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Roundup 3-30-2012

March 30, 2012

Moffitt Expansion – Finally

There was news this week that the Governor signed into law a bill providing funding for an expansion of the Moffitt Cancer Center.

Moffitt, one of the nation’s three busiest cancer centers, had failed the past three years to get support for the long-awaited construction. It passed muster in the 2012 Legislative session as part of a diverse jobs creation bill that included the state’s film industry and airplane mechanics.

The bill sets aside about $5 million a year in additional cigarette taxes for new clinical and research facilities. Moffitt will receive the money for 20 years.

A coordinated lobby of Moffitt and the Tampa Chamber of Commerce leaders convinced legislators and Scott that the expansion will create 3,000 construction jobs and more than 1,000 permanent health care jobs.

* * *

Construction will not be at Moffitt’s existing 17-acre campus at the University South Florida. The 25-acre parcel on McKinley Drive was purchased in 2006 and architectural plans are ready to go.

It is about time.  We have no idea why the State took so long to help develop such an asset to the entire state.

Tampa Bay Economy

Frankly, the Moffitt decision, which has taken years, is not soon enough. We learned this week what might seem obvious, that the Tampa Bay economy is still struggling.

In the past two years, the area’s unemployment rate has dropped 1.6 percentage points to 10 percent. This past quarter, its workforce grew a half percentage point, ranking 24th best among the 100 metros.

But in nearly every other category, Tampa Bay ranks not just in the weakest half but typically among the weakest 20 metros. Housing prices are down nearly 48 percent from their peak, far worse than the 26 percent average drop among metros.

Particularly dismal is the region’s Gross Metropolitan Product, or the value of goods and services produced. From the lowest point during the recession in early 2010, Tampa Bay’s economic output has improved just 1.7 percent, the seventh weakest recovery among metros.

The region’s economic output “is still really, really struggling,” Wial said. “It suggests you’re at an earlier stage of recovery than most other metro areas. It suggest slow wage growth.”

As with many things, Tampa Bay is lagging behind much of the nation in coming out of the recovery.  This is completely understandable.  We seem to often be behind the trends – such as in planning, transit, and technology.  We are still paying the price for relying on real estate rather than having a diversified economy.  Until that changes in fact rather than in words, our economy will lag.

Economic Development – What Should Replace North Boulevard Homes?

Even in real estate planning, one can see a difference in vision and approach to cities with which we compete. The old Amway Arena (former home of the Magic) was demolished this week in Orlando leaving a big open space right next to downtown Orlando.  We wonder what they will put there.  Maybe, per the Urban Land Institute ideas for the Tampa riverfront, they will put a farmers market.

The city of Orlando plans to covert the area into what it calls a Creative Village, a 68-acre development to advance high-tech companies.

Guess not.  So what is this Creative Village idea?

The Creative Village builds on the success of Orlando’s digital media industry by transforming the former site of the Amway Arena in Downtown Orlando into a 68-acre mixed-use, transit-oriented, urban infill neighborhood that will be home to leading higher education providers; high-tech, digital media and creative companies; and a diverse mix of students, employees and residents. Creative Village fosters a “live, work, learn and play” lifestyle in the heart of Downtown Orlando while bringing exciting opportunities to the Parramore area.

The dreamy plan looks something like this (we have no idea if it will be built out like this, but this is their vision and plan):

From the City of Orlando - click on picture for website

Of course, Tampa does not have a digital media industry of which to take advantage.  Tampa also does not have transit to orient development around.  But we may get a sweet farmers market in an empty lot.

This is exactly the type of situation that we keep writing about.  Not only is there a failure of urban/city planning.  There is a failure of economic development and transportation planning.

Because of a lack of vision and willingness to settle for call centers and back off operations, no transit (anyone heard anything about rail in Hillsborough County or Tampa lately?), and bad city planning over the course of decades, Tampa is at a competitive disadvantage that will only worsen with every year of delay and every time the Tampa Bay area settles for “ok” rather than “really good” or “excellent.”

Until the Tampa Bay area thinks aggressively and creatively about its future and stops settling, our DNA will not have changed.

Economic Development – The Port

Speaking of economic development (or lack thereof), no economic development news from the Port of Tampa this week.

If you need port news, there is an interesting article in the Washington Post  (ed. our apologies, we originally posted the wrong link. It has now been corrected.) about the Port of Baltimore working out issues raised by their efforts to be competitive when the Panama Canal is expanded.

Economic Development – Bass Pro Shops

In a mildly amusing situation, the Tribune and the Times both ran articles last Sunday about how local business owners oppose the subsidy for Bass Pro Shops.

We hope that Hillsborough County quickly realizes that the Bass Pro subsidy is both unpopular and an improper use of incentives and kills it so that the County can get to work on real economic development.

HART

This week we learned that HART and its tea party board members will discuss using federal money.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority will hold a hearing from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Wednesday at 1201 E. Seventh Ave. for the public to review its proposed allocation of $5.7 million in federal money for fiscal year 2012.

HART staff will be on hand to discuss expenditures proposed for preventive maintenance for buses and streetcars and project administration for an initial grant application.

The amount of federal money HART will receive will not be known until Congress releases a full-year appropriation of funding.

We have no problem with HART using federal money, but we wonder how the tea party board members square that circle.  Maybe they have realized that the board is supposed to serve the community.  Maybe they just think spending is fine as long as there is no rail.  Who can really tell?

Interstate Toll Lanes

The Times reported this week that the Florida DOT is considering adding toll lanes to local interstates.

The Florida Department of Transportation plans to launch five studies this summer and fall to assess the costs and benefits of adding toll lanes to parts of Interstate 275, I-75 and I-4 near the Polk County line.

* * *

The studies will focus on I-275 in Pinellas, including the Howard Frankland Bridge; the portion in Hillsborough between the Frankland bridge and I-4; I-275 from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard to Bearss Avenue; and I-4 between 50th Street and the Polk County Parkway.

A separate study looking at the possible widening of I-75 from Progress Boulevard in east Tampa to State Road 56 in Pasco County will also look at toll lanes. The studies will cost $1 million to $2 million each and take about a year to complete.

We have no problem with studying, and, if it makes sense, building these toll lanes.  Every little piece of infrastructure improvement is good.  However, it needs to be understood that such lanes are not a substitute for good planning or a proper transit system.  The lanes should not be built if they foreclose the future possibility of either.

University of Tampa – Playing Fields?

The University of Tampa announced this week that it will build an intramural/lacrosse field on its campus. Nothing really strange there. The location is a bit odd though:

The field is planned to be artificial turf. A custom fence, similar to the one along UT’s current campus bordering Kennedy Boulevard, will be erected, as will a high net to keep athletic balls from disrupting traffic. The new facility would be consistent with UT’s design and use standards that have already taken place on campus and on Kennedy Boulevard, and would provide an appealing entry into Tampa’s downtown.

It makes sense that UT has to expand its facilities.  However, while we realize sometimes universities have to put facilities in not optimal places, we are not sure that facing Kennedy is the best place to put a playing field, especially if you need nets – which are not attractive (and seemingly not in this rendering):

From the University of Tampa - click on picture for press release

(Does this really belong on Kennedy?)

The bigger question is, as UT builds more residential space and more students attend, why has the city done little to nothing to help foster a university district with amenities that students look for on Kennedy near UT.  Where is the plan to redevelop that area?  Where is the change in zoning to create a walkable stretch along Kennedy west of the Hillsborough River?  Is it waiting for an Urban Land Institute plan for that, too?

List of the Week I

Our first list this week is the ranking metro areas based on their “sugar daddies.”   The Tampa Bay area came in 12th.

SeekingArrangements.com founder and CEO Brandon Wade said statistics gathered over the past five years showed San Francisco as the No. 1 city for sugar daddies. The data gives average income, net worth and how much the average sugar daddy in the area spends on his woman.

In Tampa, nearly two of every 1,000 adult men are sugar daddies, the website reported.

A typical Tampa sugar daddy has an average income of $254,762, is worth about $4.6 million and spends approximately $4,229 a month on his “sugar addiction,” Wade said in a letter announcing the findings. Just more than a third are married.

In the ranking of 20 metropolitan areas, Tampa was just below Seattle and just above Denver. Orlando ranked 14th in the number of sugar daddies and Miami ranked eighth. Both Orlando and Miami ranked higher than Tampa in cash spent on women each month.

What can you say? (It is interesting that Tampa Bay’s sugar daddies spend less.)

List of the Week II

Our second list this week is a list of “5 must-play miniature golf courses.”  Interestingly enough, on the list is Pinellas County’s own Smugglers Cove. (Smugglers Cove’s website here.)  Maybe our sugar daddy’s spend less because they are too busy hitting the sweet mini-links.

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