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Roundup 8-26-2016

August 26, 2016


Transportation – What He Said

Economic Development/Transportation – How Many Playing Fields Do You Need, Cont

Economic Development – Google Fiber

— One More Thing

TIA – Same Old

Transportation – Talking Transit

Building Booms – Where We Are

Tampa Heights-ish – Back to the Future

Built Environment – Choices

Rays – Update

— Trop Land

— Forever Baseball

— Across the Bay

Parks – Vertical


Transportation – What He Said

Fresh after last week’s state of transit discussion (it’s bad), the Lightning owner had more to say at a Chamber of Commerce event:

A congested road system is the biggest obstacle Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and his real estate team must overcome as they try to lure potential companies to downtown Tampa.

“Transportation is top of the list,” Vinik said, who said his company, Strategic Property Partners, which is a joint real estate venture with Cascade Investment, is in talks with several companies about relocating to Tampa.

More than a decade ago, the biggest hindrance to corporate recruiting was likely the state’s school system, Vinik said.

* * *

“Hillsborough County has … population over the next ten years that will grow” 25 percent, Vinik said to the sold out crowd at the University Club of Tampa in the Tampa City Center. “Orlando is growing at a similar rate. With to five to six million people in the Central Florida region, we’re growing faster than places like Austin or Denver or Silicon Valley.”

Vinik said that Tampa Bay’s state-leading number of STEM related, high paying jobs puts it in a good position for more growth in the economy and injecting more money into the community.

“We’re on our way to being a superpower in the U.S. and maybe the world,” Vinik said. But “what’s absent is a proper plan for transportation.”

And if the transportation deficiency stops companies from coming here, it will stop us from reaching our potential (whether it is a superpower or just a truly major city – rather than just a city with a large population and underperforming economic output).

One thing: the Lightning owner is on the record for supporting TBX.  We do not know if he supports it because he is a real believer in the express lanes concept or because he thinks, in addition to the need for transit, the roads need to be better and there is nothing else on offer.  Yes, most people will still commute by cars. Parts of the interstate certainly need fixing and, given that they are already congested, capacity needs some increase, though the express lane concept and the 24-lane wide interstate plan through downtown are a bad idea. Add to that the fact that the surface streets are already congested, the City is engaged in a road diet program, and there is not enough land or money to widen the surface streets.  Even if TBX gets cars from one far-flung exit to another, getting around after that will become increasing difficult and time-consuming.  And even if we were to build TBX and massively widen streets, that would just create an urban environment that would be increasingly unattractive to companies and talent (see GE relocation). The fact is that we are not going to pave our way out of the transportation problem. We need real alternatives to driving.

Other than the TBX issue, we are behind the Lightning owner’s push.  Even if it has elements of self-interest, it is still correct.  And instead of lining up behind bad ideas (like Go Hillsborough) from local officials because it is the best they will do, local business should acknowledge that local officials are not doing their jobs and push them hard.

People can speak of economic development and tinker around (see next item), but until they really address that we have a 1980’s transportation system and are competing with cities in the 21st century, they are not serious.

Economic Development/Transportation – How Many Playing Fields Do You Need, Cont

Meanwhile, the County Commission moved ahead with the sports field complex last week.

For more than a decade, plans to build a massive sports complex in east Hillsborough County capable of luring large youth athletic tournaments and the millions of tourism dollars that come with them have slowly inched along.

On Wednesday, Hillsborough County commissioners gave the project a big push forward, selecting the companies that will be tasked with building and designing the fields and facilities.

In their winning bid, Nelson Construction Co. and Stantec pitched a $12.9 million complex with 16 soccer fields — four synthetic and 12 natural grass — equipped with lighting, the capacity to park 1,200 cars, space for vendors and food trucks, concessions and locker rooms.

The proposed facility would be flexible enough so fields could be reconfigured to host rugby, football, cricket and even quidditch, the sport of wizards in the Harry Potter series that muggles now play too (without the flying).

* * *

The approved site for the complex is 65 acres of county-owned land between U.S. 301 and Falkenburg Road, just south of Broadway Avenue. It was chosen for its proximity to major thoroughfares and existing development.

Here is the area, nestled among warehouses and a jail to provide maximum development opportunities and appeal to families.

As we have said before, we have nothing against playing field complexes but is this really a County priority? Is this the best use of County money when the Commission cannot even find money to pave roads?

Other communities have built large facilities hoping to spur development, but it doesn’t always pan out. The planned location for the Hillsborough complex is already near hotels and other amenities, and is between Tampa and Brandon. That should give it an advantage, Higgins said.

A feasibility study from Sports Facilities Advisory estimated that the Hillsborough youth sports complex would generate an economic impact of $7.3 million in year one and $25 million and 43,800 hotel nights in its fifth year.

What are the consultants going to say?  And if its attraction is that it is near local kids, that is not going to create a lot of hotel nights.

Moreover, while we think that some recreation facilities should be provided by government, as should transportation infrastructure, not every idea should be paid for by the government.  Why didn’t the County just put up the land and seek bids from private companies for the cost?  Since so many areas are trying to get into the big youth tournament game, will this project really thrive (we are sure people will use it but will it really make the money projected? And why couldn’t a private developer/operator create the same spin-off business)  Even if the tax money comes from a specific bucket (like tourist tax money – the article is not clear what bucket it is coming from though the quote below makes it appear to not be tourist tax money) does not mean you should spend it as soon as you get it rather than save it for project you are really interested in.

Potential economic benefits aside, the county’s commitment to such an expensive project comes at a time when it is rethinking how to pay for transportation needs. Several commissioners have promised to scrutinize the list of planned capital projects for opportunities to shift more money to roads, bridges, sidewalks and intersection improvements.

One of those commissioners, Sandy Murman, said she considered reprioritizing the money earmarked for the youth sports complex for transportation. But she ultimately sided against doing so.

“The train kind of left the station on that item,” she said, and removing it at this point “would be an uphill battle.”

To that point, Hillsborough County Deputy Administrator Greg Horwedel said considerable staff time and resources have already been spent on planning for this project.

“From my perspective, this is something that is very far along and I think we should finish the project,” he said, though he added that it’s ultimately the board’s decision.

Setting aside that risky reference to “trains,” the amount of time spent on the project by staff is irrelevant.  If that were the measure of whether a project should be built, we’d have a world class rail transit system by now.  The real issue is likely not staff time, but time spent by other Commissioners.


Commissioners will have at least one more opportunity to review the project when they approve the final design.

They should kill it and get private developer to foot the bill and the risk with a nice lease and operating agreement so we get the fields if it goes south, but we are quite sure they won’t.  It is all a matter of priorities which are demonstrated by actions.

Economic Development – Google Fiber

There was news last week that Google’s consideration of putting it super high speed fiber service in Tampa is on hold.

Now, Google’s high-speed internet business is on hold.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Google is reconsidering how to provide the service after initial rollouts proved more expensive and time-consuming than anticipated.

“We’re continuing to work with city leaders to explore the possibility of bringing Google Fiber to Tampa,” Google said in a statement emailed to the Tampa Bay Times. “This means deploying the latest technologies in alignment with our product road map, while understanding local considerations, which takes time.”

Tampa is among a handful of U.S. cities being considered for the high-speed service.

The Wall Street Journal article can be found here. It should be noted that Google is actually reevaluating its entire program to see if there are better ways to install the service, not just Tampa (though, as far as we can tell, there is no final decision about putting it in Tampa).

Google parent Alphabet Inc. is rethinking its high-speed internet business after initial rollouts proved more expensive and time consuming than anticipated, a stark contrast to the fanfare that greeted its launch six years ago.

Alphabet’s internet provider, Google Fiber, has spent hundreds of millions dollars digging up streets and laying fiber-optic cables in a handful of cities to offer web connections roughly 30 times faster than the U.S. average.

Now the company is hoping to use wireless technology to connect homes, rather than cables, in about a dozen new metro areas, including Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas, according to people familiar with the company’s plans. As a result Alphabet has suspended projects in San Jose, Calif., and Portland, Ore.

Meanwhile, the company is trying to cut costs and accelerate its expansion elsewhere by leasing existing fiber or asking cities or power companies to build the networks instead of building its own.

It is also worth noting that other companies have also installed high speed fiber networks in other cities. (See “Economic Development – More Fiber Is Healthy”)  And Chattanooga did it on its own (because you don’t have to wait for someone to come do it for you).

Overall, this news is slightly disappointing, but not really anything about Tampa.

— One More Thing

Speaking of Chattanooga, the New York Times has profile of Chattanooga’s tech scene in its commercial real estate coverage – because as we’ve said a number of times, real estate is driven by business (which is why relying on real estate to drive your economy is always a bit questionable). It discusses their ecosystem for startup and young entrepreneurs, something this area is also working on, though it seems that Chattanooga’s attempt is more unified. You can find the Chattanooga profile here.

The New York Times also has a discussion of Phoenix.  You can read it for yourself, but we will highlight this:

As start-ups across San Francisco and the Silicon Valley try to contend with high salaries and housing costs, many are expanding to lower-cost cities in the West and employing more people like Ms. Rogers. For Phoenix, which is about a 90-minute flight from San Francisco, the Bay Area’s loss is its gain.

The Phoenix metro area was hit hard by the housing bust, but it is experiencing a strong recovery. The unemployment rate has recently fallen below 5 percent, the lowest in eight years, and several Silicon Valley companies, including Yelp and Uber, have opened new offices in the region. A reviving downtown Phoenix now has a cluster of companies that make business software.

* * *

Wages, taxes and energy cost about 25 percent less in Phoenix than they do in San Francisco, according to an index of business costs compiled by Moody’s Analytics.

Housing is much cheaper. The median home price in the Phoenix metropolitan area is $221,000, according to Zillow. In San Francisco, it is $812,000.

Those advantages seem a lot like Tampa’s advantages.  The obvious difference is location, which may be the main point, though, frankly, the article is not clear about it.  (And we are a lot closer to places like Boston and New York than Phoenix.)  There is also the question of transit (Phoenix, a conservative area, has it, and we don’t), but that is obvious.  In any event, it is worth examining their success. (And, just as an aside, if you look at Google maps here you can see a med school, science center/museum, arena, stadium, convention center, cinema complex, and nearby rail line in a small area of downtown Phoenix.  Maybe the Lightning owner’s development is modelling downtown Phoenix.)

TIA – Same Old

Usually when we say “same old” it is not a good thing.  Of course, the airport isn’t like most of the rest of the area.  Trip Advisor is out with its best airport list.   In the large airport category, Tampa International was second, behind the mysteriously high ranking Portland (OR).

Nevertheless, good job.

Transportation – Talking Transit

Something we saw on a regular reader’s Facebook page is the kind of thing that gives one pause when thinking of who is in charge transit in this area:

Transit stations should always be visible and accessible, not tuck[ed] away.

Transit stations should not be invisible, behind parking garages, parking lots or complexes (I realize this is old school operations and mindset).

HART needs to go back to the map and rediscover pride in some of its infrastructure.

From C. Vela – Click on picture for Facebook page

From C. Vela – click on picture for Facebook page

From C. Vela – click on picture for Facebook page

Indeed, it should.  We get this is an old stop and that it provides covering to the mall, but there has to be a better place for it.  Remember, this is in the middle of the main business (and shopping area) in the whole metro area.  There are a number of places that could be accessed from a properly located transit center (these pictures are about as far from anything as you can get on the lot).  We get why it was this way, but surely it can be far better – especially if you want to attract choice riders.  And surely if local officials (and the Westshore Alliance) are serious about having a walkable, transit friendly Westshore (which, at least governmentally, is still and open question), this needs to change.

In a (mostly) unconnected development, after seeing years of increases in ridership during the recession, HART ridership decreased in the last year.  We are not surprised, according to the Wall Street Journal, this is happening in a lot of cities:

Transit ridership declined for the first time in five years during 2015, likely due to low gasoline prices, but subways and commuter trains were as crowded as ever.

How can this be? There are more free seats on the bus.

Americans took about 150 million fewer bus rides last year, but boarded trains in slightly higher numbers than in 2014.

Ridership of all modes of public transportation declined 1.3% last year from 2014, when transit use reached the highest level since 1958, according to new data from the American Public Transportation Association. The average price of a gallon of gasoline fell 27% in 2015 from a year earlier.

Though note the exception.

A breakdown of the 10.6 billion transit trips taken last year shows bus ridership fell 2.8%, and train usage, including rides on subways, light-rail systems and commuter trains, rose a slight 0.2% last year from 2014. The rail increase was the smallest gain since ridership declined in 2009. The figures do not include Amtrak ridership or intercity buses.

Not a large gain (at all), but not a decline either.  Why is that?

Bus systems extend further into the suburbs and are common in smaller cities, where transit is often used for travel to work, but not for weekend errands and evenings out in the same way a New Yorker might hop on the subway at midnight.

The latest data suggests transit use is steady for those living in the core of large cities, many of whom have built their lives around close access to a metro stop.

Elsewhere in the country, where people are more likely have access to a car, gasoline prices play a bigger role in the decision to drive or ride.

Rail systems are also supported by other types of riders that typically don’t use buses, including tourists and those using transit to get to sporting events, airports and other large draws, Dr. Schwieterman said.

Another detriment to transit overall was federal tax rules that for much of last year provided a bigger break for parking expenses than using mass transit.

There is also the question of whether people will build their lives around a bus system.  Buses serve an important purpose in transit systems.  There is no question.  But the question is whether buses have the ability to convince people who have a choice whether to use them or drive.  Rail does have that ability. (Think when you travel: are you more likely to rent a car if the alternative is using the bus or taking rail?  Why shouldn’t you have that choice every day?)

Of course, right now, that difference is irrelevant here. We don’t have that choice.

Building Booms – Where We Are

As we noted last week, and we have noted before, there is a lot of building going on around here, but other areas also have building booms and theirs started earlier.  Serendipitously, we ran across an interesting website report about apartment construction.

The US apartment market is booming in more ways than one. Rental rates are breaking record after record, with the national average at an all-time high of $1,213 in June and occupancy for stabilized and completed properties across the nation reaching 96.1% as of the end of the first quarter of 2016.

As more and more people turn to renting – either by necessity, deterred from buying by increasing homeownership costs, or by choice as renting is more often associated with a flexible lifestyle – developers are determined to capitalize on this growing demand and fill skylines across the nation with construction cranes.

To see where new development is concentrated and identify the country’s multifamily boom towns in 2016 (i.e. metros that will see their rental inventories grow the most in terms of completions volume), we’ve turned to data from our sister company, Yardi Matrix, and examined construction pipelines in the 50 largest US metros. Among the top 20 hottest metros for new apartment construction, the job-centric, millennial-magnet Texas hubs – Houston and Dallas – will see the largest number of new units added to their hungry rental markets in 2016.

From Rent Cafe – click on chart for website

As you can see, there are a lot of usual suspects on that graphic.  While we are a top 20 metro, we are not there.  That is not to say there is not a lot of construction here – there is.  And much of it will come on-line in 2017 (and 2018).  Moreover, there are projects that have not even started yet (like the Heights and the Lightning owner’s project)  The point is simply that others are already ahead on this measure (and probably office, since that is not really cranking up yet) and are well into their booms.  And all this will probably come to halt with the next recession, which will inevitable come.

So, yes, we are getting better, but you have to keep everything in perspective relative to the competition.

Tampa Heights-ish – Back to the Future

There was news of a new restaurant in Tampa Heights:

In the increasingly restaurant-rich Tampa Heights neighborhood, Lector Social Club and Wine Bar will debut this fall.

Located in a formerly vacant building at 2307 N Florida Ave., Lector will be a gathering place and venue for intimate live music and literary readings. Lector will unofficially open its doors Oct. 1, with a fundraising event for a pair of organizations that aid military combat veterans.

You can read more about the restaurant in the article.  We are all for new restaurants, but what really encourages us is that the they are fixing up this building and reenergizing what is left of Tampa’s old, urban fabric.  This is the second announcement in recent weeks of the renovation of an old, urban building in this general vicinity, which is great.

For far too long economics, taxes, and other factors have basically encouraged owners to tear down old buildings. And code and planning decisions encouraged new buildings to be car centered (including in the heart of downtown).  We hope this renovation and reuse trend continues.  Tampa once was a walkable, transit friendly place.  Even though most of that was torn down, there is no reason if couldn’t be once again.

Built Environment – Choices

Speaking of which, URBN Tampa Bay has a great find with a blog post (from 2013) that discussed Walter Crossing and a Target project in Orlando, showing how easy it is to build well.

A co-worker made the observation that many of the sites that host the low density retail product that we were charged with retrofitting along this corridor often shared the same context, plot size, and density. In our research of the design alternatives for traditional big box sites locally we stumbled across two Targets, one in Tampa and one in Orlando, that illustrate the importance of design principles in development along future transit-oriented corridors.

The Target located on Dale Mabry Highway and I-275 in Tampa was welcomed by many when it was built in 2005. By building stores adjacent to a multi-story parking deck, the design included three times the amount of parking and stores located on the same site. A higher density of development was certainly achieved. It was a different alternative to the typical suburban development that had been seen for the past 4 decades. In this case, I believe “different” might have been substituted with “good,” and for lack of a better example, even considered “urban.”

* * *

The Target located on Orange Avenue in Orlando however, achieved the same program and density (even more actually) while addressing its urban context and properly employing the four design principles. The difference in the quality of place and access to the urban corridor is absolutely staggering.

* * *

These two development examples illustrate how important required design standards are in achieving a land use and pattern required of transit-oriented design. While many design principles could be put in place along designated transit-oriented corridors, requiring connectivity, a well-designed public realm, active ground floor uses, and site orientation will achieve a high-quality level of development. The below picture shows from a site planning perspective how easily the higher quality development in Orlando could be achieved on the same site in Tampa.

Tampa on the left.  Orlando on the right:

From Held of the Public Realm – click on picture for webpage

And then they show and overlay of the two that indicates how the Orlando project easily fits into the Tampa project lot:

From Helm of the Public Realm – click on picture for website

Not only does the Orlando project not take more land, it has more available space from which to generate revenue.  It is a more efficient and nicer use of the land.

So why the difference? Walter Crossing has a number of access problems, and it is hardly in a walkable area, but that is all matter of choices made.  The fact is that Orlando is a show business town with an eye to aesthetics and entertaining people.  Tampa has long been much more just about doing things that are “practical.”  The difference is in the choices made and those choices reveal about priorities.  For too long Tampa has had a priority of just building something, anything, and settled.  At least in some parts of the area, that seems to be changing, but far too often, even on Kennedy, it is clear that settling is still in fashion.  The code – and the attitudes that sustain it – still need to change.

Rays – Update

There has been a bit of news regarding the Rays recently.

— Trop Land

First, there was a release of preliminary ideas for redevelopment of the Trop property.

The architecture firm tasked by the city of St. Petersburg to create a redevelopment master plan for the 86-acre Tropicana Field site has a tangible vision of what it could look like, without the iconic dome that’s graced the skyline along Interstate 275 for more than two decades.

A small-scale model shows a would-be site with what looks like an open-air baseball stadium in the northeast corner of the site near where a U-Haul building is currently located. Despite how the model may look, neither the city nor the firm has any say into what a baseball stadium would actually look like – that would be up to the Rays.

In our mind, an open air stadium is a non-starter, but, as noted, the design could change.  At least they got the best location on the property for a stadium right, unlike where the Trop is now.

The rest of the site blends retail, office, housing and park space into a concept that shuts down artificial borders now created by a giant stadium and a sea of asphalt.

At the center of HKS Architecture’s preliminary plan is expanded transportation and transit access in what project manager Randy Morton describes as “maybe the most important” component of the redevelopment plan.

“The first idea is about knitting the city back together,” Morton said.

He emphasized using key transportation corridors for expanded public transit, including the future Bus Rapid Transit lined planned for First Avenues North and South connecting to the downtown ferry service set to launch this November (that project is only guaranteed for six months as a pilot project, and its future depends on that initial success.)

The HKS vision utilizes the existing highway structure for ease of access, but ultimately would eliminate Interstate 175 along the south side of the site and turn it into a boulevard ripe for high-end possibilities like condos and shops. That vision, he admits, is easy to draw on a diagram, but much more difficult to incorporate.

Overall, we are fine with that (though, as noted on URBN Tampa Bay, covering 175 with park land and connections – a la other cities – would be better). The BRT is fine, but whether there will be a useful ferry is a question.

We have nothing against the basic ideas in this plan (save the stadium).  It is a big piece of land and lot could be done with it.  St. Pete should plan to develop it into a really nice, urban, mixed use area.

— Forever Baseball

That brings us back to whether a stadium should be included in that redevelopment.  This might tell you something:

The Baseball Forever group comprised of community leaders backing a long-term future for the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg is taking its message to the field Friday night.

The Rays will host a Baseball Forever night in the 7:10 p.m. matchup against the Texas Rangers. About 2,000 tickets have been sold, according to Baseball Forever head and former St. Pete city staffer Rick Mussett. As of an email late Friday morning, tickets were still available.

By the way, attendance for that game was 15,109, which is way lower than the Lightning average attendance.  That is not dispositive of anything, but it is indicative of the consistent problem with the present location.

— Across the Bay

There were a couple of development across the Bay in Hillsborough.  First,

Tampa Bay Rays executives met with Tampa and Hillsborough officials Monday to go over a half-dozen or more potential sites for a new ballpark, but this time the Florida State Fairgrounds was not in the mix.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said after the 90-minute meeting he felt confident that going forward neither side is likely to discuss the fairgrounds as a possible stadium site for a couple of reasons. It’s not urban enough for the Rays, and it’s just too far away from St. Petersburg.

But Rays president Brian Auld, County Administrator Mike Merrill and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said it’s still too early to count out any site.

That’s because each potential Hillsborough site has challenges, and all four men said it’s possible that their first choice might not be feasible, so they could end up going to a backup.

We understand the need for backups, but the Fairgrounds is by far the worst Hillsborough site discussed.

Other potential locations reportedly include the Tampa Park Apartments site near downtown, the Jefferson High School site in West Shore, the Tampa Greyhound Track and docks near Ybor City now used by International Ship Repair. Another site, the ConAgra flour mill near downtown, is generally seen as too small and too expensive, since the mill would have to be moved somewhere else.

Those are all better, though the International Ship Repair should be low on the list unless the Port has a really good site to pay to move it.  The Port needs port business.  Which leaves the Tampa Park Apartments and Jefferson (which would also have to be rebuilt).  And there is always the question of money.

But the two sides have not discussed what role public financing would play in a ballpark accessible to the community.

“We can assume that conversation is coming, but we haven’t had that conversation,” Buckhorn said. Before the next meeting, local officials said they intend to continue to study possible financing options and infrastructure requirements needed at each site.

Depending on its design, features and type of roof, a new ballpark could cost an estimated $400 million to $700 million. Depending on the location, the public financing package for the project could include as many as 10 different sources of funding. On top of money from the team, those could include property taxes earmarked for community redevelopment in areas like downtown Tampa, rental car surcharges, some hotel bed taxes, money authorized by the Legislature, ticket user fees and foreign investment available through the federal government’s EB-5 visa program.

Which brings us to some other news:

Whoever wins the hotly contested race for Hillsborough County’s open District 6 commission seat is likely to face this hot-button question early in the term:

Should the county try to lure the Tampa Bay Rays across the bay with the promise of taxpayer money for a new stadium?

For five of the six candidates, the answer is, “Possibly, if it comes from tourists.”

The Rays are evaluating sites in Hillsborough and Pinellas for a new ballpark — one, the team hopes, that will spur development, corporate sponsors and new fans as a year-round community asset.

Whether they choose a site in or around Tampa could come down to how much local officials are willing to commit. Among criteria the team released in February for choosing a new location is this: “The ability to structure a public-private partnership that would support the construction of the Rays’ next-generation ballpark is critical.”

* * *

Republican Jim Norman, who chaired the County Commission that sent voters the Community Investment Tax to keep the Bucs and started the Tampa Bay Sports Commission to attract sporting events here, was the lone candidate to balk at financial support of a Rays move to Tampa.

Of all the public financing options, the tourist tax, especially if Hillsborough qualifies for the extra 1%, is the best one because it is statutorily designated to either promote tourism or pay for publicly owned and operated stadiums.  If you use that money, you are not taking money away from something else.

This is the second best:

In addition to the bed tax, Kemp and Dicks want to create a special taxing district around any new baseball stadium to capture growth in property taxes from the new development it spurs. This money could be used toward the ballpark, too. Kemp also suggested giving the Rays a portion of parking revenues as an incentive.

We are ok with discussing this, but the County needs to be addressing transportation in a real, productive way.  That failure is will resonate with everything, including the Rays and whether any investment in a new stadium is worth it.

Parks – Vertical

There was an, in our eyes, ironic article on the Times website this week talking about things to do in some local parks:

Want to stand in one spot and check out the skyline view of downtown St. Petersburg, Tropicana Field and downtown Tampa? Climb the observation tower at Weedon Island Preserve. It is one of 13 observation towers at parks in the Tampa Bay area.

At Weedon Island, after a short hike along a boardwalk, climb up three flights of stairs to reach the observation platform. At the top, check out a different view of the 3,190-acre preserve and beyond. Watch people fish on the pier down below or paddle kayaks or paddle-boards, or watch motor boats cruise through the area between Riviera Bay and Old Tampa Bay.

Take a further look and you will see the white dome of Tropicana Field and to the left the skyline of downtown St. Petersburg. Turn around and find the skyline of downtown Tampa. Watch airplanes come and go from the nearby Tampa International Airport and the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport.

Back in the preserve, watch other objects of flight, the various birds who make Weedon Island Preserve their home. 

Who would want to go vertical?  Certainly not anyone near downtown Tampa where those awful space mounds have to be flattened.

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