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Roundup 8-28-2015

August 28, 2015


Downtown – We’ve Seen This Before

Channel District/Ybor – Stifling Development, Just Because

Economic Development – Well, That Is Something

Transportation/Planning – Past As Prologue and Possibly Present

PTC – They Reiterate They Do Not Care What the Community Wants

International Trade/Latin America/Economic Development – A Mayor Goes to Cuba

TIA – The Director Speaks

Downtown – Art Is Good, Usually

Port –Maritime Business

Transportation/Built Environment – Road Diets & Bike Lanes

List of the Week


Downtown – We’ve Seen This Before

The Tribune ran one of the articles that appear from time to time hyping downtown development. (The Times also had one about the Port master plan – here – though, because there are no actual proposals involved in that, we do not find it worth really discussing).  To the Tribune:

It’s a well-worn chestnut that Mayor Bob Buckhorn has trotted out on the campaign trail, in front of civic boosters and, well, anyone who will listen.

When he left the city council in 2003, only 600 people lived in downtown Tampa. “And 300 of those were in the Morgan Street jail,” he quips.

Now, more than 8,000 people live in the heart of the city. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is planning $1 billion in mixed-use construction. Port Tampa Bay has an even more ambitious $1.7 billion proposal.

This is true.  Notably, the vast majority of residences and the groundwork for what is being built now came before the recession.

And there are plans for as many as 16 more high-rise or mid-rise residential complexes in the downtown vicinity, which could more than double the number of housing units to nearly 12,000.

And that would be cool.  We are all for it provided the projects are actually quality projects devoid of settling.

The Tribune provided a helpful visual.

From the Tribune – click on picture for article

Setting aside that some of the buildings listed (like Skyhouse) are already built and that the graphic is completely out of scale, fine.  However, what is not pointed out is that some of the “projects” do not even have developers attached to them (like the Port).  They are just thoughts.  Others – most – are just proposals.  Anyway,

“The demand is there,” Buckhorn insists. “It’s all building off each other. All the pieces are connected and linked. It’s a different world now. Tampa’s become the place to be in the state of Florida, particularly for young college graduates.”

Buckhorn and revitalization advocates have been focused on building a residential base in what had been the land of banks and law firms, where the sidewalks were once deserted by 5:30 p.m.

A planning team was brought in by the city to develop the InVision Tampa Center City Plan, which was approved as a blueprint for the downtown area in 2013. It called for liveable places, connected people and the proverbial live-work-play community.

The city reconfigured its permitting processes to make it more welcoming to developers.

We are not sure about that “place to be” claim, but we do believe there is (and has been for a while) demand. As we have noted before, the InVision Tampa plan basically reiterated old ideas and really had nothing to do with the previous growth (See “InVision Tampa – Of Will, DNA, and Familiar Pictures”) nor the rebirth of old proposals (housing on the Trump Tower site, Kress & Grant blocks, anything in the Channel District really, etc.).  Nevertheless, there is demand for urban living – just how much demand for apartments with the relatively high rents that are planned, we are not sure. Thus, despite the drawings and announcements, when discussing all the proposals, this is the key:

But a noted Florida real estate observer isn’t as enthusiastic about the residential construction boom as the Tampa home team.

“It hasn’t worked out well in the past. All we have to do is look back seven to 10 years to see how devastating an oversaturation of product, along with a change in the economy, can affect construction,” said Jack McCabe, chief executive of McCabe Research & Consulting of Deerfield Beach and an independent housing analyst.

McCabe is among those who expect a 2017 recession — maybe sooner — and said developments recently completed or coming out of the ground stand a chance to succeed. But he predicted that just a third of the myriad Tampa residential projects on the drawing board actually will get built.

“I would just be very cautionary about the timing right now,” McCabe said. “In real estate, ‘location, location, location’ is always the big thing. Here in Florida in this decade, I would argue it’s ‘timing, timing, timing.’ It’s really a crucial and important factor in the success of these developments.”

Anyone who follows these things knows there have been a multitude of proposals for downtown over the years, including just before the recession. (For a discussion of unbuilt projects, have a gander here.)   What usually happens is that there is a boom elsewhere.  Then it eventually reaches here.  Because of our economy and the lower value a developer can get for a project, we are usually late to the game. When it gets here, there is an amazing amount of hype. Old ideas are repackaged as innovations. Some projects get built, and there is a rush of other proposals.  Then a downturn comes to the economy.  Because of our lack of a solid, diversified economic base and reliance on real estate, it hits us quite hard and many, if not most, of the projects go away.  Then, when the economy improves, the whole thing repeats.  That is likely to happen again, because little has changed.

The article mentions that the quest for corporate HQ’s is important, and it is.  It would strengthen the economy and add to demand, but one HQ would not insulate us from what has been created over decades.

So, enjoy the pretty pictures.  Enjoy what actually gets built even more – it will add to the improvement that has been happening (though far too slowly) over the decades.  Hope that most of it comes out of the ground (we do) – hopefully, even better than initially advertised.  But don’t get carried away.  All this hype has happened here for decades.  We are making, and have made, progress, but if everything that had been proposed and hyped had already been built, none of this would even be a discussion – and other areas would not have passed us.

Just understand that this is the typical Tampa cycle.

Channel District/Ybor – Stifling Development, Just Because

As noted by URBN Tampa Bay, the very ambitious Gas Worx proposal for two 29 story residential towers between the Channel District and Ybor   has apparently been downsized.   This is a new rendering:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click for Facebook page

The new proposal is for two 11 story buildings with a corresponding decrease in the number of units.  That is better than nothing, but why the City was so cool to the original proposal is unclear.  (And see here) This is a downtown area.  Large development is good and will bring more of those residents the Mayor wants.  And Ybor did not really care:

But that’s okay, said Tony LaColla, president of the Historic Ybor Neighborhood Civic Association. Cities like Boston and Chicago and those in Europe often have taller buildings near their historic neighborhoods, he said.

One thing that makes this project intriguing, LaColla said, is that it would fill in what is essentially “dead space.” There’s not much there to hold your attention, he said, and a less-than-reassuring landscape for anyone trying to walk from Ybor City to downtown.

“It’ll be a great way to connect the two neighborhoods together,” LaColla said. “At this point in time, most of our board members are supportive of the project, basically because of the amount of people it could bring to Ybor City to shop and to eat and to use the services there.”

Which makes sense because the best thing for Ybor would be to have dense development around it within walking distance or a short streetcar or bike ride.  That does not mean Ybor itself is overrun, but there is no reason the historic district cannot be preserved but surrounded by dense, walkable development.

The bottom line is that if the developer could make it work, why not?  Getting in their way really makes no sense, but that is how Tampa rolls.

Economic Development – Well, That Is Something

It seems that Johnson & Johnson will bring its North American shared service center to Tampa.

Johnson & Johnson will locate its North American shared services headquarters in Tampa.

The Tampa-Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. on Thursday said the company (NYSE: JNJ) will create 500 jobs over the next three years and invest $23.5 million in the facility.

The jobs will pay a minimum average annual salary of $75,000.

The facility will handle work for Johnson & Johnson’s operating companies in the areas of finance, human resources, information technology and procurement, according to a news release.

First, this is not an HQ.  It is a shared services center.  Now that we have gotten that out of the way, great.  That is a good number of jobs and good salaries. (We just see no reason to say it is something it isn’t.) So, of course, they will be going to Westshore or downtown.

The company has signed a lease for 111,000 square feet of space on the first five floors of 100 Hidden River Corporate Center One in Tampa. 

Nope.  And frankly, it was always unlikely that they would choose an “urban” area for support services.

That location would be good for USF but Hidden River is not really part of the university area – it is a sprawled office park.  In any event, it is good that we have graduated from call centers to “shared services.” And it is overall good news to get the jobs, but it is not the HQ, which is still in New Jersey (right next to a train station).

Transportation/Planning – Past As Prologue and Possibly Present

Going to the nexus of transportation, planning, development, and hype/vision, it is good to occasionally have a little history lesson to see how we got where we are, whether people saw it coming, and what they did.  This helps see through the hype and understand what is going on today.

In that vein, URBN Tampa Bay pointed to an article on about the quest to bring mobility fees in Florida, specifically Hillsborough County.   (You can read the whole thing here.)  One key point is this:

In facing a massive infrastructure crisis, America is learning the hard way that the cost of highways doesn’t end with their construction. Roads must be maintained for years and years—a ceaseless strain on local budgets. As chief of development and infrastructure for Florida’s Hillsborough County, home to metro Tampa, Lucia Garsys knows this lesson all too well.

“As we add more roads and don’t have the money to keep the roads resurfaced, I know what the impact of that is,” she says. 

We all know what the impact of that is because we are all forced to drive on those roads, and it is constantly mentioned in the TED/PLC/Go Hillsborough process.

That also leads to how none of this is new, and it is mostly the responsibility of bad government decisions.  We start with this from the Citylab article:

Hillsborough and Tampa have struggled with sprawl for years. “There is no limit to how far our area can sprawl,” one county planning official said back in 1998. That forecast has held painfully true. Tampa ranked 124 out of 221 U.S. metros on a recent sprawl index, with residents spending more than half their income on transportation and housing combined. Writing in Salon in 2012, Will Doig summed up the bleak situation best:

In 2010, Forbes ranked Tampa dead last out of 60 metro areas for commuting. Transportation for America declared it the second-most-dangerous city for pedestrians. And a 2007 survey of 30 metropolitan areas found exactly one with no walkable destinations: Tampa, Fla. “Tampa is not a particularly pedestrian-friendly city,” Mayor Bob Buckhorn recently admitted.

Despite some improvement in very isolated areas (namely parts of downtown Tampa – and downtown St Pete, of course – though apparently density is a no-no for Gas Worx and other central areas), this really has not changed much, especially outside of the immediate vicinity of downtown Tampa.  Most of the rest of Tampa and Hillsborough County is still being built in a car-centric way, a few bike lanes notwithstanding.

In any event, this gave us a nice pointer back to a 1998 article from the Business Journal.

The main debate in the Bay area is whether sprawl has gotten out of control, or whether there is a proper balance between meeting market demand for suburban housing and reinvesting in our cities. Different local experts offer varying views.

For years, developers and urban planners, struggling to meet the demand for city expansion, have gone head to head with environmentalists desperate to protect the country’s dwindling natural resources. Planning and green space advocates have long lamented the sprawling development that transforms tracts of prime farmland and forests into dawn-to-dusk traffic congestion.

* * *

Are the Bay area’s cities destined to follow in the footsteps of our nation’s crumbling urban cores? According to Bob Hunter, executive director of the Hillsborough County-City County Planning Commission, the answer is yes.

“There is no limit to how far our area can sprawl,” said Hunter, a staunch proponent of the curbing of urban sprawl. “Hillsborough County is 1,000 square miles in size, and we can certainly sprawl to 2,000 or 3,000 square miles, just like Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, or any other city that has really lost its character.”

The Tampa Bay area is certainly not alone in its battle to curb urban sprawl. Cities across the nation are trying bold and creative strategies for transforming their downtowns into renewed, vibrant centers of community life. Among the strategies: private and public partnerships; cooperation between suburban and city governments; and construction projects that mix urban entertainment with innovative housing.

Post Properties’ new mixed-use “urban waterfront village,” on Harbour Island, is one example. Combine such developments with “downtown playgrounds” like sports stadiums and arenas, and you end up with the type of critical mass that attracts new restaurants and other businesses to the downtown, while also providing support to existing retail complexes. 

So, anyone who wanted to look could see the problem back in 1998 (and much earlier). And the whole idea of “live-work-play” was pretty much clear 20 years ago – it has just taken 20 years to get anywhere in this area. So what are the causes of the problem?

According to Hunter, the factors perpetuating the continued sprawl in the Tampa Bay area include the abundance of inexpensive land on the outskirts of the urban areas; the lack of adequate government control to manage growth; and a general lack of adequate guiding ordinances. The solution? Curb the sprawl and revitalize urban cores by sticking to an ultimate goal of keeping business and industry close together, in the center of a metropolitan area.

In other words, it comes down to government choices.  (And note that the chief planner is basically saying that his elected bosses are messing up.)  And, while the article does not address this, bad choices apply to not just suburban sprawl but also in how urban areas are built, including downtown, Westshore, and the areas in between. Back to the 1998 article:

To do this, some areas have instituted “urban growth boundaries,” designed to do just that. For example, Portland, Ore., has become a model for managing growth by allowing land to be developed for housing, businesses or industry only inside a 362-square-mile area. Outside the boundary, land must remain farms and woodland.

Right here in the Bay area, officials have also recently adopted an urban service area, which allows for 3 1/2 times the amount of growth that is expected in Hillsborough County in the next 20 years.

“The ordinance is very generous about where growth can occur, but it’s a first step in the right direction,” said Hunter. “We also need the ordinances that will cause growth to be phased and tiered inward toward the inner cities. All of the applications we’re seeing go out to the edge of the urban service boundary.” 

Of course, our urban service area, much like our impact fee schemes, has to a large degree been meaningless.  Once again, blame bad government choices.  Even more interesting was this little nugget:

Local housing market tracking expert Marvin Rose, president of Tarpon Springs-based Rose Residential Reports, takes the position that the much-maligned trend of urban sprawl may actually be beneficial, and that the Bay area’s sprawl has definitive boundaries: Bradenton to the south, Lakeland on the east, the Gulf of Mexico to the west and Hernando County to the north.

“Urban sprawl has both positive and negative effects on cities,” Rose said. “I think we’d have a lot more crime and problems if people lived on top of each other; spreading out and getting elbow room is not necessarily a bad thing.”

“I don’t think we’re turning into another Los Angeles or Atlanta, unless (you’re looking at) those cities 20 years ago,” Rose continued. “We’re not nearly the size of those cities, and I don’t think our state or local governments will ever build the roads that can handle that type of growth.”

Setting aside the odd crime argument, neither the state nor local government did build roads that can handle the growth.  They just allowed the growth (and often subsidized it) without building proper infrastructure or alternative transportation.  And what they did build is inadequate and needs to be expanded because of poor planning.  Hence, Go Hillsborough.

The point of all this is simple: there is nothing new under the Florida sun.  Redevelopment efforts have long been the goal of a number of people in this area.  The transportation problems have been known and obvious for decades – and have been ignored.  The sprawl issue has been there for decades – and has been made worse.  And, as we have noted numerous times, there have been super hyped plans for urban redevelopment for decades.  What the 1998 article makes clear is that, even with all the talk of fixing things over the decades, the reality is that the problems have not gotten fixed.  The reason is that the much-touted plans were not really followed and decisions were dominated by settling and short-term thinking.

It is good that people are now more concerned and looking for some solutions, but it needs to be noted that many of the present decision makers were in government when good advice was ignored and the problems were created (or were made worse) in the first place.   The past does not need to be the future (in fact, it shouldn’t be) and we are all for people changing when they see they were mistaken, but the history needs to be acknowledged (our situation did not just magically appear) to understand the what needs to be done to fix it and to avoid past mistakes. (And it should be remembered when positive rhetoric is followed up with more of the same or plans that obviously will not fix the problems.)

Once again, we may be making progress but we have let things fester for so long and settled so much that even, with some progress, we are well behind many other areas.  None of this happened in a vacuum or without knowing what was going on.  And it is still going on.

PTC – They Reiterate They Do Not Care What the Community Wants

There was an article this week in the Times about what we had previously noted – how Uber is partnering in the community despite the PTC’s insistence on protectionism.

A government agency is still trying to shut down Uber. But that hasn’t prevented the rideshare company from extending its tentacles into the community and forging partnerships with hotels and bars — and, potentially, another government agency.

Uber has clashed with the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, which regulates for-hire vehicles, since launching in Tampa Bay in April 2014. But while the PTC maintains Uber is unresponsive, uncooperative and a “bully,” other local businesses and community events have ignored the regulatory battle.

Instead, they’ve agreed to partner with — and promote — the rideshare company.

And what does the chair of the PTC – who is an elected County Commissioner – think of the fact that the people want ridesharing?

PTC Chairman Victor Crist said he isn’t worried about the partnerships Uber is creating in the community because he is confident the regulatory agency will win its appeal to have a judge issue an injunction to shut down the company.

That’s right.  Even if the community wants ridesharing, the government will protect us from ourselves, which conveniently also protects cab companies and fixes prices to eliminate their competition. (As opposed to LA, which is coming closer to dealing with ridesharing rationally.)

Speaking of the PTC, there was an interesting development downtown.

You know that trip that is too short for a taxi ride but too far to walk?

The Tampa Downtown Partnership thinks it has just what you need.

The agency is considering launching a small pool of electric cars to ferry residents and visitors on short hops around downtown Tampa. Rides on the cars would be free with passengers “hailing” one via a smart phone app or a dispatcher.

The six-seat electric cars, known as Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, are legal on streets where the posted speed limit is below 40 mph. Orlando and Key West are among communities that already use them.

“The vehicles are cool; they’re nimble, kind of unique and fun to ride,” said Christine Burdick, partnership president. 

You can read the whole article here.

The interesting thing is that these type of vehicles were cool, nimble, and fun to ride when they were first introduced to downtown by a private company, from a 2009 article:

“It improves the experience of downtown,” said Christine Burdick, president of the Tampa Downtown Partnership.

So, why didn’t they last?

But cabdrivers have grown irritated, saying the “neighborhood electric vehicles” are taking away business.

“The only big thing I have is the unfairness of how they operate. If an Americab is sitting first out at the Marriott and all of a sudden one of these cars whips in front of him to take that fare, it isn’t right,” said Lou Minardi, owner of Yellow Cab. “My drivers get a little bit frustrated.”

Some cabbies don’t like short trips, so the vehicles — operated by companies called Hop Tampa, Green-Go, Mulligan Shuttle and Joy Ride — are no problem in a confined area.

But Minardi said the cars are venturing outside downtown to South Howard Avenue and as far away as International Plaza.

“They’re starting to stretch out all over the place,” he said.

The cabdrivers have asked Hillsborough County’s Public Transportation Commission, which oversees cabs, limousines, towing companies and some ambulances, to step in and regulate the cars.

Which the PTC did, though it did not limit the business to short trips.  It basically eliminated the innovative services, giving over the business to existing cab companies, which promptly did away with it.

Given all that, what does the PTC think of the new proposal?

Kyle Cockream, the commission’s executive director, is working with the downtown partnership on its plan. Cockream said it would have the support of most taxi drivers because they prefer longer fares.

“It frees up a lot of the real short two to three block rides that are much easier to do with these vehicles,” he said. “Everyone is in concert; they’re trying to make it happen.”

That’s fine but it raises a couple of questions. 1) Why did the PTC kill business for private companies, kill innovation, and leave Tampa without the (popular) service for years; and 2) why does what the cab companies think matter?  Whether a service competes with the cab companies or whether they like it or not is irrelevant.  And none of that involves public safety, it is all business manipulation by a government agency. And can the PTC be trusted to not interfere in the future?

That, in a nutshell, is why the PTC has to go.

International Trade/Latin America/Economic Development – A Mayor Goes to Cuba

This week, an area mayor travelled to Cuba, looking to land a consulate for his city.  Of course, the logical location for a consulate is Tampa, where the Cuban-American population is centered.  So,

Mayor Rick Kriseman heads to Cuba this morning in hopes of establishing economic and cultural ties with the island nation.

The three-day trip comes nearly two months after President Barack Obama announced the United States was re-establishing diplomatic ties with Cuba after 54 years. Kriseman said he will make a pitch that Cuba should pass over rival Florida cities Tampa and Miami and open a consulate office in St. Petersburg.

Oops.  At least if there is a consulate in St. Pete, it will be in the Tampa Bay area, though it would be odd.

As we have said before, everyone wants freedom in Cuba, but, as it stands, the rest of the world is already investing there and areas from all of the US are looking at it.   Miami is sure to jump in on any opening.  As will New Orleans, Houston, New York, etc.  The fact is that there is an opening, there will be a consulate, and there will be business.  If the goal is to promote the area and show that we are open to Latin America (which dislikes the embargo), it makes no sense to sit back while everyone else rushes in.

But Kriseman said the benefits outweigh the negatives.

“I think this is the right thing for the city of St. Petersburg,” he said.


TIA – The Director Speaks

There was a good interview of the airport director on WUSF. (You can, and should, hear it here.)  There is much good stuff on customer service, where they are looking for flights, and the master plan.  It just reinforces why we like the airport director, especially where he discussed how, before he got here, TIA ceded any competition for international flights to Orlando, which really hurt us unnecessarily.

Also of note is the amount of money being spent to fix up the airport ($900 million), which is about as much as the Lightning owner’s project, give or take 100 million, but is already underway.

One thing that was missing was, while the flight development efforts have been really good, there was no discussion of domestic targets.  We know that a major target is San Francisco, but, for whatever, reason, we have not gotten it yet.  Interestingly, we did notice that United just announced a nonstop between San Francisco and Fayetteville, AR.  Yes, the distances are different and can be covered by smaller planes.  But still, we need that SFO flight.

Downtown – Art Is Good, Usually

There was an announcement this week about some public art in downtown.

Starting in October, Leon “Tes One” Bedore of Tampa and Ales “Bask” Hostomsky of St. Petersburg will spend eight weeks covering the outside of the 932-space garage with murals — some fluid with motion, some child-like in their whimsy, all in colors that pop and all with the theme “Stay Curious.”

* * *

The city had needed to seal and paint the garage anyway, Buckhorn said, and as officials got into the plans, he thought, “that is a canvas that needs to represent what’s going on in Tampa.”

The paintings will be big enough to be seen by drivers coming into downtown from Interstate 275. Each is meant to nod to the culture and recreation nearby: Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, the Riverwalk, John F. Germany Public Library, the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, Florida Museum for Photographic Arts, Glazer Children’s Museum, and Tampa Museum of Art.

Here is one:

From the Times – click on picture for article

You can see the rest of the art here.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the idea emerged after he learned that the garage was in need of being resealed and repainted.

“This is an opportunity to really change and liven up what is a boring, unattractive parking garage and really create a point of entry into downtown,” Buckhorn said. “Public art in all its forms is part of a great downtown.”

We are all for public art (and we’re fine with this piece going on Bayshore – especially because it is not a memorial, like the WTC steel, which is not art and should not be treated as such.  This piece is just a flash of color that really does not need that much contemplation.)  The only thing about art is that it is subjective.  In other words, not all art is great to everyone.  These murals are not really our style, which is not to say we necessarily oppose them, just that they do not really do anything for us.  Nevertheless, some people will like them and they are not messing anything else up, so that is good enough, as long as they are well maintained and do not just fade and get dirty.

Port –Maritime Business

Yes, there is actually Port business going on at the Port.

A $14.6 million refrigerated warehouse designed to draw more ships to Port Tampa Bay and build more business locally should be operational within 16 months.

The 130,000 square-foot storage area for bananas, grapes, chicken and other fresh fruits, vegetables and meats will likely be under construction before the end of this year. For now, the port marketing staff is working to sell this new alternative to foreign growers, ships heading this way and to U.S. brokers looking to reduce shipping costs and move fresh goods to end users at a faster pace.

The Tampa Port Authority Board on Tuesday approved a 27-year lease with Port Logistics Tampa Bay to develop the warehouse near the port’s container berth on Hookers Point. The port received a matching grant from the Florida Department of Transportation and is also using money from private investors to build the warehouse.

* * *

Adding a refrigerated warehouse to the port’s offerings could actually be a game changer for Port Tampa Bay, said Raul Alfonso, port executive vice president and chief commercial officer. Right now, the port has no facilities for refrigerating goods and most fresh products bypass Florida altogether. They are shipped to more northern ports, then trucked back to this state.

This is the building that was connected to the argument with Port Manatee about getting fruit imports.  In any event, if it increases business, great.

Transportation/Built Environment – Road Diets & Bike Lanes

There was an article in about a presentation by the Lighting owner’s urban planner regarding road diets, which is an idea we have mixed feelings about.  In some places, road diets are fine, but the idea of having road diets without providing real alternatives is a serious problem.  Nevertheless, you can read the article here.

One thing of note that goes to how Tampa is doing bike lanes on roads like Platt and Cleveland – which appear to be more about just putting in lanes to say they are put in rather than really thinking it through.

First, a drawing of bike lanes, which is much more like the lanes on Platt and Cleveland:

From Citylaw – click on picture for article

Now, what the urban planner thinks:

“Bike lanes are good; a cycle track is better, and requires no more roadway,” says Speck in the road diet’s voiceover. Take the road that we ended up with after the 4-to-3 diet, for instance. In this design, bike lanes run beside car traffic on either side of the street, increasing the potential for collision. But by sliding one parking lane off the curb, this diet makes room for a two-way cycle track protected from moving traffic by a buffer strip as well as a lane of street parking.

Like this:

From Citylab – click on picture for article

We get that on many roads, there is no room for a two-way bike track, but what really makes sense is having the parking serve to buffer bike riders from traffic, with bike lanes outside the parking and away from the road.  We really wish Tampa and Hillsborough County would really think about doing that.  Simply restriping a road to say some part of the road right next to traffic or with cars weaving in and out of the bike lane to park and/or turn is asking for trouble, and for the lanes not to get nearly as much use as they could (and should) otherwise get.

List of the Week

Following a week where Tampa was named the best big city in the southeast (now that is has stopped bragging about Ben T. Davis beach), this week it got another good ranking. Wallethub named it as the best place to retire (to be fair, it seems like Wallethub really just likes retiring all over Florida).

Tampa is the best place in the United States to retire, according to a recent study by WalletHub, which found the city to be affordable for seniors while also offering a lot to do.

St. Petersburg came in at No. 11 in the study, which looked at 24 metrics across four categories: health care, affordability, recreational activities and quality of life. Tampa outranked 150 of the largest U.S. cities, the personal finance website found.

Other Florida cities in the Top 10 are Cape Coral, Orlando and Port St. Lucie. Scottsdale, Ariz., was No. 2 on the list.

* * *

“Affordability is what really pushed Tampa to the No. 1 slot,” said Jill Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for WalletHub.

Finances, however, aren’t all that matter during retirement. Tampa also has a lot of things to do, ranking No. 4 for “recreational activities,” WalletHub found.

Tampa also ranked No. 26 for health care and No. 21 for quality of life, which included metrics such as crime rates, weather and number of retirees, the study found.

St. Petersburg, while ranked as just as affordable as Tampa, was far lower on the list in terms of activities, quality of life and health care.

We are not much interested in this list, but it is good to be ranked highly.

More interesting to us is a list of America’s best high schools (and yes, it is just one list), where only two Pinellas schools placed in the top 300+,  and Hillsborough failed to show.  Sure, retirees provide income and everyone is welcome, but our focus is much more on moving the economy by increasing talent – including for people to serve the retiree community.  Without excellent schools, that is going to be hard.

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