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Roundup 7-1-2016

July 1, 2016


TBX – Of Tolls and Talks

Economic Development/Planning – The Other Economy

West Tampa – The Housing Authority Picks Another Developer

Downtown/Hyde Park – Related

Westshore – Something Else

Bayshore – Colonnade Replacement

Economy – Beyond the Threshold?

Economic Development – Into the Unknown

International Trade – The Other Port

Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida

— Creative Village

— Ships a-Sailing


TBX – Of Tolls and Talks

The Orlando Sentinel had an interesting article about toll roads that deserves being looked at (if you can get by the bizarre layout):

When it comes to rankings, Florida doesn’t lead America in much.

Education? Don’t be silly.

Wages? We’re way down.

But there’s one area where Florida excels (well, in addition to wrongful convictions): toll roads.

We have more miles of pay-to-drive pavement than any state in America.

The average state has about 100 miles of toll roads. Some have none.

Florida, however, has 719 miles — which is like driving the full length of the Beachline, from the convention center to Cape Canaveral … 13 times.

Indeed.  Even so, we are not opposed to the idea of normal toll roads.  While we do not love toll roads, we understand the user fee concept.  On the other hand, FDOT’s present strategy of adding “express lanes” (more properly called variable rate toll lanes) is nonsensical:

  1. Tolls are regressive. They tax those who can least afford it. People who live in the ‘burbs because they can’t afford homes near their jobs use them more. So you add extra daily costs to those who can least afford it. “This is about social inequities,” Dallari said. “You’re on a fixed income, trying to get from A to B and we’re trying to hit you twice?”

They are regressive, which is why they should be reasonable and equitable.  People with lower income should not be denied decent service by the government just because their income is lower – which is what express lanes do.  And, even more to the point:

  1. For toll lanes to work, the free lanes have to remain clogged. This is the piece of the puzzle many people don’t get. Toll roads are only profitable when the free lanes remain undesirable to drive. Otherwise, they can’t pay for themselves (or pay off the for-profit companies that sometimes run them). Express lanes aren’t designed to make free lanes congestion-free. To the contrary, they financially depend upon the free lanes remaining clogged.

This is the part of the equation that flies in the face of toll advocates who argue that free-lane drivers in their two-tone beaters reap big benefits when the Mercedes drivers opt for the toll lanes.

Sure, new toll lanes removes some cars. But, by design, the free lanes have to remain clogged — or else the Mercedes wouldn’t have any reason to pay.

Basically, toll lanes provide alternatives for some rather than better roads for all.

That second issue is something we have been saying for a long time.  The entire purpose of spending $3-6 billion dollars to build lanes whose express purpose (no pun intended) is to keep most traffic out is not really a recipe for fixing congestion (expect, maybe, for a select few) – especially when there is no money or room for anything else.

And, yes, for express lanes to pay for themselves, you need bad traffic in the free lanes (or normal toll lanes) so FDOT can charge higher tolls in the express lanes and recoup its cost.  In other words, the entire express lane concept is created to serve the few people in the express lanes while forcing everyone else onto ever more congested roads.  (And those are the only alternatives FDOT offers.) And we are not even getting into the question revenue assumptions from FDOT.

Yet, in the local “conversation,” that is not made particularly clear. For instance, from a letter to the editor by the President of the Chamber of Commerce:

TBX will allow for additional capacity in the interstate corridors through the use of tolled express lanes, which are paid by the user. 

While, yes, express lanes may, by virtue of just being a new lane (if they are a new lane – see Howard Frankland confusion), literally add capacity, unstated, but also very true, is that the lanes are of limited (not normal) capacity (by design), limited utility (by design), high price (by design), do not really ease congestion (by design), and do not move the number of cars as free or regular toll lanes (by design) though they cost as much or more to build.  And they are not this (from the Sentinel article):

Ideally, state and regional planners would focus more on a well-rounded transportation system with more transit options, walkable communities, better development planning and better return on federal dollars to provide improved roads for all. 

That is how transportation planning and government is supposed to work.  While there are parts of TBX that are useful, they are only part of TBX because FDOT threw every highway project into something it called TBX and then said take it or leave it. The fact is that express lanes, which are endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce and Tampa Bay Partnership (so don’t expect any discussion about that), are using our gas taxes to build lanes that most people will not be able to use regularly by design.  How is that either fair or good governance?  It is not like the average person who cannot afford $30 trips across the Howard Frankland is going to get any relief from his gas taxes.  And he is not going to get an alternative means of getting around.

As we said last week, it is fine to say we need conversations, but FDOT is not engaging in a conversation and local officials (for the most part) are just rolling over to endorse FDOT’s plan, often saying we need to endorse it or lose the money.

Interestingly, in the Sentinel article, we learn:

Some local officials have had enough. Seminole County officials successfully beat back a state a tolls-within-tolls proposal in their county. And Commissioner Bob Dallari says he’s ready to protest them region wide at an upcoming meeting of Central Florida’s regional transportation-planning group, Metroplan.

“This is asinine,” he said, adding that these roads were supposedly built with capacity for years to come, meaning, “They’re either spending it wrong, they budgeted it wrong or we’re not getting the full picture.”

“They talk in Tallahassee about reducing taxes,” he said, “but they’re just pushing the bills down here.”

He’s right.

State officials say drivers like the extra-toll options. And they know this because, as the Sentinel reported, the FDOT ran its plan to double-toll roads by focus groups “of about 10 people.”

Setting aside FDOT’s continuing fine outreach programs, it seems that you can say “no” to FDOT.  And, while it is not entirely clear, it seems that the toll lanes in question were not express lanes, just lanes with an additional toll.   And it seems that every other construction plan in Orlando from FDOT did not immediately go away. (Yea, we know I-4 is getting “express lanes” but that does not change the fact that you can tell FDOT “no.”)

In other words, nothing is inevitable.  It is all the result of choices, by FDOT, by the MPO, by local officials, by the business community, by voters.  We need better roads – but that does not mean we need the mess that is TBX.  And, yes, we need conversations.

Going back to the letter from the Chamber of Commerce President:

The chamber expects the FDOT to listen to the concerns of the community and show the leadership necessary to build a project that improves transportation options for businesses and families across the region. As the leading voice for business in Hillsborough County, we offered the MPO to serve as a convener to bring all parties together to work diligently toward a solution. We stand by that offer and are committed to see this project through completion. 

And that is the really the problem.  Yes, FDOT should listen to the community, but local officials keep endorsing what FDOT says, so what conversation does FDOT need to have? By approving the plan year in and year out, you remove any motivation for FDOT to do anything but move forward and ignore local interests.

Aside from having expectations from FDOT, the Chamber of Commerce (and other local organizations) should expect (and push) local officials to really plan and come up with a plan for a comprehensive, coordinated transportation system, and have local officials push FDOT to build what needs to be built and not destroy things that should not be destroyed – and to reject what needs to be rejected.

Rick Homans is the CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership. His organization headed the TBXyes coalition in support of the transportation plan. The group rallied more than two-dozen businesses and member organizations behind the plan and another 60 high-profile CEOs of some of Tampa Bay’s largest companies.

Where most TBX supporters never said they were against multimodal transportation options and premium transit, TBX critics aligned with Cookson’s group never said they were against roads. Both groups are looking toward the future, anticipating identifying how to create a more robust regional transit system and how to fund it.

“Let’s sit down and talk about all that,” Cookson said. “FDOT needs to come to the table and have an honest conversation instead of pushing TBX only and first.”

“We need a multimodal regional transportation system and it’s got to have all kinds of different elements to it – pedestrian, bikes, bus rapid transit, express buses, the possibility of rail, autonomous vehicles, rideshare – we should be putting everything on the table,” Homans said in a conversation with the Tampa Bay Business Journal. “And then, how do we fund it? That’s work that has to start very quickly.”

Setting aside that nothing from the Partnership CEO (or the Chamber of Commerce, really) says anything about limiting the size of the disruptions and destruction that TBX will cause (or its lack of utility) so it is not clear if that is part of the full discussion, that work in question should have already happened – when their could have been a full discussion – where there would have been consensus on the Howard Frankland, SR60/I-275, most of Malfunction Junction and some widening while doing much more to protect neighborhoods– and this whole commotion could have been avoided.

The fact that it still hasn’t happened is most telling about local politics.  The reality is that fixing transportation is about the last thing most local officials really want to discuss.  It is a big, complicated, expensive, controversial topic.  And it has to be properly addressed – though it never really is.

Once again, for all FDOT’s faults, the big failure is local.

Economic Development/Planning – The Other Economy

There was an interesting article in the Times regarding agriculture in Hillsborough County.

Farming may not rank high on the list of job interests among millennials, but Melissa Grimes thinks it should.

Grimes, a 29-year-old Plant City strawberry and blueberry farmer, works to get more young people into the industry through her position as chairwoman of the Hillsborough County Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee.

“Our population is growing and everyone has to eat, so I definitely want agriculture in this area to continue to thrive,” Grimes said.

Judging by the economic outlook for agriculture — and new advancements that would intrigue the most tech-savvy millennials — now looks like a good time for Grimes to spread the word.

Why is that?

Some grove owners opted to sell their land to developers, but many others switched to strawberries.

Today, the juicy, red fruit ranks No. 1 in the county among all agricultural commodities, followed by vegetable production and ornamental plants.

Taken together, agriculture ranks as the county’s second largest industry behind tourism, said Judi Whitson, director of the Hillsborough County Florida Farm Bureau.

“Agricultural flips back and forth with construction in that ranking, but it’s an $8.1 million industry,” Whitson said, adding that Hillsborough ranks fourth in the state and 59th nationally in the value of its farm products.

Businesses such as banking, real estate and transportation also benefit as a result of the area’s robust agricultural industry, according to a 2012 report by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Services.

Hillsborough County’s agricultural industry employs 168,654 full- and part-time workers, which amounts to 20.7 percent of the area’s workforce, according to another study from the institute earlier this year.

Since 1997, the value per-acre of agricultural production in Hillsborough County has increased 42 percent even as the amount of farmland fell 7 percent.

(As an aside – we are all for preserving agriculture, but the article also leads to this question: how has the economy really changed if tourism, construction and agriculture are the top three industries?)

The article really looks at technology and the workforce, but there is another point.  Look at how much money agriculture generates.  Look at the jobs, the spin-off development.  All of it.

Now, consider that the County’s poor, sprawl-centric planning puts all of that at risk.  By subsidizing the destruction of farms for expensive and uneconomical (at least for the taxpayers) sprawl rather than having proper planning that limits sprawl and allows agriculture to thrive while also promoting development (especially infill in already built areas), the County attacks its own economy.  We can have both building/development and agriculture, but not if it continues on its present course that pits one against the other.  Sprawl does not just waste money in infrastructure and the cost of commuting.  It wastes useful land and harms productivity.

Just another reason we need proper planning . . and to keep real mobility fees.

West Tampa – The Housing Authority Picks Another Developer

As you may remember, the Housing Authority is looking to redevelop the North Boulevard Homes area.  As we touched on briefly last week, the Authority had previously (for unknown reasons) picked a planner/developer of questionable qualifications but then dropped them.  (See “Downtown – Encore Issues”)  This week the Housing Authority picked a new developer for the “West River” redevelopment.  The choice was unsurprising.

The Tampa Housing Authority on Wednesday announced that it has selected Related Urban Group to redevelop the city’s oldest public housing site, North Boulevard Homes and Mary Bethune.

Related Urban is a joint venture between The Related Group and The Urban Development Group, with Related’s Jorge Perez and Urban’s Alberto Milo Jr. as principals.

The joint venture will serve as the master developer partner with the housing authority for the nearly 200 acres known as the West River area of Tampa’s Center City — north of Interstate 275, south of Columbus Drive and west from Hillsborough River to Rome Avenue.

A mixed-use development that will include 1,636 mixed-income residential units and more than 177,000 square feet of commercial space are planned for the property.

“Under the partnership agreement, at least 820 rental units and 30 percent of the for-sale units will be affordable to families earning less than 80 percent and 120 percent of area median income, respectively,” the housing authority said in a statement.

It is hard to know what to think of this.  Clearly, Related is capable of building really nice, urban developments.  They build first class, large developments all over the place.

“This is a company that doesn’t partner with anybody,” said Leroy Moore, chief operating officer of the Housing Authority. “For them to go into a new opportunity area like West River says a lot as to how they perceive this city as being ready for this type of quality development.” 

On the other hand, they have been reticent to build really nice, walkable development in Tampa (See next item. And while we like the Manor on Harbour Island, it is just one building being dropped into an area that is already walkable and does not particularly enliven the streets), and the City has not cared. Moreover, we are not really sure what they are planning.

Since the City will probably let them do what they want (as it already has), the real question is whether Related will put their A team on this or, like at least 2 out of 3 of their other developments in Tampa, their B or C teams,.  It remains to be seen.  As does what this is actually about:

Board members on Wednesday also awarded the contract for construction of two other West River apartment buildings worth an estimated $40 million each to Bank of America Community Development Corp. 

It is interesting to note that, per the meeting agenda (see here), Bank of America was actually the top ranked developer and Related Urban was second.  Yet, Bank of America’s buildings will be parcels T1 (on Rome) and T3 (on Oregon).  Related Urban will have pretty much the rest of the southern 2/3 of the area in question (including one waterfront property) – and deal with the master development plan.  And, unfortunately, we have seen no renderings or plans for any of the buildings (though maybe the Housing authority has them).

For such a large redevelopment project, there sure is a lot of ambiguity and vagueness on what exactly is going on, what are we actually talking about, and on what basis were any of these decisions made?

Which leads to the other thing: what is the oversight to this process?  It is not that the developer does not have qualifications – it does.  It is it is unclear what is actually going on other than the public being given the typical Tampa/Hillsborough government “trust us.”  That does not mean that all developments are necessarily bad, but it does mean that all the vagueness is a concern.

Given the lack of real information, all we can say is that we hope Related steps up and builds something really good, not blocks and blocks (or even one block) of Pierhouse-like development.  We also hope the City exercises real oversight.  And we shall see.

Downtown/Hyde Park – Related

Speaking of Related and a lack of oversight, the Tribune building (no, not the old one downtown – a star to whoever can tell us what that building is now – hint there was more than one but as far as we can tell only one survives) on the west side of the river should be coming down soon.

Related Group, which is planning a 400-unit, eight-story residential development on the Tribune site, began removing furniture from the building this week, said Arturo Pena, vice president of development.

Miami-based Related closed on the 4.4-acre waterfront property at 202 S. Parker St. in July 2015, paying $17.75 million. The development will also include a 10,000-square-foot restaurant on the ground floor.

Pena said some environmental abatement will be done next week, and that “optimistically,” demolition could begin July 1. “Realistically,” he said, it will likely be mid-July before the building comes down.

After its usual hype, the Business Journal provides a rendering (that we just recently noticed included a mutant 100 foot tall tree eating the 4 story portion of the development in the southwest corner – hopefully related leaves that particular species out of its West Tampa plans).

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

We still think this project is really disappointing – especially at the street and for the neighborhood, where it replicates the late 1970s and does nothing.  Within a decade or so, that dead street where there should be a connection between the river and the rest of the area will be really regretted.  But, as with transportation, the burden is on local government to push harder for quality.  Related is a solid developer that can do much better (as can their architects). And Tampa deserves better.

Westshore – Something Else

There was news of another proposal in Westshore:

Zons Development, based in Tampa, has proposed two new buildings at 3415 E. Frontage Road, just south of West Laurel Street near Tampa International Airport. The proposed development includes 200,000 square feet of office space and 150 hotel rooms.

* * *

The project will be built in phases, according to rezoning application. The first phase is a 12-story building — a four-story parking deck topped by four stories of office space with a four-story hotel on top. The second phase is an office building.

Zons anticipates completion of the first phase — 100,000 square feet of office space and the 150 hotel rooms — by July 2018; the second phase, the remaining 100,000 square feet of office space, will follow by January 2020.

The mixed use building with a parking underneath the building is an interesting idea.  This is the massing diagram:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

And site plan:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

You can’t really tell much from the massing diagram.  The site plan is a bit odd, especially for a project with mixed use buildings.  It is an office park site plan with only one apparent entrance (in the most inconvenient location) to the complex and lots of surface parking rather than denser plan the building concept would seem to contemplate.  On the other hand, this is at an extreme end of Westshore, near the jumble that is Avion Park, so we don’t expect too much in terms of good site planning (though we would like some).

One other thing is that we wonder if the taller building might be too tall, though that is not our issue.  We would have to see more to really comment further.

Bayshore – Colonnade Replacement

We got the first look at what developers plan for the Colonnade property:

Developers will submit plans for a rezoning application for the property and have released renderings that show a 24-story, up-to-70-unit tower with views of Hillsborough Bay and the downtown Tampa skyline.

The condo tower will feature floor-to-ceiling windows and balconies. The 70 condominium homes will average about 3,000 square feet. Amenities include private elevator lobbies, 10-foot ceilings, high-end kitchens and outdoor summer kitchens, and hardwood floors.

Residents will also have 24-hour concierge service, a private dining room and private parking. A shared club room, fitness center, infinity pool, sun deck and gardens are included in the plans. 

It is all very fancy, which is fine.  Here is a rendering:

From the Times – click on picture for article

It is relatively nondescript, though a bit different from most of the condos on Bayshore, so that is fine.  Frankly, the most noticeable thing about it is the lack of a front door on Bayshore.  Though, if you look carefully, you’ll see that many, if not most, of the large condo buildings on Bayshore don’t actually face Bayshore.  And most, like this rendering, have some small, hidden sidewalk to Bayshore, if any at all. (Or maybe you just have to walk out a driveway with no walkway, because who would walk?)  It is a shame they don’t real add to the street – but that is a choice by the City.

Other than that, we don’t really have much to say.

Economy – Beyond the Threshold?

There is a new projection for the growth of the state economy:

Florida’s economy will continue to outpace the rest of the country for the next four years, pushing the state toward a $1 trillion economy by 2018, according to the latest economic forecast from the University of Central Florida.

In his second-quarter forecast, UCF economist Sean Snaith said the Sunshine State is enjoying both rising job growth and home construction. The mix of aging Baby Boomers and a healthier jobs market in Florida “bodes well for continued population growth via the in-migration of workers and retirees,” he said.

His analysis projects Florida’s economy will expand at an average annual rate of 2.9 percent from 2016 to 2019, outpacing the national average. That means Florida’s gross state product, or economic output, would cross the $1 trillion threshold in 2018 and climb to $1.074 trillion in 2019. Based on current World Bank rankings, Snaith said, that would make Florida’s economy the 16th largest in the world.

Already, Florida has enjoyed a healthy housing recovery. Median home prices have jumped from a low of $122,200 during the housing crisis to $213,000. A shrinking inventory of homes on the market is encouraging builders.

But Snaith discounted fears that another housing crisis may be brewing. “While this looks like another housing bubble, it’s really just an old-fashioned shortage in the single-family market,” he said, predicting any housing shortage will correct itself as housing starts pick up in the next few years.

That may be.  We are sure that, at some point, Florida’s economy will reach $1 trillion, which is a nice number but nothing really magical.  Whether there is a recession before that point or after is just a matter of timing.

On the other hand, the article inadvertently reveals the real problem, and the transitional problem, with the Florida economy – reliance on the housing market and people moving here rather – which is very susceptible to downturns.

Moreover, if you do the math, even assuming:

– another 2 million people move to Florida in the next 4 years

– the population of the US does not grow from 324 million (as of 6/29/16), and

– the GDP of the US does not grow (we’ll pick the lowest GDP figure from this list) while Florida’s does so make Florida’s percentage even bigger,

Florida would still be underperforming: Under that scenario Florida would have 6.8% of the US population but only 6.2% of the GDP.  And that is being very generous and assuming no recessions.

It is good to grow, but let’s not get too excited.  Even when we get to $1 trillion, we will be punching under our weight (and that does not even get into whether this area punches under its weight in Florida).

Economic Development – Into the Unknown

There was news this week that the Tampa Bay Partnership is moving to change how it is governed.

The Tampa Bay Partnership’s existing Board of Directors will vote this week on a major structural change that would eliminate any public investments and redefine the group’s leadership structure.

During its meeting Friday, the board will decide whether to approve a new Council of Governors consisting of only CEOs of major companies in the Tampa Bay area. If they vote in the affirmative, the Tampa Bay Partnership will sunset its current board on Sept. 30. The new board with a minimum $50,000 buy-in would convene the next day on Oct. 1.

A Leadership Council would also be created with a minimum $25,000 investment in the Partnership. Both groups are by invitation only.

The restructure eliminates elected officials and business and groups like Chambers of Commerce from governance roles. Those groups and individuals would still be part of “stakeholder relationships” and would still be invited to participate in certain situations.

We do not know if this structure would work better.  There is something to be said for removing public officials from the board, though it remains to be seen if that would really create independence or just the illusion of independence.

“The big issues have to be addressed at a regional level or you are simply not going to make much progress,” Rick Homans, the Partnership’s CEO since January, said in an extensive interview. “If you do this city by city or county by county, you will only get so far.” 

That is true, but isn’t that what the old partnership was supposed to do in the first place?  It’s not like it was a robot adopting the previous, less effective approach.  Will they really change their approach?  They might. We hope they do.

The other issue is the board/council by invitation only.

Does a new Tampa Bay Partnership, to be run by 40 or so CEOs paying $50,000 annually to participate, run the risk of looking like some rich guy (with perhaps a few rich gals) club?

Homans argues that, done right, the new Partnership can earn community respect by what it does. He calls the $50,000 annual fee to serve on the board more of a “filter” that would help insure every CEO take the responsibility seriously.

Says Homans, who is never one to just sit still: “We will give it the old college try and see what this does.”

The short answer to whether it looks like a rich person’s club is “yes.”  On the other hand, if they actually advocate for good things with broad benefits rather than appearing to just advocate on their own behalf, that will be fine.

It just remains to be seen.

International Trade – The Other Port

There was an interesting bit in the Times (which came from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune) about how the other port in Tampa Bay is planning to deal with the expanded Panama Canal.

In an agreement signed in late 2015 with Racetrac Petroleum Inc., Port Manatee serves as the fuel hub for a nine-county region encompassing more than 30 of the company’s stores, from Hillsborough County south to Collier and west to Okeechobee counties.

While Port Manatee is responsible for the flow of nearly 100 million gallons of gasoline each year, its top import is fruit.

The deepwater port has more refrigerated square-footage on its docks — five refrigerated warehouses — than any other port in Florida, its managers say.

Fresh Del Monte, an international fresh fruit and vegetable distributor in Coral Gables, is one of the port’s leading distributors, bringing in a ship each week and sometimes two, depending on the season, from Central American plantations. By the end of 2015, Port Manatee, which Fresh Del Monte chose as its southwest distribution center 20 years ago, had more than 1 billion bananas and 44 million pineapples come across its docks.

The port also has gotten into some higher technology pursuits.

In 2012, with incentives provided by the state and Manatee County, Air Products and Chemicals Inc. committed to 32 acres of property adjacent to Port Manatee to build a 300,000-square-foot plant. The manufacturer, a unit of the Fortune 500 company of the same name, makes heat exchangers — huge devices that cool natural gas into a concentrated, liquid form for transport.

And that’s all fine, but about the canal . . .

While Port Manatee will not receive direct shipments from the new, gigantic ships that will be able to use the expanded Panama Canal, port managers expect to benefit as those cargoes are broken into smaller portions. Port Manatee has been gearing up for years to deal with the arrival of the New Panamax cargo by adding and renovating berths.

Berth 12 was extended in 2013, resulting in the creation of Berth 14. Combined, the two are more than 1,500 feet long, capable of handling Panamax-sized ships. The creation of Berth 14, port managers said, was the latest large-scale infrastructure project at the port. It was completed in October 2013.

The port has since renovated the six original berths surrounding its inner harbor — berths six through 11. They are more than 40 years old, and their rehabilitation is expected to be completed one at a time. Berth 9 was chosen as the first rehabilitation, which began in February and is expected to be completed next summer, because of its condition and future need. Each rebuild will take roughly a year and cost $11 million to $12 million.

* * *

To get its piece of the pie from the expanded Panama Canal, officials at Port Manatee expect to tap so-called transshipment ports, which can accommodate the New Panamax ships. Those centers include Freeport, Bahamas, and Kingston, Jamaica, where the New Panamax cargoes will be divided and shipped out on smaller ships to destinations such as Port Manatee.

And that’s all fine, too, but we are confused about the utility of building to a handle a Panamax ship when they do not expect them to come?  We have nothing against upgrades (as long as they make sense and have the ability to expand if you need more capacity), but there must be something else.

The renovation isn’t the only project the port is undertaking to possibly advance its position with the expanded canal. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently began studying the possibility of deepening the port’s harbor channel from 40 to 43 feet. The channel runs about 3 miles from the main ship channel in Tampa Bay into Port Manatee’s inner harbor.

“When you add the tidal range — ships will sail in on a high tide — they have that additional water to come in,” Sanford explained. “That’s 45 feet of water … and 45 feet of water will accommodate most any vessel that we would think to bring in.”

That is more interesting – we are all for deepening the channel.  Still not deep enough for new Panamax, really, but better.  And that does not change the reliance on cargo coming on smaller ships after transshipment.  Then again, with our bridge, our channel, and our present market, there is not much they can do about that, just like Port Tampa (Bay), aside from speaking realistically and not overselling the actual growth potential.

We are pulling for them.  Port Manatee’s success is our success.  Unfortunately, the article really sounds like any article that covers Port Tampa (Bay). The real sad part is that there are two ports operating on Tampa Bay really not very far from each other that appear to compete far more than they complement each other.  It is part of our fragmented and silly local governance.  It would be much better to pool our resources, but we doubt that will happen.

Maybe rationalizing our assets is what the new Tampa Bay Partnership should focus on first.

Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida

— Creative Village

USF med school’s downtown building is scheduled to open in 2019. Other cities are also working on downtown campuses, including Orlando:

The University of Central Florida has chosen a team to design and build its new downtown Orlando campus.

SchenkelShultz Architecture, Robert A.M. Stern Architects and Skanska USA Building Inc. — a team referred to as SSA/RAMSA/Skanska — were chosen among eight design/build teams that submitted bids for the project in April, according to a news release from UCF.

SSA/RAMSA/Skanska is responsible for the creation of the campus’ first building: a 165,000-square-foot, $60 million academic facility on 15 acres at the intersection of Parramore Avenue and Livingston Street, where 7,700 UCF and Valencia College students are expected to enroll in classes by opening day in August 2018. The team also will be responsible for a $5 million renovation at UCF’s existing Center for Emerging Media that’s on the campus’ property. 

(Some well-known architects – or at least a firm with a famous name) And, just like us, they are looking for spin-off development as well (and the UCF and Valencia programs, being broader than just a med school, arguably will bring more people to the complex):

The opening of the campus also is expected to be a catalyst for Creative Village, a 68-acre, $1 billion, mixed-use development plan of Orlando developer Craig Ustler, who envisions Creative Village being a tech mecca for businesses, colleges and residents. 

We shall see if either (or both) meets its target date – or targeted spin-off development.

— Ships a-Sailing

While Port Tampa (Bay) considers the future of its cruise business as ships get bigger and bigger and ports without poorly considered bridges that were built shorter than the tallest bridge across the Panama Canal (why? Do you have to ask?) are consigned to handling smaller ships and a smaller percentage of the business (which makes up ¼ or so of Port Tampa (Bay)’s revenue, mind you), others are planning ahead:

For nearly a decade, the cruise capital of the world has been unable to host the largest cruise ships in the world. But all that is about to change.

Royal Caribbean Cruises and Miami-Dade County announced Tuesday night that they have reached a deal to build one of the biggest cruise terminals in the country at PortMiami, a move that will — finally — bring Royal Caribbean International’s massive Oasis-class ships home.

The Miami-Dade County Commission must vote on the deal before it becomes final. The county will pay $15 million for surface and road work to connect the new terminal to the other cruise terminals, a small percentage of the $247 million project that will be otherwise financed by Miami-based Royal Caribbean. The deal will also bring the county $7.5 million in annual rent.

We are not going to say that the Tampa and Miami cruise markets are in any way comparable.  Miami is much bigger.  And we know that a number of the big cruise lines are based in Miami so they will obviously invest more there.  And where have the big ships been hiding?

For PortMiami, the agreement signals the achievement of a longtime hope that the port would one day accommodate the 6,000-plus passenger ships, said port director Juan Kuryla. The two current Oasis-class ships sail from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, which opened a new facility to host the ships in 2009. 

South Florida.

The real point is not even that locally we have neither dealt with the cruise issue – and the Port income issue – nor with the bridge issue. (though we haven’t)  And we are not arguing here that we have to raise the bridge or build a new one. (that is far too complex to get into here.)

No, the real point is that the least we can do is take a lesson from the poor planning that gave us a low, though very attractive bridge, in the first place. For not much more than it cost to build in the first place, the Skyway could have been about 30 feet higher.  Would that have allowed every ship into the bay? No. (and not the tallest cruise ships unless they had some retractable parts, which some do)  But it would have allowed a lot more.

Though that would have taken some vision, some local planning, a little aggressiveness, a little planning, and a little discussion with FDOT – just like having a proper transportation system now.

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