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Roundup 3-4-2016

March 4, 2016

Contents

Transportation – Opining

— Gandy

— Go Hillsborough

— And One More Thing, Of Course

Transportation/Downtown/Built Environment – Slim Fit

TIA/Latin America – Cuba Flights Move Forward Somewhere

Economic Development/MacDill – Ybor, SOCOM Style

Economy – Flip

West Tampa – Parks and Recreation, and Money

St. Pete – Going Tall

Built Environment – How to Reuse Suburban Property

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

— Express Lanes

— Where Tech Is Growing

List of the Week

______________________

Transportation – Opining

This week, the Lightning owner made a point that everyone already knows but some, like the Hillsborough County Commission, seem to forget.

The trio was asked about the region’s transit issues. Vinik, who has partnered with Cascade Investment LLC on a $2 billion mixed-use development in downtown Tampa, said those issues could potentially hinder efforts to draw a major office tenant to the district.

Transportation, Vinik said, is this region’s “Achilles heel.” Sternberg said a solution to transportation issues was “imperative.”

Then, probably more aspirationally than with strong basis in fact given the complete lack of consensus on anything in local government:

But Vinik doesn’t seem discouraged by the situation. “I’m actually optimistic that over the next three to five years, we’ll be making some major progress on it,” he said. “It’s so critical.”

That is very optimistic of him. Officials can hype everything they want – until they get out in front of transportation – and with real transportation alternatives, not just roads and more roads with a few more buses from Pasco and Ruskin, then it doubtful there will be any real progress.

Which brings us to a few editorials about transportation in the last week.  The Tribune had one about the Gandy Connector and one about Go Hillsborough.  The Times has one about Go Hillsborough.

— Gandy

First, the Gandy Connector:

As we said when the proposal was initially floated in 2009, the raised highway would be good for Gandy businesses as well as regional commerce. It would cut 15 minutes or more off the southern route from Hillsborough and Pinellas, which should benefit residents and businesses in both counties.

Unlike past expressway proposals, the elevated road would not destroy homes or stores. It would be built on the Gandy median and also would be only two lanes, minimizing impacts.

There is no way, of course, to make the structure inconspicuous. But with a design that allows plenty of light below, and an overhaul of Gandy Boulevard to make the road more attractive and pedestrian friendly, the project should make Gandy more functional and appealing.

Local businesses would not have to worry about traffic jams blocking access. Residents would have an easier time getting home. Boaters could use the Gandy ramp without fear of being anchored by a traffic jam.

Yes, but even more to the point:

But those who oppose the elevated highway should question whether a future of more interminable gridlock along Gandy will enhance residents’ quality of life or improve the outlook for local businesses.

Exactly, but we do not expect those who have spent decades opposing a fix to change their minds. You will never get full buy in.  What really needs to happen is that officials must get the political will to do what must be done, especially if Tampa expects to keep developing the area south of Gandy – the road needs to be built.

— Go Hillsborough

And there were two editorials about Go Hillsborough.  First the Tribune:

Gridlock in Hillsborough County is not confined to roads. It now extends to the government boardroom, where county leaders can’t agree on a plan to help relieve the mess that residents, commuters and visitors endure every day.

This is not leadership.

And time is getting short.

If there is any hope to start addressing this crisis on local roads, highways and streets sooner rather than later, county officials better reach a consensus soon. The November elections — the perfect opportunity to allow voters to decide on a proposed half-cent sales tax increase — are approaching fast.

It is disheartening that the entire county commission is not rallying around the Go Hillsborough transportation plan. 

Even more,

This lack of consensus is undermining Go Hillsborough and sending a bad message to voters. If the county’s elected board can’t agree, how can voters have the confidence to give Go Hillsborough the backing it deserves?

Exactly. Maybe (really, maybe) some should rally around Go Hillsborough, but if the Commissioners themselves won’t rally around it, why would others? They are undermining their own process, which for some, has been the case from the beginning.

Commissioner Ken Hagan perfectly summed up the clumsiness of it all:

“We spent nearly three years illustrating our enormous transportation deficit and the dire straits of our transportation network,” Hagan said at Wednesday’s meeting. “We are weeks away from scheduling a referendum, and we are still chasing our tails.”

Pretty much.  And it should be noted that the lack of commitment on the part of those making the plan in the first place has weakened the substance of the plan (as we have noted before, including last week).  There are easy ways to make it better, but the pandering and flip-flopping will likely not allow that to happen.

And, from the Times:

Yet commissioners seem to be coalescing around a much smaller package — a half-cent sales tax and a development-related mobility fee that comes nowhere close to covering the costs of sprawl. The spending plan also is upside down, with two-thirds of the money going toward roads while the 2010 plan devoted most of its revenue to mass transit. Even with those backward changes, the half-measure has stirred up the usual antitax tea party activists. But the plan is so uninspiring it also has alienated liberals and drawn a collective yawn from the business community. So there is a coalition building on the transportation issue — but not to support these options.

Commissioners cannot agree on a plan because Republicans are afraid of being ousted by conservatives in a primary and Democrats are looking for the easiest sell. They continue to float their own plans that do not meet the transportation needs. Sandy Murman wants to raid cash reserves and use one-time money from the BP oil spill settlement. Victor Crist wants to find money by combing through the county budget. This week, Kevin Beckner proposed a half-cent tax for 10 years. These are all patches and backward approaches, and coming at the eleventh hour, voters are right to wonder why they should agree to tax themselves when county commissioners cannot agree on the scope of the problem.

Setting aside that we are not sure what “liberals” has to do with anything (as we have pointed out many times, transit is not a partisan issue – see Salt Lake City and Phoenix, not to mention Texas), but yes, it is hard to form a coalition around a plan the Commissioners are not ready to support, especially when it has far too many compromises.  The one thing we disagree with in the Times editorial is this:

Then they should help persuade the Legislature to allow the cities to hold sales tax referendums for transit, where voters are more likely to approve light rail and expanded bus service.

What they should really be calling for is better county government.  Tampa is a quarter of the population of Hillsborough County and there are many neighborhoods in the county far closer to the business centers than New Tampa where transit makes more sense.  And if you think you have a political mess now, just imagine the fight between the county bus system and the city bus system when they have completely different priorities and representation. A real fix needs to be comprehensive and county-wide. (Not to mention that neither mayor has actually presented a real plan for what they would like to do.)  We hope they can actually get something done, but if some or all of the current officials can’t get anything done, to remove the roadblocks.

— And One More Thing, Of Course

URBN Tampa Bay posted a link to a WMNF interview with FDOT regarding TBX.  You can read URBN Tampa Bay’s commentary and get the link to listen to the interview.  One thing of note is that if FDOT has downsized the project, they have not been very good at saying so.

It all goes to the point that local officials seem to be approving something, anything, even though it is not clear what it is and what is known about it is questionable.  That is the very definition of “going along to get along” – which is a fine art in this area, in stark contrast to proper and comprehensive, intelligent transportation planning.

Transportation/Downtown/Built Environment – Slim Fit

Going back to the Lightning owner and speaking of getting around downtown, there was a column in the Times about the two-waying of downtown roads.  The relevant portion of the column is this:

A little history. Once, all those one-way thoroughfares downtown made perfect sense. They brought in weekday commuters by 9 a.m. and got them out at 5. That was when everyone headed home to neighborhoods elsewhere and downtown sidewalks rolled up for the night. Street life after that was a couple of alley cats, a skulking river rat, maybe a tumbleweed or two.

“The one-way streets were the product of a mind-set in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s where the goal was to move people out of downtown as fast as you possibly could,” says Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. Florida Avenue, the northbound-only thoroughfare that cuts through the heart of downtown, remains a testament to that philosophy, with little chance for a motorist to stop for any retail option and not so inviting to bike or foot traffic, either.

What we like about this column is that it inadvertently shows how both the built environment and planning (both transportation and building) are tied together.  For instance, the real reason there is no retail on Florida is because there is very little retail on Florida (including in the under construction Nine 15 apartment building) and not much space for it.

By contrast, the one way Tampa Street is busy, has sidewalk dining, parking on the street, and people walking – at least north of Jackson. (South of Jackson, the buildings built in the 1990s lack much street action, so most people walking from there are going north to Tampa and Franklin streets, where there is something to do).  Whether the street is active is more a function of the built environment than the direction of the roads.  (It is not surprise that, anecdotally, you see the biggest congregations of people on Florida near Sacred Heart Church and the Courthouse – that’s where people are doing something).

And we have pointed out previously there are all sorts of walkable streets around the country that have one way traffic – that is not the biggest issue. Having an inviting pedestrian streetscape is more important.  Looking back at pictures of Tampa (we always like looking back at pictures of Tampa), it seems people still came downtown (look at all the parked cars) regardless of whether roads were one way or two – and there are also a lot of awnings and/or arcades providing some protection from the elements.

Madison and Florida (one way) circa 1954:

From USF Library Collection – click on picture for website

Here is the four lane (two in each direction) Franklin Street (probably the 1950s) with parking (apparently having more than two lanes is ok for pedestrians):

From 83 Degrees Media – click on picture for website

Now:

From 83 Degrees Media – click on picture for website

Franklin and Twiggs in the 40s:

 

From the Tampa History Center – click on picture for website

It is not that we are opposed to two-waying some of the roads.  We aren’t.  However, getting back to transportation planning, if downtown is going to really be a draw, especially with the Lightning owner’s project in the south part of the peninsula, there has to be a way in and out for people who do not live downtown.  Many, if not most, workers downtown will not be able to afford living downtown:

The predominance of millennials and baby boomers in downtown Tampa was reflected in a 2014 study of the downtown core and Channel District conducted by the partnership.

The 25-to-34 age group made up 32 percent of the area’s population, while people age 55 and older comprised almost 25 percent.

It’s an affluent population, too, with 90 percent boasting annual household incomes more than the Hillsborough County median of $49,600, and 65 percent of households earning above $100,000.

and most people going to the arena will not be downtown residents.  By having one lane in each direction on all the roads, especially on a peninsula with limited access points, you will create gridlock.  Even if it works well, TBX will do nothing to solve that – just dumping cars in the north part of downtown and leaving people to try to figure out how to get to the south.  If you are really going to have a traffic diet in a main business district, you need real transit (and buses on roads with one lane in each direction is also a recipe for congestion) to get people out of their cars before they get downtown.  Done right, a road diet can help fix the health of your city, but, if taken too far and without proper oversight, they can create (a) disorder.

What the whole subject really screams is that all this has to be done in a coordinated and systematic way.  If you choke the roads, you need transit so people do not have to drive downtown.  If you don’t give alternatives, at some point you will reach a level of traffic that will make people not want to come downtown.  And if you want to encourage people to walk, give them something to do on the street (which needs retail space).  It is all part of the same issue.

TIA/Latin America – Cuba Flights Move Forward Somewhere

The application for initial US-Cuba flights was put in this week.  Airlines applying for flights included American, United, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, and Silver.  Most airlines want flights from their hubs and some flights from South Florida.  Southwest and JetBlue applied for 2 daily round-trip flights each from Tampa to Havana.   We definitely want Tampa-Havana flights, and here is the argument for them:

Since charter services began offering flights in 2011, more than 226,240 passengers have flown from Tampa to Cuba, Minner said. The number of passengers traveling to Cuba by way of Tampa has been growing by double-digits, including 17 percent growth last year.

Tampa’s charter traffic to Cuba is the second-largest in the country, Minner said. Miami airport had 808,316 passengers fly to and from Cuba in 2015. Tampa had 66,104 for the year. Fort Lauderdale had 8,132 and John F. Kennedy in New York had 6,424.

Tampa’s flights were also relatively full. In 2015, flights between Tampa and Cuba were 78 percent full last year, compared to 74 percent in Miami, Minner said. The national average for flights to Cuba was 73 percent.

We are also happy with the two airlines that chose to apply to fly from Tampa.  Both have decent traffic through here, with especially Southwest having quite a few flights that can help feed any Tampa-Cuba flights with connecting passengers as well as locals. (According to an earlier iteration of a Business Journal post here, which was subsequently changed, Southwest had 6,548,734 passengers out of TIA last year; JetBlue had 1,465,202 ) In theory (and hope) Tampa could become a “focus city” for Southwest flights not just to Cuba but to other points south.

In any event, the only thing we wish was that someone applied to fly from Tampa to another Cuban city as well.  But that can come later.

We shall just have to see what happens – and hope local political and business officials (all of them) openly work to get it done.

And the airport has set up an online petition in support of Tampa-Cuba flights here. We urge you to sign.

Economic Development/MacDill – Ybor, SOCOM Style

There was an interesting column in the Times about a SOCOM initiative:

So Geurts, 50 and approaching 30 years in the Air Force, did what the military does best. Take the offensive, armed with a mandate backed by a budget running well into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

He is the driving force behind the creation of an idea lab dubbed SOFWERX that has quietly landed in space in one of Ybor City’s oldest buildings. Its mission: to solicit entrepreneurs, academics and inventive people to pitch ideas that might translate into next-generation equipment for special forces in the field. If some of these ideas become products that can be commercialized — all the better for the area’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“What keeps me up at night?” Geurts posed the question during a one-on-one interview Thursday evening at SOFWERX. “An idea that can’t get to me because somebody can’t get on the (MacDill) base or past the bureaucracy.”

* * *

Geurts wants ideas, lots of them, to pour into SOFWERX. Those with strong potential can be tested quickly using 3D printers. The image is one of firing creative or out-of-the-box notions at SOFWERX and seeing which ones survive and prosper.

Geurts calls it getting a “return on collision.”

That’s where the not-for-profit Thunderdome Project steps in. It’s essentially an idea exchange and business accelerator that will attract a high volume of innovators with ideas and, with SOF­WERX input, help bring the best ideas to fruition quickly. Or as its website (thunderdome.io) says: “produce 10x the innovations in 1/10 the time.” 

This is a cool effort.  We like that SOCOM is actively coming to the ideas rather than waiting for them to arrive.  We hope it is very productive (though, as with such things, there will probably be many more misses than hits, but that’s ok) and sparks a hub and/or cluster in the area.

One thing worth noting, though, is that it seems that this effort is basically about products and equipment.  Just as there are many products that probably have a hard time making their way to those who can use them, there are probably a lot of theories, insights, and other ideas that are innovative or outside the box that could be of use to SOCOM (and CENTCOM) that also have a very hard time getting to those who may take advantage of them.  It would be great if there were some effort to capture those as well.  No reason not to have an intellectual cluster, as well.

Economy – Flip

It seems that the Tampa Bay area is big for home flipping.

House flipping enjoyed a big spurt of activity in 2015, and there were few busier places for flipping than the Tampa Bay area.

Among 110 metro areas with at least 250 flips, the bay area tied with Las Vegas and Fresno, Calif., for second place in flips as a percentage of total single-family home sales — 9.2 percent.

Only Memphis at 11.2 percent had a higher share, RealtyTrac reported. 

We are not going to get too deep into this, but we will note that some think that a hot flipping market is a sign of strong market.  Others disagree:

“When home flipping numbers go up, it is usually an indication that the housing market is in trouble,” said Matthew Gardner, chief economist at Windermere Real Estate, who was quoted in the report.

“These sales artificially inflate home prices, making housing even less affordable for buyers and increasing the risk of a bubble,” said Gardener.

We suppose that if you cash in, it is good.  If you get stuck with an overpriced property when the economy slows down, it is an issue. We shall just have to see.

West Tampa – Parks and Recreation, and Money

There was news about Julian Lane Park this week.

Julian B. Lane Park is intended to be the centerpiece of the city’s plan to transform the west bank of the Hillsborough River.

The rundown 23-acre park was built in the 1970s and attracts few visitors. The city wants to overhaul it, adding new boat houses for rowers and a community center, and open up access to the river for the public. But the $35 million price tag is proving a stretch for the city, which this year earmarked just $5 million for the park, almost 60 percent of its total park construction budget for 2016.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn also plans to use some of the city’s $20 million BP oil spill settlement money to pay for the work and last week went on a mission to Tallahassee to try and persuade lawmakers that the state should pitch in $5 million toward the park.

Buckhorn met with the local delegation of legislators, asking them to find the money either from the Florida Communities Trust or to put an earmark in the state budget.

* * *

The Florida Communities Trust is given to communities who want to preserve land or traditional working waterfronts, typically by buying them up. That may be a tough sell for a park that has been owned by the city for decades.

An earmark in the budget would be the “cleanest route” to get funding Buckhorn acknowledged. But that would open the project to greater scrutiny. Appropriations put in the budget by local lawmakers are dubbed “turkeys’ by tax watchdog groups.

The Florida Communities Trust does seem like a stretch and earmarks are an issue.  Of course, the park could be built in stages when there is money available, some of the plan could be dialed back a bit or the mayor could seek donations.  Yes, it would take a little longer to have the full work done, but so be it.  And there might be more pressing needs for some of the BP money (streetcar expansion?  Other parks outside of downtown that are even more rundown?)

And one more thing.  This is a rendering of the park plan:

From the Tribune – click on picture for website

One of the ideas of the park redesign was supposed to be opening the neighborhood up to the river.

Now, there are mounds throughout the park, including one in which a small amphitheater sits. That will be torn down, along with some of the hills, so that the river can be seen from the west end of the park, Johnson said. There will be renovated parking and a water park for children.

That was the supposed reason to get rid of the vertical elements – the mounds. We get the idea to retain the tennis and basketball courts, but that is not really opening up the river, especially with all those trees (we like trees but that does not open up the vistas), but so be it.  The lawn is fine, though at least some of the vertical element should have been retained. (What is up with the parking lot that extends pretty much up to the river? That definitely open up the river.)

Nonetheless, hopefully, fixing the park will start sooner rather than later (though whether that is really $35 million worth of improvement is an open question) – and the best way to do that is to act within the City’s means rather than asking the state for money – especially when the city is also asking for the USF Med School, FDOT studies, and a host of other things that are arguably more important overall.

St. Pete – Going Tall

There was news from St. Pete:

St. Petersburg’s downtown skyline will soon get an exclamation point with construction of a 41-story condominium tower starting this week.

Mayor Rick Kriseman and other officials are expected to attend a Friday groundbreaking for ONE St. Petersburg, which will supplant the nearby 36-story Signature Place condo tower as the city’s and Pinellas County’s tallest building.

The new tower, on a 2.2-acre site across the street from the clubs and restaurants of the Jannus Block on Second St. N, will have 253 luxury condominiums starting at $600,000 apiece. It also will contain a 173-room Hyatt hotel and 17,000 square feet of retail space.

From the Tribune – click on picture for website

It is not an architectural gem (and, being a rendering, the size may be a bit exaggerated), but it is interesting that St. Pete seems to have a better downtown condo market than Tampa (which basically has no downtown condo market, at least not new construction, at this point).  Good for St. Pete.

Built Environment – How to Reuse Suburban Property

We ran across an interesting development in Alexandria, VA.

At the corner of Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive, a big, new development is planned with new apartments and retail for Arlington, Virginia. ARLnow reported that the Arlington County Board recently approved a project, dubbed “Columbia Pike Village Center,” that features a six-story apartment building with 365 market-rate units.

There are also plans for a 50,000-square-foot grocery store and 31,530 square feet of ground-floor retail. ARLnow further reported that a three-level, 604-space parking garage and a 22,150-square-foot public square with public art and a “water feature” are in the works. There will also be 152 spaces for bicycles.

This is a rendering:

From Curbed.com – click on picture for website

But to really understand this reuse, you have to look at the google map of the area, which you can see here.  This property is the shopping center on the upper left corner of the intersection on the map.  It is a classic strip mall with a sea of parking, like you see all over Hillsborough County.

The fact is that even if you have messed up planning completely (see Hillsborough County), you can go back – especially if you are a booming area, like Hillsborough keeps saying it is.  There is no reason we have to stick with bad models of development.  It is not inevitable – it, like our poor transportation, is a choice.

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

— Express Lanes

Let’s check in with how some express lanes are doing.  This week, we go to LA.

Metro ExpressLanes are not living up to their name.

Since opening up miles of pay lanes as an experiment three years ago, too many solo drivers are riding the converted car-pool lanes on segments of the 110 and 10 freeways, causing speeds to drop to levels that could result in federal highway funds being withheld.

To fix the problem, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) board raised the price of a peak ride by 10 cents per mile, effective Feb. 1. Metro lowered the off-peak toll by 15 cents. Both are efforts to move solo commuters out of pay lanes during morning rush hours and into off-peak periods on the ExpressLanes along the Harbor and San Bernardino freeways, explained Shahrzad Amiri, Metro’s executive officer, for congestion reduction programs.

The first thing to note is that the LA lanes were HOV lanes that then added the variable rate tolls for solo drivers.  TBX does not appear to have any feature where carpools can travel for free which would, most likely, improve carpooling (Why? Who knows?).  The second thing to notice is this:

When congestion occurs, speeds drop below 45 miles per hour, causing the signs above to flash “HOV Only.” This means solo drivers will be charged maximum tolls, about $15.75 on the 110 and $15.55 on the 10. Less than 1 percent of more than 515,000 toll-lane users who’ve purchased transponders they’ve affixed to their windshields pay this amount, Amiri explained, because most exit the lanes to avoid higher tolls. (Car-poolers, motorcyclists and drivers of electric or plug-in electric vehicles with green or white stickers ride free. All must buy a transponder from Metro for $40.)

Knabe said this will cause more ExpressLane users to veer into general purpose lanes. “People know where the meters are and they pop in and pop out. It is like bumper cars out there,” he said.

We previously noted the weaving in Miami.  If aversion to highs tolls is such a good incentive to get people to drive at different times, they might also be a good incentive for people to cheat.  But even more important is the goal of the LA transportation officials:

The new pricing raises the maximum from $1.40 to $1.50 per mile but only on congested segments and not when delays are caused by road work or an accident. Amiri couldn’t say exactly how much more solo commuters would pay, but said Metro only could raise peak tolls 30 cents more per year. “The current maximum price … does not appear to be enough of a disincentive for toll-paying customers to choose not to enter the ExpressLanes,” she wrote in a report to the board.

Will the increase be enough to chase solo drivers back into general purpose lanes or ride the ExpressLanes earlier or later, or car-pool?

“Yes, we are hoping it will make a difference,” she said.

In other words, they are going out of their way to push traffic into the already congested lanes (if they are not congested, why build the express lanes?) by making the express lanes even more expensive.  That may solve congestion for a few people who can afford the toll lanes, but for most people congestion will just get worse (and from much of the reporting it seems the express lanes are not much better).  How does that really fix the problem?  And how does that disincentivize cheating? And in a place like Tampa with absolutely no real alternatives, what choice to people have?  (And if you think that TBX will help Tampa, note that there will be limited access to the variable rate lanes so that most people driving around town will be stuck in the overly congested regular lanes with no choice but to stay there – and no hope of any better future.)

— Where Tech Is Growing

We, and the local business media, devote a good amount of time and space to economic development and technology.  It may be worth looking at other areas, like this:

Across the Great Plains — even in winter — the new cash crop is high tech.

What’s happening, say Stephanie and Paul Jarrett, is an explosion of startup software companies in the heartland, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann.

“It’s time we bang the drum and let people know there’s something happening over here in Lincoln, Nebraska,” said Stephanie Jarrett.

* * *

This is “Silicon Prairie,” and it’s remaking cities across the Midwest, from Des Moines to Kansas City, to Lincoln, where David Graff co-founded Hudl in 2006.

“Our pitch is to get in here and make a difference right from the start,” Graff said.

* * *

“The university system here is phenomenal,” Graff said about having a business in Lincoln. “It’s a very supportive community for your entrepreneurs.”

Paul Jarrett compared “Silicon Prairie” to Silicon Valley.

“We have a core value and one of our core values is fire the a**holes,” he said.

But another competitive edge is that everything’s cheaper in the prairie. The median home in San Francisco sells for $1.1 million — in Lincoln, it’s about $158,000.

“You can grow your team a lot faster with a lot less capital. Same with office space,” Jarrett said.

Today, Lincoln is becoming a mini Palo Alto, home to more than 100 software startups. And once-abandoned buildings now house coworking spaces and incubators.

* * *

But there are challenges. Companies have struggled to attract outside talent and investors. Seventy-five percent of investments in 2015 went to three states – California, New York and Massachusetts – but that’s changing.

That all sounds familiar, but no one is calling us the Silicon Swamp/Beach/Whatever.  So what is the difference and the secret of success? Why have they moved so much faster than we have? To be honest, it is not entirely clear. There may be some localized cultural differences and different priorities.  There may be special circumstances.  It is definitely worth a real, sober discussion.

The one thing we would say is that for decades there have been initiatives to get things going – most of which sounded very good and most lauded before they have done much.  Yet, we are still having this discussion.  So the real question is what is it about the local political/business culture that is not succeeding?

We just wonder if that will happen when we have a political (and, to some degree, business) culture straight out of 1990?

List of the Week

This week, we have US News’s Best Places to Live.   This is the methodology.

This is the Top 20: Denver; Austin; Fayetteville, AR; Raleigh; Colorado Springs; Boise; Seattle, DC; San Francisco; San Jose; Des Moines; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Grand Rapids; Sarasota; Charlotte; San Diego; Houston; Omaha; Charleston; and Portland (OR).

We find nothing definitive in this list, though, as we have said many times, it is not the one list, it is the fact that there are a group of cities that appear at the top of almost all the good lists, and we are not among them.

Tampa is 42nd.  Other Florida cities, aside from Sarasota, are Jax at 34th; Ft. Myers at 38th; Melbourne at 40th; Orlando at 44th; Lakeland at 70th; Daytona Beach at 84th; Miami at 93rd.

The funny thing about Tampa’s rating (aside from the picture of St. Pete on the webpage) is that its highest ranking is “desirability” and its lowest ranking is “value,” which is:

The Value Index measures how comfortably the average resident of each metro area can afford to live within his or her means. To accomplish this, we compared the median annual household income to the cost of living in that metro area. The Value Index is determined by dividing the blended median annual household income by the blended annual cost of living for each metro area.

In other words, there is great potential, but we really need to maximize that potential both by building the proper economic environment and by building the proper built environment and amenities to close the deal with attracting the best and brightest who can go anywhere – and part of that is real transit.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 4, 2016 10:05 AM

    Thank you, as always, for your insight. However, I only half agree with you on the Julian Lane Riverfront Park issue. Julian Lane is one of my favorite parks in Tampa (Rivercrest at North Blvd and Osborne is my fave). It is everything a park should be, especially near a downtown, green and functional. It has suffered from a lack of activation, maintenance, and lighting. It is the Yin to Curtis Hixon Park’s Yang. Where as Curtis Hixon is wide open, with no shade and full of fancy, trendy design elements, Julian Lane is filled with trees, sports courts, and paths. I would rather see the city save its money and install proper lighting and properly fix and maintain the park. Yes, I even have an affinity for those “alien” mounds and the amphitheater on the riverfront.

    I am surprised to see you leave out one major detail here, perhaps you have commented on this fact before, the fact that there is no riverfront access to the park off of Cass (between the river and Tampa Prep). I thought our main booster in chief, Mayor Bob, was the Riverwalk guru? Why is he spending so much effort pouring money into a park that people downtown will still have very little direct access to? Tampa Prep can fence itself in all it wants, but a 10 foot wide access is all that would be needed to get the masses pouring in to Julian Lane, I highly doubt that would cost $35 million (although I’m sure that will increase another $5 mil by next month!). What can we do to get this crucial piece of infrastructure in place? Without complete access to the park along the river from Cass, this park will still lack visitors.

    Shame on Mayor Bob for trying to spend so much of our tax dollars on such a poorly designed and wasteful project!

    • March 4, 2016 10:47 AM

      Thank you for your comments. We totally agree with the conenctivity issue. As we said during the planning process:

      And there is the question of connecting the park to the bridge at Cass Street to make it really part of the downtown park system (we would love a pedestrian bridge over the river but understand there are a number of issues with that – not even considering the cost – so good connections to the existing bridges and making them more pedestrian friendly is crucial to making the river central to the area).

      https://tampasphere.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/roundup-8-22-2014/

      It has never been entirely clear if there is a plan for that.

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