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Roundup 8-21-2015

August 21, 2015

Contents

Economic Development – It’s Not Horseshoes

Transportation – More Muddle

USF – Med School Achievement and the Hype

Downtown – Goings On

Downtown/West River/Hyde Park – Moving Forward

Channel District – A New Building

PTC – If At First You Don’t Succeed

West Tampa – CRA

Cue St. Pete

Port Master Plan – Adventures in Silliness

List of the Week

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Economic Development – It’s Not Horseshoes

There was news, sort of, from the Hillsborough EDC this week:

Five brand-name companies are potential candidates to relocate their corporate headquarters to Tampa or Hillsborough County.

Setting aside that we have no idea what a “brand name” company is, great. (And, of course, any HQ jobs we get are good.) So where are we in the process?

These kind of relocation decisions are almost always cloaked in secrecy, and Homans declined to give specifics, including whether any of the five companies in the EDC’s pipeline also are working with Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, who has said he is recruiting a corporate headquarters to his $1 billion project on land he owns between Amalie Arena and downtown Tampa.

Homans did say there are “an abundance of sites” each with its own character. “The waterfront district may be right for one, Westshore for another, Plant City right for yet another,” he said. That offers lots of opportunities for companies to create their own strong identity.

That is true, but there is no telling whether anything will come of any of these prospects. We just care about result. In any event,

“To me, the most significant thing is we are beginning to show up on the radar for these kind of headquarters locations,” Homans told Tampa Bay Business Journal after his quarterly update to the county commission. “The word is getting out about Tampa and Hillsborough County and the Tampa Bay area. We’re seeing with greater frequency that companies are taking a look at our community, especially at this higher level of a corporate headquarters, which indicates a great deal of confidence in this market to produce talent.”

And having companies look is good – you have to start somewhere (were they not looking before, and, if so, why not?). But close does not really count. What really counts is if they choose us. And note that it was reported that GE is seriously looking at Atlanta for its corporate HQ (see here)  and maybe Dallas.

“We don’t comment on specific recruitment projects, but I can guarantee you that if a company comes right out and says it wants to move its headquarters, we’re in touch with them,” Rick Homans, said in a previous statement.

Which is fine, but not important if they are not seriously considering us.  It is good to have prospects, but we are about actual results.  Being consistently close but not making the deal does not amount to anything. And that is not necessarily the fault of economic development officials.  We have consistent and persistent deficiencies – transportation (especially transit), planning, walkable neighborhoods, etc. – that are not within their ambit. They are much more the responsibility of elected officials.  If we really these stories to be about true accomplishments, not just how many secret prospects we might have,  we (especially elected officials) have to get truly serious about fixing those deficiencies.

Transportation – More Muddle

Speaking of transportation, first the TED/PLC/Go Hillsborough group considered a referendum for a one cent sales tax increase.  Then, after wasting years and then hiring consultants to do public outreach, the elected officials rolled that back to a half cent.  Now, after deciding that the public outreach they paid for was not enough and paying some more, there will be a consideration of both a half cent and a full cent.  How did this new twist come about?

Hillsborough County leaders are taking a fresh look at asking voters to approve a full penny-per-dollar sales tax increase instead of a half-cent to finance transportation projects.

The idea came out of weekend meetings that included County Administrator Mike Merrill, other county officials and public relations contractor Beth Leytham. Managers with the county’s transportation consultant, Parsons Brinckerhoff, also were consulted by phone during the meetings, Leytham said.

Merrill said he and the others were compiling a list of projects that could be funded by a half-cent sales tax increase, which was approved last month by the county’s Transportation Policy Leadership Group. During the weekend discussions, Merrill said they realized many projects the public says it wants won’t be possible without the higher, 1-cent-per-dollar tax hike.

That is odd.  What happened to the TED/PLC/Go Hillsborough group? Where were the elected officials?

Some county commissioners, caught off-guard by the staff and consultant’s decision, were not happy. Commissioner Al Higginbotham for one, called the move a “public relations disaster,” and said it confirmed Americans’ distrust of government at all levels.

Another commissioner, Victor Crist, said he wanted to know why Leytham sent out a press release Monday announcing the change without commission approval.

“It’s causing confusion among our constituents,” Crist said. “We’re getting phone calls asking why I’m embracing a 1 cent sales tax and I’m not.”

Apparently, the Policy Leadership Committee is not actually leading, though they haven’t really been leading for a while.  In any event, why the change?

Merrill took full responsibility Tuesday for the news release.

He said the release did not change the recommendation from the county staff and Parsons Brinckerhoff last month to go for a half-cent tax increase.

He also acknowledged that the change in direction was driven in part by criticism from pro-transit forces and some newspaper editorials who argued a half-cent was a weak response to the county’s transportation needs.

“There have been some voices in the community that said we should be bolder, we should have done more for transit, and we should have done a better job, in their opinion, of assessing support for 1 cent,” Merrill said.

We are all for a more global transportation solution, though, based on all that has gone before, it is not at all clear that even a one cent increase would include that. That is more a function of the political will to build a proper plan.  In any event, there is an argument that once cent is better than a half cent, namely,

The move to re-examine the 1 cent proposal was welcomed by pro-transit forces, including Kevin Thurman, executive director of Connect Tampa Bay. Thurman noted that in polling conducted by Go Hillsborough, a one-cent sales tax was the second most popular option for funding transportation improvements after a half-cent increase. Other options included a gas tax increase.

“What they didn’t realize was there are a significant number of people who support the one cent but they don’t want to settle for a half cent,” Thurman said. “That’s the feedback they’re getting. If we’re going to do this, let’s solve our problems as opposed to doing this halfway.”

Thurman said that a half-cent sales tax would raise $504 million for mass transit, or 43 percent of the $1.17 billion the tax would generate over 10 years. Bike and walking trails would get $3.9 million, bringing the total amount of money not designated for roads to 47 percent. 

Discussion of the one cent is generally fine, though, in the present circumstances, it is a very late in the game (that should have happened before they decided to go with a half cent) and creates even more confusion in an already confused process.

And there is an argument that a half cent is preferable because it is actually doable.

Others, however, doubted that a one cent increase would stand a chance with tax-averse voters. Commissioner Ken Hagan, while supporting a discussion of what the full cent increase would pay for, predicted it would be “DOA,” or dead on arrival, at the ballot box.

“I could be wrong, but I think a half cent, while needed, is going to be a challenge and I believe passage of a full cent is a long shot,” Hagan said. 

And

Commissioner Stacy White, the only member of the transportation leadership group to vote against sending a half-penny tax to voters, said he doesn’t oppose holding the conversation.

“But I think the proponents of the half-cent sales tax have their hands full at this point,” White said. “I don’t really see where a one-cent sales tax will get any traction.”

In our opinion, it would be better to have a full cent and really make the needed changes (though, as we said, whether that would happen even with a cent is unclear).  On the other hand, if a full cent cannot pass, a half cent is better, provided that it does not go to a big mess of unrelated projects that do not actually fix anything.

The real problem is not talking about a full cent versus a half cent.  That is fine.  The problem is that the entire process is (and has been for while) a muddle and is apparently led by consultants rather than the elected officials who are going to have to make the decisions on spending the money.

The fact is that, at some point, real decisions are going to have to be made, and the elected officials are going to have to make them.  The persistent lack of clarity and apparent lack of leadership in no way helps the cause of fixing transportation.  It fuels suspicion among those who already skeptical of local government.  It creates confusion among the people (probably the majority) who are not fully engaged in the process.  It harms the ability to sell anything that comes from the process.  And it makes one wonder if there will be proper implementation if the referendum were to pass.

We cannot have another referendum where there is confusion about where the money is going.  And we cannot have another referendum where the Commission is running away from the proposal they put on the ballot.  That is just a recipe for another failure.

USF – Med School Achievement and the Hype

There was an article about the USF Med School this week that was very interesting.  First the good:

More students are clamoring to enroll in the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine, lured by the promise of its move to a state-of-the-art campus in downtown Tampa, USF officials say.

The students applying are smarter, too.

USF students’ MCAT scores — the equivalent of the SAT for medical students — averaged about 32.59 out of 45 possible points for the 2014-15 school year, meaning their scores were in the 90th percentile. In the 2013-14 school year, the average score was 31, and the previous school year the average score was 30.

In a presentation to the university’s board of trustees Thursday, USF President Judy Genshaft said the MCAT scores placed USF above all other Florida colleges for the category in the closely watched annual rankings of U.S. News and World Report. The state school closest to USF’s scores was the University of Florida, with an average MCAT score of 32.2.

The rising test scores were attributed to a growing applicant pool, allowing the university to be more selective last school year, said Charles Lockwood, senior vice president of USF Health and dean of the Morsani college.

Plans for relocating downtown the Morsani college, as well as the USF Health Heart Institute, helped the university draw medical school applicants who did undergraduate work at top schools nationwide, Lockwood said.

Among last year’s applicants, 16 percent are from top 30 schools, he said.

Setting aside the downtown campus for a minute, that is great. It is quite an achievement that USF is drawing from such a good pool of applicants.  USF (and the area) should be proud of this development. It is also good that over the years, the applicant pool has been getting stronger and stronger.  It should be celebrated and trumpeted.

But now, the problem with how such things are treated in this area.  The article’s emphasis is on the move downtown as the reason for the surge.  This emphasis is encouraged by USF comments.

In the 2013-14 school year, the number of applications only grew by 5 percent and in the 2012-13 school year they grew by 10 percent. The surge in application exceeded national trends for the period.

“I don’t have any real explanation for it, but I’m sure happy to have it,” Lockwood said. “I have suspicions that the downtown project may have created a big lunge, and these students applied from across the country.”

Huh? The applicant pool has been improving for years and USF is not sure why.  Therefore, they say it was the downtown campus?  That does not make sense.  First, as we said, the applicant pool was already improving and just kept improving at about the same rate.

Second, if last year was anything like this year, applications were due sometime in November.  The USF Board of Trustees did not even endorse the downtown idea until December. See here and here.  The Board of Governors did not approve the first funding until February.  The building design is not done, the move is not fully funded, and there is no clear timeline for the downtown building yet.  In other words, the downtown plan was not approved when applications were due and there is no way to know whether entering first year students will even have a downtown campus to go to. (It is supposed to be finished in 2017, but who knows.)  And:

Over the next year, USF Health will determine exactly what programs and student services will go in the new $157 million, 11-story Morsani college in the heart of downtown Tampa, which will replace its 40-year-old complex on the USF’s main campus in Tampa.

So no one knows exactly what will be going on there.

And the downtown school does not explain why applicants were improving when they thought they were just going to the on campus location. (Apparently, the school is doing fine where it is.)

In other words, the downtown campus likely had nothing to do with the applicant pool.  It is a disservice to the actual achievements of the school to say that it does.  To bring the downtown campus into the discussion is just part of the usual hype of this area.

As noted by the Tribune in an editorial:

The relocation of the medical school downtown is going to give USF Health an even higher profile, but it is useful to recognize that, regardless of location, the university’s health care colleges are an invaluable asset to our region.

The downtown campus may or may not be a draw in the future, but, for the numbers discussed, it is not relevant.  What is relevant I that the med school is making its mark and helping this area.  And that is great.

Downtown – Goings On

There was news this week about a few projects in the main part of downtown.  First, the on again, now off Kress block:

Brokers in Tampa and Miami will join forces to market downtown’s historic Kress building.

Jeannette Jason, who owns the building with her father, Miami-based Doran Jason, said she and her father signed a co-listing agreement for the Kress on Monday.

Jeannette Jason, who joined Cushman & Wakefield of Florida Inc.’s Tampa office in June, will market the property with John Crotty and Michael Fay, principals in Avison Young’s Miami office.

* * *

“There are quite a few groups that are looking at it and in various stages of performing due diligence,” Jeannette Jason said.

The last proposal was actually quite intriguing – one of the few truly elegant looking (we never got real details) proposals for Tampa.  Sadly, it stalled.  Hopefully, if there is new interest, it can be similarly elegant.   We have enough clunky, ordinary projects.

Speaking of which, the Grant block (and a rendering that downplays clunkiness)

From Business Journal – click on picture for article

Plans to build a 23-story residential apartment tower on downtown Tampa’s Grant block are behind schedule, but they are still in the works.

Atlanta-based Carter told Tampa Bay Business Journal earlier this year that it had intended to close and break ground on the tower this summer. The group is under contract to buy the block of North Franklin Street known as the Grant block and demolish a strip of abandoned storefronts to make way for the tower.

“We are still working full steam ahead on this project and fully intend to close and move forward,” Conor McNally, chief development officer, wrote in an email Monday. “Closing should happen in the next 45 days, with demolition and construction start coming shortly thereafter.”

If will be nice to have something going up in the main part of downtown, though this is not a very interesting project, especially how it leaves Florida Avenue an essentially dead space right around the Floridan,  Federal Courthouse, and Kress block.  It could be done much better.

Interestingly,

McNally said there were “no concerns or issues” holding up the project. Some developers have expressed concern that the market was becoming too heated, with too many units in the works and land prices getting too expensive. The combination of those forces means more competition for the highest rents the city has ever seen — and no one can be sure of the depth of the pool of high-end renters.

Of course, getting out of the ground first is an advantage.  There is no knowing how many proposals will never get built (as always happens).

Downtown/West River/Hyde Park – Moving Forward

There was more news about the Altis Grand Central project near the Oxford Exchange:

If all goes according to plan, the first residents will move into an apartment building across the street from Oxford Exchange in about two years.

Altman Development Corp., based in Boca Raton, said Tuesday that it is planning to break ground on Altis Grand Central in spring 2016 and deliver the first units in summer 2017.

Ok.  So what is the latest on what the building will be like?

At 504 Grand Central Ave., across the street from Oxford Exchange, Altis Grand Central has evolved significantly since the company first filed plans with the city in April. After feedback from the surrounding neighborhood and City of Tampa, the development will now include 296 units and close to 5,000 square feet of retail space fronting Grand Central.

The building fronting Grand Central will be six stories; the building that abuts Cleveland Avenue will be five stories. Between the two will be an eight-story parking garage.

As long as the garage is not just a big, ugly wall, fine. They included this rendering:

From Business Journal – click on picture for article

This rendering is exactly why we do not put that much stock in renderings.  The immediate façade looks ok.  But if you notice the angle is such that you cannot see the parking garage, which is clearly talker than the rest of the building in the elevations, like this (thanks URBN Tampa Bay):

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

The elevations somehow scrub the parking garage, too.

 

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

We are ok with having something of this nature built on this lot and we are all for making this area denser and more walkable.  We also note positively that the developer has worked with its neighbors to improve the original proposal, but it still needs a little work.  We understand the need for parking.  However, like the Related proposal nearby, the garage here is hulking and not dealt with well at all, which is probably why it is scrubbed from elevations and renderings.

We are at the point that there is enough demand that the City has no excuses in allowing hulking garages in what should become a really nice, walkable area – really part of downtown.  There are so many apartments proposed for the downtown area that there is really no excuse.  Remember, these projects will be with us for decades.  Is that really what we want the city to look like?

Channel District – A New Building

This week, the formerly-referred-to-as-Atlantico (it seems that may not be the name after all) broke ground.

On a block south of E Kennedy Boulevard between 11th and 12th streets, FCI Residential is spending $60 million to replace an unused warehouse that once served the shipping industry with an Art Deco-inspired apartment house teeming with young professionals.

* * *

 

Part of the 2.25-acre site once housed the former Amazon Hose and Rubber Co., which had been at the port since 1951 but has been vacant for nearly a decade.

The new project will have 300 units in eight stories, plus a six-and-a-half story parking garage and ground-floor retail near its entrance on Kennedy. Rent is expected to average just under $2,000 a month.

We are not sure about teeming, but yea, basically.  This is a rendering.

From the Times – click on picture for article

Nothing exciting, but it is fine filler.

(There is a concern, especially with the very narrow streets of the Channel District, that filling the area with lower, squat buildings rather than taller, more slender buildings is not necessarily the best idea when it comes to sunlight on the streets and into people’s windows and views, but so be it.  We see no inclination on the part of the City to consider anything like that.)

In any event, we are happy something is getting built, and it is not PierHouse-like.

PTC – If At First You Don’t Succeed

There may be more efforts to dismantle the PTC:

Jeff Brandes says he’s mad as hell, and doesn’t want to take it anymore.

The St. Petersburg-based Republican state senator wrote on his Facebook page on Thursday that he will propose legislation next year that will attempt to eliminate the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission.

His statement comes a day after the controversial agency announced that despite the fact that a Hillsborough judge had denied its request for a preliminary injunction against Uber last week, it would continue to write tickets citing Uber and Lyft drivers in Hillsborough County.

“This is a perfect example of government run amok,” Brandes wrote. “Enough is enough. I’m drafting sweeping legislation to reform the PTC. It’s time our leaders stood up on behalf of our residents, tourists, and businesses to make sure Tampa Bay has the most robust network of transportation options available.”

He tried last year, but failed.  We applaud his determination to try again (as does this Tribune editorial).

The Chairman of the PTC seemingly had a response, but, from the coverage, it appears very odd. First, from the Tribune:

Victor Crist, chairman of the transportation commission and a Hillsborough County commissioner, said he will propose creating a new regulatory category called ride-share for transportation networking companies. Crist said if Uber and Lyft accept three provisions for the new category, they will be able to operate legally in the county and their drivers won’t be ticketed.

But those provisions are the same requirements that Uber and Lyft have so far refused to abide by: making drivers submit to level 2 background checks, which include fingerprinting; having the drivers’ vehicles inspected annually; and making drivers get insurance that will cover them and their passengers.

“The irony is we’re not asking them to do anything more than they already agreed to do in the markets where they are legal, like New York and Chicago,” Crist said.

But Crist concedes that one of the provisions, mandatory liability and personal injury insurance that will cover passengers and drivers, will require action by the state Legislature. Currently, insurance companies in Florida will not offer commercial insurance to Uber drivers who use their own vehicles.

Crist said state lawmakers would have to force insurance companies to offer the insurance to drivers, most of whom use their own vehicles to transport passengers and usually work part-time.

Given that the plan needs legislative action, it is not a solution now.  Just as simple a solution is for the legislature to abolish the PTC, which leads to the second half of his response, from the Times:

County Commissioner Victor Crist, who also serves as the chairman of Hillsborough’s taxi-regulating Public Transportation Commission, railed against the company during Wednesday’s commission meeting.

“Uber has refused over and over and over again to come to the table and talk to us,” Crist told commissioners.

He also defended the PTC, which regulates the county’s for-hire vehicles.

“Rest assured that the PTC has remained open-minded and objective, and we have been trying to sit down and work with the … ridesharing companies,” Crist said. “To date, the only one that has been willing to sit down and talk with us is Lyft.”

Of course, the PTC is nowhere near open-minded or objective on this issue (see the persistent requirements in the Tribune portion).  And the PTC has not been able (or willing) to reach an agreement with Lyft, either, so that is largely irrelevant.  And then there is the really odd part:

He also lashed out at Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who has spent years calling for the dissolution of the PTC, and did so once again on Facebook last week.

“(Uber’s) attitude is they’ll just take care of business at the state level,” Crist said, “and it’s quite annoying because every year just before session, some state legislator without thinking with their brain runs their mouth and makes statements that are false and misleading.”

For someone with a plan that depends on legislative action, it is very odd to rip legislators.  It is probably the result of the frustration of supporting an untenable policy.  It also does not help justify the existence of the PTC, which was created by meddling, unthinking legislators in the first place.

The PTC’s failure to serve the area got further emphasis this week:

The board overseeing Hillsborough County’s bus system is preparing to jump into the fray over whether the Public Transportation Commission should be regulating Uber and Lyft.

Those ride-booking companies, they say, are an economical way to connect customers to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority bus system by getting them to bus stops or from stops to their jobs. And partnering with those companies could save HART money, they said Monday.

Members of HART’s Major Projects and Legislative Committee said they will make PTC reform one of their top legislative priorities for fiscal year 2016, along with funding for a regional fare box. The PTC should not have the authority to push such companies out of town by over-regulating them, HART board members said.

The transit agency is about to launch a pilot project this fall that will address the issue of connecting customers with buses, commonly called First Mile/Last Mile, which could include contracting with ride-booking companies such as Uber and Lyft. But the pilot project is only for its para-transit, or severely disabled riders. The board wants the ability to eventually expand their use to all bus riders who need that short connection.

The bus wants to partner with ridesharing.  The Epicurean wants to partner with ridesharing.  The Young Republicans are for ridesharing. People want to use ridesharing.  We really don’t need the PTC to save us from ourselves.

West Tampa – CRA

The Tampa City Council has designated a West Tampa Community Redevelopment Area.

But with Tampa City Council’s designation of West Tampa as a “community redevelopment area,” the historic enclave may be in for a renaissance, re-energizing Main Street.

* * *

That’s the hope at the heart of the City Council’s move, which dedicates money generated from rising tax values in the area to improving the neighborhood. It opens the way for grants to refurbish storefronts, landscape thoroughfares and even spruce up homes in the specially designated district. 

The Times has a relatively long article on what some would like to see, especially on Main Street.  You can read the article here.  The fact is that Main Street is one of the few streets in Tampa that has a decent number of old buildings in a walkable environment.  It also happens to be right next to an interstate exit (which is good in many ways, but also has some downsides).  It is, and has been, a prime area for redevelopment.  Hopefully, it will reach its potential.

Cue St. Pete

In a week in which St. Pete announced the location for another museum, it also pointed out how Tampa is willing to give away some of the assets it already has.

With Tampa’s famed Bro Bowl now history, St. Petersburg is aiming to become the region’s skating destination by building a 32,000-square-foot skate park across Interstate 175 from Tropicana Field.

The City Council recently approved $1.6 million in Weeki Wachee Fund money, earmarked for parks and recreation uses. Parks officials hope to have a state-of-the-art facility open by winter 2016 in Campbell Park.

* * *

Cue Campbell Park. A large park at 16th Street and Fifth Avenue S, it has restrooms, a large parking lot and easy interstate access.

Most important? A hill that makes Nicks and other skaters shiver in anticipation of the possibilities.

The design of the park is still a work in progress, but Parks and Recreation director Michael Jefferis is confident skaters will be happy.

“I don’t know how many bowls yet or how many jumps, but the topography of that location will just enhance the interest of that location,” Jefferis said.

A skate park (though not historical, which would be much better) and a park with a hill in a thriving downtown. Imagine that.

Port Master Plan – Adventures in Silliness

There was an article this week in the Times that really shows how discussions about plans and proposals can really get out of hand, and, in this area, usually do.  Just to review – the vision plan for the Port property in the Channel District had, for whatever reason (probably because they would look cool in renderings), two 75-story buildings.  No one really knows whether they were apartments or condos because it is not a real plan, it is just a pretty picture that shows what, in theory, could go there.  But let’s set aside the speculative nature for a minute and get to the article.

A rendering of the $1.5 billion project released last week shows two 75-story towers soaring above the waterfront area that the port hopes to redevelop over 15 years.

Towers that tall would vault Tampa into the ranks of such sky-scraping cities as Dubai, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur. 

That is really exciting, if completely false.  And,

Towers that tall would have more floors than half of the world’s 100 tallest buildings.

Towers that tall would have as many floors as Manhattan’s second tallest residential tower, One57, where a condo sold in January for $100 million — 15 times more than any condo has ever brought in the Tampa Bay area.

* * *

Ranked by the number of floors, the Tampa towers would be taller than eight of the tallest buildings in the United States and 49 of the tallest worldwide. 

Technically true, and wholly irrelevant because no one who knows anything about buildings ranks them by stories.  Equally irrelevant is this:

Is one 75-floor tower, let alone two, realistic for Tampa, population 350,000?

The population listed here is the city population which is completely irrelevant when discussing a real estate market. We are not going to get into whether the market could support such buildings because there is no actual proposal.

Rather, we want to discuss, briefly, a simple rule of thumb – office building are 13 feet per floor and apartment/condo/hotels are 10 feet per floor.  Of course, that can vary based on a number of things, including, but not limited to, height of lobby and other specific use floors, any spire or ornamentation, and some design of the floors themselves.  Nevertheless, one can assume that a flat-topped apartment building with 75 floor in a not big money market will probably come in around 800 feet, give or take a few feet. (For example, see Miami’s 80-story Panorama Tower coming in at 822 feet  and Marquis Residences is 67 floors and 700 feet)   That would make it shorter than buildings built or under construction in Miami, Charlotte, and Atlanta.  Sure, they would be tall, but nothing anywhere near anything in Hong Kong, Dubai, or Kuala Lumpur. (One57 is an outlier and one of the most expensive buildings in the world.  Our market likely would not justify anything like that.)

So, yea, 75 story buildings would be cool, if they were proposed, if the FAA approved them, and if they got built.  But maybe we should wait until something is actually proposed before we toss out all the crazy hyperbole.  It is fine to look at possibilities and get ambitious (frankly, Tampa’s problem is that it is very ambitious on paper but not so much in practice), but let’s keep ourselves in check.  Remember – the Lighting owner hasn’t even built the relatively short office building next to the unbuilt USF med school, yet. (And no one has built a 40 story apartment building in Tampa.)

List of the Week

Our list this week is actually multiple lists and has been well covered – Money Magazines Best Places to Live.    The actual list of best places to live involves only incorporated areas with populations between 10,000 and 50,000.  The only Florida location on that list is Dr. Phillips (26th), the suburb of Orlando.  That did not get much coverage.

What did get a lot of local coverage is the portion of the list that has the 5 best “big” cities.  Tampa (the city) was listed as the best big city in the Southeast. Other regional winners were Pittsburgh, Denver, Omaha, and Mesa (arguably not a big city but rather a suburb of Phoenix).  It is always better to be ranked highly than not.  So, it is fine to be happy that we got a good ranking on this list.

Of course, it is interesting to see how they arrived at this ranking:

That’s why this year, in addition to our list of top towns, MONEY crunched the numbers on urban centers with more than 300,000 residents—63 in all. As with our Best Places list, our city rankings put a premium on a robust job market, affordable housing, and ­factors such as accessibility to health care, culture, and open space. We also gave extra points to places with low crime and strong public schools and selected the top city in the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, and West.

It is important to keep in mind that there are only 3 cities in Florida that have a city population over 300,000 – Jacksonville, Miami, and Tampa.  The cities arguably in the southeast (if you include Texas and Oklahoma, which are both arguably in the Southwest, but the website is unclear) with populations over 300,000 are: Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, Jacksonville, Ft. Worth, Charlotte, El Paso, Memphis, Nashville, OKC, Louisville, Atlanta, Virginia Beach, Raleigh, Miami, Tulsa, New Orleans, Arlington, Tampa, Corpus Christi, and Lexington. (without Texas and Oklahoma, a total of 12 cities).

Also worth noting, but not dwelling upon, are the few oddities in the write up:

Still, there are a few references in the article that will have locals scratching their heads, such as its mention of Tampa bragging about its beaches and how the city attracted 1,000 jobs at Amazon’s new distribution plant. The facility is actually in Ruskin, almost 30 miles south to the south.

So the writers may have never been here.  Nevertheless, we’ll take the ranking.

Now, if only we can fix those things that make our appearance on a list like this notable instead of routine (like Denver, Omaha, and Pittsburgh – yes, Pittsburgh) – like transportation, planning, proper development, etc.  There is still much work to be done.  (For instance, we may be better than Atlanta in this ranking, but they are getting North American Porsche, North American Mercedes, and maybe GE.  We would trade Money magazine rankings for that.)

It is great to rank highly on this list, and good press is always good.  But we will celebrate when it is so common that it is expected. Then we will be where we should be – among the usual suspects.  We are nowhere near there, yet.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 21, 2015 1:41 AM

    I try to look at the region versus just Tampa or St. Pete. I therefore find it odd that Uber had no issues working out a deal with the Sarasota/Bradenton airport and they seem to operate just fine all over Manatee County without issues. It seems implausible that they would not be willing to speak with officials in Tampa unless it’s because Tampa has been adamantly opposed.

    Bradenton put is a fantastic skatepark when the new Riverwalk was put in 5 years ago. It has spawned additional downtown retail along with an X Games champion and numerous tournaments which brought in hospitality revenues. Kudos to St. Pete for embracing their “cooler culture” and bucking the system.

    Most of the issues seem the same as always, incumbents don’t want change and positive, strategic change is the only thing that will propel us forward.

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