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Roundup 7-5-2013

July 5, 2013

Tampa/Pasco – It’s So Fluffy

This past weekend, there was the kind of less-than-excessively-substantive article of the sort that shows up in these parts from time to time.  We are not sure the exact purpose of these articles – whether it is just to be positive, to promote various agendas and politicians or for economic recruiters to send off to targets to make the area look dynamic.  This article – which was ostensibly about how traffic will be relieved by development in Tampa and Pasco county (on the landing page of the Tribune was listed as “Changes could ease Tampa-Pasco gridlock”)  – actually provided some insights into what is going on in the Tampa Bay area, just not necessarily the intended insights.  Let’s look at some:

Among the country’s large cities, Tampa is one of the most commuter-oriented, according to a recent study by the Census Bureau.

Only Miami, Atlanta and Washington, D.C., are more influenced by the workday flow to and from the suburbs.

* * *

Each work day, Tampa absorbs more than 161,000 commuters, swelling its population by nearly 50 percent. The city has twice as many jobs as it has workers, the Census Bureau study says.

By comparison, St. Petersburg, which has both a smaller business base and a larger residential population in its urban core, grows by just 3.5 percent during the work day.

We already made reference to this a few weeks ago, but it is interesting nonetheless.  (The first thing that comes to mind, which really is an aside, is that explains why a Rays stadium in Hillsborough County makes more sense than one in Pinellas county – not only is the population bigger, but the inflow of people working is also bigger.)  So what does the Mayor of Tampa have to say?

In Tampa, Mayor Bob Buckhorn wants more people living in the city’s urban core and continues to push programs to make downtown and the Channel District more enticing, particularly to young people

* * *

“The trends nationally have been toward more and more people living in the urban core,” Buckhorn said. “I think over the next decade, downtown Tampa is going to explode in a very positive way. Demand for residences is outstripping our supply right now.”

Way to think small, Mr. Mayor.  Consider: there is a net increase of 161,000 commuters a day into Tampa.  Downtown is a relatively small percentage of the overall workforce;–it is not even the largest employment center, Westshore is. It is likely that more traffic would be relieved by developing Westshore as a walkable residential area than downtown (though we are in favor of doing both).

Why is the Mayor only talking about Downtown and Channel District?  Is it that inconceivable that having a healthy urban area from Downtown to Westshore is more beneficial to the city than drawing limited, arbitrary lines for where there should be proper development and investment and allowing sprawling messes everywhere else?  Why does the Mayor just not see that most cities have at least two major business areas and that they help each other thrive?  Why isn’t he talking about making Westshore and West Tampa and all the connecting area between to business nodes of downtown and Westshore – a mere 5 miles or so – more urban, connected, walkable, and liveable – all of it?

The answer is a resounding “Because.”  (And that is why we have one story, suburban, day cares going up on Kennedy a mile from downtown.)

Just for future reference: It is worth noting that the distance from Downtown Tampa (City Hall) to Westshore Mall is 4.5 miles.  By comparison, the distance from the south end of downtown Atlanta to the north end of midtown is about 4 miles (give or take a tenth here and there)  The distance from the northern end of downtown Miami (performing arts center) to the southern end of the Brickell area (around SW 15th Rd.) is 2.5 or so miles and to Coconut Grove it is about 6 miles.

As for the Pasco part of the story – there is really no point in getting into the portion of the article on Pasco or the other article this week on Pasco’s routinely low wage scale (and when you are low for Tampa Bay, you are very low).    In sum, it says they are going to build office parks and have sprawl closer to their houses and get some companies to relocate there.  (And if there is growth in both areas, who is to say traffic will get any better? It won’t. And no one in the article mentions mass transit.)

To which the Mayor of Tampa responds:

That’s OK with Buckhorn.

Even if Pasco builds corporate centers in Wesley Chapel, “half the CEOs are still going to live in South Tampa,” he said. 

Or they might live in Cheval or Avila so the Mayor does not call them “posers.”

Economic Development – It’s Still So Fluffy

In addition to the article discussed above, there were two articles this week about business incubators – one a news report  (the Pinellas Park stuff is interesting), the other an opinion piece by a Hillsborough County commissioner.    Both had some merit in pointing out some facts and efforts to develop more of a start up culture.  However, both had a tone best summarized by this:

Nurturing a thriving startup community that consistently produces new businesses and products is hard work and requires discipline and focus, but this much is clear: The Tampa Bay area’s startup revolution has begun. Our region is a force to be reckoned with.

While it is true that there are a number of efforts working toward this goal, it is not clear that we are “a force to be reckoned with.”  Setting aside the failure to launch of the Founder Institute in Tampa Bay, this week an article coincidentally appeared in the Atlantic Cities website entitled “High Tech Challengers to Silicon Valley.”   The article discusses venture capital spending, particularly per capita venture capital spending in various areas.  First, it discusses the per capita number of VC deals, and gives this graphic:

From the Atlantic Cities website – click on image for wesbite

Then it discusses dollars spent per capita and gives this graphic:

From the Atlantic Cities website – click on image for website

You almost need a microscope to find the Tampa Bay area on either map.  You can read the whole article, but, needless to say, the Tampa Bay area is essentially a non-factor.  That is far more telling than anything in either article in the local press.

We are all for progress in developing out startup culture, our tech culture, and our local economy generally.  We are all for diversification and development of the area.  We are all for a positive, can do attitude.  But we are also for being realistic and not blowing smoke in various places.

The truth is the Tampa Bay area has made progress, but we are far behind other areas and have a long way to go.  A few local leaders get it, but most of them are still trapped in the past, which served their careers well and their constituents and this area quite poorly.

Another Day, Another Apartment Complex

A week or so ago the City Council rejected an urbanish-apartment building on Howard Avenue, which lead to this very accurate assessment of South Tampa from the developer:

“There appears to be a large disconnect between the (city’s) vision for the SoHo district and what the neighboring homeowner’s associations want to see there,” Everett wrote in an email.

(Frankly, there is a disconnect between what the City says and what it does all over the City, but that is for another day.) Of course, as always, the question is whether the homeowner’s associations represent the majority of the residents or just the loudest – not that the City Council really cares.  Nevertheless, while the City now seems likely to pull an Old Hyde Park Village on Howard and make sure the area does not reach its potential, elsewhere in Hyde Park, closer to Kennedy, where Tampa can actually be urban, there is another proposal.

On the Tampa side of the bay, Alliance Residential has filed for a building permit for a five-story, urban infill complex at Cleveland Street and Rome Avenue. Several industrial buildings sit on the 3-acre property now, most of which appear vacant, except for one building housing Southern Equipment Corp.

Alliance Residential envisions two adjoining apartment buildings and a parking garage, with a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units starting at $1,100 for a 550-square-foot unit and running to just shy of $2,500 a month for 1,600 square feet. Residents will share a clubhouse, resort-style pool and a Wi-Fi cafe, Alliance Residential managing director John Zeledon said.

This is the rendering:

From the Tribune – click on picture for article

You can see the lot here. The rendering is not great and not horrible.  It looks like a normal five-story apartment building.  We can deal with that.

The only problem we have with this proposal as stated is that there is no retail on either Cleveland or Platt.  We understand that every building can’t have retail, but, especially with other nearby apartments, there is room for it there and to set the example of how the area should be built.

Of course, without the lack of proper transit, lack of walkable retail in the complex and/or nearby, and lack of proper mixed use development on Howard, all the folks in these apartments can drive to Howard to find some place to eat or hang out.  That should help the traffic.

Built Environment – What Do You Actually Want?

Returning to the complaints about traffic on Howard, in an article about rumors of Trader Joe’s on Swann, we found the general disconnect in planning in Tampa in an article about South Tampa residents’ concerns about a possible (rumored) Trader Joe’s.  The disconnect can be found in this quote:

 . . . Although much of Swann Avenue is two lanes, it’s often used by drivers getting to Dale Mabry Highway.

“It’s already a cut-through street,” he said. “So I guess it’s just going to get worse.”

Swann has lights on Lois, Dale Mabry, Himes/Henderson, MacDill, Armenia, Howard, and Rome.  While it is simply a residential street closer to Westshore, elsewhere it is not a “cut-through street” – it a local connector (and, in fact, has a hospital on it.  A road with a hospital on it cannot logically be seen as a “cut-through” street.)  Despite a few traffic impediments, the City has designated it as an east-west connector by giving it so many lights which make it a logically designated road to go east-west (Just like Howard is a north-south connector). If the City does not want it to be so, then remove the lights.  It is that simple.

Of course, if South Tampa is too delicately balanced to have it, it is fine with us if Trader Joe’s goes somewhere else that is much more convenient for the vast majority of people  in the Tampa Bay area.

St. Pete – An HQ, but Where?

There was interesting news that Jabil Circuit, one of the largest public companies in the area, is considering both Gateway and downtown St. Pete sites for a unified headquarters.

The contract electronics manufacturer, currently based in the city’s Gateway area but spread out in several locations county-wide, has long discussed unifying its headquarters for up to 2,000 local employees.

Downtown is one of three possible locations, said Dave Goodwin, the city’s planning and economic development director said Wednesday. The other two are Jabil’s current campus on Dr. Martin Luther King Street N and Roosevelt Boulevard and roughly 100 acres that Jabil owns at Gandy Boulevard and Interstate 275.

It will be interesting what they decide.  Obviously there are benefits for downtown from a downtown location.  On the other hand, it is farther from the airport and a larger population in Hillsborough County and northern Pinellas.

It would be nice if Tampa based corporations would consider downtown more, rather than running to Westshore, but in many ways they can’t be blamed.  Until there is real transit and urban development in the area – not just buses – Westshore will have a leg up in many categories.  If the City were smart it would work harder to urbanize Westshore.

TIA – Now More Cuba

A few months after some Cuba flights from TIA got cut, there is a little expansion:

Island Travel & Tours Ltd., a Tampa-based air service provider, will add its third weekly round-trip flight between Tampa International Airport and Havana beginning Sunday and continuing through Aug. 18, company President Bill Hauf said Monday.

The new flight will be Island Travel & Tours’ second round-trip between Tampa and Havana on Sundays, alongside its Wednesday round-trip on 150-passenger Boeing 737-400s, Hauf said.

Miami-based ABC Charters flies a round-trip between Tampa and Havana on Saturdays and a round-trip between Tampa and the eastern Cuba city of Holguin on Tuesdays, the latter seasonal service between June and August, and December and January.

It is good to see.  There will likely be many adjustments in service because of the relative newness of the service and the unique instability of American travel restrictions.  It is good the service has survived and done well.

Now, if only we could get more international flights.

Port – Um, Ok, Sounds Good

This week we learned that the Port of Tampa signed a sister port deal with an Argentine port.

The Tampa Port Authority has signed a “sister port” agreement with the Port Management Consortium of the Port of Quequén, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The agreement creates marketing synergies and trade opportunities between the two port cities, which are connected by growing trade lanes between the U.S. and South America. 

As when Port Manatee signed a sister port agreement with Rio de Janeiro, we have no idea what this agreement really means, but it sounds good.  Hopefully, it will actually lead to trade coming through the port.

Where Did That Money Go?

There was a very interesting article in the Tribune this week about Tampa’s budget. (Fear not; there will be no line by line analysis)  The first thing to note is:

The city of Tampa’s 2014 budget will come up $12 million short, in part because of lower-than-expected revenue from conventions and red-light cameras.

That is unusual for such an apparently diligent administration; a slightly closer look may be in order.  First, let’s deal with the convention issue:

Automatic federal budget cuts adopted by Congress, known as sequestration, will cost the city-owned Tampa Convention Center $3.4 million in lost revenue after three major military-related conventions were canceled.

Ok, that is understandable, if unfortunate.  What about the other thing – the red light cameras:

Finance Director Sonya Little told the city council last week that the city had expected $5.4 million in fines through its red-light program next year. Now it looks like that will be about $2 million less, Little said.

Ok, why?

Still, Tampa police call the trend a success: The drop in fines means fewer citations are being issued so red-light cameras are accomplishing their goal of reducing accidents at intersections.

“It has always been our goal to change driving patterns to make our roadways safer,” police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said. “We predicted that once drivers realized red-light cameras were in place, the number of crashes and citations would decline. A decrease in citations shows people are running red lights less often so we see that as a success.”

First of all, fewer citations (and hopefully fewer accidents) are a good thing.

Second, if the goal of red light cameras was to decrease citations, and thus revenue from the cameras, why is the money spent in the budget rather than just put in a rainy day fund.  If the City thought they cameras would actually lessen violations, the assumption should have been for very little revenue from the cameras.  On the other hand, if the City thought the cameras would be ineffective and that the City could project revenue from the cameras, it is just an admission that the cameras are just about money making. (An belief that is common throughout the country. )

The whole thing seems quite odd.

List of the Week

This week’s list is Travel & Leisure’s list of America’s Snobbiest Cities.  Of course, because Travel & Leisure does not acknowledge the existence of the Tampa Bay area, we can’t look bad in this list.

Number one is San Francisco, followed by New York, Boston, Minneapolis, Santa Fe, Seattle, Chicago, Providence, DC, Charleston (SC), Portland (OR), Savannah, Nashville, Kansas City, Philadelphia, LA, Houston, Portland (ME), Austin, and San Juan (PR).

Good to see that we did well in this list.  It is also interesting to note how many of the same suspects on this list are on two other Travel & Leisure lists.

First, the top tech cities: Seattle, San Francisco, Austin, Portland (OR), Denver, Boston, Providence, San Diego, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, San Juan (PR), Chicago, Portland (ME), Savannah, New York, LA, DC, and Las Vegas.

Then top hipster cities: Seattle, Portland (OR), San Francisco, New Orleans, Portland (ME), Providence, Austin, San Juan (PR), Philadelphia, Denver, Savannah, New York, Santa Fe, Chicago, San Diego, Minneapolis, Boston, Los Angeles, Nashville, and Kansas City.

Amazingly devoid of Florida.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 5, 2013 2:03 PM

    Interesting you are having this discussion about hodgepodge planning and we are having a parallel discussion here: http://lnkd.in/8ERcAi. We would love for you to join us some time. By the way, love your work here on the blog. Please keep it up.

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