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Roundup 7-18-2014

July 18, 2014

Bro Bowl – Did You Really Expect Anything Else?

In what will come as no surprise to anyone who observes Tampa politics, the Mayor is going to succeed in destroying the Bro Bowl, the latest step being the City Council’s rubber stamp.

The City Council on Thursday approved a $6.9 million construction budget to create a new Perry Harvey Sr. Park near downtown Tampa — and to demolish and rebuild the historic Bro Bowl skateboard park at a new location.

This means skateboarders have less than two months to enjoy the original graffiti-spattered bowl, which last October became the first skate bowl in the United States to be named to the National Register of Historic Places.

That’s because city officials expect the contractor, Cutler Associates of Tampa, to fence the park in early September and begin construction a few weeks later.

The article then goes on about the merits of the new park and its honoring African-American history and includes some quotes from the Mayor.

What the article does not do is ask why the Bro Bowl had to be destroyed to honor African-American history (why ask such inconvenient – at least for the City – questions).  Nor does it provide any explanation. (The closest you can come to finding any motivation is probably this article from 2006.)

As we have noted numerous times, African-American history could have been honored and the Bro Bowl saved. But it would be a waste to discuss it in depth again. (Though you can read some of what we have said here and here) The City is not interested in creative, inclusive solutions.

The determination to destroy the Bro Bowl rather than work a constructive solution is just part of the same old, small town, zero sum politics that has been the hallmark of Tampa for decades while other cities moved onward and upward.

Transportation – FDOT Giveth, FDOT Taketh Away

FDOT has quite the love for variable rate toll lanes.  Every time they come up, we are told that it is ok because those lanes are new lanes and people who do not want to pay can always travel the free lanes. Nothing is lost but faster lanes are gained.

Well, a while ago, FDOT told us that they are going to rebuild the Howard Frankland north bound span, which is good.  But there is this interesting nugget:

The other huge project is the construction of a new northbound Howard Frankland Bridge. The state has rated the current bridge, which reopened in January 1993 after rehabilitation, as “structurally deficient,” said Ming Gao, state DOT planning manager. By giving the bridge that rating, the DOT is saying that it needs to be continually repaired or replaced by 2025. Gao estimated that the DOT is already paying about $2 million a year to maintain it.

* * *

The recommended replacement project calls for building a new span between the existing bridges because that will have less environmental impact on the area and would not require changes to the seawall on both the Hillsborough and Pinellas sides.

When complete, it would have four lanes. It would also have a substructure strong enough to be widened and to support light rail or other such fixed guideway transit, should that ever be built.

One of the four lanes would be a toll express lane. The other three would be traditional lanes.

The project is expected to start in the 2018-19 fiscal year and be complete some time in the 2022-24 time period. The cost is expected to be about $390 million, which includes demolishing the existing northbound Howard Frankland.

What?  So FDOT is taking away one of the existing free lanes.  Then, based on the idea that variable rate toll lanes are priced to make sure that traffic keeps out of the toll lane so it keeps flowing, FDOT is pushing cars into the free lanes which are now limited to three. (How expensive will those lanes be?)

We wonder how many other areas of the state are actually having free lanes removed from vital arteries. (Sometimes it makes you wonder if we even have a legislative delegation.)

That’s ok, though, because, if you want to avoid crossing on new but shrunken Howard Frankland, you can just take the very effective regional mass transit system . . .

Port – The Great Cruise Conundrum

The state just came out with its preliminary report about the threat posed to the cruise business in Tampa by the growth in the size of cruise ships.

Here, mega cruise ships cannot fit beneath the Sunshine Skyway bridge. The Skyway can handle cruise ships that measure 180 feet from the top of the waterline. But the mega ships can sit as high as 225 feet above the waterline.

Those ships would never be able to sail unimpeded to the cruise ship terminals in downtown Tampa’s Channel District. But those are the ships that the industry is rapidly adopting. There may not be enough of the smaller, older ships in the future to dock in Tampa.

The $150,000 report listed options for dealing, or not dealing, with the coming problem:

• Officials could choose to build a new Skyway bridge, or raise part of it, so that mega cruise ships could pass beneath it.

Building a new Skyway (which was finished in 1987) would cost $2 billion. It also would take two years to tear down the current bridge and four years to build a new one.

The span could be raised, but at a cost of up to $1.5 billion that would leave it closed for years. That option creates a “high risk of instability,” the report said.

Both options could block motor vehicle traffic between Pinellas and Manatee counties for an extended period and interfere with shipping routes to Port Tampa Bay.

* * *

The study also identifies another expensive and problematic issue: Tampa Bay’s shipping channels. Even if mega ships could fit beneath the Skyway, the channels are two narrow for them to pass by each other side-by-side. The bottom of the bay would have to be dredged, which is expensive, difficult and highly regulated.

Mega cruise ships further are too big to swing around in the turning basin in Sparkman Channel leading up to the cruise terminal.

* * *

• There’s another option that would cost only about $700 million: Build a new cruise ship port west of the Skyway so that the larger vessels won’t have to travel under it.

That facility would be built at the mouth of Tampa Bay, on Hillsborough County land owned by the Tampa Port Authority, which runs the cruise ship terminals. But that would require cooperation from Pinellas and would have to overcome environmental challenges.

The report projected that a new cruise terminal would include a 100,000-square-foot building on up to 58 acres with a six-level parking structure that has up to 9,000 spaces. Construction would take place near Pinellas’ lucrative and world-famous beaches.

* * *

• The cheapest option laid out in the report: Do nothing. Port Tampa Bay could settle for becoming a port of call for older, smaller ships. But Raul Alfonso, chief commercial officer of the Tampa Port Authority, said that would spell the end of Tampa Bay’s cruise ship industry.

“Over 90 percent of the future cruise ship fleet will not be able to come under the Skyway bridge,” he said.

So why should we care, really?

The FDOT report laid out some tough choices just as the local cruise industry is poised to enjoy a record year: 1.1 million passengers are expected to pass through Tampa on 239 cruises in 2014. The Tampa Port Authority got 22 percent of its revenue from cruise ships in the last fiscal year: $9.5 million out of total revenue of $44.1 million.

In other words, 21% or so of all port revenue is from the cruise business.  It would be hard to just let that go.  So what is going to happen?

The state does not endorse any option. The next step would be for bay area leaders to ask FDOT to conduct another study to evaluate which of the above options is best.

Which the Port is going to do.

The sad thing is that, even though it is very important to Port revenue, this issue has actually been known about for years:

But Richard Wainio, former executive director of the Tampa Port Authority, has some insight into those issues. He took over the Port Authority in 2005 and spent his seven years there wrestling with the cruise ship issue.

“I knew it was going to be a problem even before I got here,” said Wainio, who left the Port Authority in 2012.

but nothing was really done.  Not that any solution is easy, but this process could have been much farther along by now.  Instead, what actually happened was that the issue was ignored publicly (and the owners of the Port – the County residents – not informed for years) and, during that time, the cruise business was actually hyped by the Port. (See “The Bridge, the Port, and “Thinking Ahead’”)

We don’t pretend to have a full solution to this mess at this point, though we have some thoughts.

More to the point – this episode shows how thinking small or medium and failing to plan for the future and invest in infrastructure can come back to bite you.  Just like with international service at the airport under the last director (though, thankfully no longer), there has a been a complacent attitude about the port for years, if not decades, as container ships, larger ships, bigger cruise ships, etc. – and the consequent business opportunities – have passed us by (and that includes apparently not caring about the Skyway’s height not accommodating the tallest ships going through the Panama Canal at the time it was built).

The reality is that none of this is going to be easy, but, as with most other issues,

1) the failure to deal with a problem and its realities when they became known combined with

2) public officials essentially hiding the realities of issue (sometimes even the issue itself) with pollyannaish hype

has left us in a weakened position, having to play catch up with our competitors, and having to expend far more resources in the process than we would have if the issues were dealt with openly, honestly, and timely.

We wish we could say that was rare for the Tampa Bay area, but it is really par for the course.

Channelside – The Beat Goes On

So now that there has been an auction for the Channelside complex (sort of) and the Lightning owner won, Liberty (which did not bid at the auction) has gone to the same Judge that ordered the auction to complain about how the auction which he ordered was run. That judge held hearings about the auction he ordered and will decide Monday.   It is all quite ridiculous, but this is Tampa.

In further Liberty news, their Aloft downtown is opening this week.

More on “Changing DNA” and Dealing With Issues Head On

While the Bro Bowl story was in the Times, we found this in an article in the Tribune, where the Mayor was in a panel discussion (and no, it was not about innovative transportation solutions or how to develop a proper code city-wide):

Buckhorn hit once more upon the theme that has underpinned his first term in office, reminding his national audience that he’s trying to shift the city’s “economic DNA” away from one driven by building housing toward one driven by innovation and tech-savvy young people.

“We built subdivisions for people that didn’t even exist,” he said.

First, we’ll take his word on the subdivisions because he was the government affairs rep for the home builders back in the 1980’s.  Second, the economic DNA has not shifted (see “Economic Development – Some Good, But Not As Good As You Think, Cont” and “Economic Development – A Success, But Is It A Model?” ). Setting those two things aside, let’s see where he is going:

Buckhorn told the Politico audience that the city requires buildings to include “workforce” housing in their development plans. Pricing lower- income people out of the city defeats any effort to create a diverse citizenry in downtown, he said.

The Encore project has benefited from grants by the federal Housing and Urban Development department and from private investment, led by Bank of America.

Buckhorn said cities like Tampa are being weaned off federal funding. The economic downturn and 2013’s federal budget sequestration both reduced the federal grants the city has relied on to cover some of its costs.

The federal government still has a role to play, however, he said, particularly when it comes to funding roads, utilities and other “basic government.”

Which all sounds good, until you remember that the entire InVision Tampa West Tampa/West River plan, which we are so often told is the Mayor’s plan, relies on Federal money to rebuild North Boulevard Homes as the first and key phase. (See here and, from the same reporter who wrote the above quoted article, here.) That is the catalyst for the rest of the redevelopment.

We understand why Federal money is needed.  We understand the realities of the area (which is why we said it was premature to spend money moving the City facilities.)  The question we have is why does the Mayor act like his policy is something other than what it is?  Why does seemingly everything have to be obfuscated by hype, rhetoric, and mixed messages?

Economic Development – Chile

This week it was announced that there would be a joint Hillsborough/Pinellas trade mission to Chile.  First, we are happy for the regional approach. Hopefully, it is not the last time and something will come of it.  Moreover, we are not against trade missions at all, even if they are overhyped and politicians try to hog the spotlight.

You may remember a few weeks ago there was a kerfuffle about trade missions, the Hillsborough EDC, the County Commission, and the Mayor, where the County Commission thought the Mayor was getting too much credit for trade promotion even though the County gave more money than the City. (See “Economic Development – Who’s Your Daddy?” )   The papers duly ran articles and editorials.  Then everything supposedly was solved.

Given all that, we thought it would be interesting to see how the papers started the articles.  First, the Tribune article entitled “Tampa trade mission to Chile set”:

The Tampa Bay Export Alliance, a partnership of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. and Pinellas County Economic Development, will lead a mission to Santiago, Chile in December to promote export opportunities for local businesses.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller, Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman will join the delegation, according to the Tampa Bay Partnership.

Actually, quite subdued.

The Times article, which went with a more traditional Tampa Bay media approach, was headlined “Buckhorn, Kriseman leading trade mission to Chile”:

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn will be among the local elected officials leading a trade mission to Santiago, Chile, later this year.

The mission is being organized by the Tampa Bay Export Alliance, a new collaboration between Pinellas County Economic Development and the nonprofit Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.

“This mission to Chile is our first joint mission since we made that announcement (of the export alliance’s creation) in May,” said Jennifer Mikosky, the Tampa Hillsborough EDC’s vice president of marketing and communications. It is scheduled for Dec. 1 to 5.

Pinellas County Commission Chairwoman Karen Seel and Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller Jr. will help lead the mission. The export alliance will use private funds to cover the travel costs of $2,360 per person for the elected officials going on the trip, Mikosky said.

This sort of trip is becoming increasingly familiar to Buckhorn, who, as mayor, has traveled to Panama (three times), Germany, Switzerland, Colombia, Brazil, Israel and India to promote his city.

Why would another public official get annoyed by that coverage?

It should be acknowledged that most of the success in a trade mission will be from the businesses involved.  Except for a very small number of exceptions, the politicians are mostly moral support.

Setting that aside, once again, hopefully something will come of the trade mission.

Nice Video, But

The Tribune featured a link to a nice video of downtown Tampa.

The Tribune web article tells us this:

A local videographer used a quadcopter drone and a GoPro Hero 3 camera to capture this stunning view of downtown that will remind you how beautiful this city actually is. One real estate blogger says it’s so good, that if you don’t already live in Tampa it will make you want to move here.

While downtown has its points, we don’t know about that.  In any event, it is a nice video, but realize, the entire thing is basically shot from above Curtis Hixon Park and does not show most or all of downtown anyway.  In any event, we suppose it is a start.

Meanwhile, In The Rest of Florida

Orlando has gotten approval for a multi-modal center near their airport:

The Federal Aviation Administration on July 11 announced it approved plans to build a new intermodal transportation center at Orlando International Airport.

The approval of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority’s economic development plan means the airport can start work on the first phase of its $1 billion South Terminal plan, which involves a $470 million extension of its existing automated people mover and a $200 million-plus transit hub with passenger rail stations, ground transportation and a new parking structure.

It also will be the final destination of the $1.5 billion, privately funded intercity passenger rail All Aboard Florida, which will connect downtown Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach with Orlando by 2017. Read more on the project in our previous article.

Construction is expected to start this year. The SunRail connection is not yet funded, and possible maglev to I-Drive are still not secured.   Of course, the member U.S. House Transportation Committee from the Orlando area is fully behind it, unlike our local state delegation and our local projects.

List of the Week

The list of the week is taking this week off.  It is summer, after all.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 18, 2014 9:30 AM

    Taking away a lane on the Howard Frankland is the stupidest thing I have heard in awhile. They should toll the entire bridge.

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