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Roundup 11-18-2016

November 18, 2016


Transportation – You Can’t Go Back, So Move Forward

Economic Development – Biotech, Clusters, and the Connection of Everything

— Case Study

— Land Use

— Education/Talent

— Money

— Transportation

— Luck

— Where We Are

— The Report

— The Lightning Owner

— Conclusion

Downtown – Premature

Transportation – Under the PTC Big Top

Downtown/Hyde Park – More on Lafayette Place

Temple Terrace – Nothing

Westshore – Interesting but Not Convincing

Economic Development – Something

List of the Week


Transportation – You Can’t Go Back, So Move Forward

In the wake of the election, there was an article in the Times regarding lamenting Go Hillsborough.

Backers of the referendum now lament what they see as a missed opportunity to capitalize on an electorate they believe would have viewed the referendum favorably.

Before it failed, proponents said internal polls showed support as high as 65 percent. And it had backing from business groups like the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

“When I saw Hillsborough County vote for Hillary Clinton, when I saw Hillsborough County elect a new Democratic state attorney, when I saw those types of votes, I truly believed that if it was on the ballot we would’ve passed it,” County Commissioner Les Miller said.

Maybe, if transit referenda were a partisan issue.  However, as we explained last week, referenda are not partisan issues.

“In theory, are people in favor of transportation? Yes. Do they think there’s a transportation problem? Yes. Did they like Go Hillsborough? No,” said Bill Carlson, a Tampa public relations executive who helped rally opposition to the sales tax proposal.

“Right now, it’s just a lot of sour grapes. The people who promoted it are trying to blame the people who were against it. They’re not to blame at all. They thought it was done in an inappropriate way.”

As we explained last week, it is about the actual plan.  If there was a really good plan, it may have passed.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, the government agency that operates the county bus system, is doing a transit study to determine what, if any, transit expansions are feasible.

We’ll see what the study says.  (Frankly, it should have been done at the beginning of the Go Hillsborough process rather than having the years of delay.  But that is in the past.)

As demonstrated by Tuesday’s election, Hillsborough is inching from purple to blue in ways that should embolden leaders to push for it sooner rather than later, said Beth Leytham, the public relations consultant who worked on Go Hillsborough.

“You can’t go back, but I do believe it would’ve passed,” Leytham said, “And what we just saw gives you a really good reason to look at 2018 instead of 2020.”

We would rather do it sooner than later.  However, based on all reports, the studies will go well into 2018, so whether there can be a referendum that year is an open question.  And, of course, success will all depend on the actual plan.  We suggest local officials get to work on a new plan and, while doing that, actually find out what TBX is going to do, where it is ok, and where it will be harmful for decades.

Economic Development – Biotech, Clusters, and the Connection of Everything

Tampa has put hopes for redeveloping downtown on biotech for a while (and not just downtown, economic development groups have long seen biotech as a target industry).  All of that makes a column in the Times about Florida’s quest for biotech quite interesting.

All is not well in Florida’s biotech industry, a business whose future as a key player in the Sunshine State remains perilously unclear.

The latest controversy is now being played out in Orlando’s 650-acre, once highly touted health and life sciences park called “Lake Nona Medical City.” That’s the Florida home of Sanford Burnham Prebys, an elite California-based life science research organization recruited at great cost 10 years ago to expand to Florida.

Sanford Burnham was supposed to flourish, collaborate and create thousands of new industry jobs with nearby life science organizations. Instead, it’s on the verge of exiting the state.

Sanford Burnham blames a decade marked by a deep recession, major cuts in federal funding by the National Institutes of Health, a slump in grant funding and a resulting challenge in attracting top talent to Orlando.

“We do not have the critical mass of scientists or funding to sustain the Lake Nona site as an independent research facility long term,” Sanford Burnham CEO Perry Nisen stated this past summer.

Whether or not that is exactly the case, let’s go with that.  So how did we get to this point?

This confrontation of lawyers is hardly what Florida Gov. Jeb Bush had in mind in 2003 when he personally went to California to woo Scripps Research Institute to open a biotech arm in Florida. Bush, armed with what was then a stunning sum of $500 million in funds and the political advantage of being the brother of the nation’s president, persuaded Scripps to set up a life science research campus near Jupiter.

Bush was nothing if not optimistic. In a 2003 column for this newspaper, he wrote of the Scripps venture: “This development is a seminal moment in Florida’s history and future and will propel the Sunshine State to the forefront of the biotech industry.”

The Scripps arrival was likened to Walt Disney choosing Central Florida for his new theme park. Bush even said Scripps alone could transform Florida the way NASA had done decades earlier.

Three years later, Sanford Burnham followed Scripps to Florida with the state committing more than $800 million in public funds as sweeteners to the two companies.

* * *

Still, other companies with biotech credentials came to Florida on the heels of Scripps and Sanford Burnham. Organizations like the Max Planck Institute, Torrey Pines Institute of Molecular Studies and the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute all jumped on the Florida incentive bandwagon.

Of course,

None of those heavyweights landed in the Tampa Bay market, choosing as expected to cluster near one another for support. Locally, the biotech business is mostly confined to smaller startups and efforts by the likes of USF and Moffitt Cancer Center (including its promising cancer-fighting M2Gen spin­off) to try to commercialize academic research.

Needless to say, despite the hype, CAMLS did not do the trick (though Moffitt is great).  Setting aside the larger question for Florida, the big question for us is why we landed none of the heavyweights let alone develop a cluster.  Some would say it was the location of USF and argue that moving USF med school downtown will change all that.  That may or may not be the case.  Frankly, no one really knows.  (Though neither Lake Nona nor the other big cluster near Port St. Lucie/Jupiter are in downtowns, so that may part of the story, but not the whole thing. It is also worth noting that the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute in Port St. Lucie closed down. )

The column goes into a discussion about subsidies for such businesses to build a cluster, and that is certainly an issue.  On other hand, the bigger issue is identifying the reasons the clusters in other areas grew in the first place.  Scripps, Sanford Burnham, and Torrey Pines are all based in San Diego, which has a major biotech cluster, as does Philadelphia/Central New Jersey, San Francisco Bay area, Raleigh-Durham, and Boston. (The last few are obviously near some very major universities).  And, of course, Houston (where the medical center is the size of many downtowns).  Plus a number of hope-to-be-clusters basically everywhere.

— Case Study

There is not necessarily only one way to make a cluster.  Some form organically.  Some are planned.  However, there are conditions that make it more or less likely. Interestingly, last year, there was an article about San Diego’s path to biotech cluster-hood, which deserves some discussion.

. . . building a biotech cluster is harder than it looks. Top biotech hubs like San Diego’s possess several defining characteristics, all of which must be present. Money and science are certainly two necessities, but they’re not enough.

The biotech industry emerged in San Diego with patient planning, a long-range view of payoffs, a supportive culture, talented entrepreneurs, opportunity-seeking venture capitalists and good luck.

So let’s look at some of the elements identified:

— Land Use

The first issue is land.

Geography and land-use decisions are the pillars of a successful biotech hub, said Mary Lindenstein Walshok, dean of UC San Diego Extension and author of a book on San Diego’s innovation economy.

The city of San Diego made the biotech hub on Torrey Pines Mesa possible by zoning that area for research and development and light industry, Walshok said. So instead of allowing the usual commercial development on prime coastal land, it was kept open for science.

“These decisions were made in the late 1940s and early 1950s, before there was any idea of a University of California, by the way,” Walshok said. “That was because John Jay Hopkins, founder of General Dynamics, and Roger Revelle, the head of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, convinced the City Council that we would not be devastated by the post-World War II downturn if we focused on science and technology, particularly (projects) important to national security and the military.”

Those plans received a major boost when Dr. Jonas Salk, who led development of the first safe and effective polio vaccine, decided to establish his institute on Torrey Pines Mesa. In 1960, San Diego voters agreed to give a 27-acre site to the Salk Institute. A large part of the credit goes to then-mayor Charles Dail, a polio survivor who had campaigned to bring Salk to San Diego.

By reserving the land in advance, San Diego made it possible for research institutes and technology companies to cluster together, Walshok said. That proximity encourages collaboration and makes it easy for new companies to arise from a large talent pool.

World-class entities such as UC San Diego, the Salk Institute, the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, The Scripps Research Institute, West Health and the J. Craig Venter Institute’s La Jolla campus are spread along roughly two miles of North Torrey Pines Road, along with research facilities for major pharmaceutical companies such as Novartis, Pfizer, Celgene and Vertex.

And when they say cluster, they mean neighbors.  Setting aside that they do not focus on the fact that the land was near the Pacific (right on the golf course) and in San Diego, where exactly is that land in Tampa?  It is not clear downtown is the best spot, simply because there is not as much land, though land could be amassed if it did not have to be right downtown.  (There would be land around a redeveloped area around USF/Innovation Alliance area.  But the purpose of this discussion is to raise the issue, not pick specific lots.)  In any event, it seems that dispersing business over a large geographical area is not optimal (think USF, downtown, Westshore, downtown St. Pete).  In other words, a cluster should be an actual geographic cluster.

But, regardless, it needs to be identified, as is being proposed in LA (though the results are yet to come in).

Currently, there’s a lack of physical space for biotech companies to take root near universities in the Los Angeles area — in contrast to what has arisen on Torrey Pines Mesa.

“That’s a great asset, particularly in the startup phase where you’re relying on academic research to build technological know-how for the company, you’re hiring graduate students and you attract venture capitalists. That hasn’t happened in L.A. because of history,” Enany said.

A biotech plan commissioned by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors recommends ways to change that history. One proposal is to buy land for setting up a research park around USC Medical Center in east Los Angeles.

You could arguably do this near downtown, but then there is only one hospital in close proximity.  And the connection between USF main campus/Moffett/the VA and downtown/TGH is not good.  If the plan is to build a cluster, it has to be thought out and analyzed.  It will not be enough to just move USF med school downtown.

— Education/Talent

And there is this:

Major research institutions provide the core strength for a biotech economy, said Abigail Barrow, founding director of the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center. Created by Massachusetts in 2003, the center guides commercialization of technology from the commonwealth’s research institutions.

Barrow did similar work in San Diego, where she was managing director of UC San Diego’s von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and program director for UCSD Connect, which is now an independent nonprofit.

“If you don’t have those core institutions, you don’t have core regional capabilities and you don’t have the people,” Barrow said. “So it’s hard to build a cluster if you don’t have great employees around … and particularly if you’re moving into new technologies, you don’t get people who are trained in new techniques.”

The Boston region offers these pillars, notably the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard and Boston universities, along with research-oriented medical centers such as Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The clinical research hospitals provide a bridge from lab discoveries to commercialization because experimental therapies can be tested there.

USF is a start.  Moffett is good.  We need more.

— Money

And, of course, you need money:

Access to local capital is essential to keeping new companies in a region, and Gruber said that’s where USC should focus its attention. Doing so benefited the University of Pennsylvania, where he received his medical degree.

“I was on the board of the University of Pennsylvania, and they had a similar problem of how to commercialize their technology,” he explained. “My recommendation was that they set up a venture fund. And they did, and now they’re in the business of setting up companies in Philadelphia.”

Money is always an issue in the Tampa Bay area.  Our local capital is relatively low and usually locked up in more traditional Florida industries.

— Transportation

Which brings us invariably to transportation.  Obviously, we mean good local transportation, connecting the biotech entities and talent to other biotech entities and talent.  But also providing choices in lifestyle, because they have a choice of where to be.  And there is also this:

The Los Angeles International Airport offers many more nonstop overseas flights than does San Diego’s Lindbergh Field.

“That may not seem like a big deal, but when we travel internationally and talk about coming to do business in San Diego, it’s something that comes up,” Panetta said. “Los Angeles also has a reputation as an international city.”

Flights (domestic and international) and global connectivity are important.  You have to be able to reach money and markets.

— Luck

And the last thing is a bit of luck. Going back to the introduction on San Diego, you will note that General Dynamics, Scripps, and Jonas Salk liked the area (and looking at where it is overlooking the Pacific in southern California, who wouldn’t?).

— Where We Are

And a lot of this goes back to creating an environment where the people with the money, the talent, and the desire want to be.  Of course, you have to start small, that is where everything starts.  Frankly, nothing guarantees success.  However, good planning, a lot of thought, and providing the proper environment will maximize chances of success.

In bio-tech, we start with USF and Moffitt (and some facilities in St. Pete). Downtown Tampa is getting nicer but is not connected to other parts of the area efficiently.  Where is the land for the research facilities?  How will the people get around?  How do they connect to USF’s main campus?  Can we get other institutions (like UF) involved?  And where will the money come from?  (As we always say, everything is connected.)

— The Report

Coincidentally, there was a column in the Times on a report about the Tampa Bay area’s entrepreneurial “ecosystem.”

A deep-dive analysis of the state of Tampa Bay’s young “entrepreneurial ecosystem” — the foundation of services that supports innovative business start-ups here — finds the region is making fair progress.

But in a refrain all too familiar to other economic development groups here, an academic team assessing the ecosystem’s health concludes there’s a need for stronger leadership, less duplication of efforts and an investor base more attuned to the risks and opportunities of backing start-ups.

Last but most familiar of all: There’s a serious need to build a specific brand for Tampa Bay that will resonate broadly with entrepreneurs and investors across the country if not the globe that this region has its start-up act together.

So say some of the key findings of the Tampa Bay Ecosystem Study, a year-long project led by the University of Tampa and funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the premier advocacy and research group for entrepreneurship in this country. The project’s goal is to develop a model to strengthen not only this area’s entrepreneurial ecosystem but also those in other cities.

Actually, they all are familiar, but anyhow.  And:

So how exactly is Tampa Bay’s entrepreneurial ecosystem doing? That’s tough to answer. Anecdotally, regional start-up activity appears strong. But it is scattered in incubators, accelerators, universities, coffee shops and (yes) garages across the bay area. One attending entrepreneur, SavvyCard CEO David Etheredge, noted that area start-ups tend to hit a ceiling here once they grow to a certain size and feel pressured to relocate to find stronger investor interest in the next stage of funding a company.

Which leads talent to leave.  And the report provides some details:

. . . the UT study points to some “bottlenecks” slowing Tampa Bay’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Among them:

Aside from news coverage, which seems pretty high (and hype-filled), all that is quite familiar – namely because those are all persistent issues.

— The Lightning Owner

Which brings us to an article in Forbes on the Lightning owner’s sales tour.  We have not hidden our support for most of the things the Lightning owner does.  You can read the whole thing here, but we want to highlight two specific questions:

Guttman: What are Tampa’s competitive advantages?


-We have great proximity to Latin America.

-There’s a large population of older people in Florida, in general, which makes it a natural for medical studies.

-We’ve got tourism. There are plenty of new ventures focused on disrupting tourism.

– I don’t think you’ll find many cities that have as many college grads within 100 miles of here. (tampasphere: Of course, this would include Sarasota, part of Ocala, and parts of Orlando)

Guttman: What are some of the challenges Tampa faces?


-There are a lot of graduates who want to stay local, but they’re not finding the urban environment they want or the opportunities, the restaurants or the good jobs they want. It starts with creating those environments.

-The most significant weakness of Tampa is wages – we’ve got to have better paying jobs and higher wages.

-The ecosystem is fragmented. There are pockets of organizations and communities. They’re not funded as well as they should be. They try to talk to each other, but everyone has to worry about their own success. I’d like to explore convening the leaders.

-We need some success stories. We’ve got to have intellectual capital.

That’s how you get people to buy in.

That is a nice, mature summary of our issues.  For urban environment, include real transit, proper planning, and urban amenities.  Add to that low wages and there is a deterrent to attracting and retaining talent.  Toss in the lack of regionalism leading to a plethora of organizations, including a whole mess of incubators that essentially compete for talent and resources rather. (And, in biotech, a dispersal of assets around the entire area).  And, proximity to Latin America is best taken advantage of with more flights, better port connections (Tampa or Manatee, doesn’t matter to us).

Just looking at the list, it is clear that everything is connected, and failures in one area (like transportation and planning) bring failures in other areas.

— Conclusion

Going back to the Times column on the entrepreneurial ecosystem:

Then there is the more fundamental matter of regional self confidence.

“We have a bit of an inferiority complex,” White said of this metro region. “We are probably better than we think we are.”

SavvyCard CEO Etheredge thinks so. “Tampa already has a superior startup ecosystem that, if we solve the issues with access to capital and cooperation among entrepreneurial support organizations, could become the Austin of the Southeast.”

We’ll put it another way.  The Tampa Bay area is like a teenager that has quite a bit of puffery on the outside, insecurity on the inside, and much potential if it can learn to temper its hype, move past its insecurity, and work in a more mature way.

For decades, our economic development fine for low wage business.  But the whole country is chasing biotech (and other clusters).  To be successful in developing that and other high wage jobs, all the issues above have to be thought out so that we can answer the question: If a company, institution or person with unique talent can go anywhere, why should they come/stay here?

We can do this if it is well thought-out.  However, if we don’t create the right conditions and can’t give a very solid, non-hyped answer, we aren’t going to be very successful.

It’s time to hit the books because we also have a lot of work to do if we want to graduate.

Downtown – Premature

There was news this week about the library annex:

Mayor Bob Buckhorn is thinking about recycling another piece of downtown Tampa from the 1970s.

This time, it’s the annex behind the John F. Germany Public Library, plus the neighboring auditorium with the clamshell-shaped dome.

Once people and the city’s mainframe computers are moved out of the annex — a process scheduled to start next week — he said those two buildings could be demolished to create a new piece of vacant city-owned land near the Riverwalk.

“It’s been in the works for about a year now,” Buckhorn said this week. “We could potentially put out a (request for proposals) for redevelopment of the site. We could turn it into a park. There’s all kinds of things we could do. We haven’t decided.”

We agree that the building is not particularly good.  But, given that the City does not even know what it wants on this lot, plus that the City did this on an adjacent parcel:

Maybe the City should just put that RFP in its back pocket.  Sure, something better can go on that land.  But until we see how the building next door (if it gets built) will affect the lot and the area, why hurry? (Not to mention that the City has already sold land that later got flipped, sold land for projects that haven’t started, and proposed selling land for “signature” buildings that are far from signature).

To be honest, we would rather see a new library somewhere else and to maximize the whole lot, but we understand that is not necessarily feasible.  Regardless, just rushing to squeeze something into a lot the nature of which is likely to change drastically if the proposals around it get built makes absolutely no sense.

Transportation – Under the PTC Big Top

There was more news on the PTC.  First, the PTC approved an agreement with Uber and Lyft, which is fine, as far as it goes. The problem is that 1) it is not clear that the PTC has authority over ridesharing and 2), even if it has such authority, the agreement is not rules for ridesharing, it is an agreement with Uber and Lyft. So . . .

West Coast Transportation Services, a company chaired by Yellow Cab Company of Tampa owner Louis Minardi, is suing the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission in hopes of furthering its chances at success.

Minardi wants West Coast, which is attempting to break into the transportation network industry, to be able to enter into the same temporary operating agreement on the table for Uber and Lyft.

We don’t know if West Coast is really trying to break into ridesharing or just wants to have its cab service under the same rules.  We’ll take them at face value now.  Frankly, it doesn’t even matter in our opinion.

“We are amenable to considering the same or similar temporary rules and regulations for all Transportation Network Companies,” Minardi said.

But that can’t happen, according to Minardi. He said Hillsborough County attorneys informed him Friday that only Uber and Lyft could enter into the temporary agreement because they are both litigants in an existing lawsuit.

That is interesting.  Why are the PTC’s proposed ridesharing rules part of settlement that limits their application?

The proposal, negotiated by PTC Chairman Victor Crist, is intended to end two years of legal wrangling since the two ridesharing firms began operating in Hillsborough in 2014.

PTC inspectors have ticketed Uber and Lyft drivers for operating without the insurance and permits required for taxi drivers.

Uber and Lyft responded by suing the agency and asking the 2nd District Court of Appeal to overturn the tickets. They argued that rules drawn up for the taxicab industry should not apply to them.

The court has yet to rule, but approval of the new operating agreement this week would act as a mediated settlement to the cases, meaning there would still be no legal precedent establishing the agency’s authority over ridesharing.

That’s nice for Uber, Lyft, and the PTC, but it does not really open the market or give consumers full choices. If the PTC really has the power to regulate ridesharing, they should just regulate ridesharing – all ridesharing – and let the market decide which ridesharing it prefers. (It seems that the PTC just can’t get out of their habit of choosing champions.) If it doesn’t have the power, it doesn’t. And what about these guys?

At least two other ridesharing firms have expressed an interest in operating in Hillsborough.

DriveSociety, a new Tampa startup, is waiting to begin operations. Fare, one of the companies that moved into the Austin, Texas, market after Uber and Lyft left, has also expressed interest in operating in Tampa.

Maybe they have a good service that consumers will like. And now they are suing:

In a complaint filed in circuit court Friday, Tampa company DriveSociety claims that the temporary operating agreement approved by the PTC’s governing board Wednesday puts it and other competitors at a disadvantage.

The agreement allows Uber and Lyft to operate without having their drivers undergo a FBI fingerprint based background check or obtain public vehicle drivers licenses.

But it does not apply to other ridesharing firms like DriveSociety, which must fingerprint their drivers. The startup has also been joined in its lawsuit by several taxicab and limousine-rental firms that have indicated they want to offer ridesharing services.

The lawsuit also asks a judge to rule that the agreements are illegal and void because they do not follow the special state law that created the PTC that mandates fingerprinting.

We are not going to get into any of the legal issues in the actual cases.  But this is what the PTC is saying:

Citing attorney advice, PTC Chairman Victor Crist said during last week’s board meeting that the exemptions for Uber and Lyft are legally defensible because they are part of a settlement of lawsuits filed by the two firms seeking to overturn $700 citations given to their drivers.

That may or may not be true.  To us, it does not really matter.  What matters is that the PTC does not seem capable of just fairly regulating a market. We don’t really care about protecting the PTC (or limiting the market to Uber and Lyft). The fact is that the PTC can’t seem to get out of its own way.  Just another reason to get rid of it.

And if that wasn’t enough for you (plus one member resigning in protest to the agreement and the on again off again resignation of the director) :

Just days after his stint as its chairman ended, Victor Crist is calling for the Public Transportation Commission to be scrapped.

In an email sent Friday, Crist called on state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, to abolish the agency at the center of the regulatory battle with ridesharing giants Uber and Lyft. 

Crist, also a Hillsborough county commissioner, said the agency he led for four years is too bureaucratic and too slow to adjust to new technology like ridesharing.

The PTC also allows taxicab, limousine firms and others to block and delay regulations they do not like, he said, adding that  its role should now fall to county government.

“At this juncture, the way the special act was written gives too much influence to the companies of the business we regulate,” he said.

Pretty much.  Just get rid of the PTC.

Downtown/Hyde Park – More on Lafayette Place

If you were excited (or saying “Wow”) about Lafayette Place and its parking garages, you may want to just hold off.

For a project that could total 1.7 million square feet — roughly equivalent to the 42-story 100 North Tampa, SunTrust Financial Centre and the Tampa City Center skyscrapers combined — Hillsborough River Realty Co. doesn’t appear to be in any rush to break ground.


In fact, Hillsborough River Senior Vice President John LaRocca says the company, an affiliate of Jeffries Travis Realty Corp., is anxious to see other, seemingly competing projects — namely Strategic Property Partners’ $2 billion Channelside redevelopment; Feldman Equities and Tower Realty Partners’ 52-story Riverwalk Tower; and Related Group’s revamp of the Tampa Tribune site, to name a few — succeed.

“We’re not pressured to make something happen immediately,” LaRocca says. “For those projects already in the pipeline in downtown Tampa and those that are close to getting permits, we want them to be successful, because that will mean our project stands a chance of being successful. Success will breed success.”

We accept that logic to a point. The more thriving the area gets, the more likely to draw more business. On the other hand, the predecessor plan from the same developer, the Hillsborough River Tower, is an idea that was around for quite a while without getting built, so waiting does not ensure anything.  More to the point:

LaRocca acknowledges that pre-leasing the office space to obtain financing would be “the challenge,” but that critical mass generated by other projects could bring with it a corporate relocation that would need a large block of contiguous space and desire a river view. 

The need tenants.  And we get that.  It is the big unknown for a number of major projects in downtown Tampa.

Temple Terrace – Nothing

Temple Terrace’s long attempt to build a “downtown” took another hit.

The company that planned to become the anchor of Downtown Temple Terrace has withdrawn its proposal to locate there.

In a letter to City Manager Charles Stephenson dated Wednesday, Roy Eriksson, president of Eriksson Technologies Inc., stated that “the risk associated with moving forward exceeds our comfort level.”

Eriksson was the first company to seek a spot in the redevelopment area since the city parted ways with its last developer in 2015.

Florida Hospital proposed putting an emergency department on the site, but quickly withdrew its proposal after mounting criticism of the idea.

Eriksson had offered $250,000 for the 1.5-acre parcel on the southeast corner of Bullard Parkway and 56th Street, where the company had planned to build a six-story office building as a focal point of the development, which stretches to the Hillsborough River.

But complaints from a number of residents and council members that the offer was too low left the company believing that it was being asked to take on too much of the risk, Eriksson said.

This is too bad.  We understand that the purchase price was pretty low, but the project was pretty good, especially considering what is there now and past proposals.  We generally think that investors should pay market prices for public land, especially when there is no lack of nearby private projects on private land (see downtown, Ybor City). However, in some cases, you really need to jump-start development to transform an area.  It is not like suitors were banging down the doors to make urban-ish buildings in Temple Terrace.  We’ll see what happens.

Westshore – Interesting but Not Convincing

A while back, we discussed a proposed development on Frontage Road in Westshore.  One of our major concerns was that the site plan was laid out facing Frontage Road in a sprawling model.  That is still the case, but we will set that aside right now.  A rendering of phase one (a 13 story office, hotel, and small amount of retail building) was released:

From URBN Tampa Bay - click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

Nice enough.  But the plan does not seem to consider that TBX is going to take a big chunk of the property.  So, ignoring the site plan issue, we are cautious on the likelihood of this whole project.

Economic Development – Something

We are all for brining manufacturing to this area, which is really a service based economy.  This week, there was a little news:

AFLG Industrials in Tampa has signed an agreement for a multimillion-dollar joint venture with Hidral-Mac Group, a Brazilian company that makes hydraulic presses and related equipment.

The joint venture operation will be headquartered in Tampa, said Freddy Russian, president and CEO of AFLG Holdings, a private equity firm. AFLG Industrials is a subsidiary.

Initially, it will focus on selling Hidral-Mac equipment, but the company also plans to add a facility to assemble hydraulic machines in the United States and distribute them throughout North America.

In the first year of operation, Russian expects the joint venture to create 50 jobs, with another 80 to 100 jobs over the next three years.

It seems that initially it is just a sales office, but may move to manufacturing.  It is not a huge announcement, but good nonetheless.  And, maybe it can bring the port some business at some point.

List of the Week

As you may have noticed, we have stopped doing a weekly list. Part of that is because other local media have reported on more lists, and part of it is because most lists are not that edifying.  However, this week, there is a relevant list.

There are many ways to determine how big an area is (population not land).  There are population measures like metropolitan statistical areas (msa).  For some areas, depending on commuting patterns (that is the main criteria), those msa’s may be put together into combined statistical areas (csa).  However, there is another way – media market, which is basically the reach of various media.  The Tampa-St. Pete-Clearwater msa is the 18th largest in the US, between San Diego and Denver (though Denver has a bigger csa).  So let’s look at the TV media markets list from Nielsen, which comes out a bit differently.

The top 20: coming in first (not surprisingly) is New York, followed by Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas-Ft. Worth, San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, Washington (DC), Houston, Boston, Atlanta, Tampa-St. Pete, Phoenix, Detroit, Seattle, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Denver, Orlando-Daytona Beach, Cleveland, and Sacramento.

We are 11th. You may wonder why our media market is so much bigger than our msa. Simply put, Sarasota, Manatee, and Polk counties (plus some smaller counties) are not included in our msa (we have no csa), but they are in our media market.  The fact is that our area is actually quite large; maybe we should start acting like it.  And we should really have much more influence than we do (in addition to our central role in elections).

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