SPP will pick the whole board), so it seems ok (as long as the Lightning owner maintains his civic-mindedness). The real issues will arise if/when SPP sells off buildings (and/or changes its attitude), risking the whole thing becoming a muddle of competing interests that will require the legislature to fix.


Downtown/Channel District – One Hit, One Miss

There was news about two proposed developments in the Downtown/Channel District area this week.


— The Hit

The first news was about the latest revision to the Del Villar proposal.  When last we left it, the developer had added 700 sq.ft. of retail to a long, basically dead streetscape.  As it turns out, the City staff was not buying it. As first noted by URBN Tampa Bay, the decision (which can be found on the handy Accela database, address: 858 Channelside Dr, -870, T 33602) tells us:

Given that construction has not commenced on the project as approved and the property remains vacant, the current application is subject to compliance with Section 27-204(b). Pursuant to staff’s review of the application, the following items contained in this section must be corrected:

  1. The east building elevation, including the garage, as seen along Channelside Dr. shall meet the intent of the Channel District code whereby Sec. 27-204(b)(1)&(2) states that (1) All developments shall provide residential, office, neighborhood serving commercial uses, including general retail, restaurant, and/or personal services, and said uses shall be located on the ground floor and may extend to the second floor and above for a specific user
  2. Developments shall provide shade and weather protection for pedestrians along public rights-of-way. This may be accomplished through the use and incorporation of awnings, canopies, arcades, etc.”

Therefore, the substantial change application must show compliance with Section 27-204.

And it also said this:

In general, staff finds that the current building design deviates substantially from the previous approved 2007 project with regard to façade embellishments and the exterior treatment of the garage (min. 80% opacity).  While the proposed 2017 revision lacks the required Channelside ground floor activation as demonstrated in the 2007 plan the proposed building façade does not have any similar exterior façade treatment and articulation.  Also note the building immediately to the north (The Place) and its adherence to the ground floor requirements.

Staff finds that the current proposal has little of the character and refinement that the previous building as demonstrated with texture, fenestration, multiple balconies and an interesting roof top element.

In other words, the proposal is not sufficiently well designed for an urban environment and fails to comply with the design standards.  The City staff is not settling, and they are right.  Without much extra work, the developers can do better (and, according to staff, did better before).


— The Miss

In contrast to Del Villar, there was the proposal for adaptive reuse of a building, which has no clear parking, into micro-apartments without parking (listed in the Times as 220 Madison but in Accela as 210 Madison).

Urban Core Holdings has scrapped its plans for 120 teeny apartments at 220 Madison Street in favor of 48 more conventional ones geared toward students.

Although the micro apartments drew an enthusiastic response when they were announced in April, the construction costs and parking requirements ultimately doomed them, Urban Core manager Omar Garcia said Tuesday.

“We went back to the drawing board and said, ‘How can we continue to use this property as residential because we think it’s the highest and best use,’” he said of the 12-story former office building. “So we came up with the student housing concept because it’s a great location for University of Tampa students and also we’ll have 800 (University of South Florida) medical students who will be living in the downtown area in 2019” when a new medical school building is finished.

Instead of micro units for about $850 a month, the two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments will range from $769 to about $990 including all utilities, cable and 300 Mbps internet per person. That will make them “absolutely the cheapest” apartments downtown, Garcia said.

* * *

The city requires developers to provide one parking space per apartment or pay a $26,500 fee per space instead. Scaling back from 120 to 48 apartments cut the parking requirement to just 48 spaces “and we can mitigate some of that requirement with bike racks,” Garcia said. Urban Holdings will also save money by not having to put in nearly as many kitchens.

It should be noted that construction cost were apparently an issue.

However, another major issue was parking,  The micro-apartment project would require 120 parking spaces or payment to the City in lieu of providing the parking (there was a possibility of some offset for bikes, but it was limited).  We get that staff was applying the rules and that the City wants money if not parking spaces. We get the idea that parking is an issue especially in an area that has no real transit. But for a supposed live, work, and play environment (with innovation and ridesharing and all that), the idea that every unit or even most units require a parking space rather than leaving it up to renters to figure it out, seems completely out of date. (We could understand if it was some old legacy rule from the 80s or 90s.  However, according to Municode, the specific ordinance, 27-184, that is cited over and over in the decision was revised in August of 2017, though that seems to related to medical marijuana dispensaries. The main part of the ordinance was apparently adopted in 2016. Helpfully, that 2016 ordinance also includes standards for drive-through bank facilities and drive-in restaurants in the central business district.)

So we have one win for urban planning and one loss. And what is at the bottom of all that?  The Code.  Good for the requirements to make Channelside more walkable, but if we are going to have a real downtown, our code should comprehensively reflect it.  And, as we said last week, there is no better time than the present to stop settling.


Transportation – A Little HART

There was interesting news from HART.


– Autonomous Buses

First, there was news about service.

A shuttle without a human driver is going to be riding around the streets of downtown Tampa fairly soon.

It will be the first of its kind in the entire country to be driving daily among regular traffic.

* * *

HART is starting small and carefully. The new shuttle’s route will only be about 1 mile in length, connecting the popular N. Marion Street Bus Center to the other side of downtown Tampa. By staying on Marion Street, and limiting hours to daytime, the autonomous shuttle will have only limited interactions with other drivers, since Marion Street is limited to other HART busses during daytime hours.

But one day these shuttles will expand their routes.

Setting aside that Las Vegas already has autonomous buses (even though one got in an accident maybe they are not “driving daily among regular traffic” ) We are all for trying it out and the Marion Street Transitway is the place to do it (precisely because it is not in traffic, but whatever).  Buses are an integral part of a proper transit system, and we have no reason to not try these.  Interestingly,

Florida’s Department of Transportation is paying for the shuttle which is designed by the Canadien company Stantec which has an office in Tampa. The shuttle is a pilot program that is currently funded for 1 year, but Eagen hopes to see it funded for several years to come.

Look at FDOT.

Anyway, here is a video of similar looking autonomous buses in Finland.

 

We hope our buses run a little faster with less dramatic music.


— Leaving

Given that apparent step into the future, there was other interesting news:

Katharine Eagan, the leader of Hillsborough’s transit agency, is leaving just a month after implementing a widespread overhaul of the county’s threadbare bus network.

Eagan joined the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority as chief operating officer in 2009, and took over as chief executive officer in 2014.

She led the agency in innovative solutions to make the most of a shoestring HART budget — one of the lowest per capita in the country.

Turns out she is going to Pittsburgh.

“Who wouldn’t want to be in the Pittsburgh area right now?” she said, noting the region’s rebirth and technology innovations such as testing self-driving vehicles. She called the position “a public servant’s dream come true.”

Not to mention they have rail and other major transit investments.

“The biggest takeaway is, what does the community want?” she said. “The agency runs the system, but the community owns it.”

We wonder where she learned that.


Walkability/Bikability – Give Us Shelter

For those who enjoy the Courtney Campbell Causeway trail, there was some good news,

They are small clusters of cube-shaped concrete benches sheltered by metal roofs — ten “comfort stations” for pedestrians and bicyclists traveling the Hillsborough section of the Courtney Campbell Trail.

“It’s always been a good place to fish, but now there’s also a place to get out of the sun,” Ospina said. “It’s also a lot prettier and makes it more welcoming.”

The $878,720 project was a collaboration among Tampa, Hills-borough County and the Florida Department of Transportation, said Brad Suder, superintendent of design and planning for the city of Tampa. The stations run west from a point beyond Ben T. Davis Beach and its larger concrete shelters.

One shelter has an air pump for filling bicycle tires and a faucet to replenish water bottles. The project also included bike racks, new landscaping and signs marking trail points.

The benches are made of solid concrete and some have no backs, so they’re designed more for a brief respite than an afternoon picnic, Suder said.

From the Times – click on picture for article

Ok, so they are not the most comfortable looking facilities, but they are welcome.  While we generally prefer just getting up and going, there are occasions when it would be nice to stop and adding facilities to a nice trail is always a good thing.

Clearwater and Pinellas County are working on designs for rest stations on their side of the trail.

Current plans call for two stations as well as a pedestrian overpass connecting the trail from its western end with Bayshore Boulevard to the north, said Gina Harvey, Pinellas County Transportation traffic engineering coordinator. Travelers have to cross at a traffic light there now.

Plans are expected to be finalized in the next few months, Harvey said, but the project may take a couple of years to build.

That time frame seems a bit long, but we’re happy they are doing it.


Westshore – Good for Groceries, But . . .

The Business Journal reported that Publix might move into the old Sports Authority store in Westshore.

Publix Super Markets Inc. is targeting a former Sports Authority store in Tampa’s Westshore business district.

The city has been asked to verify the zoning of that store, which is 37,500 square feet and sits on more than 3 acres. The letter, filed Wednesday by a Miami-based title and research firm, asks the city to address its findings to Publix’s corporate headquarters in Lakeland.

Which is fine, but not that exciting.

Publix has long been rumored to be looking for a location in Westshore, and the Sports Authority box emerged as the most likely location after Sports Authority shuttered that location in 2016.

The Whole Foods Market Inc. store on North Dale Mabry Highway is technically within Westshore’s official boundaries. But it is far removed from the district’s office base, and Westshore has seen an influx of both office tenants and new residential development in recent years.

That’s great, but is it really a big deal?  There are also a Winn Dixie and a Walmart supercenter on Dale Mabry and both, plus the Whole Foods, are closer and more accessible to all the new housing near Columbus/Boy Scout and Lois (where most of the new housing is) than the Sports Authority location and you can’t reasonably walk or bike to any of them (You could to the Whole Foods but the complex is laid out quite poorly for it).

The truth is that the Publix will serve the houses south of Westshore much more (though the old grocery location at Westshore and Kennedy where Panera and Starbucks now are is significantly better), though thankfully the City cut off the road into that neighborhood years ago so look for a lot of people cutting across the parking lot of the building next door to avoid Kennedy.

We are sure the Publix will do fine, but it is not really an achievement.


Temple Terrace – We Give Up

There was more news about Temple Terrace’s messy attempt to develop an urban area.

In an ongoing effort to bring new life to an aging and largely unoccupied shopping plaza southeast of the N 56th Street/Bullard Parkway intersection, four firms presented plans at a Nov. 1 meeting of the Temple Terrace Redevelopment Agency at the Omar K. Lightfoot Recreation Center.

The city, forced to take out a $23.5 million loan after yet another failed effort, must either pay off or refinance the debt by April 2018. Many on the council are eager to move forward, but Council member Frank Chillura said the proposals clearly indicated Temple Terrace will fall short of its original vision.

“I think the problem the city faces is that we want the pie in the sky,” he said. “I think we all want the same end result, but we have to look at what is the best fit for Temple Terrace and we’ve got to get this on the road — we’ve got to make this happen.”

Actually, at this point it is not clear that everyone wants the same thing.  And urban development is not pie in the sky, but what has gone before has made a mess of this whole process.

You can read the details of the proposal in the Times article here.  Essentially there are two apartment/maybe mixed proposals and two sprawl-y retail proposals (both with requisite bank and coffee shop).

So what was the reaction?

Several residents expressed doubts about the feasibility of apartments on the site and leaned toward the retail-heavy Paragon proposal.

“If you build all those apartments are you sure you are going to get people in those buildings?” resident Gary Martin asked. “I think the commercial proposal is what most people are looking for.”

You could definitely get people to live in the apartments, especially if they were designed properly.  But as we said, this process has become so muddled that what we expect is really nothing. (And they may want to rethink the coffee shop thing.)


Port – Cruise Terminal 6

There was news from the Port:

Passengers taking Royal Caribbean’s Empress of the Seas out of Port Tampa Bay started their trip in the port’s newly improved cruise terminal 6, which has opened after months of renovation.

The terminal is being used by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (NYSE: RCL) as a homeport for its cruise ship Rhapsody of the Seas as well. Improvements to the terminal included a 7,277-square-foot expansion of the ticketing area, 32 new ticket counters, 28 new baggage tables and an increase of parking west of the facility. 

* * *

Previously, Terminal 6 could only handle cruise ships with 1,800 passengers. Now, it can handle ships with 2,500 passengers, Elliott said. “This gives us a lot more flexibility,” he said. “You have to be adept and responsive to the market. Our cruise ship customers wanted to bring in more ships on an expedited time frame.”

Terminal 6 is the warehouse looking terminal at the northern end of the cruise area. It is good to update facilities, and it is good to be able to be more flexible.  The real question is more about the future of cruising and how hard it will be in the mid and long term to maintain the business in Tampa.  That discussion seems to have gone away.


Airport – Some More Competition

Spirit airlines announced some new service this week:

Spirit Airlines is launching four new nonstop flights to Tampa. Beginning Thursday, travelers will be able to travel directly from Tampa International Airport to Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn., Pittsburgh International Airport and Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.

The airline will also launch a daily seasonal flight between Tampa and Columbus, Ohio, on Feb. 15, 2018. The route will operate until April 11 2018, and resume service Nov. 8, 2018. 

None of those are new destinations, but competition is good and more service is good.


Travel News – Cuba

There is Cuba news:

The Trump administration rolled out new restrictions on trade with Cuba on Wednesday in an effort to “channel economic activities away” from the nation’s military, intelligence and security services while pushing Americans to support its private small businesses.

The moves will make some travel to Cuba more cumbersome and expensive but ultimately will have little effect on those in the Tampa Bay area intent on visiting Cuba.

Commercial travel by airline and cruise ship from Tampa to Havana will continue.

The biggest change affecting U.S. travelers: They will have to pay a U.S. government-certified travel company to lead them through Cuba rather than sightseeing on their own.

You can debate the new rules, but, for us, the key is that it will not interfere with air and cruise service.


Pasco – Those Who Ignore History

There was news about the SR54/US41 cluster in Pasco County:

Twenty-one months ago, the Florida Department of Transportation said it was hitting the brakes on planning improvements at a traffic-clogged intersection in central Pasco.

Instead, the DOT said it would await recommendations from Pasco County and a citizens task force before advancing a proposed fix for the intersection of U.S. 41 and State Road 54. The DOT pause, at the county’s request, came after public objections to a planned flyover elevating SR 54 above north-south traffic on U.S. 41.

Now, the state is putting its foot back on the gas, even though the citizens task force has yet to finalize a recommendation. DOT’s tentative five-year work program, dated Oct. 17, includes nearly $32 million to buy right of way for a new interchange at SR 54/U.S. 41 beginning in 2022.

* * *

DOT regional spokeswoman Kris Carson said the specific dollar amount, listed at $31,937,100 in the tentative work plan, is “a conservative amount programmed in the last year of the work program, so this gives the county plenty of time to conduct outreach and get the community’s vision for this area.’’

The dollar amount can go up or down or be shifted for a different purpose if the county recommends the no-build option, Carson said.

So where are we on the community process?

The citizens task force, assembled by the Pasco Metropolitan Planning Organization of county commissioners and elected city officeholders, has been considering a dozen options for the intersection, including doing nothing. Five of the proposals include elevating SR 54 for vehicles and/or mass transit above U.S. 41. Other ideas call for at-grade improvements to the intersection and adding frontage roads.

Preliminary estimates for right-of-way costs range from as little as $1.7 million (building four elevated lanes in the existing right of way) up to $110 million for what is known as a parallel flow intersection in which left-turning cars bypass the intersection via frontage roads.

The MPO put together the task force after severe community push-back against a 2014 proposal from a private company to build and operate an elevated toll road along the State Road 54/56 corridor between U.S. 19 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. The DOT pulled the plug on that idea when the company said it needed public subsidies in order for the $2 billion project to work.

Who knows?  The amazing thing is that apparently Pasco did not learn anything from the mess that Hillsborough (and so many other counties) made and continues to make all the same mistakes (impact fees aside).  What is a really needed is an east-west highway, but that has been killed a number of times and is unlikely to be approved anytime soon.

What we have now is the result of decades of horrible planning and a clash of the interests that said bad planning created. We doubt they will really fix anything anytime soon.


Pinellas – They Said Yes

The Penny for Pinellas tax passed overwhelmingly.  Apparently, people are willing to tax themselves.  Transit advocates should examine the process.

Roundup 11-3-2017

November 3, 2017

This week, the Times decided to redo its website (you can decide what you think), including apparently changing most of its links without forwarding the old ones (at least not yet).  Hopefully, that will change, but you may find that a number of Times links no longer work.  Additionally, there were a few items we could not get to because of the old links.

Contents

Downtown/Channelside – The Rollout Continues

— 815 Water Street

— Channelside Redux

— Hotel

Rays – The Hillsborough Site

Transportation  

– About Those Express Buses

— Selmon Choice

— Just a Little Thing

Economic Development – Startup Ratings

— On The Other Hand

Airport – Almost

Built Environment – !p Starts Here

South Tampa – Pictures

Built Environment – Adventures in Planning

— Continuing on That Theme

Enjoyable

List of the Week

____________________________________


Downtown/Channelside – The Rollout Continues


— 815 Water Street

As anyone who is following development knows, the roll out of Water Street buildings continued last week, this time 815 Water Street.  Here is the location:

From the Business Journal – click on map for article

It is across the street from the USF Med School.

The first residential building at Water Street Tampa will have one tower with rental apartments and a second with condominiums, both rising from a base featuring a full-service grocery store, developers said Thursday.

* * *

Plans call for the 21-story rental tower to be perpendicular to Channelside Drive. The 26-story condominium tower — one of Tampa’s first new for-purchase residential towers in nearly a decade — would be angled towards the water, affording residents views of the waterfront and downtown.

* * *

The towers at 815 Water Street will share a green roof designed by Miami-based landscape architect Raymond Jungles Inc., with amenities for residents of both, and each tower will have a roof-top pool. The rooftop amenities are possible because Water Street Tampa will have a central air-conditioning plant for all of its buildings.

* * *

At ground level, the residential towers will be at the southern end of Water Street, which is designed to include shady rows of trees — “as large and mature growth trees as we can possibly get,” Nozar says — on each side of the street.

And this is the full rendering released:

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

First, the good stuff: We like the size.  We like the grocery store.  We like the living wall concept and the roof gardens.

Now the mixed (at least until we know more): We like the idea of angling the buildings, though we are not sure this particular angling actually open up views of the water. By angling the building to follow the lot northeast to southwest, the condo building actually has fewer units openly facing the traditional water view (though they do get downtown views and port views).  We also like apparent attention to making the sidewalk more pleasant.  We like the feature on the left (under the condo building) where it creates a plaza of sorts.  However, the rendering seems to have a large planter in the middle of the space.  We get the landscaping idea, but this area appears to be basically across from the plaza next to the USF med school.  It would be nice if the formed complementary, framed spaces that were really open.  The planter takes up a lot of that space.  We are not sure how that will work out.

The unknown: the rendering seems to indicate that there is an awning of sorts over the sidewalk, but it is not completely clear.  As we have said before, in our minds it is necessary for any truly walkable area in Florida.

The undecided: while we like the living wall and the general massing, we are not sure about the façade of either the towers or the garage.  The rendering looks a bit brutal to us.  The building may not be, but we cannot be sure. We appreciate the desire to create a mix of styles, but we are not sure about this particular style.  It may turn out very nicely, but it may not be.

Regardless, we are happy to see designs be rolled out.  We just hope they tweak it a little more and make sure there is that awning.

As for this:

There’s also the issue of demand. News of the condo tower comes as a leader in the industry, the Related Group’s Jorge M. Perez, sees Tampa’s market as stronger for rental than for high-end urban condos, and on the same day that a competing condo project, the 24-story Virage on Bayshore Boulevard, broke ground.

We actually don’t think there will be that much problem, at least in the first few buildings, selling condos in Water Street.  It has the buzz.  Of course, time will tell.


— Channelside Redux

There also was more information about new use of the part of the Channelside complex that is being demolished. From URBN Tampa Bay:

New renderings and site plans for the portion of Channelside Bay Plaza presently being demolished have been released. The documents show SPP’s plans for an outdoor food court and park replacing the 2 story structure that once housed various restaurants.

 

 

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

 

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

The food service seems to use repurposed shipping containers (somewhat reminiscent of this in Montreal).  If so, it would be a good use now that will be easy to remove when the time for something more permanent arrives.

Regardless, we think this plan is completely reasonable.


— Hotel

There is also a new rendering of the Hotel across the street from the Marriott, per URBN Tampa Bay

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

As with previous renderings of the hotel, the rendering is generally fine but it confirms that the awning/covering for pedestrians will be broken up by columns, which is unfortunate. Once again. if they want people to walk around the development (and not just in the Habitrails) they need to design for the fact that it rains and is very hot for much of the year (like people did when people used to walk around downtown).


Rays – The Hillsborough Site

As anyone who follows it knows, there was big, maybe, Rays news:

At last, Hillsborough County leaders have decided where they want to put a Tampa ballpark, entering them officially in the sweepstakes to be the next home of the Tampa Bay Rays.

The county will offer the Rays a location in the Channel District-Ybor City area bordered by 15th Street and Channelside Drive to the east and west and Fourth Avenue and Adamo Drive to the north and south. The Tampa Bay Times reported in August that county officials were narrowing in on this site.

More importantly, County Commissioner Ken Hagan said Tuesday that the community has reached an agreement with land owners to gain site control of about 14 acres there.

* * *

The agreement gives the county nine months to negotiate with the Rays, with the option for a six-month extension.

 

From the Times – click on picture for article

Apparently, the announcement was a surprise to some:

Though surprised by Hagan’s announcement, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn nevertheless said he thinks the location “makes sense in terms of connecting the dots between downtown and Ybor City.”

But, he added: “I look forward to hearing how the county plans to pay for this.”

and

“If this deal gets done, it’s going to take all parties holding hands and moving together,” Buckhorn told me Wednesday. “That means no surprises, no double crosses, no showboating.”

Yes, no showboating.

And the Rays:

In a statement, the Rays were noticeably noncommittal, though Major League Baseball teams are reticent to make news during the World Series. There’s also a hotly contested St. Petersburg mayoral race, and a bold announcement now could sway it.

“This is another important step in the site selection process, and we are grateful for the time and attention that went into making it a possibility,” Tampa Bay Rays President Brian Auld said in the statement. “We look forward to getting to work evaluating this option, along with those in Pinellas County including the Tropicana Field site, as a potential future home for Rays Baseball in Tampa Bay for generations to come.”

But

The Rays will probably wait a couple of weeks until the World Series and the mayoral election are over and then confirm that, yes, the Ybor site is at the top of their wish list.

But they will not, and realistically should not, fully commit to the site until a finan­cing plan is put together. If they embrace Ybor with both arms, and then discover there is no political will to help fund the stadium, they’d have to slink back to St. Pete with hats in hand.

How about the rest of the County Commission?

Commissioner Victor Crist was livid Wednesday that he learned about the plan through the media. Crist said it was a violation of protocol for Hagan to unveil a location as a county plan and present it to the Rays without first getting the approval of the entire commission.

Crist’s fear is that this has been branded publicly as Hillsborough County’s plan, when the county commission hasn’t even seen it, let alone vote on it.

“This has had no vetting of the county commission. This has had no vetting of public input,” Crist said. “This whole thing has been done in a vacuum behind the scenes, out of the sunshine and that is not how the Board of County Commissioners operates.”

Probably because:

Crist said he met with Christaldi the day before, along with Rays President Brian Auld. The Ybor site never came up. Instead, during the conversation, which included about 12 other people, Crist talked about the merits of the Tampa Greyhound Track for a ballpark.

Let’s just say those merits are limited at best.  Anyway,

“You can find this whole thing breaks down quickly just because it was handled inappropriately,” said Crist, who opined that his colleagues were just as upset.

But if they are, they declined to lash out, as Crist did.

Commissioners Al Higginbotham, Les Miller and Sandy Murman said they weren’t expecting an announcement Tuesday but nevetheless had no problem with Hagan making public the preferred site.

In a vote last year, the board formally designated Hagan the commission’s point person to lead the site search with other community and business leaders, and to negotiate with the Rays and landowners.

History has shown that leaving anything to the whole Commission to plan and/or arrange is a good way to not make any progress.

Setting officials’ reactions aside, let’s actually look at the site.  This is URBN Tampa Bay’s analysis of the site (not the funding or other issues):

– The stadium would be directly on the Streetcar route, which runs up Channelside Drive. This would potentially be a boon to the street car, especially if the street car is expanded farther into Downtown and Tampa Heights soon. The streetcar allows fans to park farther away and trolley over or have easy access to a variety of bars and restaurants before and after the games. Residents in Downtown would have easy access to the stadium as well.

– Depending on how the stadium is buit out, it could lead to large property value increases in Ybor, or it may not. If the stadium is well integrated into the neighborhood with minimal impact it could be boon to businesses and in turn residential and other development. If the stadium is poorly integrated into the neighborhood, it could do what current stadium’s sea of parking does to its corner of St. Pete: depress the immediate area.

– The stadium would chop up Ybor’s street grid. 3rd Avenue and 2nd Avenue would no longer connect to Channelside Drive, pushing more daily, routine traffic onto Adamo and 4th Avenue. This doesn’t even consider the lost road capacity for the games themselves. Not only does this disturb efficient street grid but it eliminates future development opportunities that are more in line with Ybor City’s character.

We agree for the most part with those points. However, if it is done right, a stadium could create more development opportunities in line with Ybor’s character.  It just depends on if you mean the 7th Avenue character or the shotgun house character.  Breaking up the grid is an issue, but not insurmountable.

And we have a few concerns on doing it right.  If you look at the little picture above, the main stands are in the south, next to Adamo and the Selmon.  That would normally be the main entrance, but could limit the impact on the immediate vicinity.  You may wonder why they show it that way instead of the main stands to the north.  The answer is that under MLB rules batters are supposed to be facing somewhere to the north or east when batting.  That is an issue.

Another issue is that a stadium really should have a retractable roof.  This is Florida, baseball is a summer sport, and they don’t play in heavy rain.  Whether it can fit on that lot is an open question.

And, of course, there is financing.  First, regarding the options,

Chuck Sykes, CEO of Sykes Enterprises and Ron Christaldi, CEO of Shumaker Advisors Florida, are heading the SC Hillsborough Corp. to oversee option agreements with landowners that guarantee the county the ability to purchase the property.

SC Hillsborough Corp. doesn’t run operations on the preferred ballpark properties between Channelside Drive and 15th Street and Adamo Drive and East 4th Avenue. Property owners still have access to the site as usual, but the lease options mean those owners are contractually barred from selling the property to someone else.

That comes at a cost, one Christaldi said SC Hillsborough Corp. is saving the county — though he didn’t say how much. Christaldi and Sykes are footing the bill to cover the option fees to keep the parcels. The corporation will also handle any liability risk to the properties if, for example, there’s a damaging fire on a parcel.

Christaldi said he and Sykes are funding those costs out of pocket.

But the alleged cost savings come at a price when it comes to transparency. As a private entity, SC Hillsborough Corp. isn’t bound by the same public records laws as the county commission. It means the public may never see the actual agreements until they wind up in county record.

That leaves stadium critics wondering if a Rays stadium deal, one that is likely to use substantial taxpayer dollars, could be brokered behind closed doors.

Not the case, said Christaldi.

“I understand the perception,” Christaldi said. “But not only is there not an intention of hiding things, it’s going to be a community effort. It has to be a community effort.”

Christaldi said SC Hillsborough Corp. won’t be designing anything or making any decisions. 

Our concern level is low. First, if the options are paid for with private money, that should be a good thing for people worried about public funding.  It is a small thing, but at least the taxpayers are not on the hook right now.  Moreover, if the whole thing were private money, that would be fine with us.  And even with the statement about a community decision, part of the price of having less or no public money is having less involvement in decision-making.

However, none of that addresses the financing of the stadium.  In other words, as interesting as this news is, there is a long way to go before we know whether it is a good idea or not – or even feasible.


Transportation  


– About Those Express Buses

For as long as FDOT has pushed express lanes (until recently to be tolled, though now they are equivocating, at least in some places), they have pointed to having express buses running on them as a selling point.  There is only one problem.  We do not even fund our anemic normal bus systems.  Who is going to pay for express buses?

The Florida Department of Transportation’s preliminary highway improvement plan includes tolled express lanes that could also be used for buses. Florida law prohibits transit in express lanes shared with other vehicles, known as managed lanes, from being included in the Florida Department of Transportation’s Strategic Intermodal System. FDOT uses 75 percent of its funding on SIS projects.

In order to be eligible for SIS funding under existing law, buses would have to operate in an exclusive lane.

In other words, those express buses are all on local communities to fund (to be fair, FDOT has said that on occasion).  Anyway, some are trying to change that:

“Current thinking is that bus-only lanes aren’t the most efficient use of road space since even a very frequent bus service would leave the lane empty for nine minutes out of every 10,” Hillsborough MPO President Beth Alden wrote in an email to Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg) earlier this month. 

She’s asking Rouson to sponsor legislation that would add four words to the list of applicable transit modes that qualify for SIS funding under existing law — “transit in managed lanes.”

“This policy would not mean Tampa Bay gets more SIS funding than it typically does,” Alden wrote. “It would just make rapid bus an eligible expenditure.”

Rouson has not filed a bill yet, but he’s working on ways to incorporate the change into legislation this year, according to his office.

Alden is also hoping managed lanes, proposed for the Howard Frankland Bridge and portions of Interstate 275 through downtown and north as well as Interstate 4, can eventually be used for autonomous vehicle transit. 

In other words, this is just to make state funding possible, not a reality.  And note that it is limited to “managed lanes.” According to the federal DOT managed lanes can be free or tolled express lanes.  Of course, we have no idea what FDOT is planning.

We keep saying that FDOT still needs to be more transparent. The TB(n)X process is nice, but being completely up front (including all local officials) about all these issues from the beginning is much better.


— Selmon Choice

The Selmon/Gandy Connector Decorations have been chosen.

The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority is moving forward with a design meant to represent nature for its Selmon Extension project, the agency announced Monday.

Residents voted on two designs, Estuary and Vivid, online or by phone, and the Estuary design received nearly 75 percent of the vote.

The results are consistent with a Tampa Bay Business Journal survey indicating 61 percent of respondents preferred the Estuary design.

That is definitely the better of the two choices given.


— Just a Little Thing

A few weeks ago we noted that one of the alignments proposed for the streetcar would destroy one of the nicer public spaces downtown (even if most people do not know about it). Interestingly, the City of Tampa’s Twitter page had a post this week in support of trying to bring Amazon’s HQ2 here in just that spot:

From the City of Tampa – click on picture for Twitter post

You can see the full post here.

It would be a shame to see it go. Just something to consider when thinking about the streetcar expansion.


Economic Development – Startup Ratings

In our last Roundup, we discussed a Business Journal ranking of part of the tech ecosystem in this area.  While we are not going to get into all of it, the Business Journal had a number of more articles on such ratings.  These are the articles: Overall and Brand; Startups and Funding; and Entrepreneurial support and Funding.

Tampa Bay is just slightly above averge when it comes to the technology industry.

While that goes against the hype, it is probably accurate.  Hopefully, it will change.


— On The Other Hand

Nevertheless, it is possible to have success.

Goldman Sachs Growth Equity led a $30 million capital financing for KnowBe4, a fast-growing cybersecurity training company in Clearwater.

KnowBe4 will use the new funding for international growth, including hiring 20 people in a newly opened office in the United Kingdom, and for product development, said Stu Sjouwerman, founder and CEO.

KnowBe4 helps businesses and organizations train their workers on safe internet practices. Most companies are aware of the risks posed by a potential data breach, but not all of those businesses understand the need to train employees to act as “human firewalls” to head off ransomware, CEO fraud and other social engineering tactics, Sjouwerman said. Cybersecurity awareness training is a $5 billion market, he said, and the investment is a show of confidence in the potential of the industry.

That is good.  Whether it leads to bigger and better things generally is an open question.


Airport – Almost

The airport passenger numbers for the fiscal year are out:

TAMPA — Hurricane Irma kept Tampa International Airport from breaking a 10-year-old record for total passengers, but the count for the 12 months ending in September was still up 1.6 percent.

The airport saw more than 19.2 million passengers during the 12 months ending on Sept. 30.

“Unfortunately, for the month, Hurricane Irma blew us off course,” executive vice president for marketing and communications Christopher Minner told the Aviation Authority’s board on Thursday. “We wound up just 15,000 passengers short of our all-time fiscal year record set back in 2007.”

Irma closed the airport for a little less than three full days and put a dent in its numbers for about two weeks, resulting in a passenger loss of about 211,000, an 11.7 percent monthly drop compared to September 2016.

Plus

International traffic was up 11.6 percent despite a hurricane-caused dip in September. Icelandair, which began flying to Reykjavík in September, accounted for about 3 percent of the total. Growth in Copa’s traffic to Panama outpaced international passenger growth at the airport as whole.

The airport also took a $1.25 million hit to its bottom line from Irma, nearly $786,000 of it coming from lost or refunded parking revenues. For the year, operating revenues were about $215 million, about what was expected, while expenses were $117.2 million, or 4 percent less than budgeted.

A good performance overall.  Hopefully, next year they can get the record.


Built Environment – !p Starts Here

Last week, the Tampa Innovation Alliance, which is now apparently Tampa’s !p had a celebration of its work.  That’s fine.  In the Times article on it (here) there was this quote:

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn praised “!p” for its foundation and that it would be the “next driving force in Tampa.”

“We are not settling for a nasty Fowler Avenue or a nasty Busch Boulevard,” Buckhorn said.

Setting aside that Tampa has settled for those things for years, we are all for fixing them.  FDOT also says it is interested in making them more bike and pedestrian friendly.

We just happened to be driving down Busch this week and found the first place to start. They could move signs and poles from the middle of sidewalks. (see here, here, here , here, here, and, while maybe not in the exact zone, here)

And maybe come up with some decent design standards so buildings do not present a doorless, essentially blank façade right around Busch Gardens, like the Hampton Inn on Busch – here under construction.  Then again, it was completed last year.

There is no better time to stop settling than the present.


South Tampa – Pictures

Marina Point, which is going where New Port Tampa Bay was going to be, released a new rendering on its Facebook page.

From Marina Point – click on picture for Facebook page

With this blurb:

Imagine living next to a state-of-the-art marina steps away from your front door. Great access to St. Pete and Downtown Tampa, incredible shopping, the best restaurants and an impressive array of services and amenities. All of this will be possible at Marina Pointe, our luxury condominium featuring 112 residences. Contact us here for more details: http://marinapointe.com/

Which is all fine (the specific aesthetics being not completely to our taste, but that is subjective).  However, it would be nice to know plans for dealing with all the traffic that development is going to generate.


Built Environment – Adventures in Planning

As part of the regular effort defend directly or indirectly the Bass Pro Shops subsidy (and similar actions), this week there was another article about how great the Estuary development is.  This time it was in the Business Journal. We are not going to get into the whole thing but this is the basic idea:

In the midst of the retail apocalypse, Estuary is a prime example of how shopping center development has evolved in the last decade and a half.

And we are told:

It’s only now, with those entertainment concepts in place — representing around $140 million in new development — that the traditional retailers that Verardo once thought would be the backbone of his project are interested. He’s marketing a 25,000-square-foot box and another 25,000-square-foot multi-tenant strip center in The Estuary, plus two large restaurant outparcels. He may not have enough space to meet the demand.

The article had this aerial taken in September:

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

The fact that a moderately sized strip center and one big box store are said to not to be able to fit into that land (just look at all the parking there already) tells you pretty much all you have to know about Hillsborough County’s planning priorities mistakes.  (And that’s not even getting into the limited ingress and egress.)  Just remember that a less than 10 miles away is the Water Street land (and Ybor).  It’s all about choices.


— Continuing on That Theme

If you missed URBN Tampa Bay’s post on this, you really need to read a piece from Politico: “The Boomtown That Shouldn’t Exist” about Cape Coral.  You can find it here. A lot of it should sound very familiar.


Enjoyable

The Business Journal had a nice little piece of aerials of construction in the area.  Here is one of Channel Club:

From the Business Journal – click on picture for more

You can see the rest here.

And you can see construction of the USF Med School (now with tower crane) here.


List of the Week

Our list this week is Forbes’ Coolest American Cities. The methodology can be found here and includes some odd things like small business employment, which is not really a measure of coolness in our book.  And the list seems oddly weighted towards tourist destinations (probably because it counts bars and restaurants), but, anyway.

The coolest city is San Francisco, followed by Seattle, San Diego, New Orleans, Portland (OR), San Jose, LA, New York, Boston, Denver, Charleston (SC), Honolulu, Austin, Miami, Madison, Houston, Washington (DC), Las Vegas, Orlando, and Tampa.

Yes, we made it.  Apparently we have strong net migration (another odd coolness measure) and recreation.  We are not so good, no surprisingly, on youth and mass transit (arguably connected).  Even acknowledging that, we’d rather be on the list than not.

Roundup 10-27-2017

October 25, 2017

Due to unforeseen circumstances, there will be no Roundup this week.

Roundup 10-20-2017

October 20, 2017

Contents

Transportation – More Studies

— Streetcar

– Selmon/Gandy Connector

Economic Development – Sales Pitches

— The Campaign

— The Movie

— Amazon

Channel District/Downtown – Tear It Down

Rays – Looking Around

Port – Looking at the Books

A Little Odd

Downtown – We Know It’s Historical

Airport – Brown Arrives

Yes, We Get the Super Bowl

South Tampa – Bayshore

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the State

List of the Week I

List of the Week II

__________________________________


Transportation – More Studies


— Streetcar

This week, the City released the latest of its streetcar study.  When last we left it, the study was considering seven alignments.  Now they are down to two, really 1A and 1B.  You can see the document here.   From FloridaPolitics.com:

Those initial seven routes have now been whittled down to two “alignments.”

Alignment A: Runs north/south on Franklin Street to the downtown core, with a short one-way loop along Palm Avenue, North Highland Street and Henderson Avenue in Tampa Heights. This option would cost $94 million to build (in 2017 dollars) and would cost $3.6 million to maintain.

Alignment B: Runs north/south along Tampa Street and Florida Avenue through the downtown core to Palm Avenue in Tampa Heights. That alignment will cost $97 million to build (in 2017 dollars), costing $3.6 million to maintain.

Compared to the other five alignments, both choices rate highly due to lower capital and operating costs. However, Alignment A rates higher in several areas, as it requires a single CSX railroad crossing and has less impact on local roadways and adjacent land uses due to its path along Franklin Street instead of Tampa Street and Florida Avenue.

Alignment B rates higher in other areas as it would not require a crossing of the Esplanade on Franklin Street and has a larger service area due to its alignment along two parallel roadways.

Here is Alignment A:

From the City of Tampa – click on map for pdf

Here is Alignment B:

From the City of Tampa – click on map for pdf

Here is a comparison of demographics:

From the City of Tampa – click on chart for pdf

Setting aside the CSX issue (which should be dealt with comprehensively), it is hard to decide without having some things made clearer. While we do not think it is a huge difference between the two alignments, we like how B goes further north.  It also does not ruin some nice pedestrian elements on Franklin, especially the plaza near the Hilton. On the other hand, it is not clear how the streetcar would be treated on Tampa or Florida and how cooperative FDOT would be on those roads.  Nor is it clear how a streetcar would fit into other plans there are for those roads (narrowing and/or make them two-way has been floated for years).

We like how A enters the area north of the interstate but are not so fond of the little loop and not clear how it would be handled. Either alignment would, theoretically, connect to the theoretical transit stop in the middle of the interstate or a stop at the CSX tracks but details on that would be nice.  It is also unclear what would be done with Franklin if the streetcar ran up it: would it still have car traffic? What other changes would be made to it?

Acknowledging that we would really like that information, given what we know now, we favor a hybrid that is on Florida/Tampa in the heart of downtown and goes north on Franklin with a double track.   But that could change with details.

The report also says this:

4.3 Potential Future Extensions

The provision of enhanced transit service along Alignments A and B, or a combination thereof, will provide a strong foundation for future extensions of the system. Future extensions could provide east-west connectivity with links back to the existing alignment (as shown in Figure 7), or could provide connections to communities to the west or southwest across the Hillsborough River or to the north to Seminole Heights. Depending on the outcome of future feasibility assessments, detailed planning and evaluation of extensions beyond Alignments A and B could be undertaken.

(Pg 14 of the report)

Ease of expansion needs to be built into the plan, especially crossing the river and connecting North Hyde Park/West Tampa and points to the west.

In short, from what is known now, there is little to differentiate the two choices, and we would have to see more detail to really decide.  But what is more important than choosing between the two similar plans is that the rolling stock is updated and frequency and speed of increases.

So what next?  From the Business Journal:

The next phase of the study will evaluate what kind of vehicle technology to use to connect the existing route to the proposed extension. The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority could continue using the existing streetcar technology on a fixed guideway, which would require building additional streetcar infrastructure along the new route. The agency could also modernize the combined routes with a new mode of transportation. Those recommendations will come during the next phase of the InVision process, which the city expects to be complete next fall.

In other words, they could make it a bus or “automated bus” or they could use a modern streetcar that could extend beyond. (We think it should be modern streetcar/light rail.) It will be interesting to see what they propose.


– Selmon/Gandy Connector

There was also some news (sort of) regarding the Selmon/Gandy Connector:

The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority on Tuesday released new renderings of two potential designs for its $230 million Selmon Extension project planned above Gandy Boulevard.

You can see them at the Business Journal article here.

And remember to vote on the decorations here.


Economic Development – Sales Pitches


— The Campaign

This area has seen no lack of economic development campaigns.  This week marked the rolling out of another one:

In an effort to attract more companies and entrepreneurs to Tampa Bay, leaders from the tourism and economic development spheres have launched a new campaign to increase business relocations and attract worker talent.

The “Make It Tampa Bay” campaign relies on Visit Tampa Bay’s award-winning “Florida Most” advertising concepts as well as its out-of-state marketing channels to push Tampa Bay as a coveted community for chief executives, business owners, millennials and other key groups to relocate. With the website www.makeittampabay.com, the campaign’s message has three sections: “Work Here,” “Live Here,” and “Build a Business.”

As always, we are all for trying to attract/retain talent and business to the area.  It has to be done.  What does this effort entail?

Visit Tampa Bay, Hillsborough County’s official tourism marketing arm, has joined with the county’s Board of County Commissioners, and the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. to build a cross-discipline approach to economic growth that targets business leaders in New York, Philadelphia, Dallas and Chicago.

Or said another way:

The marketing plan is to piggyback a business and millennial recruitment message on top of well established tourism promotions in such cities as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Dallas.

It is not clear if the campaign is limited to those cities or not.  Regardless, what is it?

The “Florida Most” ad operation has proved “hugely successful and the EDC said why don’t we all do one campaign,” said Patrick Harrison, Visit Tampa Bay’s chief marketing officer. The idea is to capitalize on the transition from tourism into relocating businesses into Hillsborough County.

The new campaign website features the stories of 13 local businesspeople and professionals who live, work and play here. Among them are Tim Moore, CEO of video production company Diamond View, and Julie Curry, the owner of Bake’N Babes, a local bakery that has just opened up in The Hall on Franklin. On the website, Curry says she wants to “grow with the city and introduce some new and interesting foods to the Tampa Bay market.”

Perhaps the poster child for relocation is Omar Soliman, co-founder of College Hunks Hauling Junk, a company that moved to Tampa Bay from Washington, D.C. Saying that Tampa Bay fueled the firm’s growth, Soliman noted on the Make It Tampa Bay website: “There is no way we would be able to do $75 million in revenue with more than 100 franchises nationwide if it weren’t for this great city.”

The website also focuses on several area industries, available jobs, events, and things to do. Additionally, special attention is given to Hillsborough County neighborhoods to give those thinking of relocating an idea of which ones would best suit their needs, personal preferences and budget.

The campaign uses photos showing people enjoying a beer outdoors on a sunny day with the tagline “328 Ways to Make Monday Funday.” The ad also comes with the line “Florida’s Most Work/Play Balance.” Another ad shows a man biking to his job with the tagline “Florida’s Most Sunny Careers.”  

And that’s all fine. Here is the website.

There are a few things of note.  First, there is a strange emphasis on lack of state income tax (a selling point, but clearly not the major point for the best and the brightest – and, stylistically, if you mention it too much it looks like you main selling point), and the neighborhood list is oddly selective (for instance, Lutz but no Carrollwood despite this.)  Nevertheless, we’re sure some people will see the website and be convinced. Whether those people are already predisposed to being moving here is another question.  As is whether it will have any effect on larger companies.  But, fine.  We will even tolerate some of the hype from the officials (as long as they don’t believe their own propaganda) – as we have said before, they are trying to sell something so it is expected.

However, in our experience, the really talented people who are either leaving here or considering where to go are looking for more than making Monday Funday.  They are looking for being stimulated intellectually as well as professionally (and their professions often involve interdisciplinary interests anyway), and they are looking for areas that are net exporters of ideas, art, and innovations.  (Low taxes are fine, but low investment and the consequences that often come from it often isn’t.)


— The Movie

And that brings us to something interesting that happened this week.  As some will know, there is a new movie called the Florida Project.

Central Florida’s latest portrayal on the big screen shows a darker slice of the tourist-centric region — children growing up living at old Kissimmee area hotels in the shadow of theme parks.

“The Florida Project,” named for Walt Disney’s vision to remake much of Central Florida, centers on a 6-year-old girl frolicking unsupervised around the grounds of the 1960s Magic Castle hotel where she and her rebellious mother eke out an existence.

Interestingly a number of people, including people who grew up here, living in metro areas that are the usual suspects, contacted us to tell us they saw the movie and wondered if we had.  We hadn’t.  So we checked Fandango to find out where it was showing locally.  Nothing, even though the movie was set an hour down the road.  It was showing in Austin.  It was going to start in Denver, Atlanta, Nashville and Orlando this weekend.  Nothing in Tampa (at least not on Fandango).  But you can see it in California.

Yes, it is a small thing, but it is indicative of a larger issue.  Leaders (or potential leaders) in their fields are usually looking for more than craft beer – which we like but, it should be said, is available in other cities.  And water is nice, but, as we have said, water is not exclusive to us.

We get that we are not a state capital with a history of investment in amenities and/or older large corporations and/or unique niches that give us a history of having amenities and talent (See usual suspects Atlanta, Phoenix, Denver, Raleigh, Austin, Columbus, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Salt Lake City) and we are not the HQ for Bank of America. But the fact remains that they are our competition. (And, while we really like what the Lightning owner – he seems to get it – does in the community and think Water Street and connected efforts holds some promise, Water Street is not built and occupied.  And there still is no real transit connection for it outside of downtown, even though it is at the end of peninsula with limited ingress and egress.)

As we said, there is nothing wrong with trying to sell yourself, as long as you keep everything in perspective (and don’t get too caught up in your own hype). But recycling old talking points in new media will only do so much. And every city is trying to build clusters and talent pools.

In other words, if you answer the question:

if a person can live anywhere (or almost anywhere) they want, why would they choose to live here as opposed to another area that already has so many amenities that we are still talking about?

with “we have no state income tax,” “we have beer” or “we can turn Monday into Funday,” maybe you should go back and reconsider.

What we need is to provide (and focus on creating and fostering) the amenities that people who can make the choice want to choose (which many of our competitors have or are much further along in getting) plus the possibility of significant career advancement.  Then our no income tax and water (and beer, of course) will really have an impact.  We are all for attracting and retaining the best talent and businesses, but you cannot do it on the cheap.


— Amazon

Which brings us to Amazon because, really, it is going to just keep coming up until they make a choice.  While we would love to see Amazon choose the Tampa Bay area, we are realistic. (We could always offer them free land and tons of money, plus the fact that, if they were here, they would probably be able to do anything they wanted because local officials are not likely to oppose them).

In any event, 83 degrees media has a piece about why Amazon should choose the Tampa Bay area.  We are not going to post the whole thing (you can read it here), but it was interesting in that it provided quotes from local officials and business organization heads that were traditional Tampa Bay area, with things like this:

Having Amazon in the Tampa Bay region would be the perfect addition to a region that is rewriting its economic DNA. Having recently been ranked the number one city in America where people are moving according to RealEstate.com, our diverse background, matched with endless entertainment options, cultural venues and unique neighborhoods provide a perfect backdrop to attract the best and brightest talent from across the globe. We look forward to aggressively showcasing and highlighting this great region with our friends from across the bay and look forward to being a part of the selection process. — Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn  

And

As a research university president, I care deeply about the economic opportunities and growth of the region. This is an enormous opportunity for Tampa Bay with 50,000 new jobs. This could lead to high-speed rail, which would propel economic development in this region to new heights. Attracting Amazon would be a major national and international coup that would bring recognition and even more vitality to the Tampa Bay region. I could not be more enthusiastic about this opportunity. — Judy Genshaft, University of South Florida

Which is fine, but those are more reasons why we want Amazon rather than they want us.  And, a little more to the point, this:

Tampa Bay is Florida’s largest and fastest-growing tech hub. Tampa Bay is the nation’s 27th largest and 2nd fastest-growing tech hub. Tampa Bay is home to one out of every 89 tech workers, a bigger claim than half the states in the nation. Tampa Bay is home to the most female tech talent in the state, with females representing a greater portion of our tech workforce than San Francisco, Seattle, Austin and numerous other tech hubs. Tampa Bay is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the one million plus students in higher education within a half-day drive radius. Tampa Bay is architecting, building and maintaining tech that powers over half a trillion in annual revenues and over a trillion in market capitalization. Tampa Bay has one of the most awarded and admired airports in the country, which is growing as we speak. Tampa Bay is the right choice for Amazon. — Daniel James Scott, Tampa Bay Technology Forum

Which is all good, but being the 27th biggest tech hub is not really being a tech hub at all.

There are a number of other quotes along the same lines.

The thing is, Amazon is already here.  They already know about our area.  Moreover, a major part of their business is data mining, and not just macro data mining.  They get into individual data mining.  In other words, in a lot of ways, they probably know us better than we know ourselves.  And that is true for every city that will apply.

Their decision most likely will not be based on sales slogans or the usual pitches that this area makes.  It will be based on hard facts, such things as incentives, transit, other transportation, real depth of talent pool (and remember every major city applying has a university, and probably more than one, nearby).  We have no real transit.  Does the airport have the necessary flights (if not, Amazon would probably generate them)? What are our incentives?  As for talent pool, there was this from a Times column on Amazon:

We think that in the southeast Atlanta probably has it (or can handle getting it), too, but the report is still telling, especially when our economic development officials are fond of touting our talent (and we have talent but not necessarily talented in the right way and/or the right amount), which goes to the first item in the section.  A Business Journal article this week told us:

A technology industry report card created by Tampa Bay Business Journal suggests that the local workforce may not be as strong as economic developers believe.

A panel of 15 tech industry leaders — ranging from entrepreneurs and funders to academics and incubator operators — graded the number of tech workers in the area, as well as the salaries paid to those workers, and the composite grades came out just slightly above average.

It rated the Tampa Bay area as B- in both tech talent pool and salaries. Here are some comments from the people involved (we had to re-type them, so if there is a typo, we apologize):

“The lack of tech talent in the Tampa Bay area is not unique to our region. Most urban areas outside Silicon Valley, Austin, and other known tech hubs are struggling to attract high-tech talent.” Tonya Elmore, president and CEO, Tampa Bay Innovation Center/TEC Garage

* * *

“What Tampa perceives as tech workers are really IT workers . . .We have many companies with large IT departments, which operate primarily in service provider companies. Their skills are dramatically different from tech workers who start and build companies.”  – Joy Randels, CEO, Citizinvestor

* * *

“Seems to be a lack of available talent and what is available is overpriced compared to alternatives. Sixty percent of our tech workforce work remotely from other states.” –David Schlaifer, president and CEO, DAS Health and assessURHealth

All things to keep in mind when thinking about our tech community and reports on STEM jobs.

For us, the bottom line on all this is not that we can’t win the Amazon sweepstakes, though it is unlikely.  The real lesson is that decades of complacency and underinvestment in the amenities (including education) and features that really draw/retain major business and talent have consequences. Maybe we will get Amazon, but regardless, we need to get moving. Doing what we have always done (including underinvestment, poor planning, exaggerating our successes and ignoring our deficiencies, being afraid of critical analysis especially in government, and patting ourselves on the back for essentially treading water relative to the competition) will just get the results we have always gotten.

As we constantly say, yes, we are better than we used to be, but so are all our competitors and many are moving faster. The question is not whether we are better as an area than we were 10 (or even 5) years ago, it is whether we are better than our competitors now. Amazon is just helping put it in sharp relief.


Channel District/Downtown – Tear It Down

Demolition started on the smaller, waterfront building of the Channelside complex this week.

Today, 17 years after it opened, one wing of Channelside Bay Plaza is being demolished to re-open that space, with a large chunk of the building expected to come down around mid-morning today.

Once Channelside’s southwest wing is gone, it will make way for part of Water Street Tampa. That’s the massive $3 billion redevelopment project being launched by Strategic Property Partners, a joint venture between Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates’ private capital fund, Cascade Investment.

In the near term, the space created by the demolition could become a waterfront park of a little less than an acre. Overlooking the Ybor Turning Basin, it’s expected to feature a small stage, an “outdoor lounge” seating area and spaces for pop-up bars and restaurants.

In the long run, Strategic Property Partners is looking at redeveloping the Channelside Bay Plaza site completely.

This is the park that eventually is supposed to be built on the parking lot that is west of the Channelside complex:

 

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

This is what the land where the building being demolished might become:

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

We are fine with the demolition and with the rebuild. Something has to be done to open and connect the Channelside complex (or its replacement) to the water.  From the beginning, it has been designed improperly. The changes will just enhance that location.


Rays – Looking Around

There was an interesting article in the Times regarding the Rays stadium search.

It is proving harder than expected to put together the land needed for a Tampa Bay Rays ballpark near downtown Tampa, and now local officials are exploring another option in the West Shore area.

* * *

Some landowners in the Channel District-Ybor City region — for months the focal point of the Tampa ballpark site search — are so far unmoved by offers from Hillsborough County to acquire their property. The thorny negotiations put in peril two coveted locations in that area, Hagan said, though he declined to identify the exact location of those sites.

The lack of progress has forced the county to look at another undisclosed site in West Shore, he said, the coastal community on Tampa’s west side.

That area was previously considered and a consultant study once noted its appeal. St. Petersburg fans wouldn’t have to drive as far as they would to a downtown Tampa ballpark, and it is close to the kind of corporate clients and support the Rays desperately crave.

“The demographics in the West Shore area are better than in downtown or Channelside or Ybor,” Hagan said.

But broadening the hunt at this point — 22 months after St. Petersburg allowed the Rays to search for a new home away from Tropicana Field — can only be seen as a step backward for an effort many hoped would have been wrapped up by now.

So what is the problem? Maybe this:

The county wants landowners to approve an option agreement for their parcels that would be executed in the event the Rays decide to leave St. Petersburg.

Or maybe something else.  There are other ways to get the land, but they are more permanent than just having an option.

It is not clear to us whether the search in Westshore is serious or a negotiating maneuver. (We are not really high on a Westshore location.) Regardless, it is just another aspect of a long, messy process.

But even if all the pieces come together, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said he is less confident than ever that the county and Rays ownership can come to an agreement on how to pay for a ballpark that would lure the team from St. Petersburg.

“There’s no question this has been an extremely challenging and frustrating process that in my opinion shouldn’t be this difficult of a task,” Hagan, the county commission’s point man on the negotiations, told the Tampa Bay Times.

Maybe it shouldn’t be so hard, but in this area, it is not surprising that it is.


Port – Looking at the Books

A few months ago, there was a kerfuffle at the Port due to some, shall we say, interesting spending by staff.

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran has formally asked Port Tampa Bay to provide a voluminous amount of information about its expense and travel activity dating back several years.

* * *

Corcoran sent a Sept. 19 letter to Port Tampa Bay CEO Paul Anderson asking for a slew of documents and communications “in connection with recent reports concerning the Port Authority’s spending on entertainment, meals and other discretionary spending.”

In response to the House Speaker’s request, Anderson sent an Oct. 10 letter to Corcoran in which he said the port is “working diligently to assemble this information and will provide it to you as soon as we have collected and processed each item requested.” As part of the letter, Anderson also enclosed the port’s new expense policies. 

When the audit of the airport was proposed, we said that was fine as long as other such entities got audited.  And we have no problem with checking on the spending at the Port, which seemed odd.  Of course, we also expect all the other airports and ports in the state to get similar scrutiny.


A Little Odd

There was an interesting article in the Times this week about the Hillsborough and Pinellas School Boards.

Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins did make an appearance at the Pinellas County School Board workshop Tuesday in a first public move to establish an official partnerships between the two districts.

Together, the districts will share ideas and practices on three areas: early childhood, college and career connections and high school graduation rates. They’ll discuss how to deepen professional relations and create support systems among administrators.

* * *

Personnel from both districts will attend meetings, which will be sponsored by the United Way Suncoast and facilitated by Melissa Erickson, the executive director of the Alliance for Public Schools. The directors of high school education, career and technical education and early learning from both districts have already had meetings.

We have no problem with sharing.  Sharing ideas and insights is good.  But here is the odd thing:

“The business community deserves that we work and sit together for the betterment of the region,” said Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego.

We get that having an educated work force is good for business, but shouldn’t the primary concern be that the kids deserve a good education?


Downtown – We Know It’s Historical

There was news about Oaklawn Cemetery:

Oaklawn Cemetery, Tampa’s first public graveyard, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The National Park Service listed Oaklawn and the neighboring St. Louis Cemetery, just north of downtown Tampa, on Sept. 25.

* * *

When Oaklawn was founded in 1850, Tampa had not yet been incorporated as a city. Its population was about 500.

But from the beginning, Oaklawn was designated as a public burial ground for “White and Slave, Rich and Poor.” Its 3 acres at 606 E Harrison St. are home to more than 1,500 graves, including those of 13 mayors, one governor, two Florida Supreme Court justices, as well as slaves, veterans of seven wars, victims of yellow fever epidemics and a couple of Cuban pirates.

* * *

Oaklawn also contains two mass graves — one for 102 soldiers and early settlers at Fort Brooke, which was abandoned before Oaklawn was dedicated, and another for at least 88 victims of five outbreaks of yellow fever between 1853 and 1887.

Historians count Oaklawn among the few U.S. cemeteries where slaves and slave owners can be found in the same plots. One of its best-known markers is for former Tampa city clerk William Ashley, who was white, and Nancy Ashley, an African-American slave.

It should be listed.  It is historical. And what is even better is that if FDOT chooses to do the full rebuild the interchange we discussed last week (see “Transportation – Latest and Greatest”), the north end of the cemetery will be right next to an elevated highway.  Nothing says respect for history more than that.


Airport – Brown Arrives

UPS began its Tampa International operations this week.

UPS recently left its operations at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport for Tampa International because the area inside the TIA cargo building is about six times larger than the space at PIE, allowing UPS to move its package sorting indoors. UPS was using at outdoor mobile distribution center at PIE.

“The number of flights is the same, four in, four out, for a total of eight each weekday, so no change in operations in metro Tampa, just a different airport,” said Jim Mayer, Public Relations Manager for UPS Airlines. He added that the aircraft for the four flights are two narrow-body 757s and two wide-body Airbus A300s. They have a total payload capacity of 430,000 pounds, Mayer said.

From Tampa International Airport – click on picture for Facebook page

Good deal.


Yes, We Get the Super Bowl

The NFL has finally confirmed the next Super Bowl in Tampa:

NFL owners granted final approval today for Tampa Bay to host Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7, 2021 at Raymond James Stadium after determining all the league’s requirements had been met.

The game was awarded to Tampa Bay in May by a vote of the owners pending specifications being submitted and met. The Super Bowl advisory committee reviewed the bid and agreed their demands had been satisfied Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings in New York.

Well done by the committee and good for us.


South Tampa – Bayshore

Changes are likely coming to Bayshore:

Tampa City Council is expected to approve $1.7 million in enhancements to Bayshore Boulevard during a meeting Thursday.

Part of the plan with the Florida Department of Transportation includes lowering the speed limit from 40 to 35 miles per hour. Proposed improvements would extend the southbound bike lanes on Bayshore Boulevard between Gandy Boulevard and South Howard Avenue. The money would also fund new sidewalks and improved pedestrian ramps to meet current Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

The project would also improve drainage at Wallcraft Avenue and reset existing granite curbs to improve safety and the overall flow of traffic. 

Setting aside that reducing the speed limit will not improve the flow of traffic, our bigger concern, like URBN Tampa Bay, is that the bike lanes on Bayshore are not protected lanes, even though in most places there is ample space in the overall Bayshore corridor for protected lanes (though, admittedly, they are not necessarily scenic). Then again,

The city proposed major changes to parts of Bayshore Boulevard in February to increase cyclist and pedestrian safety. Among the other proposals were plans to widen lanes and add reflective, flashing beacons at three crossings south of Howard Avenue to Platt Street. 

Those crosswalks are not scenic either.

Regardless, if you are going to do it, do it right. Get protected bike lanes.


Meanwhile, In the Rest of the State

There was Brightline news this week:

The developer and operator of the $3.5 billion Brightline intercity train is starting work on its Orlando segment, which may mean it will be completed in the next couple of years.

Coral Gables-based All Aboard Florida on Oct. 11 applied for permit that would allow work to begin on Phase 2 of the Miami-to-Orlando passenger train. Construction already is under way on the Miami-to-West Palm Beach portion of the train system.

The nearly $2 billion second phase of the project — which is expected to create 6,600 metro Orlando jobs and offer a boost to our local tourism market — includes an extension of the rail system from West Palm Beach to Orlando International Airport’s $682 million Intermodal Terminal Facility.

In Phase 2, the train will run along a converted freight rail line — owned by All Aboard’s former sister company Florida East Coast Railroad — from West Palm Beach to Cocoa, where new tracks will be built parallel to the State Road 528 corridor.

Just thought you should know.


List of the Week I

Our first list this week is the Innovation That Matters report.

The report, released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Free Enterprise, C_TEC and 1776, focuses on next-wave startups, which are technology-driven companies that are developing innovative solutions to complex challenges in different industries.

And

The Innovation That Matters study examines the health of the startup communities in 25 American cities and assesses their readiness to capitalize on the shift to an increasingly digital economy, with a unique focus on what we refer to as “next-wave startups.” 

Page 5 of the pdf (2 of the report).

Coming in first was Boston, followed by the San Francisco Bay area, Philadelphia, San Diego, Austin, Atlanta, Dallas, Seattle, New York, Portland, Denver, Pittsburgh, Raleigh-Durham, Chicago, LA, Nashville, Baltimore, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Miami, Houston, Minneapolis, Washington (DC), Kansas City, and Phoenix.  The two “rising stars” were Tampa and Columbus (OH).

At least they are thinking of us. As the report says:

Additionally, Innovation That Matters  examined  Tampa  and  Columbus,  as  we  have  seen  an  overall  increase in startup activity in those cities. They were not included in the top 25 ranking, however, because they are new to the city list this year.

You can see the Tampa slide on page 67 of the pdf (64 of the report).

Tampa came in 15th place among the 27 cities for talent, but there’s room to improve on other factors measured in the report.

Talent is described on page 41 of the pdf (page 38 of the report) as:

Talent

Is the necessary workforce available?

Domestic and international population inflows

Percentage of educated millennials and percentage year-over-year change in educated millennials

We are unclear which aspect boosted our ranking, but two of the three elements involve relative growth rather than absolute access to talent.

In any event, even being considered shows some progress.


List of the Week II

Our second list of the week is the The Kauffman Index of Growth Entrepreneurship: Metropolitan Area and City Trends.  As described by the Business Journal:

The Kauffman Index of Growth Entrepreneurship is a composite measure of entrepreneurial business growth in the United States that seeks to capture growth entrepreneurship in all industries.

The report ranks the 40 largest metro areas in the country, relying on data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Here is the full list: Washington (DC), Austin, Columbus, Nashville, Atlanta, San Jose, San Francisco-Oakland, Boston , Minneapolis-St. Paul, Indianapolis, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Diego, Denver, San Antonio, Phoenix, Charlotte, Baltimore, Cleveland, Houston, Seattle, Portland (OR), Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, Tampa Bay area, Chicago, Kansas City, Orlando, Sacramento, Los Angeles, New York, Milwaukee, Las Vegas, St. Louis, Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Detroit, Riverside-San Bernardino, Providence, and Jacksonville.

We are 26th.(dropping two place from last year).  Given the two lists this week, that seems to be our spot.

Roundup 10-13-2017

October 13, 2017

Contents

Transportation – Latest and Greatest

— TB(n)X

— Pick ‘Em

— Curmudgeonly Truth

Port – Better

Airport – Some Items

Economic Development – What We Like

Economic Development – VC Watch

— One More Thing

Channel District – Tweak

Hyde Park – Altis

Rays – Indeed

Temple Terrace – Oh Well

_____________________________________


Transportation – Latest and Greatest

What would a week be without transportation news?


— TB(n)X

And what would transportation news be without a little TB(n)X?

The state’s revamped proposal to expand interstates in Hillsborough County got one of its first public vettings on Monday.

* * *

Attendees were greeted by a four-minute video explaining the federal study and the area it covers: from the Tampa side of the Howard Frankland Bridge, east along I-275, then north to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard; and I-4 east from downtown Tampa toward 50th Street.

That’s not exactly all the interstates in Hillsborough County, but it is what it is.  (There are other meetings about the rest which, it must be said, gets kind of confusing.)  In any event,

The original plan for Tampa Bay’s express lanes came from a 1996 study. The federal study, as part Tampa Bay Next, aims to update that 20-year-old document so it more closely matches the desires of the community. Tampa residents, especially those in historic neighborhoods downtown, spent the past two years protesting the express toll lanes.

The DOT will hold another public workshop in 2018 before the final public hearing in 2019. That gives community members, business leaders and politicians about a year and a half to weigh in.

Setting aside that it does not seem to be too many meetings or public input and that we thought “business leaders” were community members, the expansion plan of the interstate came from the 90’s (see here) and the express lane idea at that time was two free local lanes and two express lanes, which from all indications were to be free (especially since, in most cases, putting new tolls on free interstates is a no-no, though it is unclear if FDOT was doing some kind of auxiliary lane magic at the time), plus an HOV lane (see starting pg 161). The most recent FDOT plan includes express lanes (no HOV) which were variable rate toll express toll lanes (whether they are still toll lanes has been the subject of some obfuscation, but until it is clear announced they are not, we are going to assume they are variable rate toll lanes, especially given that FDOT labelled them on its Howard Frankland diagram with its variable rate express lane logo) came later.

And an aside here: just because someone in the 90s said ok does not mean it is the best thing for the area now.  There were a lot of bad decisions made in the 1990s around here. And the 90s plan is a bit odd: for instance, on pg 153, where north of King the interstate is two-lanes in each direction, on pg 154 where it appears to say that the exit at I-4 and 21st and 22nd streets should be removed and a new exit at 14th and 15th streets.  Or a two lane I-4 east of 50th.  In fact, in many cases the 1990’s plans have been rendered out of date by facts. Yes, they can be changed (which is what the process is about), but being from the 90’s is irrelevant. (And the utility of variable rate tolls added later is very questionable.)

Another aside: you can see on pg. 136 of this pdf regarding the interstate project from the 1990’s , rail was studied and planned for in the 1980’s but that hasn’t happened yet.  If the logic is based on age, rail should be built before anything is done to the interstate. And note on pg 137, FDOT and the Hillsborough County coordinated studies and still nothing but more studies followed.)

But, anyway, back to the present:

The Florida Department of Transportation wants to eliminate some local highway improvement concepts from consideration, including a “do nothing” approach, a big-city style beltway and a boulevard concept that would bring the highway down to street level.

Engineers and managers from FDOT were on hand at the Tampa Marriott Westshore on Monday night to showcase the Tampa Bay Next project and answer questions about the agency’s progress.

The agency noted in visuals that the boulevard and beltway concepts would not sufficiently reduce traffic congestion, improve travel times or increase freight mobility. Concepts could be reconsidered based on public input, according to Ed McKinney, FDOT’s District 7 planning and environmental administrator.

Still under consideration are concepts that expand portions of the highway through the downtown Tampa interchange, Westshore and Interstate 4. Some include toll lanes and a dedicated transit corridor.

* * *

Another boulevard concept running north to south north of the downtown interchange is still being considered.

It is difficult to know exactly what FDOT means until after the meetings because they still don’t post the information on-line before their meetings.  However, they did post them online afterward (See background presentation here and revised plans/options here) and you can see the dropped options, sort of, in the presentation pdf. We understand the meaning of “do-nothing” approach – we see it all the time on transit. On page 28, it appears that FDOT is killing an east-west road in the north to connect  the Veterans/Suncoast with I-75 as part of killing an extremely large beltway for which basically no one is asking. (The beltway under consideration went east-west on the Pasco-Hernando county line then head south around Plant City on to Ft. Myers.) That should not foreclose the east-west road that we have needed for decades.

Additionally, the pdf does not actually say what boulevard concept they are killing (see pgs 26-27), but, because the boulevard concept north of downtown which we discussed a while back (see “Transportation – On the Boulevard“) seems to still be alive, we assume it is referring to a boulevard replacing I-275 from downtown to Westshore.  (It should be noted that the north of the interchange boulevard concept, as presented by the planner proposing it, relied in part on the, for lack of a better term, traditional east-west road in the north that FDOT seems to be killing, in addition to a number of other things and compromise decisions, to make any sense.)

Before looking at a few specific proposals from the study area, let’s briefly look at some other items in the presentation pdf. Starting on page 34, you’ll see the contemplated options for I-275 north of the interchange. On page 36, you see the plan to put two express lanes in each direction on I-4.  There is no indication if they are tolled or not, but we have heard nothing to make us think they are not.  Page 37 shows express lanes on all of I-75 through Hillsborough and indicates they are tolled.  And on page 43, you see the interim plan to add a third lane but not really fix the bottleneck (see more below).

Now let’s look at the pdf of SEIS options.  It is a large file with large drawings that are best just viewed independently.  However, we did pull out two zoomed shots of things we would like to highlight.

From FDOT – click on picture for pdf

First, there is the proposed “full” fix of the bottleneck, pg 3 of the pdf. The yellow lanes are free lanes.  The green are express lanes.

The first thing to note is that (re)connecting the grid under the interstate is good.

Now to the meat of the issue. As you can see from the diagram, FDOT’s proposal is to have two express lanes in each direction through the bottleneck.  Once again, there is some ambiguity about whether they are tolled and whether they are variable rate, but until we hear clearly they won’t be, we assume they are both.  In addition, there are three free lanes through the bottleneck.  Of course, there are four free lanes on the bridge now and in the newest proposal.

Even more interestingly, the three northbound lanes are a completely new build and the overpass/underpass at Reo appears to be a diverging diamond, which is also a new build. So, with all the new building, why does the plan only have three free lanes through the bottleneck?  Isn’t that still a bottleneck?  Sure, you can pay to go through the express lanes at its highest price because of congestion, but why aren’t there four free lanes through the bottleneck?  FDOT is planning to spend billions of dollars and they can’t fix that? And, even more interesting, why is that ok with local officials? (BTW, except around Roosevelt where it goes down to 3 lanes for one overpass, the Pinellas side has four lanes for quite a while. )  If you are fixing it, do it right.

Our other zoom shot is of the rebuild proposal of the interchange, specifically right around downtown, pg 8 of the pdf.

From FDOT – click on picture for pdf

The first thing you might notice is that the proposal makes the interstate more than two blocks wide.  The rebuild eats up a block south of the present interstate and part of a block north.  Given that, the access to the interstate in the east of downtown is changed.  Moreover, the gap between the Tampa Heights area and downtown is more than doubled, which is an odd urban redevelopment strategy, especially as the Franklin area north of the interstate is just starting to take off.

The next thing you may notice is the “transit platform” in the middle of all that.  We are all for real transit, but we are not particularly fond of station in the middle of interstates, especially such large ones.  That does not encourage people to either use transit or walk to their destination.  Speaking of walking, the transit platform is quite far from the core of downtown and lacks a connection.  The only way it would make any sense is if the streetcar were connected north and south of the platform to circulate people through downtown (with a common ticketing platform).  Of course, that is part of a third study (in addition to the SEIS and the transit study).

Given that the no-build is off the table, we know that the picture is one of two general options: either rebuild the intersection or add express lanes (tolled or not? Who knows?) without rebuilding which would take up more land than now but not as much as a rebuild (but it would not include a transit corridor). The fact is that neither is particularly good, but, from what we have seen so far, if we have to pick from those, we prefer the latter.

As we have long said, we want of fix the bottleneck and improve the interchange, but under these plans, the bottleneck is not fixed, at least if you are just a normal driver, and the interchange is still quite a mess, either way.  And, still, we are wondering how a road plan can be developed while transit is still an open question. The outcome of the transit decision has a direct effect on the road plan.  For instance, without the transit corridor (say transit goes somewhere else), the rebuild not have to be so wide and could be made a more palatable (though not necessarily desired) option.  We need to know one to decide on the other.  And we need to know about the streetcar.

And, of course, still alive is the original TBX concept.

Also noteworthy is some interim stuff,

It will take another several years for any of those projects to be approved, so the DOT is moving forward with a couple interim plans to ease congestion in the meantime.

One of those is a $2.9 million plan to add a fifth southbound lane to the Veterans Expressway from State Road 60 to just south of the airport. That extra lane should help with the messy, and sometimes dangerous, merging and weaving that happens in that stretch, DOT consultant Brad Flom said. Construction will begin next fall, with the lane opening in the first half of 2019.

Another interim project is a $25 million plan to add an extra lane to I-275 in each direction near the West Shore Boulevard interchange. That area is known for nightmarish backlogs where the four lanes in each direction on the Howard Frankland Bridge narrow to two. Construction on that third lane will start in 2019.

You may recall that the highway around the airport was already rebuilt, but now, apparently has to have an interim rebuild before the final rebuild.  The reality is that much of the weaving on that stretch of road is not from a lack of plans, it is from poor design including the entrance and exit ramps.  Regardless, fine.  And regular readers already know our thoughts on the bottleneck – we see no reason to do another half-measure.  Just fix it.

As we have said recently, FDOT seems to be trying, at least to some degree. But we are not sure exactly to what degree. They need much more transparency.  They have a website, so post the ideas on it before meetings and make the website more user friendly.  And the meetings are generally inconvenient for a large portion of the population (the SEIS involves roads that are of interest to the whole area not just two isolated spots).  FDOT also needs to be much more forthcoming about tolls – whether they really could go away or whether they are stuck in FDOT’s plan.  And, they need to be clear about the status of the old plan.

And one stylistic thing (that may also be substantive): FDOT still too often gives the impression it is trying to sell a plan rather than work collaboratively to come up with one.

And all that goes on top of the fact the problems of making decisions on roads when relevant decisions about transit still need to be made.


— Pick ‘Em

The Tampa/Hillsborough Expressway Authority is asking the public to weigh in on the design of the Gandy/Selmon Connector.  In an article entitled “You can have a say on one of Tampa Bay’s mega projects (w/video),” the Times tells us:

Have you ever paid close attention to the support piers of an elevated highway? Probably not, but the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority still wants your opinion on what some new ones should look like.

From now through Friday, Oct. 20, members of the public will be able to choose between two designs for the piers supporting the 1.9-mile extension of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway from South Dale Mabry Highway to the Gandy bridge. The winning design will be announced Oct. 23.

“We were looking for an opportunity for the public to take part, and this is one of the areas where we could control that,” Bob Frey, the authority’s planning director, said Monday.

Setting aside that we don’t really know what a “mega project” is, but we doubt an extended overpass counts as one.  Nevertheless,

The authority unveiled the pier designs Monday. The one dubbed Vivid has “vertical features that represent movement and fluidity” while the Estuary design evokes “a river delta or a canopy of cypress trees,” according to Aecom, the construction company.

Um, ok.  Actually, they are just talking about some limited decoration.  And Estuary does not evoke anything, it has images of trees (and, of course, we don’t really have river deltas around here).

From THEA – click on picture for website

You can vote here.

Here is a video on the project

We will give them credit for going straight to the internet to get input from as many people as possible, unlike FDOT and TB(n)X.  And while it probably does not matter too much, we kind of like Estuary a little bit more.  What we would like even more is if the plan accounted for all the development that is going to happen on Westshore south of Gandy.


— Curmudgeonly Truth

With all this road news, something from the Venerable Times Curmudgeon caught our eye.  First some background, following an item about how Amazon warehouses (like this one this week) or Bass Pro Shops provide validation for economic development efforts, the Business Journal had an article referencing a Forbes article by an FSU professor explaining why the Tampa Bay area should be a leading choice for Amazon HQ2.  That article basically says that Amazon should come to Florida because of the business climate and that the Tampa Bay area is the best location in Florida because it has a higher percentage of relevant workers.  Of course, in his comparisons, the author focuses on Boston and San Francisco, and talks about taxes.  He ignores Georgia, Texas, and other states that are more competitive in the “business friendly” category.

Even with all that, we thought the Times Curmudgeon had a pretty good point when discussing Amazon:

On paper at least, Florida in general and Tampa Bay in particular would seem well positioned to make successful goo-goo eyes in the general direction of Jeff Bezos, who was raised in Miami.

For starters, we have no personal income taxes. We have plenty of sun.

And Tampa Bay also meets Amazon’s basic requirements as a metro area with at least one million people, a stable business-friendly environment and a world class international airport. So far, looking good.

Well, there is that one itty-bitty, tiny, minor problem.

Amazon is requiring cities giving it that come hither look to also be able to provide access to mass transit routes. Oooooops! So close, so very close.

Let’s be painfully honest. Does anyone involved the recruitment of Amazon believe that despite all the region’s many charms, Bezos would be willing to make a $5 billion investment and bring 50,000 jobs to an area without a significant mass transit (read: buses and rail) presence?

You may have noticed — we don’t have that.

Other cities in the mix, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Charlotte, all offer rail as part of their transit grid. And since you can’t build these things overnight, it is more than probable Tampa Bay will get a nice pat on the head and a heartfelt thanks for its interest.

And followed it up with a very pithy summary of decades of local history:

The Amazon exercise is a reminder once again that there is a price to be paid for decades of parochial myopia when it comes to the region’s transportation needs.

A salient point.  Too bad so many local officials apparently continue to not care.


Port – Better

There was news about the Port this week.

Port Tampa Bay posted its biggest operating revenues ever this year — $55.4 million — beating its previous record from two years ago.

The total reflects revenue solely generated by port operations, not property tax revenue or grants, officials said.

Which is good.

The figure represents a 12.6 percent increase over the $49.2 million recorded in FY 2016 and surpasses the previous high of $51.3 million in FY 2015.

The port has benefitted from new cruises to Cuba that began this year by both Carnival and Royal Caribbean.

* * *

Besides the new cruises, the stronger revenue numbers are being attributed to new and expanded leases like the Port Logistics Cold Storage facility, set to open later this month. Additionally, the revenue was bolstered by imports of commodities like petroleum, cement, phosphate and steel.  

Note:

The port teamed up with Tampa real estate developer Richard Corbett to finance the construction of the 130,000-square-foot facility. Port Logistics of Orlando has a 27-year lease to manage the facility, which will receive, label, package and distribute refrigerated foods. Officials hope the new on-dock facility will bring in new business by offering a port three days closer to shippers than Philadelphia, which has the most cold storage food facilities on the East Coast.

We are not going to complain about increased revenue.  But there are some concerns.  Neither the Times nor the Business Journal mentioned container cargo.  Both mentioned the refrigerated food facility.  The revenue from that is from a lease.  We hope the business is successful, but, as you can see in the language in the last block quote, it is not even open.  And there is always the issue of cruises, not just to Cuba, but the tendency in the market to go to bigger ships.  Is that revenue going to plateau, go down or is there really room for more growth?  Is there a cruise plan other than hoping the good times continue?

All that being said, last year was good.


Airport – Some Items

The airport is moving ahead on the process of building an office building near the new rental car facility.

Tampa International Airport will accept bids starting Oct. 18 for a nine-story commercial building that is part of the airport’s $1.5 billion expansion.

The 270,000-square-foot building will include the headquarters of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, which will occupy two floors, Chris Minner, the executive vice president of marketing said Thursday at the monthly board meeting. Construction is expected to begin in August and finish by 2020.

They don’t waste any time, which is fine.

In other news, sort of:

Kenneth Strickland, TIA’s director of research and air service development, was recently in Bogota, Colombia meeting with officials from Avianca S.A., that country’s national airline. Avianca’s pilots are currently staging a walkout over salary and benefits that began Sept. 20, according to published reports.

TIA, citing census numbers, said that 37,104 individuals of Colombian ancestry reside in the Tampa Bay area.

Meanwhile, Tampa International’s Colombian traffic has increased 130 percent since 2012, and 27 percent in the last year.

TIA loses 79.8 percent of its Bogota air traffic to other airports, primarily to Orlando International Airport, Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport. Of the largest Florida airports, TIA has the largest share (49.2 percent) of Tampa Bay originating passengers to Colombia. The share at Fort Lauderdale was 44.2 percent. Miami International Airport’s share was 37.4 percent while Orlando had a 27.6 percent share.

It is not really news because we knew they were looking at Avianca and that the visit was going to be made, but now it has.  We’ll see what happens.

And one more flight item.  Last week there was news that the new Delta Salt Lake City flight was going to be short-term.  Now:

After saying Delta Airlines would be suspending Tampa International Airport’s new nonstop flight to Salt Lake City, airport officials said the new destination is back on track for full service.

Delta (NYSE: DAL) has indicated that the airline now will suspend service only from Jan. 4, 2018 through Feb. 15 for fleet maintenance and then will resume regular service, said Janet Scherberger, TIA’s assistant vice president of media and government relations.  

We like that more.


Economic Development – What We Like

There was also some interesting news on the economic development front.

Advanced Airfoil Components, a joint venture formed by Siemens and Chromalloy Gas Turbine Corp., will create 350 new jobs when it opens a headquarters site in Tampa Regional Industrial Park, in southeast Hillsborough County.

* * *

Advanced Airfoil will hire workers for a range of skilled positions, including technical engineers, manufacturing technicians and production workers. The new jobs will pay an average annual wage of $57,163, the resolution said. That’s at least 115 percent higher than the average wage in Hillsborough County.

Siemens and Chromalloy announced the joint venture in May, saying Advanced Airfoil would make turbine blade and vane cast components for power generation.

The company will lease 210,000 square feet at Tampa Regional Industrial Park, 13124 U.S. Highway 41, near Big Bend Road, in Gibsonton. The plant is scheduled to open in late 2018.

That is a little vague, but it looks like solid manufacturing which is good all around (as long as Siemens’ business is good, because that is who they are going to supply, apparently.) We need manufacturing, and it should help at the port and airport as well.  And the wages are pretty good.  If you are trying to figure out what to provide incentives for, this is one of the kinds of things you want incentives for.


Economic Development – VC Watch

Some new VC numbers are in. From a Times column:

Thanks to a single mammoth injection of venture capital into one of its start-ups, New York City topped the nation’s VC rankings in sheer dollar funding in this year’s third quarter ended Sept. 30.

The nation’s biggest VC commitment is indeed a whopper: $3 billion going to WeWork, a Manhattan-based start-up involved in office rental and co-working space. The money comes from SoftBank Group billionaire Masayoshi Son who has pledged to invest many more billions in U.S. companies in the coming years.

That deal alone translates to 17 cents of every $1 in venture capital funding that occurred nationwide in the quarter.

Doing some quick math, that means there was about $17.5 billion in VC funding nationally last quarter.  What about Florida and this area?

On a much smaller scale, the same quarter was a good one for the Tampa Bay market, thanks at least to one sizeable investment by Hearst Communications in Tampa’s M2Gen. Hearst committed $75 million to the innovative cancer-fighting start-up that’s majority-owned by Moffitt Cancer Center. By local standards, that is a serious piece of money.

The Hearst stake also happened to be this quarter’s biggest venture capital investment in Florida, according to new data released by Pitchbook and the National Venture Capital Association.

Three other Tampa Bay start-ups are listed as receiving funding in the quarter. Combined, those stakes came to $6 million. . .

There are likely some smaller deals to add to the total, but we’ll go with the rough number of $81 million for the Tampa Bay area, which for us is quite good. Using standard rounding, that is about .5% of all VC funding for an area that is roughly .9% of the US population.  It is better than usual, though not where we’d like to be.  Strangely, we are told this:

Nationally, nearly 1,700 U.S. venture-backed companies raised $21.5 billion in funding in the third quarter of 2017. That brings the year-to-date total to 5,811 companies raising $61.4 billion.

Which means the New York deal was actually on about 14 cents on the dollar and our share was also lower, around .4%. But we are not going to quibble, especially as there are probably other small deals that would make our total a little bigger.  Let’s hope this is the start of an upward trend.


— One More Thing

While the exact categorization of this deal doesn’t really matter, it is still a good way to start a new quarter:

Intezyne Technologies Inc. says it is on solid footing after closing an oversubscribed $10 million capital offering.

The Tampa biopharmaceutical company plans to use the funding to advance two potential cancer treatments through clinical trials, said Kevin Sill, CEO. Intezyne’s two drugs in development are IT-139, to treat pancreatic, gastric and some types of melanoma, lung cancer and thyroid cancer, and IT-141, to treat colorectal and breast cancers.

Intezyne was one of the first pioneers in the University of South Florida Research Center and has plans to eventually go public, as the Tampa Bay Business Journal reported in a profile of the company in July.

For reasons other than just economic, we hope their drugs are successful.


Channel District – Tweak

The long-planned, not built, then resurrected Del Villar proposal, which we discussed a few months ago (see “Channel District – Condos” ), has revised their revised plan a little.  Back when it was first revived and revised in April, we said this:

Most of the changes listed above do not bother us.  One thing we do not like is the lack of retail.  As you can see from the rendering of the east elevation (top rendering, left), the streetscape would be left quite dead. We get that the developers have a Publix in their other project (as well as retail in their first project, Grand Central), but this project would be much better, with the added benefit of complying with the Channel District plan that calls for it, with at least a small amount of retail.  The City should stick to the plan (specifically Sec 27 overall, and more specifically Sec 27-204, all of which can be found here).

Another thing we don’t really like is the apparent blandness of the design, at least in the top elevations.  On those sides (the sides facing the street), it is just a big box, with not even a lot of windows to break up the blandness. (The west side – the bottom elevation – is broken up by balconies, which is better)  We really don’t want to see Channelside Drive become a dead street just as the Channel District is taking off (especially if the Port goes forward with its real estate concept).

This week, the developer filed a change, per URBN Tampa Bay:

BREAKING: After 5 months, we finally have an update on Del Villar, the 36 story, 61 unit condo tower proposed for the southwest corner of Channelside and Whiting. The most notable change is the addition of 709 square feet of retail space to the northeast corner of the project. Before the project had no retail space.

We were opposed to the project originally due to lack of retail, but this proposal seems to be much more acceptable, given the site. Several URBNist wrote in to the city asking them to ensure retail was in the project. We’d like to think that paid off. 

You can see the retail in the upper right hand corner of this plan:

Courtesy of Florida Future @ Skyscrapercity – click on picture for website

The change is something, though not that much.  The retail is well located on the corner, and we are fine with that.  However, the proposal still has a very long wall of blankness on Channelside where the parking garage is.  It is definitely better, but not quite there yet, in our opinion.


Hyde Park – Altis

It appears that the Altis Grand Central project near Oxford Exchange is beginning construction next week.

Altis Grand Central is slated to begin construction Monday. The development will include 314 residential units and 9,750 square feet of retail space on a 2.5-acre site bound by Grand Central Avenue to the north and Cleveland Street to the south, Cedar Avenue to the east and Magnolia Street to the west.

You may remember this was the project that brought a number of objections.  Most of them were addressed, but the revised renderings still seemed to show the parking garage as the most prominent feature, which would be bad.  Hopefully, it is just a poor rendering.


Rays – Indeed

The ongoing Rays stadium saga, which seems just a little bit less tiresome than the transportation saga, had a little news:

Before sunrise on Monday morning, Tim Leiweke walked around the Channel District-Ybor City area that could someday house a new ballpark for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Leiweke, who has had a hand in building 18 stadiums and arenas around the country, saw the appeal. The area, just north of the Ybor Channel and Selmon Expressway, is close to both downtown and the port.

* * *

And he believes baseball can work in Tampa Bay, despite recent history. Just look at how the Lightning have turned around their franchise, Leiweke told the Times before speaking at a panel put on by the University of South Florida’s Vinik Sport and Entertainment Management Program.

* * *

Leiweke declined to opine on which side of Tampa Bay is best to host a baseball team, but he does have a preference on where officials and the front office should look.

“I put stadiums where they have the greatest economic impact,” he said. “So when you build a stadium away from an urban core, that’s a mistake.”

Nothing to disagree with there.

The location Tampa officials are considering largely meets that criterion. But Tampa’s urban core is relatively sleepy after 6 p.m. And while weekend events and Lightning games have added a buzz to downtown in recent years, it is still mostly vacant outside of work hours.

Leiweke needed to search on his phone Sunday night just to find an open place to eat near his downtown hotel. In most major cities, a short walk would yield several options.

“Your (hockey) arena is the greatest statement about what the Rays face,” he said. “The glass wall is facing the canal and then all of the electricity, the signs, the banners, are all on the plaza. The part that faces your city is a blank wall, cold as hell.”

The planned Water Street Tampa could change that. Vinik and his partner, Bill Gates’ Cascade Investments, have proposed a live-work-play community that will add housing, office space, restaurants, parks and hotels.

The Rays should try to tap into that, Leiweke said, and ensure their ballpark flows into that project. As it stands, the area between downtown and the rumored site is disjointed — divided by the expressway, a sea of parking lots, a Riverwalk that ends at Channelside Plaza, a gigantic flour mill and an industrial channel dotted with ship repair businesses.

“If you could just continue to figure out a way to make it walkable, make it livable, make it bikeable and make it green-friendly, you’ll turn out to be one of the wonderful points of destination in all the world,” he said. “Every snowbird in Canada will want to watch the Toronto Blue Jays when they come and play.”

Setting aside that it sounds like he may have an idea or two about where he thinks the stadium should go, nothing to argue about there either.


Temple Terrace – Oh Well

As many readers may know Temple Terrace has long aspired to redevelop some land at Bullard Pkwy and 56th Street into a downtown area.  It has been a long, sad story of picking and unpicking developers, getting offers from others that haven’t worked out, almost settling for very poor sprawl planes, and it continues.  Which is why this caught our eye:

Mel Jurado easily won the special election for mayor of Temple Terrace on Tuesday, outpacing both her competitors combined by more than 2-1.

* * *    

City leaders have sought to redevelop it into a pedestrian-friendly downtown area of offices, shops, residences and restaurants. But those efforts have hit snags and, meanwhile, the city has until April to refinance or pay back a $23.5 million debt it incurred to buy the property. Jurado said in her campaign that debt means the city must move on the best offers it currently has.

We doubt any deal they get will pay enough to cover the cost.  We also doubt they will actually get a development that will really reach the potential for the land.  Though, until they sell, there is always hope (even if it is diminishing).

Roundup 10-6-2017

October 6, 2017

Contents

Transportation – All Those Ideas

— About Studying Transit

— About That Confounded Bridge

— About Those Express Lanes

South Tampa – Ready to Go

West Tampa – Show Us the Money, Revisited

Parks and Taxation, Cont.

Airport – Bring on the Boxes

Rays – No Surprise

Why Not?

A Welcome Idea

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

____________________________________


Transportation – All Those Ideas

As usual, there is a slew of transportation news this week.


— About Studying Transit

Last week, we noted that while the TB(n)X process is ongoing and coming up with new ideas to mix in with the old (why the old remain is unclear), it is hard to see how decisions can be made when there is still the transit study going on the outcome of which will be relevant to interstate (and other transportation) design (Such as, even though it is not our favored idea, putting transit in the median of the interstate)  Notably, FDOT posted the new options for Malfunction Junction they presented last week on the TB(n)X website (Thanks to a reader for letting us know.  We have to note that we have no idea why FDOT does not post these things before the meetings so more people can look at them.)  You can find them here.

In addition to the old TBX plan (which is not posted but, per reports, was an option at the meeting), there are two options where the interchange is not reconstructed but express lanes are added (though not going north of the interchange).  In those two, there is no room for transit.  There are also two where the interchange is reconstructed (and, regardless of the impression some reports may have given, a decent amount of land is eaten up around the interstate).  In these two, there are appears to be land in the middle of the interstate for some transit going east and west, though not north.  And there is the representation of some sort of conceptual stop around I-275 and Franklin downtown (which is not a particularly useful stop without a useful streetcar, but that is another discussion).

With all that, as if on cue, findings of the preferred transit routes from the transit study came out later in the day last Friday.  Remember, the transit study is rally a review of previous studies, so to a large degree its results were predictable.

Light rail is the top-ranked mode of transit identified to connect Wesley Chapel, the University of South Florida, Tampa, the Gateway business district in Pinellas County and St. Petersburg, according to results from the Regional Transit Feasibility Plan presented Friday.

That route would roughly follow Interstate 275.

The Florida Department of Transportation financed the $ 1.5 million study and it was facilitated through the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit authority and Jacobs Engineering.

You can find the latest PowerPoint presentation regarding the transit study here.

This is the final ranking slide from that presentation (pg 22 of pdf):

From the Transit Study – click on chart for pdf

As you can see from the list, it is really nothing new (though it is also logical).  The highest ranked path is Wesley Chapel, USF, downtown Tampa, St. Pete using light rail running roughly down I-275.  Of course, to get to USF, it is not going to run exclusively down I-275, but it would seem that some of the intent is to use some of the median of I-275, the cross the Howard Frankland (more about that later).  The second choice is “rubber tire” on the same route.  Notably, the FDOT drawings for redoing the interchange do not include any indication of dedicated land for transit going north on I-275 which goes to our point about coordinating studies and planning (both transportation and urban planning).

The third and fourth ranked ideas are basically the old downtown to USF plan using CSX’s alignment (light rail first and then “rubber tire”)

There is a tie for fifth between the Wesley Chapel to St. Pete route using commuter rail and the downtown to USF route using commuter rail.  We are not fond of the commuter rail idea. Commuter rail is fine for some purposes – actually Wesley Chapel to downtown or Westshore make sense for commuter rail, but if you are trying to get people around Tampa and Hillsborough (and Pinellas, really), commuter rail is not going to cut it. Commuter rail, which lacks frequency, has limited stops, and is basically for, you guessed it, commuters, not really just getting around, has limited utility for getting around and urban area rather than limited point to point usage. (We just don’t see why we should repeat the mistakes of SunRail, which is commuter rail rolling stock.)

Furthermore, we understand why Wesley Chapel is included in options, but it is different from the stretch from USF to Westshore and different from Pinellas County.  Three is no reason that there can’t be a different service to Wesley Chapel than the core of the area, especially in the beginning. (We actually think express buses from there would be fine, at least for now)  In fact, looking at the list of public preferences (pg 21 of pdf)

From the Transit Study – click on chart for pdf

You can see that Pasco favors buses, while Pinellas and Hillsborough favor light rail. (And there is no clear sign of a groundswell for rail or any kind of reasonable urban planning in Pasco) Why not give the people what they want and save money?  It’s a win-win.

Frankly, we did not expect the results to be anything other than the highest ranked alignments, though we would not have been surprised if buses came first (nor would be surprised if buses end up being the top ranked idea when all is said and done for political reasons).

For now, the second highest-rated project was a “rubber tire” option — such as bus or self-driving vehicles — with its own dedicated lane along that same I-275 route. Instead of sitting in traffic and facing the same slow downs as those in their cars, these vehicles would run in exclusive lanes meant for transit.

This option could be incorporated into the state’s Tampa Bay Next plan to add express toll lanes to the region, meaning drivers who opted to pay a fluctuating toll could also use that lane.

Buses, autonomous or normal, have always been a justification for express lanes. That is not going to change.

And note:

What’s not being discussed? How to pay for it. Money and funding sources — such as federal grants or a sales tax referendum, similar to those that failed here in 2010 and 2014 — won’t be part of the discussion until the region has agreed on a viable project with broad support.

“Clearly, that’s the elephant in the room,” said HART CEO Katharine Eagan. “All of us are probably thinking about it or having other conversations, it’s just not part of this process yet.”

Instead, the focus remains on finding an option leaders can agree on. Friday’s rankings aren’t final, and will fluctuate as cost, public input and other things are considered. Planners are expected to recommend a preferred project in fall 2018.

In other words, the rankings are something, but nothing substantial yet.  The same forces that have killed real transit in this area for decades are still there.

Some, such as Hillsborough MPO executive director Beth Alden and County Commissioner Sandy Murman, wondered why projects connecting West Shore and Brandon didn’t rank higher. Representatives from Pasco and Pinellas talked about the importance of getting their constituents on board. It remains to be seen whether the three counties will be able to come together to support one project, especially one that might not have stops in each jurisdiction.

“We’re never going to get something that’s going to make everybody happy,” Pinellas MPO member Jim Kennedy said. “Once we get a firm start, it can grow from there.”

Pinellas MPO member Doreen Caudell said it was “extremely important” to get all elected officials in the same room to identify and move forward with a single plan, even if every city and county isn’t served by whatever project is first built.

“It does feel like some of the top priorities are Tampa-centric, but you have to get through Tampa to get to that beautiful beach in Clearwater,” Caudell said. “Once we take that first step, the next step will happen and then the next. They’re all needed, no matter what order.”

Exactly, Tampa is in the middle of the area and you have to start somewhere.  As for Brandon, it is an important area to connect, but not necessarily the most important, productive or transit ready (and we haven’t seen the Commissioner quoted propose a rail connection to Brandon.  That being said, we’re fine if there are express buses from there running on the Selmon for now.)

While we would have liked real study of the present circumstances, this is the study we have.  The results are predictable but not necessarily way off, at least for the most part. Our area’s problems don’t boil down to not enough studies. It boils down to a lack of political will, poor coordination, and poor planning. We’ll just have to see if any of that has really changed.


— About That Confounded Bridge

And if that was not enough transportation for you, FDOT released their latest idea for the Howard Frankland rebuild.

The Florida Department of Transportation has revised its plans to replace the Howard Frankland Bridge to include better transit accommodations, add an express lane in each direction and a bicycle and pedestrian path, the agency announced Monday.

Construction on the revised project is still set to begin in 2020.

Given all the unknowns about transportation, that is a bit ambitious.  Regardless, what is the plan now?

This massive structure will have four lanes of traffic going south, to St. Petersburg. It will also have four express toll lanes, with two lanes traveling in each direction. Only drivers who pay a toll, which will fluctuate based on demand, can use those lanes.

Those toll lanes will also be available to buses and even self-driving vehicles, whenever that technology arrives in the future. And two of those toll lanes could also be converted for use by a light rail system.

Obviously, variable rate toll lanes were not going to go away. Setting that aside:

The new eight-lane, bike and pedestrian-friendly bridge is projected to cost $120 million more than the six-lane version. However, that old Howard Frankland plan required building a third bridge to accommodate light rail, if regional leaders and voters ever decide to build such a system connecting Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. That third bridge would have cost at least $375 million, DOT spokeswoman Kris Carson said.

The third bridge won’t be necessary under the updated plan, Carson said. Instead, two of the express lanes on the eight-lane bridge could be used to accommodate light rail.

Well, sort of, but not exactly.

From the Times – click on picture for article

From the graphic, to add rail, two more traffic lanes would be added to the south span and two existing lanes would be used for rail.  Though, that is an improvement in the sense that it should cost less and rail should be able to get up and running faster.  Of course, there is the question of who would pay for the expansion of the south span.  FDOT had previously said getting rail across the bay would be a, at least partially, local cost.   Is that still their position?  It is not clear.

This is how FDOT describes the changes:

This change includes several important benefits:

And here is a video from FDOT of the construction sequence though we are not sure how useful it is.

As we have already noted, it is an improvement in the sense it should be easier and cheaper (though not without constructing additional lanes) to put rail on the bridge.  We are unclear how they will accommodate future demand without adding lanes unless FDOT is relying on the express lanes and think it is fine for the four free lanes to be completely backed up while people pay ridiculous amounts to use the express lanes (or FDOT plans on taking away the shoulders – or the drawing is not showing extra space they are building now). The pedestrian/bike trail is a bit odd given the length of the bridge and what is at the Pinellas end, but that is a relatively small thing.

Overall, the design better, though flaws remain.  We don’t like variable rate toll lanes for the very concept (the concept incentivizes poor service and decision-making for free lanes because free lane congestion does mean higher tolls.   Regardless of some people’s good intents, eventually, money will play a factor in decision-making.) Moreover, all those dividers waste space where lanes can go – adding capacity.

Moreover, and importantly, the bottleneck at the Tampa end will remain.  FDOT has already moved to add a third lane through the bottleneck, but that leaves the question of the fourth lane and how they get the express lanes through.  And if FDOT has the money to squeeze the express lanes through (or over) the bottleneck, surely they have the ability/money to get the fourth free lane through it, but that is not in the plan.  (And if they can’t squeeze the express lanes though the bottleneck, there really is no point in them, but we suspect, as usual, they are prioritized over the free lanes.)

While it still has issues, we will give FDOT credit for the improvements.  The real question is why it was so hard to come up with even this plan (think about how bad the first few plans were)?  And why were local official so seemingly willing to get screwed?  And, of course, are they going to fix the remaining flaws both on the bridge and at the bottleneck?


— About Those Express Lanes

And speaking of express lanes, congestion and safety, URBN Tampa Bay pointed out an article in the Miami Herald on the most hazardous roads in Florida.

According to a recent study, Miami-Dade County is home to the road with the highest fatalities per mile, the road with the highest fatalities, and the road with the most fatal crashes.

So which ones are they?

Coming in at No. 1 in the state is the I-95 Express Toll in Little River, Miami — a small stretch of just 3.85 miles, according to a study conducted by Stein Law Group and marketing firm, 1POINT21. The data showed that the road had a fatality rate of 7.01 per mile. 

I-275 through downtown Tampa was 51st on the list, which, even with its very poor design and congestion, is quite a bit lower on the list. However, 66th Street in Largo, SR60 near Plant City, 34th Street in St. Pete, and Cortez Road in Bradenton were also in the top 10. You can see the whole list here.  Admittedly, correlation is not necessarily causation, but, because FDOT and express lanes supporters point to I-95 in Miami as a model of why express lanes are good, it is also does not help make FDOT’s argument for express lanes.


South Tampa – Ready to Go

Per URBN Tampa Bay,

Virage Bayshore has applied for a building permit. The tower at 3401 Bayshore Blvd. is 24 stories and 71 condo units. At 287 feet, it will be the tallest building on Bayshore.

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

While it won’t do much on the pedestrian level (unless you like hedges), we have to admit, it should look nice in the skyline.


West Tampa – Show Us the Money, Revisited

A few months ago we discussed a strange circumstance regarding a legal challenge by the developer of suburban style affordable apartment complexes against the Tampa Housing Authority and its project to redevelop the North Boulevard Homes land.  It also involved the County Commission going back on a commitment to vote in favor of funding the Housing Authority project and supporting the suburban developer (surprise).  This week:

Errors in an application have cost the Tampa Housing Authority a 10-year, $21 million tax credit that was earmarked to help build much-needed affordable housing in Tampa’s ambitious West River revitalization project.

The credits were awarded in May to The Boulevard at West River, an apartment block that would include 200 affordable housing units.

But the Florida Housing Finance Corporation last week reversed its decision after an administrative judge ruled that mistakes in the Housing Authority’s application should disqualify it from the award.

Instead, the tax credits will now go to Blue Sky Communities, a private developer that challenged the award in court. Its application to build a 144-unit workforce housing project in unincorporated Hillsborough County earned the same score as the Housing Authority’s but lost out through a lottery.

The setback will mean at least a year’s delay for The Boulevard project, said Leroy Moore, Housing Authority Chief Operating Officer.

So what was the problem?

The Housing Authority’s application fell short in two areas, according to the judge who reviewed Blue Sky’s challenge.

It failed to list all of the development officers of its development partner, Banc of America Community Development Corp. It also overstated the level of affordable housing development experience of the bank’s development officer, Eileen Pope.

Moore said the application was handled by Affordable Housing Consulting, a real estate development company based in Tallahassee. Officials from the company did not return calls seeking comment.

The firm receives performance bonuses based on awards received.

It used the same information that had been used on other successful applications, Moore said. He described Florida Housing’s decision as bad policy, noting that it would produce 144 new housing units instead of 200.

“Those were minor irregularities,” he said. “They have had similar omissions before.”

We are not going to comment on the administrative judge decision except to say that messing up the application is unacceptable. Even if it has happened before, why are there any omissions at all, especially when they are paying consultants regarding the application?  That does not excuse the County Commission for going back on its deal, but why leave it in the hands of an administrative court judge and why does the housing authority have to outsource its application process?  Aside from showing how the tax credit application process is quite muddy, this, plus all the questions that have arisen at the Encore project, really causes concern.

While we think the North Boulevard Homes and environs project could be better, there is no doubt that it is very important for the redevelopment of central Tampa.  Setting aside the County Commission, which often makes bad decisions on development, the Housing Authority really needs to raise its game.


Parks and Taxation, Cont.

The City Council finally decided to raise taxes.

It wasn’t easy, quick or pretty, but the Tampa City Council voted early Friday morning to make another reduction to Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s proposed property tax increase for 2018.

As a result, Tampa’s property tax rate will rise next year from $5.73 to $6.21 in city taxes for every $1,000 in assessed, taxable property value. That’s 14.7 percent above the state’s “rollback” rate, which is the rate the city would have to set to account for the growth in property values and to take in the same amount of property tax revenue next year as this year.

* * *

To make the new tax rate work, the $969.2 million budget will not carry forward $2.1 million that had been earmarked to help cover debt payments that are expected to shoot up over the next six years. The city also will cut $1.1 million from the increased spending that Buckhorn had proposed for the parks, transportation and facilities maintenance departments.

Buckhorn’s original tax increase equalled 9/10ths of a mill, or 90 cents in taxes for every $1,000 of taxable value — the city’s first increase to the millage rate in 29 years.

The whole process was quite a mess.  Hopefully, it will lead to better communication and transparency in future decision-making.  That is what the people actually paying the taxes deserve.


Airport – Bring on the Boxes

It seems that the airport’s cargo growth is moving along, admittedly with some help from Amazon.  On Thursday, the Airport Board approved items in the consent agenda for leasing agreements with both American Airlines and LGSTX, Inc., for space in the old cargo building north of the main terminal, which is also going to be used by UPS. (See here, pg 12-15)

However, there has been a setback in route expansion:

Tampa International Airport’s highly anticipated nonstop route to Salt Lake City is hitting a speed bump.

The new route on Delta Airlines (NYSE: DAL) will begin as originally scheduled on Dec. 21, 2017 and run through Jan. 3, 2018 for the peak holiday period. However, the airline will suspend that service the following day on Jan. 4, 2018 due to lackluster demand.

The airline plans to revisit the route for the winter 2018/2019 season and for its potential beyond that time, airport officials said at the monthly board meeting of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, which governs TIA.

While it is normal to have setbacks, there are still disappointing.  We’ll see what happens if and when the revisit the route.


Rays – No Surprise

As the baseball regular season has come to an end, it is in no way surprising to learn:

The Tampa Bay Rays have ranked last in the league when it comes to home game attendance.

This is the sixth year in a row the team has come in at the bottom of Major League Baseball. Attendance shrunk from 2016 to 2017, down about 30,000 to 1,253,619.

As we have noted many times, the Lightning usually draw more people per game than the Rays.  Downtown St. Pete is a very nice place that is getting nicer.  However, for other reasons, it is not a good spot for a baseball team to play.


Why Not?

In other sports news:

The United Bid Committee announced Wednesday that Tampa is among 32 North American cities — including 25 in the U.S. — that have made the cut to potentially serve as a 2026 FIFA World Cup host.

If the United Bid (consisting of cities from Canada, Mexico and the U.S.) is selected by FIFA as World Cup host, at least 12 cities will be chosen as venues for games.

“We received applications from 41 cities across Canada, Mexico and the United States and narrowed the list down after a comprehensive review of each of the communities and facilities,” John Kristick, executive director of the United Bid Committee, said in a news release.

The full list, which can be found here, also includes Miami and Orlando (Orlando hosted games in 1994).   Local officials are fond of talking about international exposure – hosting World Cup games is among the most exposure you can get.

Yes, the competition will be tough and more well-known tourist areas probably have a leg up on us, but like we said about Amazon, you can’t win if you don’t play the game.  We are all for the effort.


A Welcome Idea

There was news from TECO this week (and, no, it’s not about burying power lines or getting rid of the very tall power poles plopped down in people’s lawn without warning):

Tampa Electric Co. is making a substantial commitment to solar energy: the utility on Thursday pledged to build 600 megawatts of solar energy capability — enough to power 100,000 homes — by 2021.

The move piggybacks on a newfound push for solar by all major Florida utilities. Duke Energy Florida announced in August a plan to build 700 megawatts of solar power over the next four years, while Florida Power & Light is in the process of adding 2,100 megawatts by 2023.

“We have long believed in the promise of renewable energy,” Gordon Gillette, CEO of Tampa Electric, said in a release. “We believe now is the time to add large utility-scale solar generation.”

We are not sure they have long believed in solar energy:

The latest promise for extra capacity means that solar will account for 12 percent of Tampa Electric’s generation capacity. It currently has only 27 megawatts of solar capacity.

But that’s ok.

“We strongly feel that solar power is good for customers by diversifying the energy portfolio and for the environment by providing low-cost, zero-emissions energy for Florida’s families and businesses,” said Stephen A. Smith, executive director of nonprofit Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, in a release.

We agree.  Regardless of your views on climate change, why not have clear, renewable energy?

Of course, there is the issue of paying for it.  From Stpetersblog:

The agreement also includes a “general” base-rate freeze, though the company would be able to recoup the additional costs of solar projects through rates. The company said in a news release that the solar projects would cost typical residential customers about $1 a month and would help save money that otherwise would have to be spent in the future on power-plant fuel.

That sounds reasonable, though if they are saving on fuel, that should offset the cost of the investment in solar, at least to some degree. We will see.

Now, about burying those power lines . . .


Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

Here is an interesting idea from a Guardian article:

Columbus is the first major US city to give downtown workers free public transport passes regardless of who they work for, and whether they intend to use them. Can the programme change the mindset of this car-centric city?

We are not going to get into all the details.  You can read the article.  Of course there is the money issue and the lack of support from local government, but it is worth contemplating.