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Roundup 1-29-2016

January 29, 2016


Downtown/Channel District – More Money and More, Maybe

— And One More Thing

Economic Development/Lists of the Week I – It Depends on Who You Ask

— The Cost of Living

— Employment Present and Future

Economic Development/Lists of the Week II – More on VC and EDC

– Shifting Focus a Bit

Planning/Fees – More Lessons in How the County Works

— And One More Lesson

— And Yet Another Lesson

Transportation – A Cluster

Port – Of Containers

Harbour Island – On and On or Not

Bike Lanes – How to Do Them

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country


Downtown/Channel District – More Money and More, Maybe

There was interesting news this week regarding the Lightning owner’s project.

Hillsborough County has committed up to $50 million toward construction and design costs connected to the downtown redevelopment project planned by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.

County commissioners on Wednesday, with no discussion, approved a redevelopment agreement with the city of Tampa outlining how much the county will pay toward the $2 billion project. The agreement calls for the two local governments to contribute matching amounts toward design, permitting and development of public infrastructure, such as streets, drainage and utilities.

The money will come from the increase in property values in the Downtown Community Redevelopment Area. That increase, or increment, is expected to grow as Vinik’s development progresses.

Vinik, through his company Strategic Property Partners, plans to convert about 40 acres of mostly empty parcels and parking lots around Amalie Arena into an entertainment district with hotels, residential towers, stores and restaurants.

The county will pay toward the development 20 percent of the increase in property taxes collected each year in the Downtown Community Redevelopment Area. The contribution will be capped at $50 million.

There are a few things that of interest here.  First, that makes up to $80 million in infrastructure work for this project, which is quite a bit.  Of course, if the project is fully built out, the investment will be worth it, but it is still quite a bit.  And it is notable for the lack of public discussion about the exact details of the infrastructure rebuild.  As we have said many times, we like the Lightning owner.  We like his approach, his temperament, and his vision.  We are not opposed to spending the money if the project actually gets built out.  We just hope the reality matches the hype (mostly from third parties) because that is a good amount of money that could be used for many things.  And it would be nice if something were coming out of the ground.

Unrelated to the Lightning owner, article also had this.

But in October 2014, the county and city signed a new deal that will end the county’s contributions to the Downtown Community Redevelopment Area after the Vinik project is finished. It also limited the county’s contribution to 20 percent of the incremental increase.

Which is nonsensical.  The County is not contributing to the downtown CRA, the money is coming from the CRA and should go back to it (or just be honest and get rid of the CRA).  And if investing in downtown is good now, why would it not be good later?  Frankly, given the Commission’s historical profligacy, we are much more comfortable with having how they can spend the money limited.

— And One More Thing

Late this week that the project may be about to get a big tenant, though it is not at all clear.

Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) is in advanced stages of negotiations with multiple developers for an office campus that will be around 1 million square feet, according to sources with knowledge of the deal, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the situation. A deal could close in the coming weeks, sources say.

* * *

In early 2015, Hillsborough County approved a $3.4 million incentive package for Citigroup, which at that time was planning to add nearly 1,200 jobs on its current campus. A source said the new office development would likely accommodate job growth beyond what was proposed in the incentive package.

One of the sites in the running, sources said, is Strategic Property Partners’ district in downtown Tampa. SPP, which is controlled by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investment LLC, is on the hunt for a major office tenant to anchor its district.

A spokeswoman for SPP declined comment Thursday.

Well, it is not an HQ, but filling a million sq. ft. downtown would be pretty significant. especially if it gets the overall project going.  We’ll just have to see.

Economic Development/Lists of the Week I – It Depends on Who You Ask

— The Cost of Living

The Hillsborough EDC released their annual survey of the cost of living, as noted in the Times.

Tampa Bay is the cheapest place to live in Florida, and the region’s cost of living is well below the rest of the country’s, according to new figures released Monday.

The cost of living in the Tampa metro area last year was more than 8 percent lower than the national average, the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation said, citing data collected by the Council for Community and Economic Research.

The region’s Cost of Living Index stood at 91.6 in 2015, compared with a national baseline of 100.

The cost of living measure compares cities on how much it costs to pay for necessities like housing and health care and make everyday purchases like clothing and gasoline. Some luxuries, like the cost of a T-bone steak or a round of bowling, are also included.

Well, that is good on its face.

And there are other things to consider, like this from the Business Journal:

However, exclusive data developed by American City Business Journals in 2015 showed that Tampa Bay — and other Florida cities — are in the bottom 25 percent of metropolitan areas nationwide for purchasing power.

One of the reasons for that was that it costs more to live here.

“When considering income levels in a local area, it is important to consider more than just the raw numbers, but to take into account the cost of living. For instance, in order to have the same purchasing power as a person earning $50,000 in the Tampa Bay area, a resident of Honolulu would need to make $61,820, whereas someone in Akron, Ohio would only need to earn $44,470.”

Read more on the “What it Costs” data and reporting from TBBJ here.

In other words, the gross cost of living may be low but. because of our woeful incomes, it is still not that affordable for residents. (Not to mention that the Business Journal analysis says we are more expensive than Atlanta, Austin, Salt Lake City, Colorado Springs, Charlotte, Raleigh, and Orlando and not much cheaper, certainly not enough to offset the difference in wages, than Denver, Dallas or Houston.)  The fact is that other areas are more affordable because of that income difference, and they have more amenities.  (On the other hand, those low wages are surely a draw to companies that want to move some place where they do not have to pay their employees that much.)

As shown by the recent GE relocation choice (and so many others), simply focusing on being cheap will not get us the economy we should have.

— Employment Present and Future

Which brings us to the latest employment numbers.

The Tampa Bay area continues to lead the state in job creation, adding 41,400 jobs last year and boasting an unemployment rate of 4.4 percent.

That beat the national unemployment rate of 5.0 percent, which was matched by the state, where the rate dropped one-tenth of a percentage point in December.

* * *

The rate for the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area was down from 4.6 percent in November and 5.3 percent in December 2015.

The industries with the largest gains in jobs over the year locally were education and health services, with 11,300 new jobs; leisure and hospitality with 11,100 new jobs; and professional and business services with 10,400 new jobs.

The state Department of Economic Opportunity said the Tampa Bay area was first among the state metro areas in job demand in December with 44,797 openings. It was also first in the state in demand for high-wage, high-skill STEM jobs — those in science, technology, engineering and math, with 13,582 openings.

And that is very good (though Orlando’s unemployment rate is 4.3) as long as you don’t discuss income.

It is also why it is interesting that Wallethub listed the Tampa Bay area so low on its latest list of best metros for STEM professionals. You can see the methodology here.  It is heavily dependent on engineering jobs, schools, and STEM salaries, which may explain the problem.  As we have seen before, the Tampa Bay area’s STEM jobs are heavily weighted to lower paying customer service jobs. (See “Economic Development – Searching for STEM” )  In any event, this is the Wallethub Top 25 ranking:

San Jose; Austin; Seattle; Denver; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Boston; Madison; Houston; Pittsburgh; Columbus; Colorado Springs; Des Moines; Salt Lake City; Raleigh; San Francisco-Oakland; Dallas-Fort Worth; Cincinnati; Atlanta; St. Louis; San Diego; Albuquerque; Charlotte; Omaha; Phoenix; and Nashville.

In other words, the usual suspects.  Florida cities on the list: Orlando (tied for 59th); Tampa-St Pete-Clearwater (65th); Jacksonville (74th); Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL (88th); Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL (93rd); Ft Myers (94th); Miami (98th); Daytona (99th); and Sarasota-Bradenton (100th).

Like we said, the lack of universities, the emphasis on the lower level STEM jobs, and poor salaries probably had a lot to do with Florida’s poor showing.  And, looking at the cost of living above, while low salaries may draw employers, will it draw the talent, especially when increased incomes in other area often more than offsets a lower cost of living?

In other words, yes, unemployment is low, but has anything structurally changed in the nature of our economy?  Yes, we have progressed, but it still seems that others have progressed more.  Are we really better off relative to our competitors?

Economic Development/Lists of the Week II – More on VC and EDC

Last week we discussed the woeful amount of venture capital funding this area (and this state) receive.  On Friday, the Times had a column that pointed out a number of positives in the area VC scene, which is fine.  You can read it here.  Not noted there, however, was a recent report highlighted by regarding VC worldwide. (you can read the article here and report here) The report goes into the major cities for VC worldwide which is led, not surprisingly, by San Francisco Bay area cities.  The top 20:

San Francisco, San Jose, Boston, New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, London, Washington, Beijing, Seattle, Chicago, Toronto, Austin, Shanghai, Mumbai, Paris, Bangalore, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Moscow.

(Interesting to see Austin, San Diego, and Phoenix on this list.)  For our purposes, though, this was more interesting:

Larger metros like New York, London, and Beijing have an advantage based on their sheer size. To control for this, it’s useful to look at the amount of venture capital invested on a per capita basis.

So what was that Top 20 in per capita?

San Jose, San Francisco, Boston, Durham, NC; San Diego; Austin; Seattle; Washington, D.C.; Jacksonville; Los Angeles; New York; Toronto; Salt Lake City; Madison, Wisconsin; Greensboro, NC; New Haven; Denver; Oxnard, CA; Providence, RI; and Phoenix.

First, it is notable that a few of those cities are the locations for major universities.  Most of the others are the usual suspects.  Then there is one really surprising one – Jacksonville.  It is even more surprising given the poor numbers for Florida overall.  What it tells us is that 1) we are really lagging and 2) there is room for hope.  If Jacksonville can get there, so can we.

Also interestingly, the second list it is not that different from a Nerdwallet list of best cities for young entrepreneurs.  Here is their list:

Austin; San Francisco; Salt Lake City; Denver; Minneapolis-St.Paul; Seattle; Madison; Midland; Boston; and Fargo

Once again, mostly the usual suspects. (And, once again, while no list is Bible truth, when the same places are almost always at the top of almost all the lists – and we are not – that says something)

The question is whether our culture can change enough to really transform the economy.  Can we really develop a business (and political) culture that really does what it takes to push local companies’ development (rather than focusing on real estate, no matter how it is packaged) and attract and retain the best talent? That remains to be seen.

– Shifting Focus a Bit

A small start can be seen in another column from the Times on more from the EDC:

In what might seem a counter-intuitive move, the leaders of the Tampa/Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. are about to reach out to young entrepreneurial companies operating in this area and ask:

What can we do to help you grow and — more to the point — stay in this market?

The goal, say EDC leaders, is to identify and open a dialogue with the best and brightest Millennial minds in the market.

“All roads lead to talent which is so important for economic development,” says Colleen Chappell, the CEO of the Ybor City-based ChappellRoberts marketing firm and this year’s chairman of the EDC. While the EDC will still avidly pursue big corporate relocations, she says reaching out to Millennial talent and area entrepreneurs is an important step in shaping the next economic development era for the Tampa/Hillsborough market.

* * *

The EDC will commission a study of what young adult Millennials and entrepreneurs are looking for in their community, what they like and what seems to be missing. The results will be shared with local government and community leaders with the hope some steps can be taken to make this market more attractive to talented young people to stay and prosper.

As a starter, the EDC plans to meet next week with a group of 10 area entrepreneurs of young companies that were started here but have grown enough to have revenues, employees and customers. Among those meeting with the EDC are Omar Soliman and Nick Friedman, founders of College Hunks Hauling Junk; Saxon Baum and Taylor Wallace of WeVue, and co-founder Roberto Torres of Black & Denim.

The EDC leaders believe the organization can help such companies, perhaps by introducing entrepreneurs to willing executives of major area corporations. That kind of access could mean opportunities for mentoring, networking or even testing (and getting feedback on) new products and services.

“We are serious about making this an EDC initiative, not just a project,” Chappell says. “We are taking the long view because this will take time. We want to be a connector.”

That is all good stuff – and long overdue.  But we have a suggestion.  Don’t just talk to the people who are here.  Seek out and survey those people who left – and not just CEOs.  Find out why they left, what we are lacking, what we really need to do.  If you want to reverse the pattern of talent leaving you have to find out why they left. You have to find out what the failure was.  And not only that – those people have no reason to sugarcoat their analysis.  They are not living on local government contracts.  They do not need to curry favor for zoning.  They are more likely give you the unvarnished truth.

It is not hard to find people who left.  Find out what they say.  You may not like it, but you need to know.  Only by fixing our deficiencies relative to other areas will we really attract and retain the best talent.  And only by knowing why people left can we stop others from doing so.

Planning/Fees – More Lessons in How the County Works

We ran across an article from the Observer News website about mobility fees, which shows some of the issues with planning in this area.

With Hillsborough County’s new population projections growing from 330,000 new residents by the year 2020 to 600,000 new residents arriving by the year 2040, it’s clear to county staff and citizens alike that transportation needs are the most important thing to address.

When the Florida Legislature dropped regulations on developers in May 2011, saying they no longer had to pay fees for building schools, parks and roads, legislators claimed it was to move a slow economy.

What happened instead is that counties were left to find ways to build (and improve) parks, schools, roads, bridges and other transportation means without the help of the state.

This dropping of fees, which is referred to by county and state employees as “concurrency,” was the topic of a five-part series in The Observer News that began in August 2015 and ended two weeks ago.

Then, they get into some mobility fees:

From the Observer News – click on map for article

Above, a map for the proposed new Mobility Fee Zones. Under the plan, what used to be 10 impact fee zones will consolidate into five new zones and will address how the county will pay for transportation as 600,000 new residents flock to Hillsborough County in the coming decades.

* * *

Garsys is the chief administrator for development and infrastructure services for Hillsborough County.

She said that a mobility fee would be an ordinance that would compel developers to pay for impacts on traffic, roads, bridges, sidewalks, transportation systems and anything that “moves” the people who come into the area to live in the homes and work in the retail or industrial spaces that are developed.

As explained in a telephone interview with Mike Williams, director of transportation planning and development for the county, impact fees were assessed on each new home built from 1985 until the regulations were dropped (by the state) in 2011. These fees addressed all sorts of impacts resulting from new people, not just transportation. But now the transportation situation has become desperate and a measure has to be taken to alleviate it.

Garsys explained that Pasco County had long ago implemented a few cents in gas tax, property tax and other fees, so that it now has what she described as a “huge cauldron of money” to be able to give developers a break on building retail and industrial complexes that encourages jobs in their county.

“We don’t have a pot of money like they do,” she stated. 

Right, Hillsborough does not have money like Pasco because it did not tax and:

George Niemann, representing the Dover Woods Homeowners Association, told the group gathered at the citizen meeting that after 12 years of following county growth and advocating for citizens’ rights, he has been told by county staff that developers have paid only an average of 16 percent of the transportation impact fees that have resulted from all the subdivisions and shopping malls that have recently been built.

“These figures came from County Administrator Mike Merrill himself,” Niemann said. “Low fees mean that we end up burdened with the other 84 percent of the costs. Commissioners have done nothing to change this situation for decades. When they finally came up with the idea of a sales tax increase, the public started asking questions about how this deficit was allowed to happen in the first place.”

In other words, developers got a high discounted (if not free) ride.  Of course, the reality is that the impact fee system was never really updated so it undercharged anyway.  And then there is the fact that impact fees did not take into account that is actually costs more to provide roads and utilities to projects farther away from a built up area.  In fact, it gave discounts the farther away from the built up area a development was. Regardless, there is no money,

So what did the developers say?

The developers asked why they should have to pay the burden of bad planning by Hillsborough County.

“I’m afraid we will be hit with this at the permitting stage,” said Mike Peterson, a long-time South County attorney and planning committee member. Peterson’s question was asked in different ways by several developers, who said they feared Hillsborough could not compete with other counties if the developers are charged fees they had not expected to pay when they started their projects. Any fees charged on projects underway would have to be passed on to buyers and that would discourage business, and therefore jobs.

“We did not budget this in,” was the main objection from several developers.

A percentage phasing in of fees is expected, Garsys said. But nothing is written yet.

One problem is that developers already have “credits” — fees they have paid to build planned projects that may not have been started, or worse yet, started and not finished.

But the county plans to somehow implement the mobility fee so that the impact zone fees already paid by developers may be sold or transferred. Several ways to do this were discussed; the pros and cons of each will make a whole story in itself in the near future.

And we get this complaint.  If a developer worked up and began a project based on the old system, is it fair to make them pay under a new system?  Should they be held responsible for the fact that the County Commission was completely remiss for decades?

On the other hand, should the taxpayers have to pay when the developer is the one profiting?  It is a complex issue that never should have come up had the County done its job over the decades.

“In the first place, I’m amazed the counties didn’t go after the state legislators when they dropped the developer’s regulations,” Barnes said in an interview after the citizen meeting. “This is ludicrous. How can the county expect to generate enough revenue now to tackle the things we must navigate every day like two lanes on 19th Avenue (Ruskin) and the tie-ups on the main state roads like 674 and Big Bend?”

It is worth remembering that the cost of housing in south County was lower in part because the impact fees were lower leading to development – which led to those traffic issues.  (The fact is that sprawl may improve developer margins, but it costs everyone else more money.)  Now, the County expects to pass a referendum or just not have the money (though some Commissioners seem fine with just not having the money).

And going back to a County Commissioner’s opposition to funding a ferry, saying he could not justify it to someone in Ft. Lonesome, how exactly can one justify forcing people who live in the western part of the County to pay for widening roads in South County they will never use – except to say that if no one pays for it, it will not get done.  Either there is a funding source that helps pay for needs around the county – all of the County not just East or South County – including real transit or nothing will happen.  (Or the south County could secede, but that will not give them any more money.)

It is time to face reality.  For decades, the County Commission cynically mortgaged the future for the present by subsidizing sprawling development.  Now, the bill is coming due.  Money has to be found, and it will not all come from developers (though we are all for mobility fees to cover impacts going forward).  Either we recognize that this is a group endeavor (and improve planning and governance) or it will just get worse.

— And One More Lesson

And there was another article in the Times about planning decisions. You can read the whole thing and draw your own conclusions, but note this:

The Planning Commission is generally pro-business and pro-growth. Its 10 members include a developer, a banker, a utility executive and at least two architects. This group reviews about 20 projects a year and has ruled in favor of 87 percent of developments since 2013.

But when it came to the Ramappas’ apartments, officials balked.

In a staff report, Pedro Parra, a planner with 30 years of experience, questioned the jump in density — from four units per acre to 12 — and called it an “intrusion” that would “create compatibility concerns.”

On March 9, the Planning Commission made its ruling.

The board unanimously voted that the project was inconsistent with the county’s comprehensive plan. One of the planning commissioners called it a “no-no.” But this decision was only a recommendation.

Hillsborough County commissioners are responsible for the final verdict.

Needless to say, it was approved.

— And Yet Another Lesson

And there is one more thing.  The Tribune ran an editorial about the new lobbying rules for the County.  You can read the whole thing here.  We are really interested in one specific point:

It’s been an open secret for years that the few rules governing contact by lobbyists were pretty much ignored at the County Center in downtown Tampa where the commissioners have their offices. Nobody was checking to make sure the lobbyists were recording their visits on a sign-in sheet. And there was no policing of electronic correspondence.

Then why didn’t the media report on it sooner?  Clearly, a little media exposure produced some action.  And what other open secrets are not being reported? How do those unreported “open secrets” affect decision-making and the cost to the taxpayer?

Transportation – A Cluster

Speaking of Pasco County, it may have some money, but planning is another issue.  One example is SR54, particularly where it meets US41.

Although they typically can’t wait for the state to begin road improvement projects, Pasco County commissioners are wondering if Florida’s Department of Transportation might be jumping the gun with its plan to build an elevated road at the intersection of U.S. 41 and State Road 54.

Commission Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey said she was among residents who attended a hearing on Dec. 10 at which state transportation officials discussed plans to build an elevated section of State Road 54 over the north-south federal highway.

What is the issue with this entirely predictable result of the all the sprawl that Pasco has approved over the years?

An estimated 99,000 vehicles travel through the intersection daily. Traffic projections indicate that number will increase to 208,000 daily by the year 2040.

In addition to local traffic, the intersection is part of a regional roadway network, serves as a truck route from Tampa International Airport and Port Tampa Bay, and is a designated emergency evacuation route.

State engineers said the intersection not only is inadequate for the traffic that passes through it but has a crash level that is higher than the state average. A challenge to fixing the situation: a lack of right of way and the placement of railroad tracks along the west side of U.S. 41 hinder the prospect of adding more lanes.

“It is a very compressed area with not much room for widening the road so you’re going to have to do some kind of flyover (elevated road over U.S. 41),” said Gehring. “If you do nothing, in the future cars will be sitting at the intersection for 13 to 37 minutes.”

Awesome. So what does FDOT want to do?

The DOT is considering two alternatives for alleviating traffic at the intersection. Both involve building a 1-mile elevated toll road over U.S. 41. One alternative could displace 22 businesses; the other, six businesses.

Even better, a one mile elevated toll road. (Maybe Pasco should have built the east-west road everyone knew it was going to need decades ago.)  So what are the concerns?

Hoping to come up with some “out-of-the-box” solutions to growing traffic congestion along the State Road 56/54 corridor from U.S 19 to Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, the county formed east and west Pasco task forces made up of residents, business owners and landowners.

The groups have been meeting since September to develop six proposals to present to Pasco County’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, the county’s long-range transportation planning agency, this spring. Possible solutions include express buses, frontage roads, dedicated transit lanes, light rail and elevated lanes.

While we are all for rail, the way SR54 is developed makes light rail there an absurd idea. (Like this is walkable, though it has been called their “urban corridor” )  Likewise, buses make no sense.  To get from the actual road to any actual destination makes either entirely impractical. (Yes, the whole area could be rebuilt, but given that it is relatively new, that is highly unlikely and there is no urban infill opportunity.  Rail in Pasco only makes sense as a way to get to Tampa). That does not even deal with crossing the street- especially where there are 3 left run lanes in each direction (like here and here – at least they have sidewalks, though we are not sure why.  Really, who is going to walk that?).  Elevated lanes (a logical idea) were shot down by the County in 2014.  What exactly would frontage roads do at major intersections?  How does that alleviate traffic?

The fact is that, especially in the SR54/SR56 corridor, Pasco has reveled in its sprawl for a while.  The mess that is SR54/56 is the logical result.  Pasco needs an east-west road that takes through traffic off of SR54.  Until that happens, one mile toll roads or half hour traffic light waits are what it is going to get.

Pasco should have learned from the counties around it.  Maybe the counties around it can now learn from Pasco.  Then again, what are the chances of that happening?

Port – Of Containers

Last week, we discussed the State of the Port and especially noted that proximity to the expanded Panama Canal would largely be irrelevant if the plan for containers was to be a spoke on a hub and spoke system.  Nevertheless, there is definitely room for improvement in our container handling.  On Friday, the Times ran an article discussing the port’s strategy on containers, which pointed out that the Port will not be able to handle the biggest ships coming through the expanded canal, will work more as a spoke, and has room for improvement.  We are not going to get into the whole article, you can read it.  But we will point out the part on strategy:

Port Tampa Bay, long a destination for bulk cargo like fuel and phosphates, has been trying to get a foothold in the growing market for shipping containers. And as shippers start to shift the way they move goods across the world, the port thinks it has a shot at bringing more boxes to its berths.

Two changes in particular could benefit Tampa.

If shipping lines start offering more routes that connect Asia with the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, the port hopes it can talk them into making an intermediate stop here — becoming something like a local stop on a global bus line.

And years from now, trade analysts say, a hub-and-spoke shipping system could gain steam, where mega-ships stacked with thousands of shipping containers stop at Caribbean ports and send containers on to smaller ports aboard smaller ships. That’s why when the U.S. Maritime Administration analyzed the effects of the canal in 2013, it identified Tampa as a potential beneficiary.

In theory, sending cargo to a port near its final destination would be cheaper than the current standard of sending it from the West Coast aboard trains and trucks.

But that’s an open question, said Jim Kruse, director of Texas A&M University’s Center for Ports and Waterways: The canal could charge too much for ships to pass through, or railroads could cut their rates to stay competitive. 

First, the hub and spoke system is already in place (as evidence by previous comments by the Port) though not necessarily for the biggest ships.  Second, there is definitely room for improvement, so we wish the Port luck in expanding the container business, we just wish they could do even more.

The Port’s physical limitations, especially the Skyway, is also an object lesson in how a lack of vision, planning, and investment (and a healthy dose of complacency) at one point can hold you back long into the future (see transportation in the Tampa Bay area).  It would have been much cheaper to build the bridge a little bit higher in the first place than have to deal with the limitations in puts on the Port and, therefore, economy now.

Harbour Island – On and On or Not

A few months ago, a suit against the City regarding the Related Group project on Harbour Island, the Manor, was dismissed.  The ostensible reason for the suit was a parking issue.  Since then, the project has been moving forward.  But:

The concrete for the foundation of a new apartment tower is almost in the ground but Harbour Island residents are still not ready to end their long and so-far unsuccessful fight against the project.

A group of roughly 60 island residents are again suing the city in a new bid to block construction of The Manor at Harbour Island, a 21-story, 340-unit tower planned next to Plaza Harbour Island.

The lawsuit filed last week says the city broke state law by issuing a permit in December, saying the buildout date for development on the island as allowed under a state approved permit expired more than a year ago.

It also claims the city failed to address that the project will create a shortage of parking spaces.

It asks the judge to rule the permit null and void.

We admit that we have not reviewed the lawsuit (especially the permit issue), but this is what happened before:

The lawsuit represents a new tack for residents who previously argued the project was not in keeping with city development regulations because it will not have its own parking garage but will, instead, connect via a “sky bridge” to a parking garage across the street.

They hired attorneys and used consultants from Tampa public relations firm Tucker/Hall to help organize opposition. After the city council approved an easement for the sky bridge in June 2014, residents appealed the decision to a hearing officer, then again to circuit court and finally to the 2nd District Court of Appeal, losing at each level.

Which makes the rerun of the parking issue a bit odd.  (We are not going to get into the permit issue because it is likely easily remedied even if there were a problem.)  The really odd thing about this whole affair is that it really seems that there is something else going on that is inspiring the continuing opposition and expense that entails.  Nevertheless, it will have to work its way through the courts.  On the other hand, it may be irrelevant:

City Attorney Julia Mandell said she cannot comment on pending litigation but said there is nothing in the lawsuit that would stop construction from going forward.

“We are analyzing this new complaint to determine what, if any, remedies remain given the previous litigation in this matter,” Mandell said in an email.

* * *

The Related Group is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Vice President Arturo Péna said he expects the project to go ahead.

“We are speaking to the city of Tampa on it but we have no comment,” Péna said. “We already have our foundation permit in hand and we’re about ready to start construction.” 

Of course, that will have to wind its way through the process, too.  Though, per URBN Tampa Bay, it does not seem that Related is waiting.

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

For us the irony is that this is by far the best proposal by the Related Group in Tampa and is in line with the original Harbor Island concept (and the previous planning for the lot).

Bike Lanes – How to Do Them

URBN Tampa Bay posted an ABC Action News video on the first protected bike lane in Tampa, on Cass Street.  We have linked it below:

That is how you do bike lanes – to make people who want to bike feel safe.  Frankly, the only thing we don’t get is why the first protected bike lane in Tampa is being done on a small stretch of road where people can easily walk.  It would have made much more sense to do it on Platt and Cleveland where it can be maximized rather than do the odd restriping that was done on those roads.

At least now we know the City actually knows how to do it.  Hopefully, it will start doing bike lanes properly elsewhere.

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

URBN Tampa Bay highlighted a new report regarding walkable spaces and Boston (where GE chose to go in spite of higher taxes and cost of living).  You can check out the whole report here, but we will note these summary highlights:

In the Boston metropolitan area, walkable urbanism adds value. On average, all of the product types studied, including office, retail, hotel, rental apartments, and for-sale housing, have higher values per square foot in walkable urban places than in low-density drivable locations. These price premiums of 20 to 134 percent per square foot are strong indicators of pent-up demand for walkable urbanism.

Walkable urban places are now gaining market share over drivable locations for the first time in at least half a century in hotel, office and rental apartment development. This is good news for people moving to those locations, since households in walkable urban places spent less on housing and transportation (43 percent of total 5household budget) than households in drivable locations (48 percent), primarily due to lower transportation costs. In addition, property tax revenues generated in walkable urban places are substantially higher than in drivable locations on a per acre basis.

All reasonable and true.  And then there is this:

Public transit, especially rail transit, activates walkable urbanism’s potential for adding real estate value, and as this report demonstrates, that potential is ample. Therefore, policymakers must weigh the costs of funding transit against its power to increase tax revenues. With the right value capture tools in place, the increased value that transit supports could be used to fund at least a portion of the system’s maintenance and future expansion.

Note the special emphasis on rail (though we should not need a report to state the obvious).  Of course, that means that you have to invest in it.  (It does not say variable rate express lanes.)  And the report is not blind to the issue of displacing lower income residents.  In sum, read the report.  It is just more evidence that our development pattern is behind the times and competitors (for more evidence, look at Denver).


Enjoy Gasparilla.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Tampa observer permalink
    February 1, 2016 1:30 PM

    Your blog should be required reading for those interested in Tampa. I read an interesting article in the LA Times which points out some interesting stats about public transportation. I was wondering your take on it:

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