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Roundup 12-11-2015

December 11, 2015


Seminole Heights – The Apartment Building and the Choice

Transportation – Yes and No

Downtown/Channel District – Confab and Comments

— Of Pom Poms and Perspectives

— Of Fun and Housing

Rays/Economic Development – The Lightning Owner Keeps Speaking the Truth

Harbour Island – A Step Forward

Westshore – Transitions

Transportation – Still No Reason to Keep the PTC

Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida

Fine Tuning Hype

List of the Week


Seminole Heights – The Apartment Building and the Choice

The proposed apartment building on Florida in Seminole Heights went before the Architectural Review Commission this week.

A city commission has sent a mixed-use development proposed in Seminole Heights back to the drawing board.

Tampa developer Wesley Burdette had proposed a mixed-use building at the corner of North Florida and East Wilder avenues, to include about 50 loft-style apartments, 2,800 square feet of retail space, a rooftop lounge and on-site dog park.

But after several Seminole Heights residents spoke out in opposition to the project, the city’s Architectural Review Commission voted to continue the public hearing until Jan. 11, giving the developer time to modify the “mass and scale” of the project. 

Before we go any further, we note that URBN Tampa Bay is saying that the ARC continued the hearing not for massing but basically for style. (See here and look at the comments) We were not at the meeting so we are not sure.  In any event, what was the reported objection of the community?

Opponents to the development said that at five stories and 55 feet, the building would be out of context with the Seminole Heights historic district.

You can read the comments at URBN Tampa Bay to see some other objections which can be summarized as basically the building is too big for the area and the building does not have a look consistent with the historical district’s style.

The reality is that we can understand some of the objections.  Yes, the building is larger than much of the area, though it should not be judged by the standards of the single family homes.  It is a mixed use building on a major road.  Hillsborough High school is as tall and bigger.  There are also churches in the historic district (map here), like this, which are quite large.  Moreover while there may be an architectural type for the houses in the area, most of Florida Avenue is a mess of warehouses, car lots, and other less than attractive buildings.  There is no prevalent historical style.

But there is another point.  The Seminole Heights district plan calls for development like this:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

And the building will look basically like this:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

Also, the height of the building, 55 ft, is within rules and guidelines for Florida in this area.  In other words, it is not too high (which may be why there is confusion about massing).  In fact, it seems to fit with the concepts in the plans.

We think it is a good project that will enhance Florida and the neighborhood.  It will add residents and walkable retail to the street – helping to transform it from the mess it now is to an urban street.  We would not be for a project like this on a side street.  It is only appropriate for a major street – like Florida.  (And real urban planning has higher density on major roads that decreases as it goes into the residential areas.  That is quite standard.)  This is exactly the kind of urban infill project that can help move an area along.   (Maybe they should have just proposed it on the west side of Florida, outside the historic district like the dollar store.)

We also do not think the architecture is an issue.  As we said, for the most part, Florida does not have an architectural style other than cement box and steel warehouse. (Including the warehouse repurposing project by this developer in Seminole Heights that had, as far as we can tell, no objections.)  Yes, there are a few older buildings, but, as the link above shows, Florida is hardly a cute or quaint street.  It has little overall charm – though a few buildings on Florida do and the neighborhood around it does.  Also, we do not believe that every building must be med revival or covered in brick. We also do not think that an urban area needs to have strict façade rules like a gated, planned community.  But that is what we think.

What really matters is that the neighborhood (and the City) needs to decide what they want.  Do they want to have a real, urban neighborhood in the middle of a city where the major commercial roads are activated and thriving or do they want to promote the status quo on Florida and Nebraska (which have improved but have a long way to go) and hope for a small town main street on a major thoroughfare (which is not the adopted plan)?  We have an opinion, but the decision is theirs.

Transportation – Yes and No

There was an interesting article in the Tribune regarding transit in Hillsborough.

As the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority prepares to conduct a feasibility study of all “premium transit” options for the region, its board chairman is not convinced that converting CSX lines to commuter rail will prove the best option.

Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez said Monday he’s willing to consider it, but isn’t sure that purchasing CSX railroad lines and converting them for passenger traffic will benefit enough people to offset the cost. A strong proponent for bus rapid transit, Suarez said he believes there may be a better path to address roadway congestion and give commuters more options.

“It is a viable option, but it’s a different type of option that may be as expensive, if not more expensive than us building an extensive light rail or bus rapid transit routes which would give more versatility,” he said. 

First, we are not surprised that chairman of HART would be a big bus proponent – HART is about buses.  Second, there is no BRT in Hillsborough County, and it is not the transit solution – it is part of a solution, but is not THE solution.

That being said, we agree that “commuter rail” – like SunRail – on the CSX tracks is likely not the best option.  In fact, a much better option is using DMU rolling stock, which functions much like light rail rather than commuter rail, on the CSX tracks (assuming you can connect to downtown and on to Westshore – which you can with a little political will and, maybe, some highway median).  It allows for much more frequency of service and a proper transit system. (Commuter rail from Pasco may be better).  We also have nothing against light rail, either, but the CSX tracks might (we mean might) be more practical and cost-effective.

As for the study:

The study and an adopted transit plan would allow Hillsborough and surrounding counties to apply in the future for funds from the Federal Transportation Administration, said Debbie Hunt, director of Transportation Development for FDOT, which is paying for the study. “The study is a premium transit study, not specifically to look at the CSX tracks. We are not looking at a predetermined outcome. If we did, the FTA would not participate. We’re looking at all possibilities.”

“Our role is to have a completely unbiased view on what is cost effective and the most useful” in meeting the needs of commuters, HART CEO Katharine Eagan said.

HART is already working with FDOT to determine the scope of the study, which will begin in fiscal 2017.

We are not sure HART could do an unbiased study.  It is, after all, an agency with a political board and a pre-existing plan for MetroRapid.  Also notable is that the study won’t even start until fiscal year 2017 while the whole TBX issue is going on now.

Over the next 18-24 months, HART’s staff or a consultant will look at the placement of the CSX rail lines between Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties to determine how people would get to the train to commute and how to connect those commuters with their eventual destinations once they get off the train.

It will also look at whether commuters would be better served with the creation of a new light rail system that might take commuters closer to the places they actually want to go, like downtown offices. Bus rapid transit routes are the other option. They would provide either exclusive lanes in which buses could travel to get to their destinations faster or the means for buses to control traffic signals so they could keep moving even during periods of congestion.

“No one thing will solve all the problems,” Suarez said. It’s not about skepticism, it’s about light rail versus heavier rail. People say ‘if we just got the CSX tracks, we would solve these problems.’ It won’t solve all these problems,” which is another good reason to study all the options, he said.

The premium transit study is not so much about the price tag as it is about the logistics and whether it would be a wise use of funds, Eagan said. “We’ll be focusing on where people will be trying to get to, looking at the convenience,” Eagan said. The study will include a lot of details, like where park and ride lots could be located, necessary right-of-way acquisition and where stations might have to be built, among other topics, she said.

“This is all the homework you have to do before you can go to the FTA and get in line” for funding, Eagan said.

Once a transit plan is approved, Hunt said, local officials will have to step up. The feds won’t fund anything and neither will the state until local authorities agree to pay for maintenance and operation of whatever the final transit options are, she said.

And there is the rub.  Local officials are all about studies.  They are far less interested in actually doing anything.  Moreover, shouldn’t this have been done as part of the whole TED/PLC/Go Hillsborough process – which is supposedly coming to a head – and where HART was represented?  How do all these things fit together? Why is everything regarding transportation such an uncoordinated mess?

Maybe because it works like this:

FDOT agreed to fund the study after hundreds of people from neighborhoods along the Interstate 275 corridor came out against a plan to add express toll lanes to the interstate. At the same time, they called for more transit.

This study is the result of FDOT’s desire to build TBX, which the TED/PLC/Go Hillsborough process completely ignored. (And don’t discount the whole state-CSX connection).  It only came about because people – not elected officials – complained.

In any event, now that seems to be happening, we’ll be interested to see what it produces.

Downtown/Channel District – Confab and Comments

— Of Pom Poms and Perspectives

Last week, we noted that USF was a little behind on its private donations for the new Med School building. (See “Downtown/Channel District – Checking in With USF” ) This week, something happened regarding the USF Med School, though it is not clear exactly what.

USF on Tuesday held a site dedication ceremony for the Morsani College of Medicine, to be built at the corner of Meridian Avenue and Channelside Drive in downtown Tampa’s Channel district. It will be accompanied by the USF Heart Health Institute.

It is not exactly clear what a “dedication” is, especially because:

The land is at the northwest corner of Channelside Drive and Meridian Avenue. Strategic Property Partners expects to deed it to USF around the first of the year. Design for the medical school building, which is expected to be about 12 stories tall, with 330,000 square feet, probably will take about a year to complete before construction can begin.

So, it wasn’t a ground-breaking.  It sounds more like a pep-rally, which is fine.  But then there was this:

With its new building, USF will achieve a certain status among the top 100 medical schools in the U.S. that receive money from the National Institutes: The Morsani College will be the only one in that group to be located within 25 minutes of its primary teaching hospital — in this case, five minutes from Tampa General Hospital, said Charles Lockwood, dean of the college and senior vice president of USF Health.

Well, that is great – maybe.  Except there are all sorts of major med schools (maybe they do not get money from the National Institutes, but what does that mean) physically connected  or immediately adjacent to their hospitals – including some schools that the Mayor used as examples of why USF should move downtown in the first place like, say, Johns Hopkins or Penn that is right next to one hospital and a few blocks from another – zoom in. Even the University of Arizona – phoenix facility is pretty close to a number of its teaching hospitals (see here , here , and here )  And a few more examples of adjacent or so hospitals:  Yale – see here and here, Duke, UF and Shands or UM – and maybe Vandy.  We could go on, but we won’t belabor the point.

But anyway, at least there is this:

For Vinik, providing the land for USF’s medical school and heart institute seeds a $2 billion project that he and Cascade are preparing to launch at the southern end of downtown Tampa.

* * *

It’s Tampa’s largest and most ambitious project in decades, so it was no surprise that Vinik got a standing ovation as he took the stage in a tent put up on the site Tuesday.

Still, he asked for a little perspective.

“For the record, as of this moment, Strategic Property Partners has built one tent,” Vinik said. “So while I appreciate the accolades — come on!

His overall project is great, but even better is Lightning owner’s attitude. Contrasted with elected officials, it is truly refreshing.

— Of Fun and Housing

And speaking of the Lightning owner’s project, there was other news.

The rooftops in Strategic Property Partners’ district in downtown Tampa could be just as key as the streetscape.

Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, who controls SPP with Cascade Investment LLC, said Wednesday that the group is looking at ways to activate the rooftops in the district, which is slated to be nearly 3 million square feet at completion.

* * *

One of those gathering spots could be 25 stories high.

The rooftop of the new convention hotel, Vinik said, could be home to the “best bar and restaurant in all of Hillsborough County.”

Because the district will feature a centralized cooling facility, Vinik said, the rooftops are wide open, and his group is “actively dimensioning” potential uses.

“Whether it’s the hotel or office buildings or residential towers, there could be a variety of things up top,” he said. “Swimming pools, dog parks, restaurants or bars.”

That is all cool.  We are all for that.  What was more interesting was this:

In an effort to offer affordable housing, Vinik said Wednesday that he and his partners at billionaire Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment fund are thinking about including some smaller-sized apartments among the 1,000 residential units planned in the first phase of their project.

“Price points are critical,” Vinik told about 150 people at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club lunch at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. Offering some smaller units may appeal to younger renters who, he said, spend relatively less time at home, anyway.

In cities like New York and San Francisco, developers are offering micro apartments as small as 300 square feet.

“I would not say never,” Vinik said, but units that size don’t “feel right to me. It feels too small for reality and this market.”

Still, he said, “If you’ve seen some of the smaller units — I’ve toured them — they’re amazingly efficiently laid out. It’s surprising what you can do in 500 or 600 square feet, and it does make it affordable.”

Which is interesting because:

Affordability is a potential challenge Vinik said his project could face as its first phase unfolds over the next five years or so. (Coincidentally, a Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies report Tuesday said more than a quarter of Tampa Bay area renters pay at least half their income for housing, with little money left for necessities like health care.)

You can find a full article on that lack of affordable housing here.

We are not sure if the more affordable housing idea arose because of perceived weakness in the demand with all the proposed luxury units in the downtown area.  And we doubt that even the less expensive units will really be either at the price point or of the size that make them practical for the ¼ of families with the lowest incomes in the area.  However, we applaud the idea of creating a mix of units that will lead to a more diverse community and give access to many who are being priced out of any urban living.  Regardless of its genesis, it is a good idea.

Rays/Economic Development – The Lightning Owner Keeps Speaking the Truth

We said we were not going to really discuss the Rays until St Pete did something.  Then the Lightning owner decided to speak the truth, and it deserves note.

How, someone asked, does Vinik really feel about the prospect of a new Tampa Bay Rays baseball stadium near the $2 billion downtown development he plans around the home arena for his Tampa Bay Lightning?

And, as he has before, Vinik said less about the idea of having a competing venue nearby and more about what he sees as the economic development value and corporate recruiting necessity of keeping the Rays in the bay area.

“This is one of those questions where the stock, for-the-press response is the same as the actual response,” Vinik said. “This region needs baseball. You can’t have a big league area without big-league baseball. If we lose the Rays, when I fly up to New York or Connecticut to talk to a company (about moving here), I’ve got two strikes behind me: ‘You guys can’t even keep baseball in your community?’ That’s literally going to be the response.”

Whether the Rays end up in Pinellas or Hillsborough does make a difference, Vinik acknowledged, but that’s secondary. “To me, the most important thing is just making sure we retain this great community asset.”

Amen.  And we agree that the actual location of the stadium in the area is secondary for the purposes of general economic development, though important in terms of whether people go to the games making them viable and economic development around the stadium.  The reality is that the behavior of St Pete in this issue has been detrimental to this area – St Pete included.  It needs to change so we can move on.

Harbour Island – A Step Forward

We have been critical of two Related projects in Tampa (PierHouse and the Tribune property project).  There is another one – the Manor on Harbour Island.

From the public records – click on picture for a larger version

That project has been held up for a while because residents of a next door condo building have objected, ostensibly because of parking.  In any event,

A lawsuit that challenged the city’s approval of a 21-story apartment tower on Harbour Island has been rejected by an appeal court and it appears the developer may proceed with construction.

In November, the 2nd District Court of Appeal affirmed a Hillsborough County circuit court ruling that the city acted properly in approving the project. A group of Harbour Island residents challenged the decision of city officials and the city council that plans for the site did not amount to a “substantial change” from previously approved plans, and would not require a rezoning hearing.

The appeal court ruling, which affirmed the lower court without opinion, effectively ends the residents’ legal campaign, said John Grandoff III, their lawyer.

This was the basis of the challenge:

The Related Group of Miami is developing the 21-story tower at 402 Knights Run Ave. It would have 340 units. But only 35 parking spaces are planned for the site; the remaining required parking spots are to be leased from a neighboring garage with a “sky bridge” over Harbour Place Drive connecting the garage and apartments.

The neighbors said that strategy would amount to a parking nightmare and that it is not covered under city land regulations. The plaintiffs, many of whom live in The Plaza, a neighboring tower, said that amounted to a “substantial change” that required a public hearing.

The parking garage is also used by nearby office buildings and Jackson’s Bistro restaurant.

In fact, we actually like this project most of the three Related projects.  Hopefully, the way will now be open to build it.

Westshore – Transitions

There was an article in the Tribune regarding changes at the Westshore Alliance.

When Ron Rotella took the reins of the newly formed Westshore Development Association in 1983, community leaders were focused on transforming a 10-square-mile swath of small suburban homes and scattered orange groves into a thriving business district.

As he prepares to retire after 33 years as executive director of the organization, now known as the Westshore Alliance, Rotella recalled last week how he and a core group of community leaders set out to create what would become the largest commercial office district in the state of Florida. And the district continues to grow, exceeding expectations.

The West Shore District, bounded by Kennedy Boulevard, Himes Avenue, Hillsborough Avenue and Old Tampa Bay, including Rocky Point, now boasts just under 13 million square feet of commercial office space. There’s another 6 million square feet of retail space, more than 200 restaurants and more than 7,000 hotel rooms.

For all that the alliance has accomplished in three decades, though, there is still much to be done.

Ann Kulig, with the alliance since 2002 and deputy director since 2014, will take over the executive director’s chair on Jan. 2. Her greatest challenge, she says, is finding a way to break up the vehicle congestion that has a chokehold on the bustling district.

Over the decades, Westshore has really grown.  There can be no argument about that.  The problem is that the whole layout of Westshore is still a 1980’s layout, even with the new residential.

“The most exciting thing that has happened is the missing piece of the puzzle,” Kulig said. “That’s development of a neighborhood that people want to live in. With all the apartments and town homes coming in, it’s really going to change the dynamic of West Shore. It will be everything you’d want in the neighborhood.”

Everything, that is, if they can figure out what to do about the traffic, she concedes. “The next set of challenges is how do we make it easier to get around. The morphing of the district has to be walkability. We are the beneficiaries of location” near the airport and the interstates, which was the impetus for designing the business district, Kulig said. But the street grid in the West Shore District hasn’t changed in 50 years, and that’s a problem as the area grows.

“Pedestrian amenities didn’t mean a lot back in 1968 when this was the suburbs,” said Jay Botsch, vice president of the alliance and general manager of WestShore Plaza. That has changed, he said.

“It’s connectivity — sidewalks and transportation. We want to take cars off the roads,” Kelly said.

It is encouraging that people seem to see the issue (though it is far more than traffic).  The problem is that basically nothing in terms of the design of the area and its building has really changed.  Everything being built still is focused on cars – especially the office and retail projects that completely fail to face any street.

The Florida Department of Transportation’s plan for what it calls a multimodal center alongside Interstate 275 is a great starting point, Rotella said. It will connect local buses with regional buses, with a people mover train to Tampa International Airport and possibly to light rail running between downtown St. Petersburg and downtown Tampa.

There are also future plans to extend three streets in the district under I-275 for better access, Kulig said.

We are not going to get into the multimodal center and buses, but connecting some streets under 275 is good – as would be connecting the residential on Spruce to Westshore.  Real bike lanes (rather than simply restriping Boy Scout or “share the road” signs) would also be good.  There are a lot of things that would be good. But there is one issue:

The key to success for both Rotella and Kulig, they say, is the ability to bring all parties to the table and come up with a workable plan on which everyone can agree.

The fact is that you are never going to get everyone to agree.  At some point you are going to have to create some requirements that some will just not want do.  A general consensus is good.  Making everyone happy is impossible.  If everyone was on board with making the area walkable, you would not have new-ish restaurants and stores with their backs to the street, buildings that demand pedestrians walk through the grass to get to the front door, hotels that tell pedestrians to weave through the cars to get in,  and this inviting walking experience.  If you try to make everyone happy, you will settle your way into a mess – which is not something that just happened a decade ago.  It is still the normal course of business.

Design rules are not made to make everyone happy.  They are made to get the people who do not want to provide what the community thinks should be provided to actually do it. And to make sure that people who want to do the easy and cheap to actually maintain the standards that the community wants. That is how they make the area better.  And, in turn, the community should invest to support the rules with proper amenities that help accomplish the goals.

The fact is that the real responsibility for not doing even the simple (and not very expensive) things, like building to the street and having streets actually connect, is squarely on City Hall.  Until the City stops settling – neglecting, really – in the Westshore area, it will never be a real urban area and reach its full potential.  Westshore has grown and it is better, but it is not near being a walkable, urban area – though, once again, with a little political will, proper investment, and no more settling it could make great strides in the getting there.

Transportation – Still No Reason to Keep the PTC

There was an article in the Tribune entitled “Bill would require different levels of insurance for Uber, Lyft in Hillsborough”  that discussed proposed bills in the Legislature regarding ridesharing but was not completely clear that it would apply just to Hillsborough.

A three-year battle for paying passengers in Hillsborough County’s ride-for-hire market entered a new phase Tuesday when the county’s legislative delegation voted overwhelmingly for a bill guiding local regulation of Uber and Lyft — the services summoned at the touch of an app.

The decision headed off elimination of Hillsborough’s unique Public Transportation Commission, the agency fighting in court with Uber over standards of operation. Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, shelved his bill to abolish the agency, and Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, tabled his bill to remove the commission’s authority over ride-hailing companies.

The bill approved is just the beginning of a process that may be dead on arrival.

Why would they do that?  Why not clean up this mess once and for all?

Local delegation members moved the bill forward to provide guidance for the Public Transportation Commission, the only special district of its kind in Florida, created by the Legislature to oversee taxicab, limousine and other ride-for-hire companies.

The county has been at the eye of the ride-hailing storm for years as the commission has tried to bring Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing companies under its regulation.

This placed the providers and the regulators in a legal limbo, with the commission issuing criminal citations, the providers suing the commission, and the commission suing the providers. The commission agreed to stop issuing citations and suspend its lawsuit to work out a compromise.

“The PTC is trying to follow the law as we know it, but it’s like fitting a square peg into a round hole,” Harrison said.

The local bill gives the commission a framework to make ride-hailing companies legal in Hillsborough County, he said, “and get us out of this no man’s land.”

Right, so get rid of the PTC and create statewide rules.  If every other county can follow statewide rules, so can Hillsborough – without an extra level of bureaucracy.

It is a departure from a measure that Rep. Daniel Raulerson, R-Plant City, had worked on with the input of the transportation commission over the last two years. Recognizing that the commission was created before ride-hailing apps existed, the bill would have created a distinct category for ride-hailing providers and required background checks and liability coverage as well as maintenance inspections.

“This is a great test of determining what role governments play in lives,” Raulerson said.

But before his bill could be discussed, Rep. Dana Young introduced the amendment ultimately approved, to provide “the right balance to … public safety and the need for public regulation without hampering the transformational innovation and technology behind a sharing economy the public has enthusiastically embraced.”

So what does it require?

The key points of her amendment require background checks similar to those adopted by several states and municipalities, and insurance rates lower than the Raulerson bill would have required.

Young’s amendment calls for drivers to have higher levels of insurance for each stage of the driver’s interaction with the ride-hailing services. When offline, drivers would carry standard insurance. Once they log into the app, the company would provide $50,000 death and bodily injury per person, reduced from $125,000; $100,000 death and bodily injury coverage per incident, down from $250,000; and $25,000 for property damage.

Once the driver accepts a passenger, coverage goes up to $1 million for death, bodily injury and property damage.

Young’s measure also requires a permit fee of $5,000 per driver.

As we have said for a while, we are fine with statewide regulation as long as it is logical and reasonable (and the $5000 fee is per company, not driver).  We are not for saddling Hillsborough County with a bureaucracy beholden to a small group of businesses and completely unresponsive to the consumer.  If no other county needs, we do not either.  Why not just abolish the PTC and get statewide rules?

Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida

Regular readers may remember a while ago we noted a project in Osceola County.

Osceola County and the University of Central Florida broke ground Thursday on a new high-tech manufacturing facility near Kissimmee. Originally aimed at producing smart sensors, the facility may also include a broader focus on photonics.

The Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center, originally announced in June, is expected create a new hub for manufacturing, attracting thousands of jobs and eventually growing into a $200 million project. The sensors would be used in appliances, cars, surgical devices, mobile phones and other technology – known as smart sensors.

On Thursday morning, UCF President John Hitt said the effort is also moving quickly to expand the focus of the facility beyond sensors, to include photonics research.

Hitt said the university is pursuing a $200 million in federal and private funds to house a national Integrated Photonics Manufacturing Institute.

The partners in the project are of some interest.

The center is a partnership among Osceola County government, the Florida High Tech Corridor Council and the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission. Enterprise Florida, the University of Florida and the University of South Florida also are partners.

How is it that the Orlando area seems to get these type of projects and also gets things like a med school and all manners of medical research.  Where is the division of labor?  In any event,

The International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing was chosen as one of three partners with Argonne National Laboratory, a science and engineering research center located in Lamont, Ill., just outside Chicago. The partnership was announced Dec. 1 on Argonne’s website and is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s new Technologist in Residence pilot program to help increase collaboration between the national laboratories and private-sector companies, according to a news release.

The Department of Energy will invest $400,000 in each partnership. That amount is expected to be matched by the participating companies. Argonne also will partner with California-based Capstone Turbine Corp., which manufactures microturbine power generation systems, and Indiana-based Cummins, which designs, manufactures and distributes engines.

Sponsored byArgonne’s partnership with ICAMR will focus on using clean energy in the manufacturing process of smart sensors. Argonne and ICAMR will use this opportunity to concentrate on the development of innovative manufacturable processes, materials and equipment for advanced sensors and other future high-tech products, including emitters, modulators, and communications devices and systems, the release said.

* * *

The Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center is expected to create thousands of jobs within 10 years, as the smart sensors market is forecast to grow to $154 billion globally. Prior to getting Argonne as a partner, ICAMR also partnered with Harris Corp.

Not a big grant but a promising research area.  Too bad it is not here.

Fine Tuning Hype

We do not often delve into straight up politics, and we aren’t going to do it now.  However, we do often comment on the excessive use of hype (any use is excessive, really).  Nevertheless, if you are going to do it, you may as well do it well, which is why a recent article on entitled “Why people fall for bullshit, according to a scientist” was so interesting (see here).

Here are some of the highlights:

Brian Resnick: What is bullshit?

Gord Pennycook: Bullshit is different from nonsense. It’s not just random words put together. The words we use have a syntactic structure, which implies they should mean something.

The difference between bullshit and lying is that bullshit is constructed without any concern for the truth. It’s designed to impress rather than inform. And then lying, of course, is very concerned with the truth — but subverting it.

This is an excellent point. But how do you put it into practice?

BR: Let’s say I’m interested in becoming a better bullshitter. What are some principles I should follow?

GP: A good way to do it is insert a lot of buzzwords and be vague.

If you say something direct, the people who agree with you will like it and the people who don’t won’t like it. But if you say something vague, people will bring what they think it means to it. And then everyone will like it — if you hit the perfect spot.

And there you have it.  Sound like you are saying something profound that most people want without actually saying anything substantive at all.  Remember, use some big words and appeal vaguely to noncontroversial desires – say “reducing congestion” or “economic development” (or calling buses on the interstate “fixed guideway”) – without really saying how, when, how much it will cost or if there is a hope in hell of actually doing it. Even better is throwing in some vaguely defined stats that are not easily checked by the casual reader or listener.

And remember, practice makes perfect.

List of the Week

There is no list this week.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. permalink
    December 11, 2015 9:41 AM

    I read your Tampasphere Roundup regularly with great interest.  In the 12/11/15 Roundup under “Harbour Island A Step Forward” you state:”That project has been held up for a while because residents of a next door condo building have objected, ostensibly because of parking.”  Your statement is somewhat misleading.  It can be interpreted as though there was massive objection to the Manor by unit owners in the building next door.  That is far from the truth.The condo building, next door, has 144 units.  Of the 144 units only four units of the building involved in the final appeal to the courts. The association board of “the building next door” did not express any objection of The Manor project. Most of the individuals whose names appear on the final appeal were from other addresses on Harbour Island. There was no organized objection by the building next door. Just something to keep in mind for future writing.Ann Cieslak”the building next door”

    • December 11, 2015 12:10 PM

      Thanks for the clarification. Always happy to get more information to provide a fuller picture. And thanks for reading.

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