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Roundup 1-18-2013

January 18, 2013

Port – Welcome to the New Director

The port’s new Director started this week and hit the ground running.  While only time will tell how he will do, we like what we hear and see at this early stage.  First, the Port Director gave an interview to the Tribune:

Q: What is your priority?

A: I want to aggressively expand the marketing of the port, the community, the region, the state. I want to invigorate the pace at which we do business. We need to market to the world, create a brand for the port for international and domestic customers.

Great.  That is the proper attitude.  We also found this interesting:

Q: How can the port improve container cargo (high-value goods such as electronics that are lucrative for port revenue) volume?

A: The market will make the decisions, but we can make the case for using the Port of Tampa. Businesses along the Interstate 4 corridor represent untapped potential for us. I know the officials with CSX Transportation (headquartered in Jacksonville.) The port’s new rail terminal on the pier is a huge advantage. I will be meeting with CSX soon about marketing (goods) along their lines to the central part of the country.

The I-4 corridor is “untapped potential.”  What does that say about what went on at the port previously?  In any event, the past is the past.  We like what we hear.  Of course, we think that the Port should try to push its market further, but that would be part of the branding and marketing of which he spoke.

He also said that Tampa will not be getting the biggest ships coming through the widened Panama Canal.  We know for a fact this is true because the main channel is too shallow (and the Skyway potentially too short).  However, the Port and the area needs to plan for the future and how to some day get some of these ships.  Everyone else seems to be working on it.

There is more, but you should read the interview.

On to things that got done the first week:

The board — down from seven to four commissioners Tuesday — voted to approve two key ventures that they hope will make the port much easier for the new CEO to market.

The board approved a three-year incentive agreement with Mediterranean Shipping Co. to bring the world’s second-largest shipping container line to the Port of Tampa.

MSC, a Swiss company, will join the Israeli company that already brings container service to Tampa, Zim Integrated Shipping Services. MSC will connect Tampa directly to its Caribbean hub, Caucedo in the Dominican Republic.

That will link Tampa to MSC’s worldwide shipping network, which stretches across Latin America to the Middle East and through the Suez Canal.

Officials hope exporters and importers will start using Tampa to deliver and send out their cargo containers. It’s an important and lucrative cargo sector of which Tampa has virtually no market share — just 40,000 containers in 2011, compared with Miami’s 900,000 that same year.

And just to clarify what this service is, the Port press release explains:

The service is provided in partnership with Zim Integrated Shipping services using five vessels, each with a capacity of 3000 TEUs, with three ships provided by MSC and two by Zim, to include direct calls at Caucedo, Kingston, Veracruz and Altamira, and offering worldwide connections. 

That is a good start. (And we also note there is new service at Port Manatee.) What else?

The port board also approved the next two phases of a $54 million project to modernize the 45-year-old liquid bulk terminals at the REK Pier.

Work should be done in 2014. The port said it handles 40 percent of the petroleum entering the Tampa Bay and Central Florida regions.

Cool, but that was in the works.  What can we expect from the new Director?  This is a hint:

The board then blessed Anderson’s first proposal as Tampa’s CEO: $50,000 to start advertising the new container service at some upcoming trade shows.

There we go.  That’s what we like.  Anything else?

New Tampa port director and CEO Paul Anderson will also be getting a seat on the Tampa-Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.’s Executive Committee.

The Tampa Port Authority voted Tuesday to pay the EDC’s $25,000 committee membership fee.

Representatives from about two-dozen local companies belong to the committee, which sets policy and chairs key task force groups.

Tampa International Airport belongs to the executive committee, as does the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

Huh?  And by “Huh” we don’t mean why did they join the EDC.  We mean how is it that what is arguably the Tampa Bay area’s biggest economic engine and gateway for international trade was not represented on the board of the EDC before?  In any event, that has been corrected.

We are happy with all these steps.  They are in line with the model used by the airport director when he took over, which is what we need.

In sum, a good first few days for the new Director.  We are hopeful. Time will tell about the future.

TIA –Master Planning

As we have noted a number of times, when there is a single owner that controls development, master planning is a useful exercise.  That is the case with TIA.  While the news of TIA’s revised master plan came out in December, we wanted to wait until we saw a document regarding it.  That is now up on the TIA website here.

So what are the main changes to the master plan?

The future of Tampa International Airport came into sharper focus at Thursday’s aviation board meeting: Officials released proposals for expanding the third-floor terminal and building a fifth airside to handle international flights.

* * *

Now it’s the main terminal that’s being rethought:

• A new Airside D will be built along the northwest corner of the terminal, between Airsides C and E. The third floor will contain 16 gates for future international flights. Airside C will also be expanded.

• The four corners of the third-floor terminal, where passengers board the airside trams and wait for arrivals, will be expanded.

The north side will also be built out to accommodate the new Airside D and create a joint security screening area for Airsides D and C. The floors under the new security area will house customs and immigration. But the new footprint may encroach upon the Tampa Airport Marriott. The airport may need a new hotel, too.

• A station for the new tram to the rental car facility will be built on the east side, between Airsides A and C.

• New technology would streamline the ticketing and baggage area, freeing space.

The airport, which currently handles 16.8 million passengers annually, wants to expand its existing facilities to handle a projected 34.7 million by 2041 without building a new terminal.

But the terminal likely won’t see any changes for a decade or two. The new rental car facility and other southern improvements will probably take place first within the next few years. . .

This all makes sense to us.  It plans for expansion while trying to keep down costs and not becoming unnecessarily extravagant.  Clearly, at some point TIA was going to have to deal with people changing planes from one airside to another without having to go through security again.  The update addresses that.  This is the idea:

From TIA Master Plan Update presentation pdf

And instead of building a whole new landside/airside complex, the idea is to expand airside C and build a new D, like this:

From TIA Master Plan Update pdf

We also like the new people mover to a remote rental car facility, keeping the model pioneered by TIA that helped make it so good in the first place.  We look forward to further news in March.

Once again, TIA is doing things right by thinking out scenarios for the future and controlling costs without being afraid of making proper, necessary investments.

HART/PSTA

The HART/PSTA saga continues.  This week, the PSTA Board once again showed it is the responsible party in the discussions:

Leaders of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority want to talk with their counterparts in Hillsborough County about the possibility of an eventual merger, even though Hillsborough Area Regional Transit officials say they’re not interested.

“We need to draw a line in the sand if that’s the way we feel,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Susan Latvala, a PSTA board member, at Monday’s board of directors meeting.

Latvala and her fellow board members voted unanimously to meet with leaders of Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, known as HART.

Of course, the behavior of some on HART’s board is causing unneeded and counterproductive friction:

But Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch doesn’t understand why the boards need to meet again.

“There was a lot of misinformation that I read, even on Facebook, that this was about subverting people’s will. Those things are just not true,” Welch said.

The “misinformation” refers to responses to Miller’s remarks about the benefits of a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA). Miller said a JPA would allow the agencies to consolidate services without having to go before the voters in a referendum.

The comment was perceived as trying to make an end-around the voters, specifically by HART board members Karen Jaroch and Josh Burgin.

PSTA’s chair, St. Pete City Councilman Jeff Danner, said the reason for a JPA was to consolidate services to save money and increase productivity within the two agencies. It’s something that could happen without the need for voters to approve every individual function. His opinion was questioned by HART board members and constituents as a way to avoid public accountability, something that Danner said was the farthest thing from the truth, “it was never a way about getting around the voters.”

It is HART’s board that claims they want to create efficiency by cooperating with PSTA. Logically, that would include consolidating services. Having to hold a referendum on every issue would be ridiculous.  Thus, apparently for at least some on HART’s board, saying they favor cooperation is a ruse.

We just urge the PSTA members to try to overlook the HART Boards Tea Party members’ comments.  As we said last week, avoiding further studies, as HART’s board wants to do, denies the voters the information they need to be fully informed about the functioning of their transportation systems. That is subverting the voters.  Studying efficiency and cost savings is responsible government.

But, as with the Mayor of St. Pete and the Rays, we do not expect the HART board as currently constituted to do the responsible thing and promote the interests of the region.

Downtown Development – Library Apartment Tower

This week, the Tampa City Council approved the sale of land behind the Germany Library to developers who propose building a 36-story apartment building.

The proposed $85 million tower would include 350 residences, 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and 600 parking spaces built into its lower levels. Construction could be done by the end of 2014.

The price for the land is $4 million.

. . . the city plans to use the money it gets from selling the land to reconfigure Cass and Tyler streets into two-way roads on a more traditional grid.

Along the way, officials say the Straz Center should get more room for people being dropped off before shows and should see a reduction in the long lines of cars that some nights queue all the way to Ashley Drive.

The Straz Center’s board voted Monday to support the development.

We have no problem two-waying those streets as they are not major arteries into downtown. (We don’t think it will untangle any traffic, because there usually isn’t much traffic there, unless there is a crowd for the Straz.) It is wise to use the money from the sale to accomplish that goal.  Furthermore, we are happy that, for the first time since it was built, the entrance to the Straz will make sense relative to the rest of downtown (though we still do not like the parking lot right on the river at the Straz entrance).

From the City of Tampa website – click on picture for website

Another thing we like, which the Times missed in its editorial against the project, is that this building is not on the river, and it does not cut anything off from the river.  First, at present, the library block is not exactly an inviting, pedestrian friendly area. Moreover, from the rendering, you can see the proposed building is setback quite a bit with a street and green space (and the unfortunate Straz parking lot) between it and the river. Moreover, unlike almost everything that came before it, the proposed building faces the river.  That is all good.  Moreover, the street retail area is covered, protecting people from the sun and rain, which is something the City got away from for unknown reasons and should require, or at least strongly recommend.

From the City of Tampa website – click on picture for website

We realize that the renderings are more massing diagrams than designs and that the look of the building will change.  We hope the covered retail is retained, and they add balconies.  Basically, having seen the initial renderings, we like the idea of this building.  We think it will bring life to a dead zone block (the library block) and create connectivity.  Though, we really don’t think it will connect the west side of the river because across the river are Tampa Prep and UT sports fields that really don’t enhance this building, but that is ok.  It certainly will not make the area less inviting to people on a hopefully redeveloped future west side of the river.

One thing we think people should keep in mind is that the Riverwalk is going to be directed in front of this building because the CSX railroad bridge is too low to go under.  That makes sense.  However, the land next to the Museum of Art in the diagram where the Riverwalk is going to go is also land contemplated (at least theoretically) for an expansion of the museum.  The City should have a contingency for that.

We look forward to seeing the final design.

Economic Development – Draper Labs

The Times had an interesting article about Draper Labs and their involvement in the Tampa Bay area.   It is worth a read.  It is the kind of involvement that is great for the area, though we need a lot more to get where we need to be.

Entering the 21st Century

There was also an article in the Times regarding the Mayor of Tampa’s efforts to bring WIFI to downtown.

So now the city is launching a two-part project to expand downtown WiFi coverage in a handful of key spots.

The first, cheaper phase will create free WiFi hot spots at about a half-dozen city buildings, including the main municipal office building, City Council chambers and the lobbies of the Police Department and construction services center.

Those hot spots should be in place in the next four to eight weeks. The cost will be about $9,500 for equipment and installation and an estimated $5,000 a year in Internet and software maintenance charges.

* * *

The second, more expensive phase will be to work with telecommunications companies like Bright House Networks and Verizon to bring free WiFi to a small handful of popular public spaces such as Curtis Hixon, the Riverwalk and Lykes Gaslight Square Park.

“Ideally, what you would like to see is people hanging out on Curtis Hixon lawn, with their laptop, being able to work while at the same time they enjoy the Riverwalk and the water,” Buckhorn said. “That’s a far more expensive endeavour.”

* * *

Tampa officials and Bright House have begun preliminary talks, both sides say, but there’s no estimates yet of potential costs or other details. Bright House already has two WiFi hot spots inside the park (Bright House customers can sign on as part of their service; non-customers pay a small fee to do so). Buckhorn aims to bring free WiFi to the park, “but there may be some middle ground there.”

We are all for this effort.  It seems like a no-brainer, though why limit it to a few places in downtown?  Why not all of downtown?  Then there is this:

Buckhorn says he hopes it takes no more than a couple of months. That, at least, would silence a couple of aides in their 20s who remind him virtually every week how lame the city’s WiFi access is, how even his office lacks WiFi and how they have to go somewhere else if they need to work on their laptops.

“I hear it, and they’re right,” he said.

He’s right – they are right.  The question is why someone didn’t just go to the store, buy a WIFI router, and plug it in. (Even if there is a question of network security, it can be easily worked out.)

Just like with urban development, we understand that some things are difficult and take time to work out.  However, some things are very easy, and we just have to wonder why they aren’t done.

Closing the Loop

There was a report in the Times regarding Pasco County looking at building a limited access road along/above SR 54.

The Florida Department of Transportation recently wrapped up a study of the corridor from U.S. 19 in New Port Richey to Bruce B. Downs Boulevard in Wesley Chapel. The county’s study, approved last year and estimated to cost $250,000, will cover the corridor from U.S. 19 to U.S. 301, including the part of SR 56 that has not yet been built, although the initial project will be built between the Suncoast Parkway and Interstate 75. It will be paid for with mobility fees, money that developers pay to fund road improvements for the traffic their projects create.

* * *

The study lists 18 options, which include various forms of mass transit.

Two managed toll lanes at ground level would generate few users at a toll of 14 cents a mile and even fewer at 21 cents a mile, the study projected. Two elevated lanes would entice too few drivers as well.

However, if you build four elevated toll lanes, the scales tip, with more opting for the faster route and easing congestion on the ground-level lanes, the study suggested. Raise the toll cost from 14 to 21 cents a mile and that dips, though use is still high enough to make the project viable, officials said.

“This is the one we think has the most potential,” Gehring said of the four elevated toll lanes.

The state study puts the price tag for that option, which includes express buses, between $1.7 billion and $2 billion.

Pasco long ago looked at building a similar road a little farther north.  That project withered. However, an east-wet road is needed, especially since Hillsborough shortsightedly killed the part of the Veterans connecting Dale Mabry and 275 decades ago. As an FDOT engineer said:

“This is the top part of a regional loop for the Tampa Bay region,” said Gao.

Hopefully something will come from this.  While we are in favor of rail transit, we are well aware that our roads are also inadequate.  A road like this should have been built long ago.

Channelside – Hint of the Future?

While there has been no news about the Channelside complex and the Lightning owner’s attempt to obtain the property and redevelop it and the area around it, there was an interesting article on the Atlantic Cities website about the efforts of numerous NHL owners to develop the areas around their teams’ arenas. (You can read it here)

Thankfully, the NHL is back.  Hopefully, Channelside will get resolved soon, and we can move forward.

Coming Out Watch

The Colbert Report did a feature on the fugitive monkey in Pinellas County.

Of course, it is comedy, but a few things of note 1) the skit had the standard “why would you want to live in Tampa?” joke (does any other major area, including other areas of Florida, get this comment made about them?) and 2) they were talking about Pinellas but calling in Tampa.

The world sees us as one. If only HART, the Mayor of St. Pete, and other local decision makers would consistently do the same.

List of the Week

Our list this week is the Milken Institute’s list of Best Performing Cities.

The 2012 Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index ranks U.S. metropolitan areas by how well they are creating and sustaining jobs and economic growth. The components include job, wage and salary, and technology growth. In most years, these give a good indication of the underlying structural performance of regional economics.

The top 5 are, not surprisingly, San Jose, Austin, Raleigh, Houston, and Washington, DC.  The Tampa Bay area is 138th, Sarasota is 187th, and Lakeland is 200th.  Elsewhere in Florida is not much better (Jacksonville is 121st; Orlando is 124th, Miami 131st, Ft Lauderdale is 179th, West Palm Beach is 188th)

Looks like we really do need many more Draper Labs.

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