Downtown/Built Environment – Developments
This past week or so has seen much news about developments, pretty much all residential, in the Downtown area. Because they all affect that area, we thought it might be useful to look at them together.
— Straz Tower
We begin with new information about the apartment tower near the Straz:
Developers of the tower have dropped the preliminary name of “Residences at Riverwalk,” and instead picked “AER in the Arts District.” (AER stands for “Arts & Entertainment Residences). Some City of Tampa officials joke that few people may guess that “AER” is also the Gaelic word for “Air,” and the name will have the pronunciation “air.” If all goes well, the city officials expect developers to begin work this June or July.
Setting aside that the residents of this area are not all a bunch of rubes (the Irish airline is named “Aer Lingus” after all), it would be nice if the project started this summer. But more importantly, there have been some changes:
The latest architectural design will keep the overall 350-unit count that developers originally envisioned, and the tower will still take up the same block-sized parcel of downtown real estate, but nearly everything else has evolved over time.
The preliminary plan for a boxy tower with a “doughnut” of parking levels at the base is out. Instead, developers hired architect Rachel Cardello of ADD Inc. in Miami (now part of Stantec Inc.) who drafted a more subtle, almost curved profile with a few key changes.
The large parking deck for residents is moved out from under the building and is now placed adjacent to the tower on the east side. That frees up the lower segment of the tower to have residential units that face the riverfront. “Those will be fantastic units with really cool views,” Smith said. The tower will now have an “intermediate” terrace at about the 25th level that faces south. That will likely be an entertainment terrace for residents that includes one of two swimming pools. Another pool will sit atop the very top level of the tower for 360-degree city views.
Smith said those plans are still in the works, but he likes the idea of terraces mid-way up the tower, with outdoor fireplaces and trellises to provide some shade from the sun. That middle terrace would also give both a sense of height above the ground, but also loftiness with the rest of the tower looming above.
Such elevated pools are increasingly popular among tower developers. The new Skyhouse tower in the Channel district has a pool in its rooftop entertainment terrace. Though somewhat at ground level, the newly renovated Aloft hotel has a pool deck overlooking the Hillsborough River. Several of the new apartment towers going up in downtown St. Petersburg have pools atop their towers.
This rendering was provided by with the article (and note that renderings tend to make everything look taller and slimmer):
The first thing one might notice is that the building, which was not really boxy in the last round of renderings (it was symmetrical), is no longer symmetrical. We understand that the aesthetics are subjective, but we are not particularly excited by the rendering. We think it looks a bit lopsided and the lower level looks like a smaller, boxier building was just stuck on to the taller part rather than actually integrated smoothly. If they want two roof-top pools, we understand, but it can be done better.
Moreover, the parking garage is a point of concern. Because we do not really have underground parking, dealing with garages is always an issue. The rendering does not really show it (trees conveniently blocking any real view of the street level in the above rendering) so it is hard to judge, but it seems that it will be very visible to everyone from the north, south or east. We prefer integrated parking. It is just better overall urban design.
The street level in the front looks ok (we can’t tell about anything else). Overall, we do not see a real improvement in the design changes (we think the older concept was more interesting). Hopefully, it will be better in reality.
— Grant Block
Next up is news about the Grant Block (to view the location, see here):
Conor McNally, Carter chief development officer, said Friday that the group is “highly confident” in its plans, which include 360 apartments and 10,000 square feet of retail space. The site is referred to as the Grant block and is one block north of the historic Kress building on North Franklin Street.
Once again, it is good that it might start this summer (could be an interesting summer). However, let’s look at the rendering:
That is one big building (even taking into account the tendency of renderings to make buildings look taller than they actually will be). As we said a few months ago:
We understand that not every building is going to be an architectural masterpiece and that the building plan has street interaction (which is good), but it seems a bit of a hulking building. Tampa should take care that what gets built now does not make it significantly harder to build other buildings nearby. That does not mean getting into every item of every proposal, but attentiveness, at least to some degree, to view corridors is a good idea.
That rendering does not change anything in that analysis. Moreover, looking at the plan for the first floor (from the City’s handy Accela system):
You can see that the retail is basically all on Franklin (with a little store on the southeast corner with a few feet of frontage on Florida). The frontage on Florida (facing the Floridan) will be essentially dead space. We understand that it is hard to put retail along the entirety of all frontage, but other projects, like Skypoint and Element, have done a better job trying to address more streets, so it can be – and should be – done (not necessarily exactly like those two projects, but something better). We are not clear why that is ok with that, but, hopefully, the Lightning owner’s team will take note and not repeat the mistake.
So, yes, it is good to have projects being built. However, without some care and attention to detail, the City is going to end up with projects that it will partially rue in coming years.
Finally, there was an announcement of new plans for an area north of the Straz (see location here)
Lincoln Property Co. is in talks with the city to build a 408-unit, five-story apartment building north of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for Performing Arts, on a surface parking lot adjacent to the Barrymore Hotel. The land is owned by New Jersey-based Denholtz Associates, according to county property records.
Named the Aspire, the complex would have six stories of parking with 866 spaces, according to plans Michael Callahan, the city’s urban design coordinator, presented to Tampa Bay Real Estate Investment Council Inc. on Wednesday.
It would also include a 9,000-square-foot clubhouse and 3,600 square feet of retail space, according to the plans. Lincoln has been building Aspire-branded communities around the Southeast, including a 279-unit project in Nashville and a property in Orlando.
This is the rendering included with the Business Journal article:
That does not tell us much. Just for reference, here is an article and rendering of the Nashville project and here is the Orlando project. Clearly, the proposed project in Tampa is more like the Nashville project – if not even more suburban with a “clubhouse.” We would not be surprised if it were something more akin to the Pier House project, though given the lack of detail, it is actually hard to know what the project would be like.
So what are we to think of all this? First, nothing has come out of the ground yet. Still, it is nice that this part of downtown is drawing projects. We are happy about that, and we would like buildings to come out of the ground. The added residents will surely help develop amenities in downtown and add vibrancy. That is without question.
On the other hand, past waves of development in downtown have shown that the City should be very careful about what gets built. (Just go to Tampa Street south of Jackson and see how vibrant – or, rather, not vibrant – the street is even with the large office towers.) We do not just want buildings; we want good buildings that serve to truly develop the downtown area. Walk by Element or Skypoint and you can see they do that. (Are they perfect? No, but they still help not just add residents but to enliven most of the streets around them.)
If built, these buildings are going to be with us for decades. It is great to have development and by all means build, but design matters.
Economic Development – A Good Column
There was a column in the Times entitled “Trigaux: 10 Tampa Bay projects we can’t afford to screw up” that, predictably, lists ten major issues that we cannot afford to screw up and gives grades to how they are being handled. Things like this:
- Pinellas lacks land management. Pinellas is in an economic pickle. It’s so built out that there is little available land of significant size left to develop. Compounding the problem, the county is awash in outdated housing and strip malls. Bottom line: Here’s a county that is often unattractive to larger businesses and to younger workers that want to live in new and affordable housing. That’s why population forecasts have Pinellas flatlining for decades to come. Not a good economic formula for the future. Grade: C-
We are not going to recount the entire column (we discuss most of the items in our regular Roundups), but we will list the 10 issues and give the grades: Transportation that works (D); A viable next home for the Rays (C); A new Pier (C); the Lightning owner’s project (A-); the efforts of the Tampa Innovation Alliance around Suitcase City and USF (B-); Education (B-); Citrus greening (B) – ok, we don’t really write about this; Pinellas land management (C-); Energy policy (F) – and we don’t really write about this; Regional cooperation (C-).
For the most part, that is about right, except the Rays and Pier should get D’s in our estimation. (And to the list we would add poor planning and design generally because while downtown St. Pete and Tampa show promise, most of the area is still very poorly planned and designed.)
We recommend that you read the column.
Economic Development – An Interesting Article
We also ran across an interesting article in the Christian Science Monitor on the quest of various areas to become the hubs of cybersecurity.
While California’s Silicon Valley is the US technology capital, cities and states across the country are vying to dominate the booming market for actually securing that technology and information. “What’s the next Silicon Valley for cybersecurity?” asks Peter Singer, a strategist who focuses on cybersecurity at the New America think tank in Washington. “This is one of the fastest growing industries – not just in the tech sector, but in the world.”
The global cybersecurity market was $67 billion in 2011 and is projected to grow as high as $156 billion by 2019, according to premium market research firm Markets and Markets. It will expand as more giants such as Sony Pictures Entertainment, Target, and Home Depot are hacked, consumers demand more and better security, and businesses grow more aware of the potential cost to their sales and reputation if they do not provide it.
Seeing a window of opportunity, state governments and pro-business groups from California to Texas and Florida are positioning themselves to win federal contracts and score venture capital investment. Some are going to extraordinary lengths to build what they call “a cybersecurity ecosystem.” They are commissioning economic impact studies, developing tax incentives to attract companies to their regions and even hiring PR firms to devise branding strategies. They are competing over government contracts, even investing in startups with money from state coffers. With as many as 300,000 cybersecurity jobs across the country unfilled last year, according to security company Symantec, they are crafting academic programs for public universities to win research grants and generate the next crop of highly skilled workers poised to make six figures– and stay local.
What made this article interesting is that it profiles various areas in the quest, including this, which we quote at length:
Yes, he bolded, italicized and underlined that prefix for special emphasis, in the title of a report asking for $16.1 million every year from Florida’s board of governors to establish a center for cybersecurity. “One of a handful of states will emerge as the leader in cybersecurity and become the magnet that attracts the billions of dollars of private-sector and military spending that will be invested in this emerging field,” Mr. Sridharan wrote in the pitch, submitted to the board in December 2013. “Florida can become this leader.”
The sales pitch worked. With an initial investment $5 million investment from the state, Sridharan now directs the Florida Center for Cybersecurity, up and running since June. Headquartered at the University of South Florida, the center connects the state’s 12 public universities and its experts under one umbrella to expand academic curricula and score government grants in cybersecurity. The center will offer the state’s best resources – people and locations – when they submit proposals for contracts, instead of competing one against the other for the pot of cybersecurity grant money.
Sridharan is well aware of the Greater Washington region’s squabbles over contracts and installations – and hopes it will work to his advantage. Government officials told Sridharan, in meetings to discuss collaborating with Florida on cybersecurity initiatives, that “there is this struggle and tug-of-war taking place” in the nation’s capital, he said. “That is one of the reasons why, when we presented our business model to them, it really resonated with them,” Sridharan says.
Already, the new center hosted a big workshop – loaded with Washington types – to discuss the NIST roadmap for improving critical infrastructure cybersecurity in October. The university hosted 400 guests after it was selected by the White House as one of the locations to stream President Obama’s speech at Stanford University in February. Shuttling between Tampa and Washington, Sridharan is using these conferences and exercises led by the government to build relationships with various agencies with the expectation he will earn contracts in the future.
Companies can’t hire cybersecurity grads fast enough to fill the job deficit, and Sridharan wants them to pluck employees from Florida. Dubbed a center for academic excellence in cybersecurity, program enrollment has doubled from the first semester to the second. With thousands more certificates in cybersecurity predicted across the state under the new initiative, these Florida graduates, Sridharan expects, will enter the workforce prepared for six-figure-salary jobs – and the state predicts return on its investment through federal and industry R&D expenditures, patents and licensing revenues, and startup companies.
This is just the beginning for the Florida center’s state-of-the-art facility, replete with a screen that shows cyber attacks in real time. Sridharan is asking for a phased-in investment of $36.6 million to build it, complete with a government-approved secure facility to protect classified military or intelligence information and labs and its own data center. After all, Sridharan wants to collaborate with the military’s Special Operations Command and Central Command and other local military hubs.
Florida, at the outset, seems an unlikely contender to dominate the cybersecurity market; nine of the top 10 cities in the country known as hotbeds for identity theft are in Florida. Government officials often note, Sridharan acknowledges, “we have largest number of crooks in the entire country.” But he insists the fraud actually helps his case. “We really need [the Florida center] to address this problem in a big way.”
We are all for most of what is said in the profile and really like the idea of developing expertise based on assets already here. Yet, one thing we would point out is this: “Companies can’t hire cybersecurity grads fast enough to fill the job deficit, and Sridharan wants them to pluck employees from Florida.” While we understand that there is a desire to build the program so that it becomes the place to find talent nationwide. On the other hand, we don’t really want companies to pluck talent from Florida, we want companies to establish themselves in this area to take advantage of all the talent being developed here. (In all truth, we think the speaker probably thinks that, too, but it was ambiguous in the article.) Anyway, that is positive coverage.
One other thing we would point out, though, is that, as the article makes clear, there is a lot of competition from other areas. We are all for the effort, though, as made clear by all the other aspirants, it should be remembered that really becoming a hub will be difficult (and an accomplishment of note).
Transportation – The PTC Wins a Case
This week a judge ruled that the PTC can be protectionist.
A judge has upheld Hillsborough County’s right to impose a $50 minimum fare for limousines, a small victory for the county’s Public Transportation Commission in its ongoing battle to maintain regulating authority over commercial vehicles.
Indeed, we have not argued that the PTC couldn’t be protectionist. (It was arguably created for just that purpose.) The question is whether it serves the consumers – the people for whom its members actually work – to be protectionist. In other words, the PTC can but should it?
Bike Sharing is Good
There was an article in the Tribune regarding the City’s bike sharing program.
Numbers are one way Coast Bike Shares measures success: 100 days into Tampa’s new, downtown bike-sharing operation, ridership has exceeded expectations with 3,000 participants and 20,000 miles pedaled.
And that is great. We are all for it. It should have happened long ago.
And that is true. What is also true is that, as we noted last week, biking and walking go hand in hand (See “List of the Week I”):
Each Coastal Bike Share cycle has a GPS system that allows Cyclehop to track a rider’s trip. This has shown that hubs popular with pedestrian traffic, such as Hyde Park and Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, are also popular with cyclists.
And, as we also said, none of this is that complicated. You do not need a GPS tracker to know that biking and walking are connected and will have similar destinations. You just have to get on a bike or start walking and see what the experience is like. You need to go to places where you can easily walk or easily bike and see what that experience is like. It is elementary human living all around the world.
If the City really wants to encourage biking, it needs to create more walkable areas – and not just downtown. It needs to have really walkable areas all over the City. To really have the investment pay off, it needs to change the code and stop settling.
Ybor City – City Land Proposal
There was more news about the City’s continuing attempt to sell its land in Ybor City.
Developer Darryl Shaw has bid to buy and develop a parcel close to the Ybor City Arch. His Ybor City Holdings firm was the only one to submit a bid for the city-owned land on the northeast corner of Nuccio Parkway by Friday’s deadline.
City officials will conduct new appraisals of the site and review in depth the proposal for a residential and retail building before entering into negotiations with Shaw over the next few weeks, said Bob McDonaugh, the city’s economic development administrator. The low number of bids was to be expected for such a small parcel, about a third of a block, and one constrained by a neighboring building.
The proposal was presented by someone who is investing heavily in Ybor, which is good. On the other hand, as noted by the City, the parcel is small and constrained, limiting the proposals. Moreover, it is a gateway to Ybor, which makes one wonder whether residential (as much as we want more residential in Ybor) is really the best use for the land.
This is the second try in the last couple of years for the City to get rid of this land, and we still do not understand the hurry, especially as the demand for the land appears low. There is private development going on in Ybor. There is no need to get rid of City land which could have future uses.
Parks – Where Is The Money?
There was an article in the Tribune that got us thinking about spending.
Then, last year DeMare and other Carrollwood leaders learned Hillsborough County’s utility department plans to close and demolish the 40-year-old Dale Mabry Wastewater Treatment Plant. If the leaders could get approval from the county commission, Carrollwood Village would have more than 50 acres at the plant site for a dog park and more.
A committee was created called Friends of the Northwest Regional Park with John Miley as chairman. Miley said he and Tom Rawls, manager of plant operations with the department, had talked about putting a regional park on the site if the plant was shuttered.
The committee invited commissioners Ken Hagan, Victor Crist and Kevin Beckner to meetings to present their idea. They visualized a passive park with walking trails, a small lake and fishing pier, a butterfly garden, an amphitheater and, of course, a dog park.
It will take about two years to close and demolish the plant, clear the site and build new pipes to take raw sewage to a newer plant and bring reclaimed water back to Carrollwood, said utilities director George Cassady. Two storage tanks and a pumping station for reclaimed water will remain and a new pumping station for raw wastewater will be built on the site, Cassady said.
One of many questions still to be answered is where the money will come from for the park. County Administrator Mike Merrill has already told commissioners that the fiscal 2016 budget will be a tight one with $44 million in disposable revenue but billions of dollars in needs.
Because the utilities department is run like a separate business, it cannot give the land to the county for the park. Hagan estimated the county will have to pay the department around $1.7 million or $1.8 million for the 54 acres.
The park sounds like a great idea for reuse of County land. It would be a unique asset in the area and help enhance a suburban area with an at least partially urban amenity. It would also create a community focus.
Of course, a major problem is money. As explained above, the budget is tight. What is not mentioned is the $15 million dollars set aside to pursue soccer fields somewhere for tournaments. (Why not just allow a private concern to build on County land if the terms were right but put up no money?) Do we really need to spend $15 million of taxpayer money for a tournament complex when there are other, better uses?
— In the Rest of the Country
We hear a lot about the economic development successes of the Tampa Bay area. And there are some successes, but how do they compare to other places? This week, we look at a couple of items from Austin (yes, we know, we are not Austin)
First, looking at tech jobs, news about Visa’s expansion in Austin:
That is 500 engineers THIS YEAR, not a number of back office jobs over a number of years.
Then there is this:
Search engine giant Google Inc. is set to establish a major presence in downtown Austin, with plans to lease more than 200,000 square feet of a 29-story office tower being built as part of the redevelopment of the site that once housed the Thomas C. Green Water Treatment Plant.
Google currently has three Austin locations, on North Mopac Boulevard (Loop 1), at University Park just north of downtown, and its Google Fiber space in what was formerly the Austin Children’s Museum downtown. The new space will consolidate the employees on North Mopac and University Park, while Google Fiber will remain at the Children’s Museum location three blocks from the new site, Interiano said.
So, it is not clear if there are new jobs involved, but 200,000 sq ft in downtown. What do you thing think Tampa (or St. Pete) might give for that?
— In the Rest of Florida
We know very well, and support, the airport’s efforts to get new flights. It is notable that whenever new flights are announced the excessive hype seems to come from people other than the airport staff (which is always pleased but rarely over the top – they are business-like), probably because they know the business. We thought it might be useful to look at what has been going on recently at some other airports in the state.
Last week alone, the airport added two new carriers. On Tuesday, Finnair landed at MIA with a nonstop flight from Helsinki, becoming the 99th airline at the airport. Finnair’s A340 service to Helsinki will be seasonal, but will be extended to begin in October next year.
That is in addition to:
In other words, Miami has flights to second and third level cities in Latin America (we have one flight to Latin America – not really a gateway, yet). And
Even closer to home
That is quite the get for Orlando and truly:
Given MacDill’s connection to the Middle East and the connections to India that were to be made by the IIFA (Emirates has big connections to South Asia), it would have been nice to have that here.
Now, don’t get us wrong – we think the airport administration is doing a great job. We know they are pushing as hard as they can for new service, and they have had a string of successes and have had to deal with neglect by the previous airport administration and its supporters. Our point is simply this: this area has to be realistic in what is really going on around here.
Things are improving – really, they are. But, as an area, we have been hamstrung by our past (and some present) choices, inflation of achievements, and complacency – especially in past airport administrations, in politics, and in the economy, which definitely has repercussions at the airport. Now is not a time for hype and swagger (just see the 10 things not to screw up list above) – it is a time for hard decisions, hard work, and to catch up (at least they realize that at the airport, where they are setting the example).
List of the Week
We will not get into all the stats but we will point out this:
Florida contained seven of the nation’s top 50 numerically gaining metro areas between July 1, 2013, and July 1, 2014, and these areas accounted for more than three-quarters of the state’s population gain over the period:
The biggest growth in pure numbers was in Houston (156,371)
And note the actual estimate for the top areas in Florida:
|Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-West Palm Beach||5,929,819|
|Tampa-St. Pete- Clearwater||2,915,582|
|Cape Coral-Ft. Myers||679,513|
|Port St. Lucie||444,420|