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Roundup 1-22-2016

January 22, 2016


Transportation/Planning/Built Environment – More on Pedestrians

— And One More Thing: Does the Right Hand Know What the Left One is Doing?

Transportation/Planning – How Things Work Here

— By “Rural” They Mean Sprawl

— Strange Priorities

— More TBX

— Bottom Line

Economic Development – Checking in With VC

Economic Development – The Strange Story of Draper

Economic Development/List of the Week I

Port – Doing Ok, But . . .

Rays – Now for the Speculation

Channel District – Channel Club Rendering

Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida

List of the Week II


Transportation/Planning/Built Environment – More on Pedestrians

Last week, we discussed the horrible stats for pedestrian safety in Hillsborough County and noted that, while the actual road design is a problem, a major factor in the problem is the built environment – that it is built so that walking (and biking, really) is an aberration.  This week, there was more coverage about the issue.

The Tampa metropolitan area, which includes St. Petersburg and Clearwater, was ranked second in the country behind Orlando as the “most dangerous places to walk” by Smart Growth America, a neighborhoods advocacy group.

The area has taken measures to improve pedestrian safety, such as installing more crosswalks in high traffic areas and educating children about how to safely walk along and cross streets.

A similar effort to reach homeless people also is underway, she said.

“We have been doing so much and the numbers do not significantly drop,” Torres said. “We may have a year where we see a dip, but overall we lead the nation most of the time or we are in the top three for pedestrian and cyclists dying.”

Maybe because nothing has been done to address this:

Hillsborough County also expanded in a way that could contribute to dangerous roads, said Torres, with the MPO.

“Our city and county really began to develop in such a suburban sprawl,” she said. “Highways come through and we sprawl out farther and farther.”

High-speed arterials are built to reach the neighborhoods with strip malls lining them, Torres said.

“Now we’ve got high-speed roads, maybe six lanes, and residences fill in behind them and they want to go shopping. Maybe walk there,” she said. “Now you’ve got driveways and high-speed cars and people walking. That’s just not a good mix.”

Well, everything except that last part.  People are not walking in large numbers from their houses to the strip malls because 1) it is completely uninviting, 2) it is dangerous, and 3) those areas are often not connected in any rational way.

Once again, very little in this area is built with walking in mind.  Cars are forced on to arterial roads, make traffic ever worse and providing few alternatives.  There are strip malls, which are about the worst possible design for pedestrians, and the accompanying curb cuts and large parking lots, and sidewalks are inadequate and usually poorly planned and designed.  The entire design of the area, especially the buildings, is to make walking harder and more dangerous.  Unless that changes, do not be surprised if there are bad pedestrian safety stats.

The Tribune ran an editorial entitled “You should be able to cross the street without fearing for your life.”  And you should, but the editorial focused entirely on slowing down traffic.  That will help a bit (especially for people not using a crosswalk), but will also agitate more drivers who are forced to drive everywhere and, therefore, are in a big hurry to get where they are going.  Without alternatives and creating a built environment where walking is a rational choice, problems will remain.

Maybe the first step should be to make all elected officials walk for a few days around their districts to see just what a mess they have made.

— And One More Thing: Does the Right Hand Know What the Left One is Doing?

It is also worth noting that among all this hand-wringing, the Tribune told us this:

Town ‘N Country residents who attend a pre-construction meeting Tuesday evening can learn about an upcoming project that will improve traffic flow around the Hillsborough Avenue-Webb Road intersection.

The county’s Public Works Department is planning to lengthen the existing eastbound and westbound, left turn lanes on Hillsborough Avenue and Webb Road, convert two median openings near the intersection to directional openings, and lengthen the existing westbound left turn lane to the Incarnation Catholic Church.

On Webb Road, plans include widening the road north and south of the intersection, adding turn lanes and constructing drainage.

That will surely make this very inviting area (what is more pedestrian friendly than a fenced retention pond right on the street and innumerable curb cuts and parking lots facing the street?) even more inviting to pedestrians.

Transportation/Planning – How Things Work Here

— By “Rural” They Mean Sprawl

Many years ago, when the Veterans Expressway was proposed, it was supposed to turn east and connect with 275, creating a much needed east-west road and a by-pass around Tampa that would relieve a lot of I-275 traffic through the city.  That segment was removed from the plan by the County Commission to preserve Lutz’s “rural” character, thus leaving Hillsborough County, and the whole bay area, with a gaping transportation hole that has yet to be filled.  (The Veterans was even built so it could continue over Dale Mabry if anyone ever wanted to.)

In December, the Times gave us an update on that area:

Today, the cows are gone and the land is nearly bare, save for several large yellow earthmovers pushing around mounds of freshly excavated dirt. The project doesn’t involve the popular church, but it will bring an assisted-living facility, a new school and hundreds of new homes to the property.


* * *

Mark Stuermann, vice president of Arlington Properties, said his company is building 177 apartment homes, ranging from 750 to 1,300 square feet, and expects them to be ready for move-in by late spring.

In addition, CalAtlantic Homes plans to build 200 single-family homes in a new, gated community. The homes, expected to range from 1,800 to nearly 5,900 square feet, also will be available in late spring.

The rural character of the Lutz location attracted the developers, and Lutz Citizens Coalition president Michael White said residents fought to keep that character intact.

Yup, that sure is rural.  Even more annoyingly,

Another major thoroughfare in the development also is being aligned with the Veterans Expressway access point along Dale Mabry to improve traffic flow and accommodate motorists entering and exiting the development.

In other words, this “rural” project (read “sprawl”) is being built precisely to foreclose the possibility that the Veterans will ever do what it was originally planned to do.  Even better, the County, which stopped a proper road from being built to maintain a “rural” character, had changed its plan to allow even more development.

Plans call for substantially less development than would have been allowed otherwise under the county’s long-range plan. One rezoning incorporates the Landings at Lake Pearl, a previously approved rezoning that includes 650 multifamily units and 70,000 square feet of office.

Besides those existing entitlements, the rezoning allows 240 single-family houses and 177 multifamily dwellings.

Standard Pacific Homes plans to build a gated, high-end residential community on the property.

The approved zoning allows about 25 percent of the residential development than would have been possible under the county’s long-range land-use plan. The retail uses, under the rezoning, represent about one-third of the potential allowed under the long-range plan designation.

The county first stopped a road that was needed and would have diverted traffic.  Then the County ignored said “rural” character and planned for massive sprawl.  Now, we are told we need variable rate lanes to reduce congestion (which they will not do) that was helped along by the County.

Just a small window into the mess that is planning in Hillsborough County.  The history of this area is replete with examples of this kind.  So when you are stuck in your car and cannot get around Hillsborough County easily (or, in the future, have to pay excessive prices in the future for the privilege of have a slightly less, if at all, congested lane on the interstate), just remember how things got this way.

— Strange Priorities

Which bring us to the Suncoast Parkway.

Plans for the controversial eight-lane road, originally conceived back in the 1990s, stalled in 2008 because of the recession. So little traffic uses the original Suncoast Parkway that a SuperTarget built next to the road in Odessa is closing. The store is surrounded by land that was expected to be developed once the road was built, but it never was.

Last year, Gov. Rick Scott revived the Suncoast extension with an infusion of $150 million in taxpayer dollars. Now the $256.7 million project is slated to start construction this year and be completed by 2019. Officials with Scott’s office and the DOT were unable to explain why he chose to resuscitate this particular toll road, except to say it had been requested by Citrus and Hernando county officials to help boost development.

First, one could make an argument for why the Suncoast should be extended.  However, one would be very hard pressed to make an argument for why it should be done now.  Second, one would be even more hard pressed to make an argument for why it should be done instead of finding a way to connect the Suncoast to I-75 to get cars going to western Hillsborough, western Pasco, and Pinellas around Tampa without clogging up I-275 – except to justify variable rate lanes. (Of course, one cannot forget to blame Pasco County which had such a road, which went all the way to US 19, in its planning for decades but nixed it and now seem hellbent on repeating every mistake made by every other county in this area including clogging up every east west surface road it has.)

The inability of FDOT and local counties to build a proper highway system rather than funneling everything through Malfunction Junction (which will likely never be adequate no matter what FDOT does) is a massive failure – the kind of thing the Tampa Bay Partnership should actually get involved in.

— More TBX

Which brings us to TBX. As anyone who reads the news knows, the TBX project was named as one of the 12 big boondoggles by a recent report:

A new report with a national scope calls the controversial Tampa Bay Express interstate expansion one of the 12 worst highway projects in the United States for expanding roads to little benefit.

The report, “Highway Boondoggles 2,” was produced by the nonprofit U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s Education Fund and a public affairs research firm, the Frontier Group.

(see the report here) A key fact was that the TBX lanes will not solve congestion issues.  From an article sited by the report:

Hillsborough County won’t solve its gridlock by adding more lanes to its interstates. And it won’t break up roadway congestion by building a better mass transit system.

“It’s not a matter of either-or,” said Paul Steinman, secretary of the state Department of Transportation’s District 7 and the top Florida transportation official for the region.

The county needs both new lanes and transit to ease travel here, Steinman said.

“No one can look at us and say we don’t have traffic issues,” he told the Tampa Tribune editorial board Monday. “We’ve got to solve these problems if Tampa wants to continue to grow. It’s more than just commuter traffic to worry about. We have all modes to think about and how they tie in to the economy.”

There are two points here: 1) even FDOT is saying that those that support TBX to the exclusion of transit (see “Transportation – The Dance Goes On”) are wrong, and 2) yes, we need new roads but, as pointed out above, it is not clear that TBX (especially the variable rate lane concept) is the best way to do that.

This was FDOT’s response to the report:

One criticism the report makes is that FDOT has acknowledged that adding the express lanes won’t solve congestion problems. What agency has said repeatedly is that the area needs, as one transportation official said last year, “all of it” — the interstate expansion, plus transit.

That’s why, they say, they included space in the interstate median for future transit projects.

“We’re building exactly what we said we were going to build,” said Debbie Hunt, the director of transportation development for the FDOT’s district office in Tampa. That includes general purpose lanes on the interstate, express lanes and space for transit. “That has never changed since we did the original study” in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Setting aside that express lanes were not even an idea in the late 80s and early 90s so TBX, as opposed to just expanding the road, could not have been the plan then (see “Transportation – More on TBX”) and that things have changed since then, there is another key issue – the “all of it” meaning transit, too, or, as an FDOT statement quoted in Saintpetersblog tell us:

FDOT has always stated this region needs a viable transit system and jointly with HART we are doing a study to determine what premium transit looks like in the Tampa Bay area. The discussion has to include the local governments about how the operating and maintenance of the system will be funded. Premium transit could be: Bus Rapid Transit in transit dedicated lanes; light rail like Pinellas County has determined to be the choice mode; commuter rail like SUNRail in Orlando; or any of the options included in the attached document. FDOT believes transit is important to this region and just last month purchased a second site for an intermodal terminal. FDOT now owns a site in Downtown Tampa and a site in the Westshore Business District. The pieces of the transportation infrastructure puzzle are falling into place.”

Whether FDOT has always stated that or not (and it is not really clear that it did), it acted otherwise.  Moreover, FDOT has adopted a “build roads first and think of transit later” approach – which it still has, as shown by the fact that it announced it was going forward with TBX before it even studies transit options.

— Bottom Line

As we have said numerous times, the entire transportation issue should be planned as one, integrated transportation system.  By moving on TBX (with the questionable variable rate lanes and the question of the scale of it) without looking regionally (like in Pasco) and thinking about how it all works together is a recipe for a continuing mess.  And this needs to be said – TBX is at least $3 billion dollars.  According to FDOT, you need to spend that amount and THEN spend more on transit.  Why not look at it all and see if funds can be distributed in a more rational and effective way, especially since FDOT knows we need transit? (And, if transit is really part of FDOT’s solution, since FDOT is paying for all of TBX, why not pay for all of the transit?)

We also would be remiss if we did not also say this again: the real problem here is that local officials have failed to plan properly. Yes, FDOT is doing some things wrong and coming late to actually doing something about transit, but the real mess was created locally – starting with overall planning, going to things like the Gandy Connector and Veterans Expressway, and continuing to the mess that is TED/PLC/Go Hillsborough.  It is a comprehensive failure of vision and political will.

Economic Development – Checking in With VC

There was news about venture capital investment (from the Miami Herald):

Venture capital investment heated up nationwide last year with a surge in megadeals, while the Sunshine State struggled to attract the green.

Dragged down by an anemic fourth quarter, venture capitalists injected $460.8 million into 58 deals in Florida in 2015, according to the MoneyTree Report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, which was released on Friday. In the fourth quarter, $31.62 million flowed into the state.

Florida’s total was about half of its 2014 total, but that’s because of Magic Leap’s 2014 megadeal of $542 million. The Plantation-based technology company is reportedly raising another $827 million, so 2016 may be another record year for Florida. Still, Florida’s 2015 total was in line with results for 2013. With the exception of 2014, it was the best showing since 2007.

Don’t break out the champagne, though: Florida’s take was a tiny slice of the total venture capital pie in 2015 — less than eight-tenths of 1 percent for the country’s third most populous state, according to MoneyTree numbers. Florida ranked 14th among states in venture funding in 2015.

That is pretty bad.  And it gets worse.

The 2015 top deals from South Florida were a triple-play by health-tech companies: $50 million for Fort Lauderdale telehealth company MDLIVE; $38 million for electronic medical records software company Modernizing Medicine of Boca Raton; and $22.9 million for Dania Beach-based Orthosensor, maker of smart orthopedic devices. 

Basically a quarter of the anemic amount of VC to Florida went to three deals, none of which was in the Tampa Bay area.  On the other hand, nationally VC was doing pretty well.

Nationally, the venture capital ecosystem deployed $58.8 billion in 2015, up from $48 billion in 2014 and the second highest full year total in the last 20 years, according to the MoneyTree Report, based on data provided by Thomson Reuters. There were 74 megadeals (investments of $100 million or more), compared with 50 in 2014, yet seed-stage investments were active, too. “While a handful of unicorns and late-stage funding rounds by nontraditional investors continue to grab the headlines, more than half of all deals in 2015 went to seed and early stage companies, with more than 1,400 companies raising venture capital for the first time,” said Bobby Franklin, president and CEO of NVCA.

The lack of VC in the Tampa Bay area is a problem that shows either a lack of really compelling start-ups in the area or how hard it is to get money in the area. Or both. (Though given the number of firms and people who relocate to more fertile pastures, probably more of the latter.)  Either way, it is not good and shows us lagging (and it does not help if it is a statewide problem).  All the local talk and activity about start-ups is interesting (and it is good, though possibly not properly done), but we need results.  The rhetoric is good, but every quarter, the facts seem to contradict it.

Maybe things like this will help.

Two Tampa startups — Venuetize and WeVue — will be in the spotlight next month, when they are among 50 companies featured at a global conference in Silicon Valley.

They are among those nominated by local entrepreneur Joy Randels to take part in “Startup Mill,” a new program at the annual gathering of Startup Grind, a community that connects 215,000 founders in more than 200 cities worldwide.

But it also shows the lack of a truly supportive (including money) ecosystem here, and highlights the risk that growing companies will just move, like so many have before.

Economic Development – The Strange Story of Draper

After announcing it was leaving the area, Draper has now announced it is coming back.

Nine months after announcing plans to exit most of its operations in Florida, the MIT spin­off on Thursday unveiled new plans to open a St. Petersburg tech facility next month serving Special Operations Command, or SOCom, at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

The 20,000-square-foot facility, based on Blue Heron Boulevard near Roosevelt Boulevard, will start with 20 employees, with 50 likely by late 2017. Its mission will be to help expedite military advanced technology from blueprint to the battlefield, a process Draper calls “rapid prototyping.”

Draper’s specialty is to commercialize advanced technology, then license its work off to others to handle manufacturing.

Draper, formerly called Draper Lab, last spring said it was phasing out its research center at the University of South Florida in Tampa and putting its “clean room” high-tech manufacturing facility in St. Petersburg up for sale.

Those pullbacks surprised USF and area business leaders who had touted Draper’s original expansion to Tampa Bay as a major signal that this area was attracting higher-end technology expertise.

Without disclosing terms, Draper said Thursday that it has sold its St. Petersburg “Multichip Module” or MCM, facility on 16th Street N to Aurora Semiconductor of St. Petersburg. With ongoing input from Draper, Aurora will continue to make MCMs, which are packages of high-density, multiple chips created for specific purposes. They can be used in defense, intelligence and biomedical applications.

What can you say?  It is clearly better to have them here than to have them leave.  Hopefully, this time it pans out better.

Economic Development/List of the Week I

Continuing with the economic development theme, once again, it is time to look at Milken Institute’s list of best performing large cities.  The list is described thus on pg 6 of the pdf:

What drives the economic momentum of the most dynamic metros in the United States? Each year, the Milken Institute’s Best-Performing Cities report identifies the latest trends and most relevant factors powering regional growth. Our index uses a comprehensive, fact-based set of criteria to rank the nation’s metropolitan areas. Among them are job creation, wage gains, and technology trends that shape current and potential patterns of growth. For metros looking to craft cohesive economic strategies, the report provides valuable data and insight.

The report states pretty clearly that tech is a key driver of performance (pg 6-7 of the pdf):

In the United States overall, business and consumer spending on technology products and services is a powerful force in economic growth. Metros involved in designing and creating these products and services are growing most rapidly. Specifically, the composition of growth has shifted toward software and social media, and away from information and communication technology (ICT) equipment. In fact, businesses now spend more on software than on ICT equipment. This softer, creative side of high tech is spurring a renewal of many urban cores. Look to San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, and even New York City to see the extent of this phenomenon. Witness, too, the contributions of science-based industries such as biotechnology, medical devices, and diagnostic and semiconductor equipment manufacturing.

So let’s go to the list.  Here are the top 30 large metros:

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara; San Francisco; Provo; Austin; Dallas; Raleigh; Seattle; Portland; Greeley, CO; San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA; Salt Lake City; San Antonio-New Braunfels; Charlotte; Fort Collins; Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL; Denver; Charleston, SC; Nashville; San Diego; Madison, WI; Grand Rapids; Boulder, CO; San Rafael, CA; Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO; Santa Rosa, CA; Houston; Atlanta; Orlando; Vallejo, CA; and Savannah.

It includes a large number of the usual suspects (including a number of “metros” from the San Francisco Bay area and the Denver area).  There are also a few odd entries, like Fayetteville, AR, and Grand Rapids.  One thing missing from the Top 30 is the Tampa Bay area.  Other than Naples and Orlando in the top 30, other Florida cities are: Cape Coral (40); Ft. Lauderdale (41); Sarasota (44); WPB (50); Tampa Bay area (58); Miami (65); Port St. Lucie (80); Jacksonville (82); Gainesville (91); Lakeland-Winter Haven (101); Ocala (114); Pensacola (125); Daytona (137); Melbourne (145); and Tallahassee (158).

Notably, Florida cities made decent jumps on the list.  For instance, the Tampa Bay area jumped 28 places, which is good, though being 58th isn’t.  While the Tampa Bay area was not on the list of biggest gainers, the report provides an explanation of the gains (pgs 8-9 of the pdf):

For the second year in a row, Florida and California have the highest nember [sic] of metros that jumped the most in rankings. The single-largest factor for the improvement continues to be the recovery from the Great Recession’s housing collapse, especially because the 2015 index’s five-year performance measure now begins in 2009, dropping the 2008-2009 housing crisis period. Eight of the 25 biggest gainers this year are Florida metros, with Port St. Lucie climbing 98 spots from last year, the most of any metro.

These metros all had experienced high home foreclosure rates, severe declines in home values, and a halt to new construction. Plus, as the economy began to recover, many retirees who had deferred moving to Florida have chosen to do so over the past couple of years. An expansion in travel and tourism spending also boosted the Florida metros.

Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise and Reno, NV, both also among the 25 biggest gainers, fit this pattern as well. Seven of the 25 biggest gainers are in California, with four in the Central Valley. Among them is Modesto, which had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation and was the epicenter of the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

So that is something for the future, assuming the economy holds.  On the other hand, it really sounds much like the old strategy for growth that keeps leaving us further behind overall – real estate, tourism, and retirees.

The reality is this: we are underperforming, especially in tech, and remain behind most of our competitors.

Port – Doing Ok, But . . .

The annual State of the Port report came out this week.

Port Tampa Bay’s President and CEO Paul Anderson declared Wednesday that “the state of the port is good” in announcing record operating revenue of $51 million and a 3.2 percent increase in total cargo to more than 37 million tons.

Which is good (though the type of cargo is not clear).  But

Revenues at the port so far this fiscal year are down 4.5 percent.

Which is a concern, though worldwide economic issues certainly have an effect.  Nevertheless,

In his “State of the Port” address entitled “New Frontiers,” Anderson told a crowd of officials at Cruise Terminal 2 that he expects Port Tampa Bay “to become a major player, not just on the hemispheric stage, but on a global one.”

And that is an admirable goal.  What is the plan?

Anderson emphasized the opportunities for the port with the imminent expansion of the Panama Canal, the thawing of diplomatic relations with Cuba and the anticipated arrival this spring of two new state-of-the-art cranes that will enable the port to handle much bigger vessels. The cranes will increase the port’s capacity in containerized cargo enabling it to handle ships twice the current size (9,000 TEUs compared to the current 4,500 TEU vessels).

* * *

As the closest port to the newly expanded Panama Canal, its location in the middle of Florida and the Tampa region’s density of distribution centers along the Interstate 4 corridor, it makes “the most logical and logistical sense” for Port Tampa Bay to become a major destination for cargo ships coming out of the canal, Anderson said. With Manual Benitez, deputy administrator for the Panama Canal Authority in attendance, Anderson said there will be growth for retail and refrigerated cargo.

While it is true that Tampa is the closest port to the newly expanded canal, it will be hard to take advantage of that and not just because the port can’t handle the biggest ships because of the Skyway and the channel.  The previously stated plan for containers at the port is essentially to be a spoke (maybe along with a few other Gulf ports) on a hub and spoke system in the Caribbean/Gulf. (See “Port – Economic Impact, Growing but is it Fast Enough?” )  If that is still the plan, being closest to the canal is largely irrelevant because the traffic from the canal will go to the hub.  Nevertheless, there certainly is room for growth in the container business and hopefully the new cranes will get bigger ships, even if they are carrying transshipments.

And there is this aspiration:

“Port Tampa will be the platform for our customers to serve Cuba,” Anderson said. Last July, Cuba reopened its embassy in Washington, D.C. following the normalization of diplomatic relations between it and the U.S.

There is good logic to this point.  However, not pushing for that business and a lack of interest and effort regarding that business by some high level local officials hardly seems to the way to win that work.  Cultivation of this market should have started years ago.

Then there is this about a good, aggressive part of the Port’s strategy.

When Port Tampa Bay announced plans in 2014 to create a cluster of steel manufacturers at Port Redwing, Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman envisioned good-paying jobs flowing to her fast-growing South Shore district.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may have dealt the port and the county a setback to those plans by declining to sign off on funding for a $50- to $60-million dredging project to deepen a channel allowing larger ships to access the port. The larger ships are needed to haul freight such as scrap metal, salt, sulfur, coal or cement.

Before approving the project for funding, the Corps wants a study to prove it’s a cost effective strategy.

Port officials say they had hoped to get the funding in the Corps’ 2015 budget. Still, they said, they can continue to expand Port Redwing without the dredging project and have already allocated millions in improvements to draw more companies. But they concede there are a lot of companies they can’t attract in the future without deepening Big Bend Channel.

* * *

Murman and other board members learned Tuesday that the Corps never committed to the funding. Ram Kancharla, the port’s vice president of planning and development, told the board the Corps gave no explanation.

But Corps Project Manager Milan Mora said through his public information officer Wednesday that is not the case. He said the Corps told the port it needed to conduct another cost-benefit study to prove the project worthy.

The Corps looked at the project in 2014 and determined “the cost to benefit ratio did not materialize (in big part due to a reduction in phosphate and coal being shipped),” Corps spokeswoman Susan Jackson said in an email to the Tribune. “We recommended a new study based on potential new benefits.”

It would seem that a new study is necessary, though the comment by the Corps about loss of revenue is interesting.  In any event,

At this point, Thorington said, the port staff is considering its options. “But already, we are beginning to grow and see a lot more potential” for even more growth in that Port Redwing vicinity, he said.

Tampa Tank and Florida Structural Steel, along with Gulf Coast Bulk Equipment, have already established manufacturing facilities at Port Redwing and the port is in discussions with several other companies that might want to locate there.

The port already has construction underway on $30 million in improvements at Port Redwing: the addition of a 3-mile long rail spur with a double track running from the existing CSX line to Port Redwing; construction of a security complex, a new 1,000-foot dock; an access road to U.S. 41 and utility and site improvements.

The Big Bend Channel can currently accommodate ships of 15,000- to 30,000 dead weight tons, Kancharla said. By deepening the channel from 34 feet to 43 feet and widening it from 200 feet to 250 feet, it could accommodate vessels of 50,000- to 60,000 dead weight tons. “To maximize use of the land we would hope to go to a deeper draft to bring in larger ships,” he said.

We are curious how this proposed expansion plays into the odd stance on the South County ferry proposal and safety.  Nevertheless, we are all for expanding manufacturing at the Port.

In any event, we like the port’s general approach to expanding business, and we hope it works.  We just wish that, like so much else in this area, they were a bit clearer and that all local officials fully supported the rhetoric with action.

Rays – Now for the Speculation

Now that St. Pete and the Rays have come to an agreement where the Rays can look in Hillsborough, the speculation will begin.  In fact, it has been going on for a long time.  We are not going to get into every detail – simply because it is too tedious.  In sum, this is a possible location with much upside and a bit of a downside that can be handled with a little thought and commitment:

The Tampa Bay Rays won’t announce their preference for a stadium site for months, maybe longer, but the day after the team got a green light to look in Hillsborough County, Mayor Bob Buckhorn couldn’t deny he had a favorite site.

It’s the Tampa Park Apartments, a nearly 50-year-old apartment complex for 372 low-income families between downtown and Ybor City.

“I don’t hide my optimism for that particular site,” he said after a City Hall news conference Friday.

Yes, Buckhorn said, the Rays will look elsewhere, including probably Jefferson High School in West Shore, vacant land near Raymond James Stadium and the Florida State Fairgrounds. But the Tampa Park Apartments have a good location and are close to parking garages in both downtown Tampa and Ybor City.

The complex also presents a challenge: It’s full of poor, mostly black families, some who have lived there for generations.

So wouldn’t evicting them for a new stadium just repeat what happened in St. Petersburg’s Gas Plant neighborhood before Tropicana Field was built?

“That would be the biggest issue,” Buckhorn conceded.

The apartment site has long been a frontrunner in this discussion, so it is understandable that the Mayor also thinks so.  It also is probably cheaper than many other sites.  For instance, the Jefferson site will require a school to be built.  And the other major downtown site, the ConAgra site has some issues, like building a new mill and that some of the Lightning owner’s land would be necessary.  While it is more central in downtown than the Tampa Park Apartments, those issues make the ConAgra site unlikely.

Back to the Tampa Park Apartments:

Miller agreed the African-American community has been more impacted by previous development projects, and said he will be watching this one closely because Tampa Park Plaza is in his district.

“If that’s the number one place they’re looking at and they’re willing to put the money in there, where do we put those displaced people?” Miller asked.  “What kind of neighborhoods can we put them in where they can feel safe, they can feel like it’s their home, we in this county can feel like we’re doing the right thing for them?”

Aside from funding the stadium, that is the key question.  Just like with much of the redevelopment around downtown, it is fine to fix the area up, but there are people who will be displaced.  They need to be really taken care of.  It will be interesting to see what happens.

Channel District – Channel Club Rendering

URBN Tampa Bay had some more renderings of Channel Club, which includes the Channel District Publix.

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

It looks ok (though not very exciting), but there are some questions, mainly about the Publix.  We noted this before, but if you want people to walk to the Publix, why is the sidewalk along Meridian uncovered?  Most of the people in the area are south of the building and will walk that way yet there is no shelter from sun or rain. (And do we really need to see all the parking?)  At some point Tampa has to come to grips with the fact that the weather here is different than most other areas of the country.  If you really want a walkable, urban area, designs need to reflect that.

Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida

Ft. Lauderdale is getting a streetcar, though it hasn’t started construction. Yet, it is already planning ahead:

The proposed Wave extension project would extend the downtown electric streetcar system east to Port Everglades and the Broward County Convention Center along Southeast 17th Street, and south to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport along Andrews Avenue and Federal Highway.

The first streetcars aren’t expected to be in operation until 2018. The current 2.7-mile downtown phase will cost close to $150 million, creating a line that stretches on or near Andrews Avenue from Sistrunk Boulevard south to Southeast 17th Street. The proposed extension would add about 5 miles of rail, officials said. 

(See here) And FDOT is overseeing the project.  How they can be working out how to connect so many major points in a second phase with a project that has not even broken ground on the first while we find it so hard to plan or fund anything is quite the mystery. (And don’t forget they have Tri-Rail, which will likely expand, and will be part of the Miami to Orlando rail plan.)

List of the Week II

Our second list this week is Travel & Leisure’s list of the World’s Best Beach Resorts.  It is based on a readers’ survey, so that says something.

Here we go: Sunset Key Guest Cottages, Key West; Inn Above Tide, Sausalito; Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino, British Columbia; Ocean House, Watch Hill; Cap Juluca, Anguilla; Belmond Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janeiro; Sandpearl Resort, Clearwater; Cape Grace, Capetown; Shutters on the Beach, Santa Monica; Hôtel Negresco, Nice; The Pier House Resort & Spa, Key West; Banyan Tree Mayakoba, Playa del Carmen; Belmond Hotel Caruso, Ravello, Italy; Tickle Pink Inn, Carmel; Le Sirenuse, Positano; Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora; Seven Stars Resort, Turks and Caicos; Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur; Il San Pietro di Positano, Positano; and Pan Pacific Vancouver

Well, what do you know? Here’s what they said about Sandpearl:

This Gulf Coast hotel ranked at No. 2 among family resorts in the U.S. for being a crowd-pleaser: it has a private white-sand beach, a heated lagoon-style pool and quaint touches like a bell that heralds sundown (guests even get to ring it). The hotel also made the American top 20 for rooms—including a lot of family-friendly suites, which come with full kitchens, washer/dryers, and furnished balconies. Daily activities include rides in the hotel’s three-masted schooner, and the hotel has a 75-slip marina where, if you park your boat, bellhops will happily come out and unload your bags. 

So there are no private beaches.  So what?  We’ll take it, even if it is just a silly list of no import (unless you own the Sandpearl).  It is better than not being represented.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 22, 2016 7:15 AM

    I’m glad you approve of our Startup Mill program and helping local startups be successful is why I brought Startup Grind to the community. I’ve also raised a lot of money and currently invest and conduct due diligence for several VC firms out of New York, Boston and Silicon Valley, which is why I think it is important to understand the current state of VC across the U.S. VC’s no longer focus on risk capital whether in regardless of location. If you dig deeper you will find: (1) Less than 5% of all US venture capital goes into “seed” rounds. Yes, we need more but based on the percentage of deals pitched we are not that far off from the norm. (2) Companies that want venture capital, they have to be fundable. It would take too long to list those requirements but many of the companies pitching don’t make the cut (3) Of the deals funded in the U.S. 95% enterprise class software, most of what we pitch is not (4) Using VC math if the company could not scale to $1B it has a less than 5% chance of being funded. (5) Failure is an option, it’s actually the norm and people in this community don’t understand that concept.

    My point here is that if we really want to fix the problem we need to understand the game and change our mindset. Silicon Valley is as much a mindset as a place. We have to be open to the fact that over 80% of all startups fail, even with brilliant ideas and funding and in Silicon Valley it’s actually 87%. Failure in the valley is a badge of honor, not a pariah. Cheerleading isn’t tolerated, don’t think about making a claim that isn’t truthful because you will get called on it. The community is supportive of dreaming big but not “fake it ’til you make it” and there is a zero tolerance policy for swindlers and fakers. There are no pay to play accelerators, you either make the cut or you don’t. Accelerators take equity (big chunks like 10%), in exchange for time tested and proven programs run by successful serial entrepreneurs with mentors of the same caliber who all still have active global networks to connect the startups with real customers. Thousands of people apply to these programs every year and most would give 20% to get in which is not the mindset here either. We need to remember that Silicon Valley has almost a 70 year head start so they should be leading the way.

    We do have some great startups here, they fly under the radar because they are focused on building their businesses rather than hackathons and startup weekend. These founders have placed a stake in the ground and are working diligently to build their businesses here. We should applaud those efforts.

    Maybe the question we should really ask is what is our risk appetite? The only way this works is if founders lead, not government or venture capital. Are successful people in the community willing to put their millions are risk to support the startups rather than real estate and tourism? That’s how it works in other communities. Are companies here willing to dream big, make sacrifices, give up big chunks of equity and tough it out so they can help the next generation of founders? I we can’t answer yes to these questions we won’t make progress.

    • January 22, 2016 9:19 AM

      Thanks for the input. That last paragraph is key. Far too often, the local culture seems based on cashing in quickly and easily. While we understand some of the reasons for that, it is not helpful in the medium and long run.

      • January 22, 2016 11:17 PM

        Absolutely, it takes time to build something meaningful. When we hold up false idols we hurt rather than help. Established tech his, their leader and venture capital then lump the entire community into the same category and that hinders the efforts of this legitimately worthy of investment.

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