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Roundup 10-10-2014

October 10, 2014

USF Med School – The Beat Goes On

There was more roll out of the idea of moving the USF Med School, including, among a slew of articles, an article in the Times this week entitled “USF to seek money for new medical school; key players favor downtown.”  Of course, we knew that.  What we did not know is if moving downtown is best for the medical school.  As we have noted before – it may be or it may not.  Unfortunately, even with the number of articles on the subject, there really are not details.

The Times article does not really shed much light, though it does say:

USF Health officials have said they are bursting at the seams at their 40-year-old complex.

Freeing up space in the medical school would also allow USF Health to expand enrollment and offerings in its nursing program. This past fall, the nursing program had to turn away 331 of its 431 qualified applicants in the prelicensure nursing program because of space limitations. Enrollment in the nursing school exceeds 2,000 students and “will not be able to accommodate further growth without additional space,” the USF document says.

Of course, we already knew that.  It is a question of where that expansion takes place.  (And wouldn’t any new buildings create more space, regardless of location?)

USF Health officials would not comment on such details. “A decision of this magnitude, it’s more important we make the correct decision rather than a decision by a particular date,” said spokeswoman Lisa Greene.

Buckhorn said he’s confident talks are moving well based on discussions he has had with Vinik, his business partners, Genshaft, medical school dean Dr. Charles Lockwood, outgoing state House Speaker Will Weatherford and several members of the USF board of trustees.

“I think all the players are lining up … behind the project of moving the medical school downtown,” Buckhorn said.

We have no doubt, but that is not the issue.  The issue is that the case that it benefits the USF med school and the institutions connected with them more than leaving it where it is has not been made.  As we have said, we understand putting it downtown.  If it had originally been downtown, it would be a no brainer because the ecosystem would have been built around it.  But it was not built downtown.  If you are going to make a decision of this magnitude, at least make the case that the actual institution as it exists and its ecosystem would really benefit.  That’s all.  It should not be difficult.

Of course,

Even if USF does want to make the move, Buckhorn said the Legislature and Board of Governors would need to approve it, and money for the project would have to be lined up.

Which is a point that must be considered.

USF officials say they are still weighing whether to expand on their current campus or build in downtown Tampa. But members of the Florida Board of Governors’ facility committee said USF risks missing out on state construction money in the next legislative session if it doesn’t make up its mind by the end of the year.

“This committee will not vote on anything it doesn’t feel comfortable with,” said committee member Mori Hosseini.

USF President Judy Genshaft told members she expected a decision in the next couple of months. The board submits its list of recommended funding priorities to the Legislature in January.

Which, in due course, brought up something else:

USF officials on Wednesday threw another complication in the mix. If the medical school does indeed go downtown, USF would consider adding another project to downtown: the proposed $50-million USF Heart Health Institute that already has a planned location on the current campus on the main campus, on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

After the meeting, Genshaft said it would make sense to move the heart institute with the medical school. The heart institute has already received $34 million in state funds and needs another $15.8 million next year for construction to begin.

But moving that project from its current proposed site would likely require additional state permission since the costs might change, said medical school Dean Charles Lockwood.

USF plans to ask for a total of $62 million in state funds over the next three years, including $17 million next legislative session, for the new medical school project. Total costs would likely top $80 million, but USF plans to make up the difference with private donations, primarily a $20 million gift from Frank and Carol Morsani.

And

If the medical school goes downtown, Lockwood said he hopes to combine it with the nursing and pharmacy programs, as well as the Heart Health Institute, now planned as a 100,000-square-foot, five-story research center in the university’s medical corridor on the main campus.

“If we were to move downtown, we would want that to be a USF Health building that would include all the schools,” Lockwood said.

And, yes, it would make a certain amount of sense to have the Heart Institute next to the new med school – but then that is the issue with all the other stuff that is located near the present med school – like Moffitt, which has not figured into the (public) conversation at all, and the Byrd Alzheimer complex.  If the main institution is downtown, what happens to the other facilities and institutions? So far, no one has said. And moving nursing and pharmacy does not seem to fit with a bifurcated med school program.  So how will this all work? No one has said.  And how much will it cost?

Committee members told USF that their plans sound necessary, but lacking in key details. “It sounds a little bit like you don’t have an idea of how much it’s going to cost,” said committee member Wendy Link.

We assume they mean the expansion plans – not necessarily the downtown plans. In either case, knowing the cost and how it will all work is part of not only making the case but the actual analysis of whether it makes sense in the first place – Is it cost effective?  Does it work properly?  Is it the best thing?

USF officials said they would get the committee all the data they requested before the end of the year.

Why is there so much discussion without even knowing the costs?

It would be best if the facts were known and the case made before anything is decided, though apparently that is just not going to happen.

— One More Thing

The aforementioned Times article also had this rendering:

From the Times – click on picture for article

With the caption: “A preliminary artist’s rendering shows what the new USF Health Morsani College of Medicine building might look like. [State University System of Florida]”

We are just going to assume that this is a generic rendering and not anything that anyone would consider building downtown.  You would be hard pressed to build anything less urban or beneficial to an urban area (or even a university campus) than that.  If the med school is built downtown, it better not be laid out like that.

— And One More Thing

Finally, the aforementioned Times article had this:

Meanwhile, a similar project is emerging in Orlando, where the University of Central Florida announced last week what could become a $200 million campus in downtown Orlando.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that the university has been exploring the idea of a downtown campus since January. That’s when UCF administrators saw Arizona State University’s campus in downtown Phoenix.

UCF president John Hitt said the university would seek $50 million to $60 million from the Legislature next spring.

Aside from being downtown, it is not that similar, but regular readers would already know that. See “USF Med School – The Push Begins

— Conclusion

Once again, we are open to the idea of a downtown location, but it would be helpful if, before the decision, the facts were actually determined (which apparently they aren’t), then discussed.

In other words, make the case.

Downtown – Show Us the Money

With all the ideas floating around for downtown, there is almost always a call for public funds to help in things like infrastructure.  Most, if not all, of the money for such things will likely come from the CRA.  But there is a catch.

As the value of downtown Tampa real estate has grown since the 1980s, it has generated millions of dollars a year in new property taxes.

But because of a deal that goes back three decades, Hillsborough County officials have watched every penny of their share of that new revenue go to City Hall to aid in downtown’s redevelopment.

Now that could change.

Before we get into that, let’s review what the CRA is.

How Tampa’s downtown CRA works

Starting in 1983, with an addition in 1988, local officials created a downtown community redevelopment area, or CRA, covering a total of 870 acres.

In that area, they added up the total assessed taxable property value — $454 million.

Since then, the property taxes generated by that $454 million base value have continued to be split between the city and the county just like any other property taxes.

Meanwhile, the total assessed taxable value of downtown property inside that area has grown. It’s now more than $1.7 billion.

The city has gotten the county’s share of the new revenue generated by the growth in property values above the base value. (Tax revenues going to the Hillsborough school district are not affected.)

The CRA revenue — often known as tax-increment financing — must be spent to foster private development inside the downtown redevelopment area. In 2015, it is expected to top $15 million. Currently, the city uses most of that money, about $13.5 million, to repay bonds for building the convention center. Those bonds are scheduled to be paid off in October 2015, freeing up the money for other uses.

So the catch is that, when the present system expires, the County Commissioners want some of that money, and they control the existence of the CRA.  Now, there may be a deal.

With the downtown Community Redevelopment Area, or CRA, scheduled to expire, Tampa and Hillsborough officials have spent about a year in on-and-off negotiations to extend it.

Briefly, here’s their proposal:

Frankly, we have no strong feelings about the deal itself.  It is hard to believe that the County would do anything particularly useful with the money.  (Maybe, they’ll can invest in a tech startup.)  On the other hand, there are a lot of requests for the money downtown, but it is pretty clear where it would go:

Three years ago, for example, Buckhorn said the CRA funds could, in theory, be spent on roads and infrastructure for a new downtown Tampa stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.

That’s still possible, but these days Buckhorn first mentions Vinik’s plans to create an entertainment and office district — including, maybe, a new medical school for the University of South Florida — on 24 acres he’s bought around Amalie Arena.

Buckhorn expects Vinik’s master plan will be “certainly the first one out of the box” for consideration of roads, drainage and other infrastructure projects paid for by CRA funds.

“What will happen (with Vinik’s property) is probably going to come to us sooner than any other project — sooner than transit, sooner than any discussion of baseball,” Buckhorn said.

“I think they’re ready to go,” he said of Vinik’s development team. “Once they lay out the master plan, they’re going to have a feel for what their needs are, where the county and the city can be helpful. Out of that will come an opportunity.”

There is some logic to that, though the actual costs and changes are not publicly known (though we assume they have been discussed privately).  Nor is it clear that all the money should be tied up for this one, as yet unknown project. (Maybe it should be, but there is no way to know without information).

So what is the time frame on this?

The County Commission could consider the proposed CRA extension as soon as next week. Over the 28 years of the extension, Hillsborough officials estimate — conservatively, they say — that the county could end up keeping at least $280 million that it now gives away.

Of course, why let anyone be able to consider the plan with all the relevant facts?  But that’s how this area rolls.

— One More Thing

One thing we will note is the Mayor saying that the money may be required before transit comes up.

City officials have had conversations about doing this kind of infrastructure work in conjunction with Vinik’s master development, but there’s no formal agreement, said Bob McDonaugh, Buckhorn’s top economic development aide.

“When there’s an event at the arena, we have a form of gridlock,” McDonaugh said. “If there’s going to be more development, it would behoove us to make some improvements in the roadways down there.”

It would, but there are a limited number of ways into and out of downtown.  There are natural bottlenecks.  Even if you “fix” the grid, it may not help grid lock in a redeveloped area around the arena because people will have a hard time getting in and out (especially if the City eliminates main exits and entrances to downtown and “calms” traffic, as suggested in the InVision Tampa plan).  Transit is key to the success of the Lightning owner’s project and all of downtown.

Greenlight – Calling “Shenanigans”

As we have noted often, the “debate” about the Greenlight proposal in Pinellas has mostly focused on opponents creating distractions, leaving the real issues just hanging out there.  This week, that was pointed out by proponents:

Leaders of Connect Tampa Bay on Monday launched an attack on No Tax for Tracks, painting the Greenlight foe as a rebranded extreme wing of the Tea party and saying its leaders have a long history of distorting facts, smears and spreading misinformation.

Brian Willis, president of Connect Tampa Bay, said the group is run and promoted through the South Pinellas 9/12 group, a Tea Party offshoot, and that many of its members are in both groups.

* * *

With far fewer resources — its campaign has raised just over $78,000 — No Tax for Tracks has highlighted that the plan will give Pinellas the highest sales tax in the state, while using email and social media to highlight how few people ride the bus in Pinellas and to criticize PSTA and county leaders.

Some of those have been inaccurate and offensive, said Willis, speaking at a news conference in Williams Park on Monday.

Willis highlighted a video parody created by a No Tax supporter titled “Hitler loses it over Greenlight train fiasco.” The clip from the movie “Downfall” shows Hitler lambasting his top officers who in the parody are named as Greenlight leaders. The video was briefly posted on McKalip’s website before being removed.

A recent email sent to more than 1,000 people showed a picture of an empty parking lot that No Tax leaders said was a park-and-ride lot of Denver’s Regional Transportation District or RTD.

When shown the picture, RTD officials said the lot is part of the Pepsi Center arena, home to NBA Denver Nuggets basketball team and NHL Colorado Avalanche hockey team.

“This is a total misrepresentation,” said Pauletta Tonilas, RTD senior manager for public relations and public information.

Par for the course. How did No Tax for Tracks respond?

No Tax Campaign Manager Barbara Haselden said she took the picture on a trip to a transportation conference in Denver.

Which is fine, except for the part about completely misrepresenting what was in the picture.  But that is the type of thing we have expected all along.  Facts are not relevant.

The Connect Tampa Bay guys are on to something.  The loudest, most activist opponents, as opposed to just some people who might vote “no,” are ideologically opposed to transit, especially rail. They approach transit from a position that finds it a threat to the American way of life, even though it is in almost every big American city – blue state, purple state, AND red state. (See “Does God Hate Trains?” and “PSTA/HART – Record Ridership For This Bulwark Against the UN.”)  It is not an issue of facts or solutions to a problem.  It is not logic. Opposition to Greenlight just is.

On the other hand, the proponents approach transit from the idea of solving problems and increasing economic activity.  For instance, there was a column in the Times that laid out a strong argument for transit.

Whether approved or defeated by county voters next month, the Greenlight Pinellas mass transit plan that promises more robust bus service and a 24-mile light rail line from Clearwater to St. Petersburg won’t go away. Ultimately, a regional mass transit system, whether kick-started first in Pinellas or in neighboring Hillsborough County, is going to happen.

The key question is how far behind other metro areas — how less competitive — does the Tampa Bay regional economy want to become until viable mass transit arrives?

Well, we do not think it inevitable.  There have always been places that just refuse to compete (and usually stagnate), but the basic theme regarding competition is right.

In the long run, if Tampa Bay can’t get it together on an effective mass transit system, its economy will be outdistanced by the likes of Orlando, Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Denver, San Diego and any of dozens of other metro areas. These cities boast the leadership and economic desire to embrace a more efficient way to move lots of people around a large, multicounty region.

Many of those like-sized metro areas already outmuscle Tampa Bay with better-paying jobs and more robust economic output. It’s not only because these areas have superior transportation, many with light rail and better bus systems. But there’s no question — it’s already making a difference.

“This area must understand that mass transit is long term and very expensive,” corporate scout and former Largo resident Larry Gigerich of the site selection firm Ginovus, told area business and political leaders last month in Tampa.

“But it will pay off.”

And what of the opposition?

Funding in support of Greenlight Pinellas dwarfs the opposition. Recent numbers indicate the pro-Greenlight movement has raised more than $775,000 through August. Contrast that with the $46,000 and change collected by the anti-Greenlight, tea party-flavored group No Tax for Tracks.

This is the organization whose leader has suggested Pinellas’ bus windows are tinted to hide the lack of passengers. Funny. I thought, like Florida cars, windows are tinted to help deflect the intense heat from the sun.

A related group known as Ax the Tax paid $500 to Cato Institute libertarian think tank contrarian Randal O’Toole to write a report criticizing the light rail portion of Greenlight Pinellas as a loser — like other light rail systems in the country that somehow keep expanding. This is the same anti-mass transit guy who, last month in Minneapolis, remarks against a new rail line to St. Paul, called planners the “Ebola of urban living.”

My favorite part of O’Toole’s hatchet job in St. Petersburg last month was his suggestion that people sharing driverless cars will render mass transit “superfluous” as people “simply call for a self-driving car to come to their door.”

Really? That’s O’Toole’s cost-effective alternative? Won’t driverless cars become just as “superfluous” when Capt. Kirk knocks on our doors to have us beamed up to our next destinations?

Indeed. (See “Transportation – The Choice Between Ideology and Practicality” and “Transportation – the Driverless Car”)

One clear message is that mass transit done right can help drive regional economic development.

Veteran site selector Dennis Donovan’s corporate clients include about a third of Fortune 500 companies. He told a Tampa audience last month that large metro areas that lack the means for young, highly skilled people to commute longer distances easily to their jobs will increasingly be passed over by companies in favor of cities with stronger mass transit options.

“Lots of headquarter companies are looking for millennial talent,” Donovan said. “You really do need to pass this (Greenlight) initiative.”

It’s not just creative talent that benefits. Beach resorts say they endorse Greenlight Pinellas because a strong bus system will make it easier for more hotel and restaurant workers to commute to the beaches, where parking is at a premium, and leave their cars behind.

And that is all true.

What happens if Greenlight Pinellas fails to pass next month? The regional clock starts anew. Both Pinellas and Hillsborough mass transit efforts will rethink the timing of referendums.

But new referendums there will be.

And that is true, as well. But this columnist is looking at goals and how to reach them.  The opponents are looking at ideology. That explains the complete disconnect in the debate, which is unlikely to end regardless of the vote.

At least election day is almost here.

Economic Development/List of the Week – A Look at Job Growth

There was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal regarding employment growth in the last few years.

Nearly a quarter of metropolitan areas had fewer jobs in August than five years earlier, showing that the national labor market recovery has missed broad swaths of the U.S.

According to Labor Department data released Wednesday, 92 regions have experienced net job loss since August 2009 despite the country steadily adding jobs during much of that time.

* * *

Many of the areas with the fastest job growth over the past five years are in Texas, including Midland where payrolls are up 36.5% and Odessa where employment increased 30.5%.

Los Angeles added the largest total amount of jobs during the five-year span, almost 390,000. Houston, Miami and Dallas followed.

Which is interesting.  However, what was really interesting was chart that listed 350 metro areas and their job growth numbers from August 2009-2014.  We are not going to list them all, but we show the top 50 (because the Tampa Bay area was ranked in the 40’s in percentage growth) in terms of percentage growth (first column) and a second ranking by jobs added (second column).  You can play with the chart for yourself to see about other areas.

Metro Area
Jobs Added Change Metro Area Jobs Added Change
Midland, TX 25,699 36.52% Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA 389,614 6.8%
Odessa, TX 19,692 30.55% Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX 374,474 14.18%
Elkhart-Goshen, IN 19,602 26.5% Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL 350,424 14.05%
Naples-Marco Island, FL 25,146 20.65% Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 347,560 11.82%
Columbus, IN 6,496 18.86% New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA 334,817 3.85%
Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX 148,481 17.85% San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA 245,056 12.11%
Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL 41,972 17.61% Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI 184,354 4.21%
Palm Coast, FL 4,740 17.03% Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 175,692 6.12%
Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI 57,044 16.73% Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 151,285 15.27%
Holland-Grand Haven, MI 18,808 16.66% Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX 148,481 17.85%
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 151,285 15.27% Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 140,798 9.24%
Provo-Orem, UT 31,786 15.27% Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 121,573 10.55%
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 119,565 14.99% San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 119,565 14.99%
Bakersfield-Delano, CA 45,913 14.54% Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH Met NECTA 115,712 4.92%
Greeley, CO 15,943 14.24% Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 114,755 6.69%
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX 374,474 14.18% Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO 114,749 8.97%
Casper, WY 5,386 14.09% Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 108,438 6.35%
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL 350,424 14.05% San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA 104,193 7.42%
North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, FL 36,509 13.68% Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA 101,294 4.2%
Kokomo, IN 5,093 13.57% San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 97,464 10.7%
Victoria, TX 7,271 13.39% Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC 87,133 11.25%
Punta Gorda, FL 7,920 13.15% Indianapolis-Carmel, IN 75,058 9.05%
Boise City-Nampa, ID 34,140 12.76% Jacksonville, FL 74,170 12.1%
Raleigh-Cary, NC 65,674 12.61% Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN 72,358 9.99%
Auburn-Opelika, AL 7,173 12.11% Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 72,013 6.86%
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA 245,056 12.11% Baltimore-Towson, MD 67,931 5.18%
Jacksonville, FL 74,170 12.1% Raleigh-Cary, NC 65,674 12.61%
Lafayette, LA 15,111 11.99% Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI 65,078 3.63%
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 347,560 11.82% Salt Lake City, UT 57,375 10.22%
St. George, UT 6,341 11.62% Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ 57,045 3.03%
Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC 87,133 11.25% Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI 57,044 16.73%
Laredo, TX 9,667 11.24% Las Vegas-Paradise, NV 56,697 6.63%
Anderson, SC 8,335 11.22% Richmond, VA 53,705 9.04%
Port St. Lucie, FL 17,679 10.94% Columbus, OH 50,431 5.66%
Winchester, VA-WV 6,437 10.86% Bakersfield-Delano, CA 45,913 14.54%
El Centro, CA 5,741 10.71% Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 45,004 1.64%
San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 97,464 10.7% Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Roseville, CA 44,269 4.75%
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 121,573 10.55% Oklahoma City, OK 43,742 8.23%
Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodaux, LA 10,187 10.46% Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL 41,972 17.61%
Boulder, CO 16,440 10.22% New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA 38,850 7.78%
Salt Lake City, UT 57,375 10.22% North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, FL 36,509 13.68%
Columbia, MO 8,501 10.04% Pittsburgh, PA 34,502 3.02%
Tuscaloosa, AL 8,839 10.04% Boise City-Nampa, ID 34,140 12.76%
Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, SC 28,989 10.02% Provo-Orem, UT 31,786 15.27%
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, CA 11,941 10% Honolulu, HI 31,232 7.54%
Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN 72,358 9.99% Baton Rouge, LA 29,411 8.33%
Dubuque, IA 4,763 9.75% Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, SC 28,989 10.02%
Merced, CA 8,810 9.69% St. Louis, MO-IL 28,935 2.22%
College Station-Bryan, TX 9,790 9.51% Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 28,892 3.77%
Napa, CA 6,603 9.5% Fresno, CA 28,666 7.59%

Of course, that does not tell us anything about the quality of jobs.  Nevertheless, looking over time, we have job growth, but not at the rate of Florida and most of the usual suspects.  On the other hand, raw numbers are relatively high (though it does not indicate how hard the recession hit various areas – the lower the base, the easier to have a higher growth rate).

In any event, it gives a window into how we compare.

Economic Development – Lots of Tourists

It was finally confirmed that tourist tax revenue for the past year was a record high.

Tourism officials knew last month that Hillsborough County would set a bed tax collection record in fiscal year 2014. The fiscal year ended in September, and now the record is official.

Hillsborough County collected $23.7 million in tourist development taxes, according to tourism agency Visit Tampa Bay. That is the best year ever for tourist bed tax collections.

The tourist tax is a 5 percent surcharge levied on every hotel room and short-term rental in the county. The tax is considered a reliable indicator of the county’s tourism market because it tracks the volume of accommodations booked in the county.

The new record is 12 percent more than the $21.1 million the county collected in fiscal 2013. It is also 9 percent more than the previous record, the $21.8 million raised in 2007.

That is all good, and people should be pleased.  And it is not unique to Hillsborough.

In Pinellas County, tourism officials reported that they’re also on the verge of another tourist tax record. Pinellas collected $33.1 million in bed taxes in the first 11 months of fiscal year 2014, according to tourism agency Visit St. Pete/Clearwater. That’s already better than the record $31 million the county garnered in the full fiscal year of 2013.

Once again, great.  And that will lead to some jobs, though mostly low income. You can read this article about Orlando’s low wage problems to understand why, while tourism is nice, it should not be that much a cause for celebration.

We can only hope that soon our quest to increase annual income and attract high paying jobs – which are the real key to the local economy – will do as well.

Economic Development – (Part of) A Movie

It seems that parts of a new movie will be filmed in Tampa.

The local movie industry welcomed news Wednesday that the film “The Infiltrator,” based on a story from Tampa, will shoot scenes here and star Emmy Award-winning actor Bryan Cranston.

Local production is set to begin in February 2015 on a film with an estimated budget of $47.5 million.

Still, the news left many who are involved in bringing productions to Tampa asking, “What if?”

The bulk of the film apparently will be shot in England, which offers government incentives of up to 25 percent and is home to production company Good Films. The company was on the verge of shooting most of the film in Tampa when state incentives dried up during the spring session of the Florida Legislature.

That’s good.  We have nothing against movies being shot here (even if it is just part), but just having a few movies shoot some scenes here is really not that big a deal in the overall scheme of things.

“The Infiltrator” will represent Tampa’s biggest movie role since the John Travolta film “The Punisher” in 2003.

Remember that?  Of course, there was this:

Pinellas County, meantime, is showcased in films such as “Dolphin Tale” and its sequel, and “Spring Breakers.”

“Dolphin Tale” and “Spring Breakers” received tax credits while they were still available and “Dolphin Tale 2” was made possible through a special $5 million incentive approved by the Legislature.

A 2012 study by the USF St. Petersburg College of Business estimated the economic impact of “Dolphin Tale” would reach $5 billion.

Huh? $5 billion? Over what time frame and with how much indirect impact?  Sounds like an analysis based on the six degrees of Dolphin Tale.

In any event, we are all for a film/commercial/visual arts industry here, but we are realistic.

Harbour Island – New Starts

As we have noted over the last few weeks, the Harbour Island apartment project once called Hiku, was rumored to be breaking ground in October. Well,

Downtown Tampa’s newest residential tower will break ground before Halloween.

The developers of the Harbour Island project confirmed Wednesday that they will begin construction on the 21-story tower, on an empty lot at Knights Run Avenue and South Beneficial Drive.

The tower will have 235 units, one- and two-bedroom floor plans and two-story townhouses. A seven-story parking garage with 414 spaces will be part of the project.

The tower is yet unnamed and is being referred to as HI Apartments. It will include an infinity edge pool and on-site fitness center.

Good deal.  We look forward to it.

Downtown – Trail in the Mix

The Selmon Greenway, a trail under the Selmon Expressway in downtown Tampa, has started construction.

It doesn’t look like much now, but the Selmon Greenway trail should be attracting cyclists and joggers by spring.

Construction on the 1.7-mile trail started about two weeks ago. It is expected to open in mid March.

The goal: to make walking around downtown easier and promote transportation alternatives.

“It’s all about mobility, and it’s all about choices,” said Sue Chrzan at the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority, which is creating the trail.

That’s good.

The expressway authority awarded Ajax Paving Industries of Tampa a $1.6 million contract to design and build the trail. The greenway’s route will start at the Riverwalk near Brorein Street and mostly go east under the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway to 19th Street.

Along the way, it’s meant to link the Riverwalk with the Meridian Avenue trail, as well as provide connections to public bus service and the TECO Line streetcar.

“It’s like putting together a big puzzle,” said Tampa City Council member Lisa Montelione, who is chairwoman of the livable roadways committee of the countywide Metropolitan Planning Organization.

“For so long, we have not emphasized walking and biking,” she said, even though new trails attract tourists, commuters and families alike.

“It’s just a matter of filling in all the blank spaces,” Montelione said, “and the Selmon Greenway is one of those.”

That is all fine.  We have nothing against the project and filling in blank spaces.  Hopefully, at some point, it will connect cleanly to other trails and across the river, though we have to say, with all the cross streets, we think it more likely that it will be more beneficial to walkers than bikes. Either way, it is better than not having it – and at least there should be some shade.

Crew Art – Protection?

The Tampa City Council has begun looking at protecting crew art in downtown.

On Thursday, council members heard a report from City Attorney Julia Mandell on potential actions the city can take, but she noted that the issue quickly delves into concepts such as the first amendment, one’s definition of “art,” and when “graffiti” becomes “art.”

The city will look at limiting the activity to a certain area and whether it can specify what type of art would be allowed. Mandell said currently, graffiti is a crime under both city code and state statute.

Council members expressed discomfort with the status quo.

“I don’t like the idea of allowing it to remain illegal and saying with a wink and a nod that we’re not going to enforce it,” said council member Harry Cohen.

Mandell will report back to the council with recommendations.

This should be interesting.

List of the Week II

While we already had lists above, this week was noteworthy because Travel & Leisure’s America’s Best Cities survey came out this week.   We are not going to go over all the rankings, but it was noteworthy because Tampa showed up in some. We didn’t know that Travel & Leisure even knew we existed. (You can look at all the lists here.)

So where did Tampa rank? Cleanliness, #5; Weather, #5; Rude, #2; Beach Getaway, #2; and Family Vacation, #2.  Setting aside all the categories which Tampa did not rate (and there are a lot), that is an odd list of rankings.

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