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Roundup 6-8-2012

June 8, 2012

A note:  Tampasphere is taking a break next week.  We should have a new Roundup the week after that.

North Boulevard Homes

This was an odd week.  A number of things happened, but few were actually groundbreaking or developed enough to merit a strong reaction.  Given all that, two short paragraphs in a Tribune article about West Tampa caught our eye for what it says about how Tampa thinks:

Redevelopment plans include tearing down North Boulevard Homes, an aging public housing complex off Rome Avenue. Its nearly 1,700 residents are walk-in customers for barber shops, restaurants and bodegas up and down Main and Albany. Residents of North Boulevard Homes would have to move — perhaps out of the neighborhood — if the complex is demolished.

Tampa Housing Authority officials said the complex is due to be razed regardless of the city’s vision for development. It would be replaced with mixed-income, modern apartments and townhomes similar to those at Belmont Heights Estates in East Tampa.

The first thing we have to say is that North Boulevard Homes, as it now exists, is plainly outdated.  We also think that the Belmont Heights Estates redevelopment is actually quite good for where it is (as is the redevelopment of public housing on Florida Ave just south of the Hillsborough River).

That being said, the Housing Authority does not get it.  The North Boulevard Homes site is in the middle of town, right next to downtown and in the spine between downtown and Westshore.  Suburban apartments and “townhomes” do not belong there.  The redevelopment needs to be dense – at least as dense Encore, and actually denser than that really.

This is an URBAN location in the middle of the city.  It should have URBAN development.

Same old Tampa DNA.

Port – Director Leaving

The Director of the Port of Tampa announced this week that he will be leaving the post in September.

Now the Port has to find a new director – there needs to be a plan about what the port board wants in a director.  We find this interesting:

Finding a replacement may take time, Murman said. “I imagine we will do a national search.” She said there is a lot of port land that can be developed, making the port even larger, more robust.

“This area is vibrant,” she said. “We have land here, land to expand.”

She said the next port director “will be someone with those goals in mind.”

Let it take time.  The next port director should have those goals as long as that means developing the actual port business, not real estate.  The port should expand and diversify, including such things as the new oil recycling plant as well as much more container business and other industry.

Whatever the case, the new Director should be able to present a vision and a plan for execution to develop the port and make it more competitive in higher value cargo to help develop the local economy. (much like the Airport Director has done)

It seems that the Tribune agrees with us.

The Port Authority should look for someone with a similar willingness to both collaborate and try new approaches.

The port is the most important economic engine in the region. But there is plenty of opportunity for growth, particularly in the container trade. That growth is more likely to be realized with a leader who can bring people together to work on behalf of the port’s and the region’s welfare.

Maybe the decision makers will listen.


This week saw the kickoff of a campaign by some local officials to help MacDill AFB:

A group of Tampa Bay political and business leaders held a news conference Monday to formally kick off a campaign to bring the next-generation of air-refueling tankers to MacDill Air Force Base.

Well, yea, that is a massive priority about which every elected official (from the most local to US Senators) should be very vocal.

Enough said, except it would be nice to get our fighters back, too.

Vinik Land Bank

Jeff Vinik, the owner of the Lightning and leader of the favored bidding group for operation of the Channelside complex, seems to have been busy working to buy up most of the land around the Forum. We have no idea what his plans for either the Channelside complex or the area around the Forum are.  We only hope that they are planned for an urban environment.  (And keep in mind the possibility of a baseball stadium nearby.)

And, please put some shade trees (rather than just palms) along the sidewalks.

Rethinking US 19

Now that US 19 is slowly being turned into a limited access road through most of Clearwater, the City of Clearwater is contemplating ways to develop the land along the US 19 frontage roads.

We actually like the stated concept for redeveloping the land:

One of the main goals of the study is to figure out how to successfully redevelop large parcels of property that used to cater to small retail businesses.

Consultants to the study gave an update to Clearwater’s city council today.  One of the examples given involves this largely undeveloped land near Belleair and US 19.  Officials believe that economic success can be found with a mix of multifamily living and retail, along with corporate and small office clusters.

We are actually surprised that Clearwater – a solid bastion a sprawl – would even consider this. We would love to see truly urban development on this corridor, but given the ad hoc way the transportation system has developed and the complete lack of real planning, it may be hard to connect the different sides of the road in a truly urban fashion.  However, that does not mean that walkable clusters could not be developed.

In any event, Clearwater has set up a website for ideas. Take some time and look at them.  Be forewarned that, as of today, almost every idea posted in the “current” categories involves a traffic light, widening a road or some other small, localized issue.  (Our favorite: “Entering and exiting the Race Track Gas Station.”  Though to be honest, Gulf-to-Bay has been a mess for decades).  The archived categories have some broader ideas.  We find the entire site an interesting way to look at the how our area discussed these matters.

We just hope the lack of bigger issue responses does not discourage Clearwater from revamping the development code to make the area around US 19 a much better, more attractive, and more walkable place than it is today.

St. Pete – Rainmaking or Makin’ It Rain?

Having seen the recent idea of giving $15 million to Bass Pro Shops in Hillsborough die, at least temporarily, St. Pete gave us a learning moment this week.

The [St. Pete] City Council rejected pleas from small business owners and voted Thursday to award the world’s largest retailer a $240,000 tax reimbursement for cleaning up a site that may not be that polluted.

By a vote of 6-2, the council decided that Walmart, the corporate parent of the Sam’s Club that is near completion at 34th Street and 17th Avenue, should get the tax break.

We have already said we are against giving tax breaks and incentives to retail.  Some have a different take:

“It’s disingenuous on our part to negate the fact that (Walmart) is a successful company,” said council member Bill Dudley. “They have a good business plan. Sam Walton had a great idea. To penalize them because they have gobs of money and they don’t need it, that’s baloney.”

We are not saying do not give them money because they are successful.  We would favor giving incentives to an Apple research complex.  We are saying do not give them money because they are a retail establishment with low paying jobs and which would come to the area anyway.  But, in point of fact, there is little risk to putting a Sam’s Club in St. Pete, so there is no reason to give them an incentive.

Where does the thrifty Mayor of St. Pete stand?

But Mayor Bill Foster, who supported the project, said it would send the wrong signal to other developers if the city didn’t approve the tax break.

“We want the sign on our gateway sign to say, ‘St. Pete, we’re open for business,'” said Foster. “We want this to be an environment where it’s easy to do business. We don’t want to send the wrong message that you are entitled to a state benefit, but we will stand in your way, we will be the impediment.”

Apparently, if you are a developer, the Mayor’s all about handing out the benjamins.

There is a difference between being easy to do business and giving away money for no reason.

One day we will get it right.

HART – more talk

The Tribune ran another article about HART, its lack of money, and different tax funding options. The article really did not say anything new, but it did say this:

Although HART planners and the HART board — which includes several members with strong tea party ties — emphasize their studies are for informational purposes and are not recommendations, they have provided some scenarios for changes in funding sources.

Like we said before, don’t worry, they are not serious.

Floridan is Coming

Maybe you have noticed the growing buzz over the reopening of the Floridan Hotel.  It is definitely coming, though the exact date is not clear.  Some employment ads say it will be at the end of June. Whatever the case, it is apparently sold out for the Republican convention in August.

From Tampa Bay Business Journal – click on picture for article

We can’t wait.  Too bad the City (especially the City Council) allowed the Maas Brothers building, and so many other buildings, to be torn down for “progress” (now parking) before someone with vision and ability could renovate them.

Is That All? – Cont

The Tampa City Council, rather than dealing with a poor economy, a bad building code, no transportation money, etc., has continued to struggle with the critical matter of whether the secondary street signs on 7th avenue in Ybor City should read “La Sétima” or “La Séptima.” They presently read “La Setima.”

Here’s an idea – take the signs down and put up a historical marker explaining the whole thing.  Then get to work on real problems.


The Tribune ran a column about TIA and international service this week.  Frankly, rather than us paraphrasing, we think it is worth just reading it. It can be found here.

From a reader – thanks.

List of the Week

This week we don’t really have a list, rather, we have an observation about Travel & Leisure. After last week’s list we decided to look at other Travel & Leisure lists and discovered that the Tampa Bay area was not on any of them. Then, we found a Travel & Leisure survey of America’s favorite cities 2012. Look at the list of choices and notice that no Tampa Bay area cities are on the potential list.  Kansas City is there. Providence, RI, is there.  Salt Lake City is there. Baltimore is there.  But no Tampa Bay area city is even a choice for Travel & Leisure.  Clearly, it must be because the signs in Ybor.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 9, 2012 1:02 AM

    Excited about the Floridan! My grandfather owned the hotel in the 40’s and 50’s. Any word on whether there will be a Sapphire Room?

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