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Roundup 12-16-2016

December 16, 2016


Transportation – Of TBX, Five Year Plans, and Public Input

Economic Development/Downtown – Whither Citibank

Transportation – Will the PTC Finally Go Away?

Latin America – Cuba Calling, for Now

Port – The Vision Thing

— One More Thing

Airport – Another Good Ranking

Downtown – Mixed Feelings

— One More Thing

History Center – It’s a Pirate’s Life

Built Environment – Walking

Hyde Park – No Thanks

Downtown – Straz Squeeze

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the State

— Orlando

— How About Us?

— Speaking of Startups

Broward Keeps Moving Forward

List of the Week


Transportation – Of TBX, Five Year Plans, and Public Input

FDOT is reviewing its five-year work program plan for district seven, which includes the Tampa Bay area. (You can access it at the FDOT website here)  As part of that process, they want your input. (You can access the comment page here)  That is a good thing, because the five year-plan still seems to include all of TBX, including the Howard Frankland bridge widening, even though supposedly no one now knows exactly what that will actually entail (though express lanes may come back to the bridge plan. See here and here) In fact, and once again contrary to what local officials and TBX boosters said about TBX being an all or nothing, set-in-stone plan,

Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold told a Senate Committee Tuesday that it’s time to hit the reset button on the controversial Tampa Bay Express Project.

“We have had some challenges with getting that project to a point where the local communities that are affected are pleased with where it is, and so we have the benefit of some time before we’re ready to move forward with that project,” Boxhold told the Senate Transportation Committee.

“We probably have 2-3 years before that project is what we call ‘production ready,’ ready to turn dirt,” he added. “And so we’re going to sort of hit the reset button, bring in additional staff or different staff to manage that project, and work more intensively with the local communities.”

Note, that is within the five-year plan period of the plan they want comment on now, without proper detail.

“Needless to say, there are minority communities that are affected,” he said. “Given the project’s magnitude, it’s important that we take the time to get it right.”

“We want a project that not only the department can be proud to build, be proud to put the Governor out there for a groundbreaking, that the local community is just as proud to join us for that groundbreaking,” Boxhold continued.

And a good way to do that is by getting public input.  Though it is hard to comment on something when even FDOT does not seem to know what the plan is.  But setting that aside, when is the comment period?

Beginning Monday, December 12, 2016, you will be able to view the Tentative Five-Year Work Program documents, presentations and maps and submit your comments on this website.  We need to receive your comments by December 27, 2016, in order to become part of the official record.

It might surprise FDOT to learn that the middle/end of December involves a major holiday this year.  We know that such disruption is a rare occurrence in mid/late December.

Anyway, we welcome openness on FDOT’s part (if there is really new openness), but a good way to start to show that you want the public to not just be quiet but actually have real input is to not put the comment period about some ambiguous project over Christmas.

We need highway improvements.  We do not need the full TBX.  We are all for working with FDOT to get a good project, which is not what TBX is right now, where it bulldozes neighborhoods and has express lanes built to limit capacity. (Plus no real transit)

And, notice the 2-3 year timeline for figuring out the highway plan would also include the conclusion of the transit study.  So let’s see what that tells us before we set some plan in stone.  Because, as the former FDOT leader said last week, notably after he left office, even as he was supporting big roads and private rail systems:

While we make improvement to the highway network, we should also look at providing light rail-alternatives in Miami-Dade County, specifically connecting the western portions of the county to the airport, downtown and to the beaches, and providing north-south alternatives to I-95 and the Turnpike. We need to look at similar options in Tampa Bay. Having said that, our current model of delivering light-rail projects is not yielding the desired results.

Setting aside that, far from having a problem of no privatization, FDOT’s model is not delivering the desired results to a large degree because FDOT is focused on express lanes and not really behind real transit (though don’t forget all the local issues), even someone with his attitude knows we need rail.  So why plan for just roads before knowing about transit when transit is being studied?  We need a coordinated, synchronized transportation system.  To get that, we need a coordinated, synchronized, systematic planning process.  It still does not seem we are there.

Once again, feel free to let FDOT know how you feel here.

Economic Development/Downtown – Whither Citibank

About a year ago, there was news that Citibank was looking to expand in the Tampa area and speculation they may look at the Lightning owner’s project.

It looks like Citigroup, which already has 5,500 employees in Hillsborough County, is looking for a possible corporate campus of up to 1 million square feet, and the 40 downtown acres of Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment fund may be in the running.

The New York banking giant is well into discussions with more than one local developer. The possibilities include creating a larger campus at a new location or keeping Citigroup’s existing operation at Sabal Park near Interstate 75 and finding additional space elsewhere.

They did decide to expand in the Tampa area, which was part of a plan to cut costs.   So where are they going?

Citigroup Inc. has acquired a large suburban Tampa office park where its Citibank division is the sole occupant.

* * *

The property, in Sabal Park, is 672,500 square feet; Citi also has a short-term lease for 75,000 square feet in Hidden River Corporate Park. The Sabal Park campus is home to a global shared service operation, Peterson said in a statement, and “has extensive infrastructure.” It was developed in 1998.

* * *

Citi’s acquisition of its suburban real estate likely ends the possibility of a major relocation to downtown Tampa. If the company is still looking to expand, it has the potential to do so on its own property. The park sits on 92 acres, much of which is devoted to surface parking, where parking decks and additional office space could be built.

Yes, they could expand and improve their suburban location.   They probably will.

The decision to stay in an office park is disappointing but not surprising.  When Tampa is viewed as mostly a location of back office (or mostly customer service) operations the biggest benefit of which is saving costs (land is cheaper, taxes are cheaper, and employee costs are cheaper), it is more likely that companies will look to lower cost option for space (yes, buying it is not cheap but that gives them equity and the ability to expand) than new downtown construction.  While it may not be universally the case, it has to be kept in mind. 

Transportation – Will the PTC Finally Go Away?

There was news from Tallahassee about another move to abolish the PTC.

A bill filed Friday by State Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa, would abolish the agency that regulates for-hire vehicles in Hillsborough and would repeal the 1996 special act that made Hillsborough the only Florida county to establish such an agency.

If approved in the upcoming legislative session, the act would take effect Oct. 1. Regulation would transfer to Hillsborough County government.

The House bill already has support in the Florida Senate with the backing of Dana Young, R-Tampa. Young is one of a number of local Republican lawmakers who for several years have accused the agency of siding with the taxicab industry by working to block ridesharing firms from operating in Hillsborough.

* * *

Since it only applies to Hillsborough, Grant’s bill is classified as a local bill, meaning it does not require matching legislation be filed in the Florida Senate. Instead, the bill will be among a batch of local House bills that will go before the Senate. Young said she does not anticipate any resistance from other lawmakers.

It’s no secret we support abolishing the PTC.  It is a completely unnecessary organization.

And there is also this:

The upcoming legislative session may also be the year Florida finally establishes statewide regulations for ridesharing, which already have been enacted in 34 other states.

Previous attempts were blocked by former Senate President Andy Gardiner, who is a friend of Paul Mears III, president of Orlando taxi and limo operator Mears Transportation. Mears gave the Republican Party of Florida $150,000 during the years Gardiner was in leadership.

New Senate President Joe Negron has publicly supported creating statewide standards for the fledgling industry.

Statewide rules are the most logical solution.  Transportation does not end at the county line.

Latin America – Cuba Calling, for Now

The first regularly scheduled nonstop flight from Tampa to Havana started this week.  We are all for the flights and hope that the new administration does not stop them.

From the Business Journal - click on picture for article

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

In further news,

In April, a Royal Caribbean cruise will become the first to make the historic sail to Cuba from Port Tampa Bay.

The announcement of the cruise, which came Friday, makes Tampa Bay one of the first metro areas in the country to land both a nonstop flight and cruise itinerary to Cuba after the easing of restrictions by President Barack Obama that have kept Americans from visiting for decades.

* * *

The recently updated Empress of the Seas will port in Tampa for the 2017 summer season and offer a series of four- and five-night sailings to ports in Cuba. It will join two other Royal Caribbean ships in Tampa, the 2,543-passenger Brilliance of the Seas and 2,416-passenger Rhapsody of the Seas. The Empress of the Seas ship will start the season with a seven-day cruise, then offer four- and five-day itineraries. More details of the summer itineraries will be released at a later date, according to a news release. 

We feel about cruises like we feel about the flights.

Port – The Vision Thing

Last week, we wondered why the Port released an economic impact report.  Then we found out: preparing the ground for the release of its Vision 2030 master plan through, you guessed it, 2030.

“This is a bold, new road map for Port Tampa Bay,” said CEO Paul Anderson at a news conference Thursday. “This plan aligns with the comprehensive plans for the city of Tampa and Hillsborough County.”

Actually, we’ve heard most of it before, but here is the run down from a Times article:

The master plan includes:

Like we said, most of that has been revealed. But then, in the Times article, they did something very unusual – it questioned some of the plan:

But it’s unclear how realistic or profitable some of these ventures could be in the long run.

Port Tampa Bay invested $25 million in the two gantry cranes earlier this year to prepare for the opening of the expanded Panama Canal, which allows for bigger ships to access American ports. The new cranes, which have been operational since this summer, have yet to service a ship the size they were meant to lure to Tampa Bay. The port is also up against ports that handle more than double the tonnage in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville that have established container businesses.

The port plans to expand an auto import terminal, according to the master plan, so it can receive more ships that are importing new cars from Mexico. But no new cars are flowing into Port Tampa Bay just yet. And the future of that business is uncertain under President Elect Donald J. Trump, who has said he wants to impose a 35 percent tariff on cars imported from Mexico.

The port also wants to build a new petroleum storage center to better position it as the hub for gasoline imports in Central Florida for automobiles, airplanes and other vehicles. But this comes at a time where more people are driving electric cars and other clean innovations are shifting toward using less gasoline and oil.

The master plan forecasts a robust growth period ahead for Tampa’s cruise business, with annual revenues from passengers potentially nearing $1.4 million by 2030 compared to about $900,00 recorded in 2015. This forecast does consider the limitations of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which isn’t tall enough to allow the newest and largest cruise ships to pass underneath. But port officials are hopeful that cruise opportunities to Cuba will fuel new growth. 

As we said last week, we want the Port to thrive.  It is very important to this area’s economy and future.  And we are all for actively competing – because that is the only way to thrive. On the other hand, none of the Times’ observations are inaccurate.

So, can the Port thrive?  Yes.  Can it succeed in its plans? Possibly.  But it will take a lot of work and some luck.  And we think it should not be focusing on real estate, especially with so many other real estate proposals for the area around downtown.  Speaking of which,

The port’s Channelside plans were recently revised to include 60-story towers, instead of 75, after a few air height and transportation studies ruled the buildings were too tall. The final plans for the Channelside development is expected to be approved by the city early next year, said Luis Ajamil, the Miami architect who designed the plan. Then the port will be able to select a developer to head the next phase of the project.

Let the Lightning owner build his project, then see what demand there is.  If the Lightning owner’s plan is successful, the Port’s land will become ever more valuable and the optimal uses of the land may change.  If the Lightning owner’s project is not successful (God forbid) or not quite a huge hit, building on the Port land at the same time will just be harmful.  Regardless, there is no reason not to wait.

In the meantime, the Port should focus on its core business.  There is a lot of competition among ports and a long way to go to reach the actual port part of the Port’s plan. (Maybe get a ship for which the new cranes are useful.)  The Port is very important, and much more as a port than as a developer.

— One More Thing

Interestingly, this week:

According to the Council, Florida’s 15 ports have generated about $4 billion in state and local tax revenues. A 3 percent annual growth rate in cargo was driven by increases in dry bulk commodities, containerized cargo, petroleum, cars and steel products.

Doug Wheeler, Council president and chief executive, said that the state has been doing a better job at attracting cargo from Latin American markets. The challenge, he said, is ensuring that the ports are able to handle the increasing size of cargo and cruise ships.

The event was held at Port Tampa Bay’s new east port terminal.

Port Tampa Bay (with Port Manatee) has a major issue with both the biggest cargo and cruise ships because of the skyway’s height (too short) and the depth of the channel (too shallow).  The Port’s Vision 2030 plan calls for someday dredging the main channel to 50 feet (which should be deep enough) but nothing regarding the Skyway. (see here and here)

Airport – Another Good Ranking

The annual JD Power airport rankings are out.

Tampa International Airport ranks second in J.D. Power and Associates’ latest customer satisfaction analysis for top airports in North America for the second year in a row.

Portland International Airport was the only major airport to rank higher than Tampa, as it did last year, with a score of 786 out of 1,000. TIA’s score was 775. McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas was third at 759. Overall, the results were similar to the 2015 ratings, though this year Tampa International was able to close the gap with Portland by 11 points.

We are still not sure why Portland is supposed to be better.

Downtown – Mixed Feelings

The City Council decided on selling the parking lot across from City Hall.

The City Council voted Thursday to sell a vacant block next to City Hall to a New Orleans developer for $7.5 million.

* * *

The council vote was 6-to-1, with council chairman Mike Suarez voting no.

Suarez said he liked the project, but believed city officials should have done more before seeking bids to coordinate development of the property with a transit study expected to be done next year. The study, which is looking at possible expansions of the street car, and Suarez said the city missed an opportunity by not factoring the possibilities into the development plans for the block. 

They should have both looked for better bids and seen about the study.  No rush to sell this lot.  Anyway, just to remind you, here is the rendering:

From the Times - click on picture for article

From the Times – click on picture for article

HRI Properties plans to build a 21-story tower with a 223-room Hyatt Centric Hotel, 225 apartments and a 408-car garage. Seven thousand square feet of retail space in the tower will include a restaurant and a Starbucks.

Construction is expected to start in August or September, with the $120 million project opening in early 2019.

That is quick.  We’ll see.

“This is absolutely the highest and best use of a property like this,” council member Harry Cohen said.

This is absolutely the highest and best use?  A “signature” building – which was the stated intent – rather than a boxy building (that will be much shorter than the neighboring SunTrust building and One Tampa City Center, which were conveniently not included in the rendering – really, from the building around the proposal in the rendering, we have no idea what they used as background) that presents blank walls (in the rendering the blank wall towards the back appears to go up 13 stories, which would be remarkable) or unornamented parking garages – might be higher or better.  It’s not that we don’t like the idea of putting a mixed use building on the lot.  We do.  (And we don’t really even care about private buildings on private land in the 20 story range.  But this is selling public property.)

We just don’t really like this building on this lot, and we don’t see why the City would sell land in valuable location when there are all sorts of lots around downtown that could be developed (and are planned to be developed) like this – including one across the street that is basically just a surface parking lot with a smallish office build that has no historic value.

— One More Thing

We are not surprised that a prime lot would draw a big price.  However, there was this:

HRI’s offer was the highest of three bids and is higher than the value suggested by two appraisals commissioned by the city. One put the block’s value at $6.85 million, the other at $4.41 million.

Bob McDonaugh, the city’s top development official, said he knew of no downtown block that has sold for as much. By comparison, the 900 block of N Franklin Street, where the Atlanta development firm Carter is now building a 23-story apartment tower, sold for $6.4 million in 2015.

Under the terms of the deal, the city will get $4.5 million in cash. Officials have agreed to wait 10 years or until the property is transferred, whichever comes first, for the remaining $3 million.

In other words, the lot did not sell for $7.5 million in today’s dollars.  Everyone knows that by waiting to pay off 40% of the price for 10 years or when the developer cashes in on a sale, the actual value of the sale price in decreases.  We are not going to try to figure out what the discount to the developer is, but it is likely not small.  What is the logic of that?

History Center – It’s a Pirate’s Life

We like the Tampa Bay History Center.  It is a nice building in a nice location with some good exhibits, though some are a bit more like scrapbooks than full exhibits.  Now, they are looking to add more.

“We surveyed our audience for what else they would like to see,” said C.J. Roberts, the history center’s CEO. “They answered pirates, pirates, pirates. So, that is what they’ll get.”

In January, construction will begin on an 8,500-square-foot addition to the third story of the 60,000 square-foot history center. It will increase the center’s exhibit area by about a third.

When complete in late 2017, the new space will feature stories of real-life sea raiders through a permanent display, “Treasure Seekers: Conquistadors, Pirates & Shipwrecks.”

The centerpiece of a 4,300-square-foot gallery hosting the exhibit will be a replica of a small, fast pirate sloop — still 60 feet stem to stern — that visitors can explore inside and out. It will include real buccaneer artifacts like cannons and an interactive theater where visitors can choose a swashbuckler-themed adventure game.

* * *

Furthering this expanded mission is another part of the addition — the 1,400-square-foot, Touchton Map Library/Florida Center for Cartographic Education. The center will have 18,000 maps at its disposal, plotting state history to the 15th century.

The map exhibit they did a few years ago was quite good.  Hopefully, this will continue where that left off and build on it.

From the Times - click on picture for article

From the Times – click on picture for article

Total cost of the expansion is $11 million. Half already has been raised through private contributions and government grants, including $350,000 from Hillsborough County. Roberts expects two-thirds of the cost will be paid from the private sector and one-third from government grants.

We are also glad they are getting most of the money from donations.  That is how it should be.

We hope it goes well.

Built Environment – Walking

There was an interesting piece on ABC Action News.

A transportation crisis is now hitting some Tampa Bay areas neighborhoods hard.  

A year-long project from USF’s Center for Urban Transportation Research has just uncovered that many people are having to walk or ride the bus more than 45 minutes just to get to work, and often in tough conditions. 

* * *

She lives in the University Area near USF, one of the local neighborhoods now considered at risk. Many of the road Smith walks don’t have sidewalks.

“It’s way harder,” she said.

The research project found other local communities like this including parts of East Tampa, Palmetto, outside Dover and more.

It also found people living in these areas are often struggling to make ends meet and are spending more than 40 percent of what they make just getting from place to place.

“Not having a car is like a long ways to the bus stop, said Annette Barrow, a University Area resident. “And when you get to the bus stop, it’s a long wait for that.”

Barrow said most people here are forced to walk along this street and then will often ride the bus for nearly an hour trying to get to work or the store.

Setting aside that this is not really a novel observation in our area, there are a few things going on here.  First, obviously, is economic and related issues associated with having a lower income.  Setting that aside for purposes of this discussion, second is poor transit service.  That is a function of the mentality that transit is just for people without much money – those “other people.”  As long as that attitude holds, transit will be underfunded.  When you design transit for the choice riders as well as those who need it, those who need it benefit.

The last thing is the lack of walking infrastructure in this area.  Not only are there sidewalks to nowhere (or, due to the sprawl, essentially nowhere) and development patterns that make walking really unpleasant even if there are sidewalks. And there are many areas without sidewalks.  Amazingly, there are even nice neighborhoods in South Tampa near that main walking spot Bayshore that lack sidewalks. (see here and here between MacDill and Bayshore), in addition to East Tampa, see here and here)

The last two issues are matters of choice.  They could be, and should be, changed for the benefit not only of low-income residents, but everyone.  If you want to be a city, act like a city.

Hyde Park – No Thanks

A while back there as an announcement about a proposal for the last parcel in the Crescent Bayshore project. The proposal was pretty average. Then there was news that the some neighbors objected that their views would be damaged. Well,

A Houston developer that had proposed a 12-story residential tower on Bayshore Boulevard has abandoned its plans for the property.

Dinerstein Cos. in October submitted plans for the tower at 319 Bayshore Blvd., adjacent to 2Bayshore, a luxury apartment complex.

* * *

Gardner declined to comment on why Dinerstein decided not to pursue the project. The company’s request for the city to approve a taller building than originally approved for the site — 122 feet or 12 stories instead of 98 feet — is still active, Gardner said.

Our reaction is a very definitive shrug.  The location of the parcel cried out for a much better project.  So what is possible?

He said there is a “lot of interest” from groups that envision a variety of property types on the site, including office space, a hotel or assisted living facility.

An ALF?  We assume that is more a statement to be careful what you oppose, especially since the lot was quickly snapped up by some local hoteliers (though you never know).  Anyway, we shall see.

One thing we do know is that people who bought in nearby buildings should have no expectation of that whatever is built on Bayshore will not be in their views.  They knew they were buying in the middle of town on a street with a number of high-rise buildings.  It was foreseeable that another one might get built.  Caveat emptor.

Downtown – Straz Squeeze

As downtown develops, some parking lots are going to go away.  That is what happens in cities.  That is why planning and transit are important for cities. To wit:

The construction of an apartment complex on the northern edge of downtown is causing major traffic problems for patrons of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.

“My sense from them is that it’s really becoming a very critical situation,” said Harry Cohen, the Tampa City Council’s appointee to the Straz Center board.

* * *

Parking around the Straz Center has been tight for years, but in recent months the squeeze has gotten worse, Cohen said, because of an apartment project now going up next to the Barrymore Hotel.

Crescent Communities of Atlanta is building 394 apartments, plus a parking garage, on 5 acres that until this fall provided 500 parking spaces for the Times Building during the day and the Straz Center at night and on weekends.

Cohen this week asked for help in the form of more police officers to direct traffic on especially busy nights, developing more satellite parking lots with transportation to the concert hall, as well as thinking about a long-term solution.

“The venue is only getting more crowded, and there just isn’t enough parking,” he told fellow council members this week. “I really think we as a city have got to look at different ways we can create the opportunity for more people to be able to fit there.”

The best way for more people to fit is by not having them all bring their cars, but that would require real transit beyond downtown.    Anyway,

The city has been working on both short- and long-term relief, said Bob McDonaugh, City Hall’s top development official.

In the near term, it has leased the old Morgan Street jail site at no cost from the Florida Department of Transportation and plans to pave it to create 314 parking spaces. Those are expected to be done by June.

Looking further out, McDonaugh said he got Crescent Communities to agree to provide access to Straz patrons to more than 400 spaces in its new garage, which he expects will take seven months to build.

Meanwhile, the Straz, where attendance runs about 600,000 a year, has been sending patrons emails saying it knows parking is tight and offering some suggestions.

“Please believe us when we say we feel your pain,” says the email, which features a photo of an actor holding her head in horror.

The suggestions include arriving early, as well as using alternatives to driving such as the Pirate Water Taxi, free Downtowner electric shuttle, HART’s free In-Towner trolley, Uber and Lyft, local taxi companies’ $4 “In-Town” fares, the Cross-Bay Ferry and various lots within walking distance of the Straz.

Some congestion is to be expected.  On the other hand, the relatively routine congestion on the west side of downtown (not just around the Straz), which is welcome in the sense it shows people want to go downtown, is also predictable (And we still wonder why some parking spaces seemed to disappear. like these) We are not sure why there wasn’t a plan to deal with it.

As for the Straz specifically, it sits next to a surface parking lot.  Maybe, they should consider buying it and building a garage should or coming up with some other deal with the landowner.  Given the location of the Straz and the lack of transit, we doubt the parking issue is going to go away anytime soon.

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the State

— Orlando

There was a series in the Orlando Sentinel about Orlando in 2030.  Predictions are always a little risky, but whatever.  There was one about their airport (international traffic will be up 315% they say – strangely specific number, but could be) ; another about SunRail (either make it more frequent and useful or it might go away – reasonable analysis) ; and one about I-4, which was our favorite:

The Florida Department of Transportation anticipates that daily traffic on I-4 will jump from 188,000 vehicles now, along a stretch between between Ivanhoe Boulevard and Princeton Street, to 230,000 in 2030.

But, not to worry:

“When our team completes construction in 2021, the Orlando stretch will be a better-functioning highway,” states I-4 Mobility Partners, a consortium.

The new version of I-4 will have “safer curves, improved access to connecting roads and all new driving surfaces – and a more aesthetically pleasing corridor through artful bridge design, lighting and landscaping,” the consortium promises.

And, really, in 2021, it might be.  But by 2030, we doubt it.  Though we are assured:

The new I-4 when completed will have new express lanes, which critics label as Lexus lanes because motorists who use them will have to pay a toll. The busier the road gets each day, the higher the charge.

“Everyone is going to be accustomed to using the express lanes,” said Harold Barley, MetroPlan Orlando director. “I see traffic congestion being a rare occurrence in 2030 and travel time will definitely be more reliable.”

The magic of express lanes will fix it all, even though the population will keep growing and the highway will not be expanded anymore. Sure.

At least FDOT admitted that TBX will not really fix congestion.

— How About Us?

Now that there is an agreement with Uber and Lyft in Hillsborough County, and with last week’s hyped announcement of funding for a Federal tech training program and all the talk about start-ups, this caught our eye:

South Florida Uber drivers and riders can apply for scholarships to learn to code, thanks to a partnership announced Monday between ride-hailing giant Uber and Ironhack, one of Miami’s leading coding bootcamps.

The partners will offer $100,000 in scholarships to acquire professional skills in coding and design. Two winners will be awarded full scholarships to take one of Ironhack’s bootcamps in 2017, and 50 partial scholarships will be awarded to additional winners.

“Uber’s roots will always be in building world-class technology, and this scholarship will help fuel South Florida’s growing tech ecosystem and startup scene – while making invaluable learning opportunities accessible to even more people looking to launch careers in tech,” said Uber South Florida General Manager Kasra Moshkani.

It’s the first time Uber has offered coding scholarships in its markets, however it has sponsored UberPitch events in Miami and other cities that match entrepreneurs with investors, a spokesman said.

Ironhack is located in downtown Brickell at, a shared workspace for growing tech companies and startups. The school, which opened in Miami two years ago, also has campuses in Madrid and Barcelona.

You can read the article here for more details.  It would be nice if we also had such a program.  The more people who are trained, the better.

— Speaking of Startups

There was also an interesting article in the Miami Herald about the challenges faced by start-ups in South Florida.  The seven top challenges are: money, talent, incomplete tech ecosystem, research university system, managing rapid growth, and competition from large companies.  (You can read the article here.) It is interesting to read about the start-up problems in other areas and how they, to a large degree, mirror our own.

Broward Keeps Moving Forward

As everyone knows, there was a transit referendum (with a bad plan) in Hillsborough that lost in 2010.  The local leaders then took years to get around to doing anything other than making pronouncements about how transportation is so important.  When they finally set up the TED/PLC/Go Hillsborough process, it was full of posturing, backtracking, consultants, and political intrigue that eventually produced a not very good plan that never made it to the ballot.  In the meantime, Pinellas rejected Greenlight Pinellas.  We have no idea if they are doing anything there.

With that as a backstory, as we noted in November, Broward rejected a transportation tax, sort of.  Actually Broward passed it, but the weird structure of the plan required it to pass in cities, which it failed to do.  What did Broward do?

One day in the future, a traveler could get to the edge of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport by train, then climb aboard a people-mover to be transported to the terminal.

Broward County commissioners embraced the possibility Tuesday, moving forward a deal to give a sliver of land adjacent to the airport’s Perimeter Road to All Aboard Florida for a potential train station. The vote was unanimous.

The details remain to be worked out; the vote allows County Administrator Bertha Henry to approve a tentative deal while commissioners are on winter break. A final vote would take place in March.

Assistant county attorney Andrew Meyers said the deal is a swap. The county would give up the half acre but would gain air rights over it and over railroad land next to it.

* * *

The sliver of land is important to both the county and the railroad company.

Broward County wants to keep open the possibility of running The Wave, a planned streetcar rail system, to the airport at the same site. The county also wants to maintain the possibility of running a people-mover from the station to the airport terminals. The county’s air rights would allow it to build an elevated rail line, officials said.

Currently, people can travel to the airport by car, county bus or, on weekends, the Sun Trolley. But faced with clogged roadways and no more space for road expansion, Broward is slowly turning to rail as a way to move people around.

Not very Hillsborough-like.  Of course, they already have some rail and the formerly All Aboard Florida (now Brightline) is building a station in Ft. Lauderdale right now.

Broward voters in November rejected a set of sales tax increases totaling 1 percent, or one penny on the dollar, to pay for transportation and infrastructure improvements. Some form of the referendum is expected to return to the ballot in 2018 or 2020.

Not very Hillsborough at all, namely because Broward seems serious about doing something about transportation.

List of the Week

This week, we have the annual Milken Institute rankings of economic performance by metro areas.  This is one of those rankings that is reasonably respected and should be given some weight, though every ranking has its weaknesses.  You can see the methodology here.

The top 35 (you’ll see why) “large” metros are as follows: San Jose, followed by Provo, Austin, San Francisco, Dallas, Raleigh, Nashville, Ft. Collins (CO), Orlando, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Charlotte, Denver, Portland (OR), Ft. Myers, Charleston (SC), Naples (FL), Oakland (CA), Orange County (CA), Santa Rosa (CA), Atlanta, Grand Rapids, Boise, San Antonio, San Luis Obispo, Sarasota-Bradenton, Savannah, Ft. Lauderdale, Ogden, 30 Fayetteville (AR), 31 Greeley (CO), San Diego, Tampa-St Pete-Clearwater, Boulder, Rockingham County (NH).

Other Florida cities in the “large metro” category include: West Palm Beach (36), Jacksonville (39), Port St. Lucie (50), Miami (60), Daytona (69), Gainesville (100), Lakeland (114), Ocala (130), Palm Bay (153), Tallahassee (172).

Most Florida cities moved up the list, which is good.  Tampa-St. Pete-Clearwater went from 58th to 33rd.  (Orlando went from 28th to 9th.)

So, by this measure, we are doing ok.  Still, most of the usual suspect, and six Florida metros, are above us.  We are making progress, but there is much work to do.

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