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Roundup 2-3-2012

February 3, 2012

Channelside – The new Brandon

We have seen news that the Related Group will begin construction on its proposed apartment project in Channelside on Meridian just north of the Towers of Channelside. (Older article on the project here)  Generally, development in Channelside is good, urban development basically in downtown Tampa and Tampasphere likes it.  Regarding the Related Group project, the former City economic development administrator said:

“We’re excited that they believe in the progress of this district,” Huey said. “It is very positive news.”

So what does this urban development look like?  Apparently, this:

From Related Group - click on picture for website

this one is a little better

From Flikr - click on picture for Flikr account


It looks pretty much like a suburban apartment complex with a nice front yard.  (We have no idea where the people in the rendering might be going and why they wouldn’t try to walk where there is some shade.) Where is the retail, the relation to the street and pedestrians (otherwise known as the urban design)?  Here’s how the developer describes it:

The residences will be constructed in four four-story stick frame buildings with 4,800 leasable square feet of retail and will be parked by two separate four story precast concrete parking garages. The project will have six unit types, which includes 33 studios, 186 one bedrooms and 133 two bedrooms. The project is designed by MSA Architects and includes an expansive pool/sun deck area, unique Urban Pathway, gym, spa, event meeting/dining room, a double-height club lounge and individual landscaped courtyards at each residential building

Ok, so it will have a small amount of retail.  Why are the garages detached from the building?  We understand why they may not want to build a skyscraper in the present economic circumstances, but why can’t they build something more consistent with the developing urban nature of the Channelside area, like this:

Related Group - Click on picture for full website

Funny thing is . . . they can.  The above picture is a rendering of a Related Group project in West Palm Beach.

We wonder why Tampa does not rate a design like that.  Of course, why should Related build something like that when the City does not have rules that require it?  The blame is squarely on the City for failing to have a vision and a code that requires development consistent with the Channelside district.  It is not enough to wait until the Urban Land Institute comes back in a couple of years to consider a proper code.  By that time who knows how many building will be built ignoring their environment?  The City should stop selling itself short now.  Once again, it is just as easy to do “very good” or “excellent” as it is to do “ok.”

Forever Not Young

So, another survey came out last week, this time it was “25 Best Cities for Staying Young

Find out where Americans have the healthiest RealAge.”  The survey was described this way:

This year, we reviewed two dozen factors that influence a person’s RealAge to reveal the best places to stay young. Lifestyle choices have a big impact on a city’s age, says RealAge cofounder Michael F. Roizen, M.D. “Cities with the lowest stress are basically the youngest. Stress, smoking, diet, exercise — all four of those seem to go together.” When residents take good care of themselves, they tend to have lower rates for high cholesterol, hypertension, and diabetes. And that translates to a younger RealAge.

Once again, we are not so fond of these surveys, but, as you may suspect, the Tampa Bay area was not in the top 25.  Orlando and Miami were. Houston (consistently considered one of the fattest cities in America – 2003, 2005, 2011) was.  But not the Tampa Bay area.  (Either there was something odd with the methodology of the survey or Houston went on one hell of diet.)  Regardless, the disturbing pattern of the Tampa Bay area scoring badly on these surveys continues.

Pinellas Rail

Pinellas County continued to move forward, slowly but deliberately, with plans for rail – hopefully learning from the failures and deficiencies in the Hillsborough referendum.

The Pinellas County Project Advisory Committee on Monday formally adopted a proposal to build 24 miles of light rail transit connections between St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Pinellas Park and Gateway.

* * *

Political leaders and the business community are expected to spend the rest of this year pitching the proposal to the public and reviewing financing options before attempting a transit referendum.

Interestingly, the Pinellas committee failed to say rail was the preferred method of transit crossing the bay.

St. Petersburg Councilman Jeff Danner pushed for the group to specify light rail as the preferred mass transit connection across the Bay.

“We are missing an opportunity to take the lead and we should encourage Hillsborough County to do the same,” he said.

Other members of the group said they wanted to wait until the Florida Department of Transportation    completes its study of a new span of the Howard Frankland Bridge later this year.

“Bridge replacement alone doesn’t mean light rail is going to be built with it,” said Florida Department of Transportation District Secretary Don Skelton, a member of the advisory panel.

He suggested it was better to leave the connection across the Bay a little vague until more is determined about what happens on the Hillsborough side.

That is fine, at least for now.  We appreciate the careful, methodical approach Pinellas is taking.  If only Hillsborough had done the same.

Orlando Gets Moving

Sunrail in Orlando broke ground this week. Interestingly, they are having some issues with pricing and frequency.  Hopefully, planners in the Tampa Bay area will take note and learn lessons so if and when we finally get rail we can avoid these issues.

The Lens

St. Petersburg decided to move forward with negotiations with replacing the present Pier with “the Lens.”

From the Tampa Bay Times - click on picture for full article


This was the design we, and apparently pretty much everyone else, favored.  The one downside is that the City Council is still debating whether to do the entire project or just spend what it had previously decided to spend and stop.  This would leave the project unfinished.

And money continued to be an issue during the discussions. Council member Karl Nurse reiterated his concerns.

“I’m not going to vote for something that is a first phase,” he said, referring to language in a PowerPoint presentation. “I am willing to vote for something that is $50 million on its own.”

Mayor Bill Foster ordered the word “first” to be removed.

“Unless manna falls from heaven, we’re unlikely to see any more phases in our lifetime,” he said. “Please lock that door.”

Before Thursday’s vote, Raul Quintana, the city’s architect, presented a projected budget of $50 million that included a demolition estimate of $6.5 million and $34 million for construction.

While we are not in favor of wasting money or busting the budget, the Council has to decide whether it wants to stay in the budget or whether it wants to have a really good project that will stand the test of time.  If it cannot reconcile the two, it should start the process again within straightforward parameters.

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