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Roundup 1-15-2016

January 15, 2016

Contents

Transportation – Intermodal Center Land

Economic Development – Getting Political

Economic Development – The Race to the Bottom Is Not the Real Race

Transportation/Planning/Built Environment – Another Sad Stat

Built Environment – Of Urban Scale and Bad Choices

— One More Thing

Transportation – Another Ferry Story

Rays – Finally, Something

MacDill – Looking to the Future

MOSI – Enter the Consultants

Port – Cruise Questions

Tampa – The Website

List of the Week

___________________________________

Transportation – Intermodal Center Land

FDOT has closed on land in the Westshore area for a multimodal facility.

The Florida Department of Transportation has closed on the future site of intermodal center in Westshore: The Doubletree by Hilton Tampa Airport and Charley’s Steakhouse property.

“An intermodal center will be the lynchpin for a seamless transit network in, around and through the Westshore Business District,” Paul Steinman, FDOT district 7 secretary, said in a statement. “The future intermodal center will be the central hub for public and private local and regional transit services. The goal is to enhance connections and increase the effectiveness of transit services within the region.”

Which is nice, as long as it is not this thing:

From the Tribune – click on the picture for article

Which really just seems like a parking garage with bus connections and has no pedestrian interaction (hardly what Westshore says it wants).  The best thing about this project right now is that is makes it more likely that the airport will have a connection to Westshore.  Beyond that:

The timeline of the project remains uncertain. FDOT said in its statement that construction would be “based on future connectivity needs of transit systems in the Tampa Bay region and the Westshore Business District, future population and employment growth and travel demand.”

That could mean anything.  While it is good to bank this land for a future facility, there are major questions about what would go on there, if anything, for the foreseeable future.  If it is a parking garage with some bus service (some running in and clogging up the variable rate TBX lanes), we are not very interested.  If it has connections to real transit that gets people moving around the area and a people mover or other rail connection to the airport (where the effectiveness of using rail to move people is proven – and expected – every day), great.

So we are not with the editorial boards of the Tribune and Times  in celebrating this move.  It is fine, but it may be meaningless.  The real issue is whether local officials and FDOT can actually get a decent plan to bring us into the 21st century or whether we will remain in the 1970’s transportation-wise.

Economic Development – Getting Political

It has been previously reported that the Tampa Bay Partnership wants to get into the advocacy business, which is fine.  Now, we have a first look at some of the things for which they want to advocate.

Calling himself “an unapologetic believer” in regional economic development for the Tampa Bay area, Rick Homans is wasting no time in taking the Tampa Bay Partnership from the deep freeze to the front burner

The former Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. chief, named CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership late last year, sat down with the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday to detail an initial strategy to re-energize a regional economic development group that has lost its mojo.

Let’s boil down a long conversation. Under Homans, the partnership will focus its time and energy on prime regional assets — stuff like the University of South Florida system, Tampa International Airport, area pro sports teams, MacDill Air Force Base and its CentCom/SOCom headquarters, major ports (Port Tampa Bay and Port Manatee) and mass transportation — that most business leaders want to help grow or know they need in the future.

“As these assets rise, the Tampa Bay economy rises,” Homans says. “As these assets fall, so does our economy.”

That logic seems sound enough (though there is far more to it than that).  Who doesn’t believe in regional economic development (aside from local elected officials and the board of HART)?

The partnership also will become more aggressive in Tallahassee, “making the Big Ask” for money to help fund those regional assets. It will also cultivate state and federal legislators representing the eight counties of the greater Tampa Bay area.

* * *

“We should not be Hillsborough competing with Pinellas competing with Pasco,” Homans says. “We should be Tampa Bay competing for big projects with South Florida and Central Florida for funds in Tallahassee — in a friendly way,” he adds.

That seems logical, too. It makes sense for the partnership to advocate for projects of regional significance while letting the individual counties push for specific projects that benefit them.  So what is on the list?

Central to the legislative agenda are efforts to advance regional economic drivers, improve transportation infrastructure and create a more attractive business climate for high-wage jobs and capital investment, including the support of:

Frankly, most of that list seems more like a grab bag of local projects that, while nice, lack regional significance. The USF projects are arguably regional.  Some of the highway and transit improvement are clearly regional (though it is questionable why the Partnership would support TBX specifically rather than just fixing the highway.  We and others have pointed out the flaws in TBX, especially that it is not coordinated with anything else, such as a transit study or any other transportation planning efforts in the area, and does not seem very well designed).  As for the taxes, they are not really regional issues, but we are not surprised a business organization would be for business tax cuts.

We are for regional advocacy, but it would probably be more effective if it was focused on exclusively regional issues, rather than a long list of local wants.  We get that they have to include some of those things to get various players on board, but that dilutes the strength of the effort.  What would really be nice would be a sharp focus on a couple of things – say funding USF projects regionally and REALLY doing something comprehensive about transportation.  Of course, the problem with transportation is that no one can get local officials (and voters) on the same page. Until that changes, don’t expect much improvement on that front.

Economic Development – The Race to the Bottom Is Not the Real Race

When it was announced that GE was looking for a new home, there was much discussion about whether it might move here.  While no one really thought the chances of that were high, it was a good discussion to have (and why not try to attract them?) and good to go through the exercise.  In the event, GE is moving to Boston.

After eight months of anticipation GE, one of the world’s biggest companies, said Wednesday it will move its headquarters to Boston — in a state associated so long for high taxes that it’s still known as Taxachusetts.

GE looked at Dallas, Cincinnati, Atlanta and, nearby New York, considering 40 possible locations in all. It even got a direct pitch from Florida’s own governor. Everybody wanted to be home to the new headquarters that would replace GE’s 42-year-old campus-like HQ in suburban Connecticut.

In picking Boston, GE signals it wants to be best known, not as some aging conglomerate, but as a tech-savvy, smart company charging full-speed into the 21st century.

Or, as the Boston Globe put it:

“GE aspires to be the most competitive company in the world,” said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt. “Today, GE is a $130 billion high-tech global industrial company, one that is leading the digital transformation of industry. We want to be at the center of an ecosystem that shares our aspirations. Greater Boston is home to 55 colleges and universities. Massachusetts spends more on research development than any other region in the world, and Boston attracts a diverse, technologically-fluent workforce focused on solving challenges for the world. We are excited to bring our headquarters to this dynamic and creative city.”

GE has been considering the composition and location of its headquarters for more than three years. The Company began its formal review in June 2015, with a list of 40 potential locations. Boston was selected after a careful evaluation of the business ecosystem, talent, long-term costs, quality of life for employees, connections with the world and proximity to other important company assets.

As noted by the Times:

There’s a big lesson here for Florida: He who has the least taxes does not always win.

The Sunshine State’s current strategy to race to the bottom by cutting business taxes and touting no state income tax is neither a strategy to lure world class corporations, nor the top talent they seek to hire to remain global competitors.

Massachusetts is trying to bury its Taxachusetts image. Florida might do the same with its own pejorative: Flori-Duh.

* * *

The Boston Globe reported GE’s choice of Boston “further solidifies the region’s reputation as a magnet for innovation.”

There’s that magic word again. Innovation.

Boston has it by the boatload, fueled by years of high-tech start-ups in the metro region and the academic firepower (and an abundance of high-end spin-offs) of 55 area colleges and universities with names like MIT and Harvard. It’s no coincidence that Massachusetts this month was ranked No. 1 in Bloomberg’s latest analysis of the country’s 50 most innovative states.

Florida ranks in the bottom third at No. 35.

Let’s not get carried away with Florida failing to nab the new headquarters of GE. We knew it was a long shot.

The company’s sits at No. 8 on the Fortune 500 list of biggest U.S. companies. It’s 27th in size on the Global 500, No. 9 on the world’s most admired list. It employs more than 300,000 people and enjoys a current market value of $266 billion. No company in all of Florida comes close to that size and worldwide stature.

Of course, there’s the rub.  Florida is the third largest state by population.  Why is it so lacking in companies of major stature?  Clearly its (and Tampa Bay’s) sales pitch of focusing on sunshine, beaches, low taxes, and low wages as its draw is not enough.  At the highest level, you need more.

Smart corporations considering Florida will listen to the state’s low-tax pitches. But then the companies will ask the harder questions. Are your schools top notch? Is there a depth of culture here? Is there a world class workforce emerging here? Are the universities here big or bit players? Do you have a quality mass transit system or just ad nauseum road construction? Can you fly direct to most major U.S. cities and key overseas destinations? Is it innovative?

Not to mention is there a decent built environment that our employees/potential employees can enjoy and feel a sense of place – where the best and the brightest will feel like they are really engaged in the world? Do you have more than a few blocks of real city to attract a sophisticated, international work force?  As we have asked many times, given the choice of living anywhere in the world, why would they live somewhere where they must wait and hope that modern lifestyle and amenities will (maybe) someday appear when they can go get them now?

Then, the Times echoes what we keep saying.

In a nutshell: Does the Tampa Bay metro area have its own regional act together?

We’re making strides. They could be bigger. Until then, congratulations, Boston.

We may be improving, but we are not there yet – and, by that list above, we are quite far away (and others are trying to get there and moving much faster).  The best and the brightest don’t care about swagger.  They want substance.

Transportation/Planning/Built Environment – Another Sad Stat

It is the new year, but some things seem to never change.  One of those things is the pathetic state on pedestrian (and bike) safety in this area.

2015 was the deadliest year on record for those walking the streets of Hillsborough County.

The state’s latest count shows that 51 pedestrians lost their lives. That’s the most deaths in the county since Florida started tracking pedestrian fatalities 17 years ago. It’s also a 50 percent jump from the 34 who died in 2014.

There was no pattern to the carnage. Pedestrians died day and night. Deaths took place throughout the county — from Westchase to Plant City, from Lutz to Sun City Center.

Some victims were killed while using the crosswalk. Others neglected to use that striped strip of road and died just a few yards away. People died crossing busy highways, six-lane arteries and rural roads. Some died walking on the road instead of using a nearby sidewalk. Others died on roads in parts of the county where sidewalks stop suddenly, leaving no option for the pedestrian.

No surprise there.

While this year was the deadliest, it is no anomaly. In seven of the past 18 years, at least 40 pedestrians were killed in Hillsborough County. But 2015 saw a substantial jump from the number of deaths in the previous four years, which hovered in the low 30s.

Tampa Bay as a whole is the second most dangerous area to walk in the United States, according to the most recent data from Smart Growth America. Florida claims the top four most dangerous metropolitan areas in the U.S. — Orlando rings in first, and Jacksonville and Miami follow.

But within Tampa Bay, Hillsborough is by far the deadliest county. Pedestrian deaths in the other counties remained steady last year. Pinellas and Pasco have never seen more than 41 pedestrian deaths in one year. Hernando’s worst year for pedestrians was in 2004, when eight people were killed by vehicles.

Nor there.

“We’ve designed our communities to be auto focused, so we’ve prioritized being able to move around quickly in our cars, and it has its downsides,” Alden said. “You constantly feel like the pedestrian’s safety is an after thought.”

You should feel that way, because it is. An example from the article:

Drive around the county and these concerns become more apparent.

Take the busy intersection of Nebraska and E Hillsborough avenues, where a 58-year-old was struck and killed by a Coca-Cola truck at 2:50 p.m. on May 2. There are crosswalks, but they’re old, narrow and not striped. At certain points, they don’t connect with the sidewalk, but instead jut into the intersection.

“They’re worn out,” said Gena Torres, a project manager for the Hillsborough MPO. “You can’t even tell as a motorist where you’re supposed to stop.”

Once a person does safely cross the intersection, they have to contend with sidewalks that slant down toward the roadway. There’s also no barrier between the individual and the fast-paced traffic. That slant can be particularly dangerous for the elderly or disabled.

There are so many examples it is not even worth the effort to list some.  Deficiency is the rule, not the exception. Then the article gives us this:

Hillsborough County has long been a dangerous place for pedestrians. Despite public awareness campaigns and promises from politicians, the death toll has yet to drop.

“The numbers are scary,” Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist said. “I think the numbers shout loudly that it’s time to take a closer look.”

Officials are at a loss to explain why the county’s roads remain so dangerous. The county and City of Tampa have spent years investing millions investing in pedestrian safety projects to add crosswalks, expand sidewalks and slow traffic.

Officials are at a loss?  That says more about officials than the roads and sidewalks.

But Vision Zero, an international initiative dedicated to designing safer roads, says that how governments build streets is just as much to blame for pedestrians’ deaths — if not more culpable than the pedestrians themselves.

Some ideas:

One way to make roads safer is to enhance crosswalks — make them wider and more clearly marked — and eliminate any gaps in those sidewalks.

But the most significant, and cheapest change, could be lowering vehicle speed.

Maybe that might help, but there is a bigger problem.  Some blame speed (and yes, there is a point where speed becomes are real problem – but with a proper built environment, most speed is not really an issue), wide streets (maybe, especially if they are poorly designed), one way streets (though it seems that no one other than officials are scared of Tampa Street downtown), etc.  Yet, you can visit various cities – real cities – where there are six lane roads (see here and here, or five like here), one way roads (like here, here, and here), busy roads, lots of cars – and people still walk and cross the street.  Why?  Because the built environment is such that people naturally walk. There are limited curb cuts and no massive parking lots on the street.  The buildings are built for pedestrians. There is transit.  In other words, contrary to this area (and much of Florida) there is the expectation that people will be walking.  There is a culture of walking.  Everyone, including drivers, understands how it will work.

In this area pedestrians are truly an afterthought in not just the streets but in overall planning and the buildings themselves.  There is almost nowhere in Hillsborough County/Tampa that is truly pedestrian friendly (exceptions are a few streets in Ybor City, one side of Bayshore, and some of downtown, including the Riverwalk – though even in downtown many building are really more focused on cars with no real activity on the sidewalk).  Even in south Tampa, there are a large number of streets with no curbs and no sidewalks; those streets with some pedestrian friendly portions (say Howard) are still lacking overall. (Hopefully the Lightning owner’s project will set some local standards, but there are far more projects like the Related Tribune site project that features a parking garage as its major interaction with the street or buildings that touch the sidewalk but have no front door there.)

You can build all manners of sidewalks (though they are usually built improperly).  You can put multitudes of crosswalks (though here they are often no built properly, do not connect properly to each other or crosswalks, and go from nowhere to nowhere).  You can restripe roads for bike lanes (though please do it properly and not like Platt).  But, welcome and needed as those things are, they are only small steps.  As long as the main design of development is focused on parking lots, buildings that do not truly meet the sidewalk (or if they do, do not have front doors to the sidewalk), almost constant curb-cuts for cars, and lack real transit that makes walking a reasonable option, you will have problems.

If you want to truly improve pedestrian safety, you have to create an environment where being a pedestrian is not some bizarre aberration.

Officials have spent decades sending the message through planning and spending choices that pedestrians are not a priority and walking, like transit, is for those people who have no other choice or are just odd.  They should not be surprised if people got their message.

Built Environment – Of Urban Scale and Bad Choices

There was news of more development near the Citrus Park Mall.  While that would not normally draw our attention, the article had something of note.  First, the subject of the article:

Christopher Daye’s determination has finally paid off.

For just under $1 million he closed Dec. 16 on a 3.485 acre-parcel that will see a 128-room Marriott Courtyard built on part of the newly purchased land.

Meanwhile, Marriott has 90 percent of the construction plans for its Marriott Courtyard hotel completed at an estimated cost of $18 million on 2.055 acres. It will be the second building in the development which is entitled to 400,000 square feet, according to Daye.

So far, so standard, suburban stuff.  And there are even some nice touches:

Indeed, that same year, the investor group announced its anchor tenant, INVEST Financial Corp., and parent company, Jackson National Life; noting that the firm would occupy about 40,000 square feet through a 10-year lease. Now, there are shower and changing facilities on the ground floor for those employees who might bike or exercise along the nearby public trail, Daye said.

Acknowledging the nearby trail is nice.  What caught our eye was this:

Daye began working on Citrus Park Crossings in 2008, persisting through years of public hearings, obtaining zoning variances, getting financial backing and even weathering the worldwide financial downturn that battered the real estate sector. By 2013, Daye, principal of Citrus Park Investors LLC announced that he was teaming up with Ryan Companies US Inc., to build the first post-recession speculative office building in the Citrus Park area. And, through it all, Daye stuck to his vision for the development – one of urban scale in suburbia.

First, we are not going to say anything bad about this project.  It is a vast improvement to the standard, Hillsborough County, sprawlfest, one story office complex built to look like 1990’s single family homes (like on both sides of the street here).  And working to create some connection to the trail is good.  But it is just not urban – and, because of how the area is planned, it almost can’t be (though one nearby developer made a valiant attempt, aside from the big traffic signal box blocking the entrance to the store  – but no one walks there either – because there is nothing to walk from). This is the area:

From the Business Journal – click on map for article

Hillsborough County has almost guaranteed that noting even mildly urban will go there.  Even if this project was built in an urban way, other than on the trail, there is no way to really walk anywhere other than the McDonalds/gas station at the corner – at least not safely.  That is not on the developer, who seems to be doing the best he can with what he has.  That is all on the government that pushed and subsidized sprawl and now tells us they are surprised by the mess created by it.

— One More Thing

Over the holidays we were talking to an urban planner from a major world city who was visiting Tampa.  We asked him what he thought.  His response was that, aside from Ybor City, he had not experienced a more soulless urban landscape.  It was not that there was not potential.  There were small – very small pockets of urban-style building.  The real problem was that there was no connection of any of these pockets.  The space in between was a barren car-scape.  He called it planning malpractice.  And it is, but it is not really the planners’ fault.  It is their bosses’ fault – the elected officials.

Transportation – Another Ferry Story

Over the holidays, there was movement on a possible ferry from downtown St. Pete to downtown Tampa.

The pilot program, if approved, would begin in October but officials need to get the first ferry boat by the end of May or early June. The service would be run out of Vinoy Basin on the St. Petersburg side, Kriseman said. Buckhorn said on the Tampa end, the ferry would most likely dock near the convention area. The cost of the first boat would be as much as $1.4 million with a second ferry costing just under $900,000.

The money would be split $350,000 each from St. Pete, Tampa, Hillsborough County, and Pinellas County. St. Pete, Pinellas County, and Hillsborough County already approved the money.

Hillsborough County on Wednesday became the second local government to embrace experimenting with a high-speed ferry service between downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg.

County commissioners voted 5-1 to earmark $350,000 toward a six-day-a-week ferry between the Vinoy Basin in St. Petersburg and the Tampa Convention Center area. The money would pay for a six-month pilot project beginning in October.

St. Petersburg’s City Council has already approved spending $350,000 for the project, agreeing to use money from its settlement for economic damages in the BP oil spill.

Republican Hillsborough Commissioner Stacy White voted against the measure, saying Tampa and St. Petersburg should put in more money than the Hillsborough and Pinellas county governments. White said he’d have a hard time justifying the county’s expenditure to residents in far-eastern county areas such as Fort Lonesome.

Of course, it is hard to justify spending anything in Ft. Lonesome to the vast majority of people living in Hillsborough County, so that is not really a valid point, but so be it.

Setting aside a question about bidding, we are not completely sure what to think of this idea.  It is not very expensive, and a ferry between the downtowns is an interesting idea.  We are not sure what the demand is or whether the ferry speed would be too slow to be practical.  It is worth a try, but no one should really view it as a transportation solution.  It may, some day, form a part of a coordinated transportation system.  Right now it is a novelty and should be viewed as such.

Rays – Finally, Something

St. Pete finally came to its senses this week.

The St. Petersburg City Council voted in favor of a memorandum of understanding with the Tampa Bay Rays that allows the team to look for stadium locations in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

We are not going to get into the actual agreement. We are just glad this whole process can now move to another step.

MacDill – Looking to the Future

There was news about MacDill, sort of.

MacDill Air Force Base could be the home of 36 new KC-46 air-refueling tankers within four years.

The Tampa base is on a short list to be considered for the next round of base selection for the aircraft, and a decision could come by the end of the year, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, said in a news release.

MacDill was rejected in 2013 for the first wave of KC-46s despite nearly a year of lobbying by a group of MacDill, civic and local government leaders, including Castor, whose District 14 includes the base.

Making the cut for the next-generation tankers in 2020 shows how hard that community has worked to demonstrate that the base has room to grow as the Air Force “modernizes its mission structure,” Castor said.

MacDill did not get the tankers last time, but hopefully it will in the future.  There is a lot going on there now, but it can always have a little more.  Time will tell.

Now, about that fighter wing . . .

MOSI – Enter the Consultants

The MOSI board heard from consultants recently.

A fresh start at a new location can be a boon for a science museum.

At a new home, aging institutions can rebrand to appeal to new audiences. They can right-size from spacious structures to smaller, more manageable footprints.

That’s true.  It is also true that all that can happen at the present site.

Museum Management Consultants Inc., and ConsultEcon Inc., presented those findings at a MOSI board meeting last week and also discussed other industry trends, such as changing demographics and technological advancements.

Hillsborough County, which owns MOSI’s land and building, paid MMC $90,000 to study relocating the museum. ConsultEcon is a subcontractor.

The presentation, however, was not a recommendation. The consultants were in town to gather opinions from museum officials, board members, donors and other community players as it works toward completing a feasibility study looking at the economics of a move closer to downtown. That study should be done by April.

Nevertheless, the presentation, obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, laid the framework for how a museum like MOSI could successfully relocate and why it might make sense for an institution with declining attendance revenues and other financial troubles.

To say that this is all self-evident is an understatement.  And why it is coming up at the beginning of the process is a bit of a mystery.  But, then again, before the big announcement, you need the set-up.

The consultant’s presentation highlighted three successful moves: the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul and the Center of Science and industry in Columbus, Ohio.

The Perot Museum, for example, combined several aging facilities outside downtown into one 180,000-square-foot, six-story site in the middle of the urban core, close to the city’s professional basketball and hockey arena and other museums. Annual attendance doubled at the new location, which leaders attribute to its proximity to a bustling downtown and a reimagining of the museum beyond a destination for families and school field trips.

The modern, sleek building is often rented for parties and other events, creating new revenue streams, Perot Museum CEO Colleen Walker said.

At its previous location, Walker said, the museum was “beloved, but it was not a must-see attraction and it did not have the capacity for growth.”

“In a very short period of time, the (museum) has become a public treasure and must-see attraction,” she said, “And we absolutely know our extremely successful relocation spurred the growth.”

The consultants, however, warned that a move is not a panacea.

“In moving, if you are not upping the bar on what you are delivering, you are headed for failure,” the presentation said. “A move can be the catalyst for positive change, but the organization must be ready.”

It takes a strong team of leaders and architects and engineers, community buy-in, and a significant fundraising commitment to avoid opening the new museum with debt, consultants said.

In other words, the consultants said nothing of substance, which is fitting, because they are still studying the issue.

Whether MOSI fixes its problems has less to do with moving and more to do with leadership answering these questions: What is it going to be? What is the mission? Why should people go there?  There should probably be answers to that before anyone decides where it should be.  But the fact is that if there is a move, it will be because people want to move MOSI, probably downtown, and try to do something with the land it on which it now sits.  A move may or may not be good, but we doubt the study will really have anything to do with it.

Port – Cruise Questions

There was an interesting article in the Tribune regarding future issues in the cruise industry in Tampa.  Much of it discussed megaships in other ports.  The more interesting part was this:

Megaships that can carry more passengers than the populations of many small towns might be all the rage for some Florida ports, but Port Tampa Bay is wagering that it can keep its cruise business robust without the floating cities.

Those giant ships can’t reach the Tampa port due to the height of the Sunshine Skyway bridge; besides, port officials say, not everyone wants to vacation with 5,000 people in close quarters.

“Everything that is new and big and exciting isn’t for everyone,” said Raul Alfonso, executive vice president and chief commercial officer for the port. “I think there are tastes for every type of attraction.”

And if the Cuba market opens up, he said, Port Tampa Bay could increase its cruise business with the moderate-sized ships already using local berths.

The cruise ships that can slip under the Sunshine Skyway are enough to keep the cruise industry in Tampa thriving for the next 15 to 20 years, he said, because more cruise lines are updating and refurbishing ships rather than retiring them. Also, plans for a bustling Channel District filled with trendy restaurants, shops, a park and a marina will add to Tampa’s allure and keep the ships coming, Alfonso said.

Still, this may not be a forever situation, he said. Port Tampa Bay has not completely ruled out developing a plan that would allow for the megaships in the future. It’s just not ready to move forward on a major feasibility study.

“We know that for the longer term, we’ll have to make a decision. We’re not there yet. This is something that has to be taken into consideration as we move forward with our Channelside plan.”

Ok.  We’ll accept that.  But the Channelside vision plan is already out and, according to the article, the more detailed plan will be out in about a year.  So how does that future decision (which seems to be a now decision) fit in?

Port consultant Luis Ajamil said in September that the master plan for the Channel District would take about a year to complete. In its earliest form, the district would include four districts on 45 acres — the marina district, the park district, the central waterfront and the cruise district. It would take an estimated $1.5 billion in private investment and require about $200 million in infrastructure improvements that the port and the city of Tampa’s Community Reinvestment Act funds would cover.

The Channel District could be a big draw for those cruising from or into Port Tampa Bay, Alfonso said.

It could be a big draw or it could be like the Channelside complex, which was supposed to be a great gathering place, or the Harbour Island Festival Marketplace, which was to revitalize downtown. This all seems like speculation. There is no guarantee of local infrastructure money.  There is definitely no guarantee on private investment or that any private investment would match the port plan (or follow it).  And we need to get the Lightning owner’s project well under way (apparently the infrastructure work will start relatively soon.) and occupied before knowing anything about whether the Port’s master plan is relevant.

We are not prejudging what the decision should be, but it should be based on more than a complete guess.  Tampa has seen enough of that of the decades.  This all seems far too much like the same old Tampa DNA where officials speculate on how great everything is going to be and say “trust us.”

Tampa – The Website

URBN Tampa Bay pointed us to the City of Tampa’s new website.  We have not gone to every nook and cranny of the site but our initial impression is this: visually, it seems fine.  Much of website design is a matter of taste (we are not much for the fat lines and super big fonts in fashion today, but that’s ok).  Without having really checked its functionality, one question is this: what is with the menu font?  It is a City’s website, not an Evite for an 8 year-old’s birthday party.  We understand they are trying to make the site festive and happy, but that is a bit much.

And this seems a bit odd:

Richard Byrd, CEO of thirteen05 creative, a Tampa website design firm, said about 80 percent of new websites are following that design style, emphasizing aesthetics over functionality.

Aesthetics are fine, but functionality is more important.  And why can’t you have both?

Oh, and why wasn’t a local company used for design?  Are we that lacking in tech talent?  (St. Pete’s was much cheaper and locally done.)

List of the Week

This week we feature Wallethub’s list of best cities for an active lifestyle.   You can see the rather odd methodology here.  (Cost of bowling and playing squash is a factor?  And number of swimming pools per 100,000 is an interesting touch that would inflate Florida numbers)  Because we don’t think much of this list, we’ll give the top 10:

Scottsdale, Orlando, Tampa, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Tucson, Boise, Henderson (NV), and Madison (WI).

Our big question is how can cities with some of the worst pedestrian safety be among the best for active lifestyles?  Just asking.

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