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Roundup 7-27-2012

July 27, 2012

Bass Pro Shops – It Lives

Just when you thought Hillsborough County had made a sensible choice and dropped the idea of subsidizing a Bass Pro Shop in Brandon, it’s back.

The county has offered $15 million in incentives to get Bass Pro Shops to build a store here. The package included $9.5 million toward road improvements around the development and $5.5 million toward building the 145,000-square-foot store.

But the deal, at least at that location, seemed dead in April when the company broke off talks with developer and property owner David Verardo. Bass Pro Shops and Verardo could not agree on how much the company would pay the developer to lease the store once it was built.

Now, the deal is being restructured so that Bass Pro Shops would buy the land from Verardo instead of leasing it, Hagan said. That could give the county an opening to reduce its incentive payment to Verardo, who would no longer be building the store under a restructured agreement.

“By restructuring the deal where Bass is the landlord instead of the tenant, the goal is to lower the county’s investment significantly and possibly limit it to the road improvements,” Hagan said.

* * *

Merrill, who has said he was at first skeptical of giving such a huge incentive package to a retail business, changed his mind after visiting a Bass Pro Shops store and studying its operations. Now Merrill thinks the store will be a boon to the local economy.

The store as proposed would anchor a 21-acre development called The Estuary, which would have an additional 475,000 square feet of retail space and 27,500 square feet of office or commercial space. When the development is built out, it will generate an estimated $2 million in annual property taxes, and $14.8 million a year in sales taxes.

We appreciate the County Administrator’s initial skepticism.  He should maintain it.

The way we see it, Bass Pro Shops is working hard to get some money to open a store in Hillsborough County, which makes it seem to us like they want to open a store in Hillsborough County.  Good.  Let them pay the required fees.  Taxpayer money should not be used.

As we have discussed many times, Hillsborough County lacks the funds to upgrade roads all over the county – upgrades that are very necessary and could help attract high paying jobs.  Why would it give money to attract retail (and essentially subsidize a sale of land between a private landowner and a company)?  If Bass Pro Shops wants to be in our market, let them pay what every other store has to pay.

Encore’s Encore

There was a report a few weeks ago that the Encore, a project we like the conceptually, if not in its proposed full execution, received funding to move forward with two more buildings.

Two more apartment buildings planned at the Encore site northeast of downtown are fully funded with construction scheduled to begin by the end of this year, Tampa Housing Authority officials say.

Funding for The Trio, a $26 million multifamily apartment building, fell into place recently with approval of more than $8 million in bonds provided through the Housing Finance Authority of Hillsborough County. A funding agreement for The Reed, a $29 million senior apartment building, was reached in recent weeks with a closing anticipated in October.

* * *

Money for the two buildings and The Ella, a third apartment building now under construction, has come from federal, state and local sources, including federal stimulus grants, tax credits and bond financing.

* * *

The Trio likely will be first, with a construction start by early September and a planned 12-month completion schedule; The Reed would follow sometime after October and take about 18 months to complete.

While we have some concerns about this project, we are pleased with this.  Encore has the chance to truly change the northeast part of downtown.  We only hope that the issues we raised previously are addressed so that it can reach its potential and be “excellent.”

So Tampa Bay is a Region, at Least This Month

The usually very city-centric Mayor of St. Pete had an unusual request this week:

Mayor Bill Foster is asking for help paying for security at the Republican National Convention’s welcome party at Tropicana Field on Aug. 26.

The revelation comes after Foster declared that city taxpayers wouldn’t pay to protect 20,000 dignitaries, delegates and journalists at the event or any other convention activities held in St. Petersburg.

On July 13, Foster asked Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn to reimburse St. Petersburg for the “substantial costs in connection” with paying police, firefighters and other city employees.

Tampa is getting a $50 million grant from the federal government to pay for extra police personnel and convention-related security purchases such as police gear, vehicles and communications equipment.

Given his past comments and actions, it would be very tempting to respond:

Sorry, Tampa has an agreement on the grant to have the RNC in Tampa.  That is Tampa’s money, like the Rays are St. Pete’s team and the Trop is St. Pete’s stadium.  Tampa has to protect the Tampa taxpayers.

But, we agree with the approach of the Mayor of Tampa:

Buckhorn said Wednesday that Tampa police Chief Jane Castor will meet with St. Petersburg officials soon.

Buckhorn indicated that Tampa will pick up some of the costs for St. Petersburg’s event, as long as they meet federal guidelines.

It shows that the region can work together and, frankly, it is the right thing to do.  The Mayor of St. Pete should remember that when he is considering what to do about the Rays.

Recommended Reading

A major figure in the recent development of Hillsborough County passed away this week.  We are sorry for his family’s loss.  We recommend reading the articles celebrating his life. (see here and here).  They are informative both about the recent history of Hillsborough County and the background of some of the present leaders.

List of the Week I

The first list this week is America’s most crowded beaches. Because it is from Travel & Leisure, we did not expect them to list any beaches in the Tampa Bay area, and they do not disappoint, though they do mention Brevard County and Dayton Beach. Regardless of Travel & Leisure’s biases, it does beg the question of how much can the area depend on tourism to support the economy (and why Travel & Leisure thinks it is ok to completely ignore us).

List of the Week II

Our second list of the week is of the emptiest cities in the US. The methodology is explained here.

Two things struck us as interesting on this list.  First, Orlando was number one.  Also on the list were some surprises, like Atlanta and Houston. Tampa is listed as number 9.

Second, the website uses the following picture of St. Pete when it lists “Tampa:”

From CNBC website – click on picture for website

We suppose that should make all those who complain about St. Pete not getting its time in the spotlight happy.  On the other hand, given the category, maybe not.

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