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Roundup 10-31-2014

October 31, 2014

USF Med School – The Latest

This week, the Tribune had another article on the USF med school which mostly ignored the question of how to deal with what is on the main campus now.  However, it did give this vision:

“If you’re sitting in Judy Genshaft’s seat, the opportunity to create a signature building in the downtown core with USF establishing a footprint there is a game-changer for USF and for downtown Tampa,” said Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

“If we are able to pull that off, that’s going to change the whole dynamic. Not only will the medical school come down, but probably pharmacy will come down, the Heart Institute, the College of Nursing. You create a whole economic engine there that will fill up the apartments and condos that are being built. It will bring in retail.”

And:

Founders also met last week with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who said he recognizes the importance of the players and their potential for growth.

“I think you will see many of the jobs of the future being created right up there in that corridor,” he said.

Oh, wait, that last part was about the Tampa Innovation Alliance.  What is that (and it is easy to forget)?

At the same time, USF president Judy Genshaft was thinking — not only about roads, but about how the university could work with some of its biggest neighbors to become more of a force for economic development.

Nearly a year later, those thoughts have led to the creation of the Tampa Innovation Alliance, a new venture between USF, the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, University Community Hospital and Busch Gardens.

The group has two goals. One goes back to the banners: to make North Tampa more welcoming and to create a sense of entry for the university, hospitals and theme park.

The other is to establish a brand for the area that emphasizes each institution’s role as an innovator in health, research, education or entertainment. 

And:

The plan is to clean up the northeast neighborhood those institutions share, centered on 30th Street from Fletcher Avenue to Busch Boulevard, bringing in new businesses and housing and creating a research and innovation zone and an area where people would want to live, work and play.

Note that, while not downtown, the area does include portions of the City of Tampa.  (The Alliance had issues soon after its creation. ) And, as we learned this week from the Times columnist who is quite reticent to disagree with the Mayor:

Sharpe, 54, leaves to be director of the Tampa Innovation Alliance, to build “an innovation district” and push to make us a destination for medical tourism. Already he talks a mile a minute on this — we’re a “fabulous community” but “underperformed.”

Ok.  That’s fine and the downtown and north Tampa goals (maybe) could be all be done (though likely not through as hoc steps), but a number of issues would have to be worked out. How is moving so many parts of USF’s health facilities downtown going to accomplish any of those goals?  How will the move work with all the facilities on and near the main campus? What happens to those jobs of the future that are (or were) supposed to go near the main campus but, if there is a move, are supposed to go downtown? Are there enough jobs to go around – and will they get spread around?

It is odd that a officials so concerned with masterplanning have not revealed a full, thought out plan for the USF med school and associated institutions, though at least, this week we have this from a meeting where a committee of trustees gave a completely expected preliminary endorsement to the move (we are not going to get into the hyperbole, which is now totally out of hand):

The projected cost of the new, 12-story medical school is between $150 million to $163 million. USF has assembled around $130 million in funding and would need to find other sources to complete the project. The new medical school office tower could have 287,824 square feet of usable space.

Lockwood presented a plan for building not just a new medical school, but also a medical office building next door and an 1,800-car parking garage that would serve both.

* * *

USF President Judy Genshaft said that building a downtown medical school would allow USF Health to expand its cramped nursing and public health programs using the room created on the main campus. It would also allow USF Health to expand specialization in other medical and research areas on the main campus. And Genshaft said a downtown medical school wouldn’t cost USF any more to build than it would along Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

That is more than anyone has said before, but contradicts the previous idea that the nursing school and other USF health facilities would go downtown, so who knows (which is our point about a plan).

And if new medical facilities (other than the med school itself) are all going to go in the vacated main campus land, how does it accomplish this:

Vinik wants employers in high-end industries to fill those work spaces, and a medical school would certainly help that aim.

As we have said, we are not opposed to moving the med school if all aspects of the move are properly thought out, which still does not seem to be the case.

— Just for the Record

Just for the record, here is a what we assume to be a massing rendering (the yellow box), as the drawing is not full of really happy people dancing with balloons:

From the Tribune – click on picture for article

Not much to say other than we hope there is some street interaction at the base of all of it, including that very large garage, and we hope there is room for expansion somewhere.

Port – In Search of Regionalism and an Identity

There was an interesting article in the Bradenton Herald about local ports getting together for talks rather than bickering.

In a closed-door meeting Thursday, a group of Tampa Bay port officials were able to set aside their difference to design a plan to market the area to international shipping lines.

The 90-minute gathering was the first in a series of planned meetings between executives from Port Manatee, Port Tampa Bay and the Port of St. Petersburg.

Given that the ports have been arguing for no apparent reason, this is a good thing.  What was the stated goal of the meeting?

Moderated by Richard Biter, assistant secretary of intermodal systems development for the Florida Department of Transportation, the initial meeting gave the three ports a start on fixing an identity crisis that has long plagued the Tampa Bay region. Simply put, potential overseas clients know Florida through Miami and Orlando. Tampa Bay is relatively unknown.

Biter said the three ports need to build name recognition in a world that primarily knows Florida for its ports in Miami and Jacksonville.

“We’re helping our ports to compete in a very, very competitive world market,” he said.

That is surprising (can you hear economic development officials gagging).  How could it be that the port of Tampa – Florida’s “largest” port – is relatively unknown?  How is Tampa Bay unknown after the RNC and IIFC and all that? What exactly is going on here?

Then again, at least the issue is being recognized, and FDOT is doing something about it.

The goals of the talks are to further a positive public image and private communications about the relationship between the ports, to begin crafting a joint marketing campaign and to develop a regional leadership structure. Those objectives were laid out at an Aug. 13 meeting FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad called to convince port leaders to work together on marketing.

Thursday’s meeting, held at FDOT’s District 7 headquarters, drew Port Manatee Executive Director Carlos Buqueras, St. Petersburg Executive Director Walter Miller, and the general council and vice president of government affairs from Port Tampa Bay.

Port Tampa Bay CEO Paul Anderson did not attend. The meeting was closed to the public and media.

* * *

The marketing effort will likely start with the ports designing and publishing a joint marketing brochure, something Biter said FDOT will help facilitate.

You’ve got to start somewhere – why not try joint marketing brochures.

It is not clear why Port Tampa Bay’s CEO did not attend, but hopefully he will be there in the future.  The fact is that this area must work together because of things like this:

Buqueras said the discussion was productive, particularly where it came to giving Port Manatee greater worldwide exposure. A globe-trotting salesman for the port, Buqueras has found overseas customers don’t know where Manatee County is. He said he often refers to Port Manatee as “Orlando’s port” to express the general location and service area in a way clients in Brazil, Spain and Mexico can relate to easily.

First, Tampa is closer to Orlando (but so is Port Canaveral).  Second, feeling like you have to say you are Orlando’s port is just kind of sad.  Hopefully, these new efforts will bear fruit and that feeling will go away.

In more port news:

Cranes are a big deal at ports, so the Port Tampa Bay board’s approval Tuesday to spend $24 million — half of which comes from state funding — for two new gantry cranes is a boon to the facility’s emphasis on building its container business.

* * *

It’s part of a strategy that finds the port growing its container footprint from the current 40 acres to 160, making way for the capacity to handle 1 million containers a year. A port statement said, “These new cranes will position Port Tampa Bay to capture the cargo that has long been moving via out-of-state ports … and provide a more efficient and enhanced supply chain alternative to the fast growing I-4 corridor region.”

We are all for getting new cranes. Hopefully, potential customers will know where to find them.

Channel District – Skyhouse Tops Out

This week, Skyhouse topped out.    That is good.

The Tribune article on it also had a list of proposed (and a few completed) projects:

♦The Residences at the Riverwalk may boast the highest height, at 36-stories, with 380 units planned adjacent to the Straz Center along the Hillsborough River. After dismissal of lawsuits seeking to block the project, the tower is well into the planning phase, and Tampa expects to begin rerouting some streets to straighten out the now-twisted routes around the Straz and make way for a promenade of shops and restaurants.

♦That tower is backed by Greg Minder of Intown Group and Phillip Smith of Framework Group, who also are planning for a new tower on Harbour Island called — for now — the Harbour Island Apartments. That 21-story tower at the northeast corner of Knights Run Avenue and Harbour Post Drive could see completion in 2016. It will have 235 units, including several two-story units near the base. Compared with other residential towers in the area that focus on studio and one-bedroom apartments, this site is characterized by developers as more of a luxury living complex with hotel-like services.

♦Nearby, South Florida-based Related Group plans to build a 21-story, 340-unit tower at 402 Knights Run Ave. with a parking garage across the street.

♦The Martin at Meridian in the Channel District will be a 24-story tower with 316 units. That project has been proposed in several forms during the peaks and valleys of the housing market and is a frequent target of speculation for a downtown grocery store.

♦Atlanta-based Carter & Associates plans a yet-unnamed tower that will take up an entire block in the core of downtown, bordered by Florida Avenue, Cass Street, Franklin Street and Tyler Street. That project could include 375 units in an L-shaped 23-story tower. If all goes according to plan, that tower could break ground in the beginning of 2015.

♦Sugar producer Florida Crystals Corp. this summer bought a Channel District property for $3.8 million and plans to build 270 luxury apartments on the former Amazon Hose & Rubber Co. site at 222 N. 12th St.

♦Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik plans to put a hotel-resident combination tower at Florida Avenue and Old Water Street. Though largely a hotel, that property may include 50 luxury residences. If built like other hotel-apartment projects nationwide by Ritz-Carlton and Hyatt, the property would offer residents the concierge and gourmet room service of a five-star hotel.

♦Though not technically a tower, the new Crescent Bayshore apartment complex at Bayshore Boulevard and Beach Place significantly ramped up the luxury level of apartments near downtown when it formally opened this year with a two-story fitness center, a yoga studio overlooking the bay, a business lounge and a Resident Club Room with wine bottle lockers.

Tampa towers have competition from new condos and apartments across the bay as well.

♦The 18-story Bliss condo project, planned to overlook Beach Drive from Fourth Avenue in St. Petersburg, will feature floor-to-ceiling windows in all bedrooms to take in views of Tampa Bay, with private elevator foyers and car lifts to whisk residents to their parking spaces on the first few floors.

♦The Salvador, a 13-story tower at Second Street South and Dalí Boulevard in St. Petersburg, will offer a concierge staff five days a week, a third-floor deck with a spa and heated saltwater pool, and gas cooktops in all 74 condo homes.

♦Just outside downtown St. Petersburg, the Water Club at Snell Isle gives residents direct access to the water, with boat slips and plenty of space to entertain guests at a waterside cabana, resort swimming pool and whirlpool spa.

♦Many of the rental apartment complexes going up in the city also offer amenities like the 3,000-square-foot fitness center at Beacon 430, at 430 3rd Ave. S., that will be open 24 hours a day with in-house exercise classes.

It is a fine list. Those who have lived here for a while will have seen many similar lists.  It will be interesting to see which projects actually get built.  Hopefully, it will be all of them (some with changes that make them better), but history would suggest that will not be the case.  We look forward to finding out.

Rays – Parle ou Ne Parle Pas?

There was bad news about the Rays losing trusted members followed by a column in the New York Daily News that claimed the Rays owner had talked to some friends about moving the team to Montreal.  Here is what the column said:

As for the Rays, the Friedman/Maddon defections signal a return to losing baseball and irrelevance in Tampa. Yes, both of them opted out for significant increases in salary, but after last year’s disappointing 77-85 fourth-place finish, they both realized they’d done all they could do in Tampa, and despite consistent 90-win seasons with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, the Rays played to a half-empty (or worse) stadium night after night. That, more than anything, wore on Maddon and his players, the manager told confidants. Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has been frustrated in his efforts to get out of Tropicana Field in St. Pete and move to a new stadium in Tampa, but there is growing belief that the economically depressed Tampa Bay area won’t support the Rays no matter where they play. And according to sources, Sternberg has had discussions with wealthy Wall Street associates about moving the Rays to Montreal, which has been without a major-league franchise since the Expos were transferred to Washington in 2005. As one major-league official put it to me Friday: “Say what you will about Montreal, but the Expos drew well over two million fans four times there in their heyday, while the Rays did that only once, their first year.

Setting aside the “economically depressed” comment (apparently our national media relations are not quite as good as advertised), the local media said the Rays denied the report, issuing this statement:

“We are committed to making baseball work in the Tampa Bay region. We will do everything we can to make that happen and right now things are moving in a productive and positive direction. We have not spoken to Montreal – or any other city, including Tampa – about relocation at any point.”

Which, if you actually read both items, is not a denial of the report.  The Daily News report said the owner talked to associates, not Montreal.  We think the Rays would like a new deal here, but it is very likely that the owner has talked to people he knows about options, even if he has not entered into discussions with Montreal (or other) officials.  Frankly, as things stand, that only makes sense.

The fact is that as long as St. Pete stops the Rays from looking locally, the likelihood they will be sold and/or move (and the likelihood they cannot sustain their success) grows.

Transportation – HART Board

There were a few changes to the HART board.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has appointed Kathleen Mary Shanahan, one-time chief of staff to former Gov. Jeb Bush, to represent the city on the board of Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority.

Shanahan is currently president and CEO of Tampa-based URETEK Holdings, which stabilizes soils to lift, level or seal foundations and infrastructure, including roads and other transportation modes.

* * *

Earlier this month, Mickey Jacob, founding principal at Tampa’s Urban Studio Architects and executive vice president of BDG Architects in Tampa, applied and was appointed to the HART board. Two others, Wallace Bowers and Karen Jaroch, were reappointed.

Frankly, we reserve judgment, except to note that the County Commission reappointing someone who is vehemently opposed to rail and most real transit is quite odd and to say the architect choice is interesting and may bring a new perspective, until we see what happens.

Transportation – Streetcar

The Port Board decided to hold some money from the streetcar.

The Tampa Port Authority voted Tuesday to delay paying a six-figure subsidy to the city’s struggling trolley until its nonprofit operator, Tampa Historic Streetcar Inc., shows the board a new business plan to turn around the streetcar system.

The streetcar’s current $1.6 million operating budget is not dependent on port funding. The port gave the trolley $100,000 in 2012.

But this time Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman, who sits on the port’s governing board, wants the streetcar’s board to hire a consultant to look at ways to improve its operations before she votes to give it any more money. She also wants the streetcar people to work with the port as it develops a master plan for its downtown holdings in the Channel District and the Channelside Bay Plaza outdoor mall.

“I think it’s time for an expert to tell us how to do this,” Murman said.

The trolley suffers from low ridership and low revenue, limiting the cars to 20 minutes between stops. But transit times can’t be improved until the streetcar gets better funding, a conundrum local officials have yet to solve.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn agreed with Murman but also told the board it can’t give up on the trolley yet.

Whether this will do any good or not is an open question.  The streetcar needs to be operated as a real transportation element within a larger transportation system, not a novelty ride.  That should be dealt with by the Transportation for Economic Development (TED) group, but nothing has been dealt with by them yet.  Not paying now – especially when proposed by a member of the same TED group – seems a bit odd and hardly productive, but so be it.  This is Hillsborough County.

Ybor – A Hotel Proposal

There was news this week of a hotel proposal for Ybor.

If approved and built, the hotel would include highlights of classic Havana and Tampa architecture, blended with elements of sleek, contemporary design. Along the way, backers plan to resurrect “Las Novedades,” one of Tampa’s original restaurants, reborn into a new space inside a four-story,180-room hotel wrapped in balconies overlooking the street.

* * *

Partners include Alfonso as architect, plus Broadway Development Inc., which is a joint venture between the families of Joe Capitano Sr. and the late Alfonso Garcia Jr., plus C. Samuel Ellison who recently left the construction giant Beck Group to join his son Casey at EWI Construction. A national hotel developer HRV Hotel Partners has also signed on. (The backers are negotiating with a lead hotel brand, but declined to identify it.)

This is a rendering:

From the Tribune – click on picture for article

And this is, as far as we can tell, the lot.

We have nothing to say but “Great,” especially since the project fills in a parking lot and also does not require any deal for city land.  Not only that, but, even though we cannot real tell any details of the project from the rendering, the architects have done some of the best work in the area, in our opinion.  It just goes to show that we do not need to settle.

Downtown – WiFi

WiFi downtown has started.

Nearly two years in the making, free Wi-Fi is now available along Tampa’s Riverwalk and in downtown waterfront parks.

Bright House Networks has launched the service, free of advertisements but limited for Wi-Fi users who aren’t Bright House customers. Anyone using a personal computer, tablet, smartphone or other Wi-Fi-enabled device can connect to the Internet free for up to two hours per day, capped at 1 gigabyte per month. After reaching the daily or monthly limit, non-Bright House customers can buy more time online.

Bright House’s high-speed data customers have unlimited access at no extra cost.

* * *

Service is available along finished sections of the Riverwalk and in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, Water Works Park and Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park.

Free Wi-Fi also will be added to the $8.8 million section of the Riverwalk now under construction under the Kennedy Boulevard bridge, which is expected to be done early next year.

As Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park is redeveloped, it will get free Wi-Fi, too, officials said.

So it is not exactly free. As we said when this was initially announced, having WiFi is good.  Having it free for a time is good (most people just wandering about will use it and be happy). It is unfortunate that there is a daily/monthly cap for those people who might use it intensely, even if we get BrightHouse’s reasoning.

New Port Tampa Bay – Reborn?

There was news that a large piece of land on Westshore south of Gandy which was the site of some grand plans (and some construction) before the recession that looked like this

From the Tribune – click on picture for article

has been taken over. (Note – grand plans that did not materialize.)

A Fort Lauderdale development company, BTI Partners, said it has acquired title to 51 waterfront acres once planned for 1,250 luxury condo units at the east end of the Gandy Bridge. Convenient to St. Petersburg, downtown Tampa and the West Shore district, the site is one of the most desirable undeveloped tracts in the entire bay region.

“There’s over a mile of deep-water frontage and you’re just not going to find that anywhere else,” Beck Daniel, BTI vice president of acquisitions and development, said Monday.

* * *
“We are currently investigating several avenues by which to restart New Port,” he said. “There actually (are) some condo parties interested in the project, lots of retail is interested, what with that location having frontage on both Westshore and Gandy, and the Tampa multifamily (rental) market is very strong right now.”

Daniel said BTI hopes to move forward with the initial phases of the revamped project in three to six months.

That’s all fine.  However, this is the website of the developer.  If you look over the projects, all of them are quite suburban or just really bland, 1980’s Florida style developments.  This lot really is not a suburban lot (and it is not the 1980s).  And then there is this:

Daniel said his company, working with international investment bank Houlihan Lokey, will take the next few months to consider options. “But, there has already been a lot of demand from high-end multifamily rental, retail and even for-sale condo and single family developers.” Local and national developers have expressed interest in buying portions of the site “or the project in its entirety,” he said.

“In this recovering real estate environment, we look forward to being a part of something that will not only be successful for our company and partners, but also a celebrated new destination for the community, as well,” Daniel said.

Single family?  That property is not big enough to have real “live, work, play” and single family homes.

While the company has the land and can propose what it wants, it would be a shame (and a waste) for this property to be used for its standard style of development.  Hopefully, it will do better.

Built Environment – Settling, An Example

Which leads us to the issue of settling.  We have often complained about the City settling, and now we have an example.  Back in 2012, the developers of No Ho Flats were allowed to close streets and have surface parking in their project:

It allows for consolidating parcels on opposite sides of Gray. And the cost of an enclosed garage, similar to one built with Vintage Lofts, is too expensive for the current down-sized economy.

“It will be a long time before you see development in this area if you don’t allow surface parking,” he said.

That was not true then (and it is not true now), but it did help the developers make a really good profit when they sold the project soon after its opening.

Just coincidentally, we just ran across an application on the City’s handy Accela system  by the No Ho Flats developer for “400 N Rome Ave.” (essentially right next to No Ho Flats.)   Looking over the attachments what does one find but a large apartment building with a garage in the middle.

 

From the public records. Click on picture for larger version.

Apparently two years is “a long time.”  The point is that we are going to be stuck with No Ho Flat’s surface parking and a closed road for years – probably decades.  Two years later, it is clear there was no need to settle for that.  Market conditions were fine (other contemporary projects had garages).  It was just settling, and it was unnecessary.

At least the developer has changed its approach.  It’s just too bad that we got stuck with a poorly designed development first.

Why Not Here?

One of the major local companies is planning a new prototype.

Publix Super Markets Inc. may debut a smaller, urban prototype store in Charlotte, N.C.

The Lakeland-based grocer has been working on a 20,000-square-foot model for several months, as sister news organization the Orlando Business Journal first reported. Real estate sources in Jacksonville and Tampa say Publix is continuing to work on that model, possibly for a Charlotte location.

“At this time, we can’t confirm plans for a 20,000 square foot prototype,” said Kim Reynolds, a Publix spokeswoman in Charlotte. “Therefore, we can’t confirm where that first prototype might be located.”

Publix’s current urban stores are about 28,000 square feet, and the company’s traditional stores are about 49,000 square feet. A new smaller model would be a more feasible way for the grocer to enter more high-barrier-to-entry markets, like urban locations, college towns and coastal areas. Those areas typically can’t accommodate a full-size store, and stores in those locations tend to do extremely well, as there’s no space for a competitor to come in and build another store.

We are glad that Publix is working hard to stay competitive and creating new models.  We just wish they looked to the Tampa Bay area for their urban prototype rather than Charlotte. (Especially with the growing competition in the area for niche groceries.)  But that should tell you something.

More Generosity

Speaking of Publix, there was a nice donation made to the University of Tampa this week.

A University of Tampa residence hall will be named in honor of Howard and Patricia Jenkins after the couple donated $10 million to the university, one of the largest gifts in its history.

The donation will go toward construction of another new residence hall, which is under way, university spokesman Eric Cárdenas said Thursday.

Howard Jenkins, 63, is the chairman of the executive committee of Publix Super Markets and a member of UT’s board of trustees. Patricia Jenkins, 59, founded Apollo Environmental, which specializes in hazardous materials consulting and analysis, expert witness testimony and regulatory compliance.

Both UT and USF are doing a nice job of bringing in donations, and locals are doing an admirable job showing their generosity and supporting those institutions.

It would be nice if the area around UT could now be redone to take advantage of the growing population of students living right near downtown.  After all, for all the talk of USF med school,  UT already is a downtown university.

Cars of the Future?

There has been a lot of talk about autonomous cars being the transportation of the future.  They may be.  Or maybe not.  We found this interesting article in Slate about some of the issues with autonomous cars that may indicate they are not nearly as close to reality as some would have us believe.

List of the Week

There will be no list this week.

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