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Roundup 5-12-2017

May 12, 2017


Transportation – Playing Nice, But . . .

Channel District/Economic Development – Incubation

Airport – Building

— Just For Reference

Hyde Park – Update

South Tampa – More Land

Economic Development – Not Like That

Tampa Heights – Addition

Transportation – The Greenway

Meanwhile, In The Rest of Florida


Transportation – Playing Nice, But . . .

There was an interesting, in a bizarre way, article in the Times regarding FDOT’s new approach to TBX:

For more than two years, Tampa has been a community divided. Tampa Bay Express, a $6 billion project to expand the region’s interstates by adding up to 100 miles of toll lanes, was the line in the sand.

Business leaders and government officials stood on one side. Community members — especially from the urban neighborhoods threatened by construction — stood on the other.

About two dozen people from those opposing groups gathered Thursday to discuss a two-day trip they took to St. Louis last month. The federally funded peer exchange aimed to bridge the discord between state officials and the community. The goal was to learn from Missouri’s experience in bridging that community’s gap over a controversial road project.

“It became abundantly clear that we needed much more community engagement than what we’ve had,” said DOT director of development Bill Jones.

Yes, that was clear, though, really, that should be regular policy in the first place (we’ll see if the new TBARTA with its unique structure learns from this experience). But, anyway:

Rick Fernandez has been a vocal leader of Sunshine Citizens, a group that vehemently opposes TBX. He has spoken at countless government meetings, including one that spanned eight hours and stretched into the early morning.

* * *

Most of the time, that side included Rick Homans, president of the Tampa Bay Partnership, a group representing some of the area’s biggest businesses.

Both individuals were on the St. Louis trip. Fernandez’s biggest takeaway? Having real conversations during the trip with the people he has spent two years arguing with, he said, changed his perspective about them.

“The only thing I’ve thought of, Rick, every time I’ve seen you in the last few years was, ‘How is he going to try to screw me tonight?’ ” Fernandez said. “Then there was that brief shining moment in St. Louis by the bar when we had a chance to just talk person to person. I don’t think my head will explode next time because of that. And there’s some benefit to that.”

Homans responded by crossing the room and giving Fernandez a hug.

And that is fine.  People getting along and having civilized discussions is good.  And who’s going to object to some bro hugs? However, what does that mean for fixing the folly that is TBX?

Fernandez still opposes TBX. It’s a bad plan with a bad premise, he said. But he’s willing to sit at the table and try to find a way forward. And for the first time in years, he said, he thinks the DOT is making an attempt to listen.

“Cautiously optimistic is the best thing you can say right now,” Fernandez said. “I at least feel like we’re open to discuss other things and that’s a big, big difference from where we’ve been the last two years.”

Who Knows?

They continued that discussion Thursday. One at a time, participants tossed out terms describing what they thought the area needed to focus on when considering transportation projects: Community values. Cost. Neighborhoods. Alternatives. Collaboration. Respect.

It was a simple, but deliberate, exercise by the state. The message? We’re here to listen.

“These are all your words,” said DOT official Alice Price. “This is all non-DOT input.”

The word cloud is nice, too, but, once again, what does it mean for the actual project? And transit?

While Fernandez and fellow Sunshine Citizens member Chris Vela said they’ve noticed a change in the DOT’s willingness to discuss other options, there’s still concern that all these discussions won’t lead to actual change.

“I’m just highly skeptical,” Vela said. “I think we’re seeing a pushback from the community, and hopefully FDOT will take this opportunity to really listen.”

Exactly.  Like we said, it is good for people to have civilized discussions and respect it others’ opinions.  However, that does not mean anything material will change.  Real changes are actual changes.  Talking is important.  But without substantive changes to the mess that is TBX, it really does not matter.

Which brings us to an ABCActionNews item:

On Tuesday, FDOT updated Hillsborough County leaders on the so-called “Reset” TBX plan, the $6-billion project that would expand the interstates by adding express toll lanes.

But it’s not just expanding the roads, FDOT also wants to expand the rails by adding mass transit into Tampa’s daily transportation diet.

“It’s not going to be one solution, it’s not going to be transit, it’s not going to be expanding roadways…it’s going to be technology solutions, traffic management, and working with companies on staggering work hours,” says McKinney.

Solutions that don’t come cheap.

When asked if there are concerns about funding McKinney says, “Absolutely, this region needs to stay committed to finding a solution we can’t back off from that.”

And that all sounds positive, if vague and not really new.  But the question remains – what is actually going to become of TBX? And will we get a real, coordinated, transportation system? So far, we have heard nothing substantive.

Channel District/Economic Development – Incubation

There was interesting news in the Times from the Lightning owner about his project:

The owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning and a leader of one of the biggest urban redevelopment efforts in the nation, Jeff Vinik today is announcing he will personally partner with New York-based Dreamit to bring its high-end business accelerator and about ten elite startups specializing in urban technology to Tampa this fall.

If successful, the partnership has high hopes it could help Tampa grow to become a regional, if not international mecca for innovative urban technology and development.

For now, the partnership will focus on choosing young companies with urban technology ideas deemed most promising and disruptive. We do not know yet what startups will be chosen. But their ideas could include such urban tech niches as wearables that direct visitors to the nearest hospital or restaurant. Or bike lanes carved out next to self-driving cars. Perhaps advances in construction materials.

You can find the Dreamit urban tech website here.

The Vinik-Dreamit partnership has three related goals:

We are all for this, for a few reasons.  First, it is all private (except the infrastructure spending).  Second, even if we do not become the urban tech mecca, it should help develop our tech and entrepreneurial community with a much-needed focus on the area. (And if not a mecca, maybe we could be an urban tech petri dish, which is still more than we are today and would attract attention, interest, investment, and talent) And:

“We want to do our part to accelerate innovation in Tampa Bay,” Vinik said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times.

* * *

“We want to make this area more attractive to young people starting companies, to venture capitalists who might want to invest in these emerging companies,” Vinik said, “and to the best and brightest graduates in our area and state so they will want to stay or come to Tampa Bay because there is opportunity here.”

The Lightning owner is a money man and understands the need to bring more investment money and opportunities to this area. And he understands what he is trying to sell and to whom.  And he is doing his best to help.  Of course, it helps his project by filling space and creating buzz.  But that is fine with us.  There is nothing wrong with a business man making business decisions, especially if they have a wider benefit.  And this also helps the area generally.  And we want his project to succeed.

We are pleased with this development, though there is a long way to go with his project and with this urban tech concept (especially in an area that really does not even have transit).  But, as far as we can tell, there is no real downside. (If it pans out, it will be interesting to see if, if and when they get their rolling, the companies stay here or move elsewhere.)

Airport – Building

The airport expansion/renovation plans appear to be staying on track:

The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, which governs Tampa International Airport, has approved plans to go ahead with Phase 2 of TIA’s ambitious expansion plan.

The board voted to approve a $132.4 million amendment to the authority’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget, at its regular monthly meeting on Thursday. This portion of the $543 million Phase 2 of the master plan will allow the airport to begin demolition of the Red Side garage and former Airside D guideway, as well as start on the Gateway Development Area. The Gateway project will cost more than $121.7 million, while the garage demolition will cost approximately $10.6 million.

* * *

The Gateway project includes site preparation of 17 acres at a cost of $13.5 million along with a remote commercial curb of $12.1 million that includes five lanes. There will also be an atrium and pedestrian bridge at $53.6 million and buildout of the Aviation Authority facilities and operations centers at $42.5 million, along with additional office space.

The developer portion of Gateway includes a 240,000-square-foot, eight-story building plus a gas station, convenience store, two hotels and 20,000 square feet of other retail.

The airport plans to fund the Gateway and Red Side garage demolition projects through general airport revenue bonds and passenger facility charges. Approval of the amendment was predicted to result in an increase to the Authority’s FY 2017 operating and capital budget, rising to nearly $200.7 million from approximately $88.3 million.

“We’ve been aggressively paying down debt to afford this project,” TIA’s Chief Executive Officer Joe Lopano told the Authority at the meeting Thursday. He said that during the past two months, airport officials have been conducting public outreach — appearing before county commissions and other groups — to be as transparent as possible about this next phase of the master plan.

While it was not made clear in the reporting, we assume the “Red Side” garage is the small garage to the west of the hotel.  As for the rest, it is fine with us (though, as we said before, the office building is the least interesting part of the project).

In other airport news:

The Tampa airport also reported Thursday that March was busiest month in the airport’s history with a 0.5 percent growth in domestic passengers and a 0.7 percent growth in international passengers. The airport served 9.8 million passengers during the first six months of fiscal year 2017, which matched 2016 levels. International passenger traffic is up 2.3 percent so far this year, thanks to full flights on Copa Airlines, Lufthansa and Southwest’s service to Havana, Cuba.

That is great (and points to the need for more Latin American service).  Part of that is the recovering economy and part of that is the strategic plan and route development by the airport staff that allowed the airport to take advantage of the improved environment.  We look forward to more route development to help continue to drive passenger traffic up.

And it is not just passenger traffic that is up.

Seattle-based Amazon has opened two enormous distribution centers in the greater Tampa Bay area. To supply those warehouses with merchandise, Amazon is shipping goods to Tampa International Airport daily aboard a Boeing 767 cargo freighter plane.

It’s a lucrative arrangement for Tampa’s airport, which has seen a spike of more than 20 percent in cargo activity over the last year. The Amazon deal alone has generated more than $275,500 in revenue for the airport through fees and building rental payments, which continues to go up.

The daily flight is part of a national deal that Amazon quietly inked with Air Transport Services Group in 2015 to lease five Boeing 767 cargo planes and use them to move merchandise across the country. Tampa was one of the first regions to be a part of Amazon’s air cargo delivery network. Amazon and ATSG renewed the contract last year and extended the lease to 20 cargo planes.

Business is going well enough that LGSTX Services Inc., a firm under the same parent company as Air Transport Services, wants to lease additional warehouse space from the Tampa airport.

Which is all good.

In addition, board members agreed to change the language of the airport’s air service incentive program to accommodate more domestic cargo freight business. The incentive program has been used mostly to lure new commercial airliners and flights to Tampa Bay, like the direct flight to Frankfurt, Germany, on Lufthansa and to Panama City, Panama on Copa Airlines. The airport waives fees and has written checks for marketing reimbursements through the program.

For cargo flights, the incentive program only allowed international carriers to participate. That changed Thursday when board members voted to revise the language to include incentives for all cargo air service.

We have nothing against that move either, provided the incentives are well targeted.  Despite its growth, our cargo business is still quite small and could use some development.

Nevertheless, overall, thing are going well.

— Just For Reference

Just for reference, here is a ranking of Florida airports based on traffic, from the Business Journal (see here):

Business name Total passengers 2016 Total passengers 2015 Percent change passengers
Miami International Airport (MIA) 44.58 million 44.35 million 5%
Orlando International Airport (MCO) 41.92 million 38.81 million 8%
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) 29.2 million 26.94 million 8.4%
Tampa International Airport (TPA) 18.93 million 18.82 million 6%
Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) 8.6 million 8.37 million 2.8%

Downtown – Another Attempt

Once again, the City is looking to for some new restaurants downtown.

City Hall is back out in the market seeking private-sector partners to open restaurants in two spots close to the Riverwalk.

One is a 10,000-square-foot space at the Tampa Convention Center.

The other is a 2,600-square-foot space overlooking the lawn at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

* * *

So Buckhorn’s administration has issued requests for proposals seeking restaurateurs for both spaces. Proposals are due for the convention center on June 9 and for Curtis Hixon on June 12.

City officials see the time as right for new restaurants at each location as developers plan or build hundreds of new apartments on the old Tampa Tribune site, on Harbour Island, in the Heights, in the Channel District and at the $3 billion project being planned near Amalie Arena by Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investment.

Both sites have been discussed for years as possible sites for public-private partnerships, but previous initiatives did not pan out.

We don’t have an opinion about the convention center location.

As for Curtis Hixon Park, we  have mixed feelings. We get that the City could get some money from it, but the park is busy as it is. And there are restaurants all around it. And the building is not even that nice. Though a small restaurant would be ok.  Really, to us, it really doesn’t matter one way or the other. The park is fine without it, and the Art Museum has a better restaurant space.  Filling the small space in question won’t add that much, but probably wouldn’t detract much, either.

In any event, we shall see.

Hyde Park – Update

There was an update to a previously announced proposals for an assisted living facility on Hyde Park Boulevard. From URBN Tampa Bay:

We have new elevations for the proposed senior living facility at 509 S. Hyde Park Ave. The building’s height has been increased to 122 feet (not including flag pole) and goes up for approval on July 20th. While we like the height and density, we oppose the design due to poor street interaction. 

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

We don’t really like the frontage on Hyde Park (west elevation).  With or without retail, it is quite bland with almost not features and few windows near the street.  It’s just not that nice and should be fixed.

But setting that aside for a moment, we like the flag pole on top (even if the building overall is a jumble of styles).  We have often wondered why there are no more buildings with that feature, which we kind of like in moderation.  One might think it is because of lightning, but there are a number of buildings in Houston and New Orleans with that feature.  And the feature looks quite nice on a bright, sunny day.

South Tampa – More Land

There was news that more South Tampa waterfront land is up for sale.

Tampa-based Viper Ventures is selling Rattlesnake Point, nearly 31 acres on a peninsula that lies south of Gandy Boulevard and close to the Westshore Marina District master planned community.

With unobstructed views of Old Tampa Bay, the property most likely would be redeveloped for multi-family housing with space for a restaurant, shops and a hotel.

“Hopefully, a developer also will incorporate some sort of esplanade area that the general public can walk along because we have over a half mile of waterfront,” said Trey Carswell of Avison Young, the real estate firm that began marketing the site Monday for an undisclosed price.

From the Times – click on picture for article

It is an interesting plot of land.  There definitely is quite a bit of waterfront property, though road access is quite limited to one road.  While we are all for density, especially on a good, waterfront lot, access is an issue.  However,

The tract currently contains a 67,000-square-foot warehouse used by a boat repair firm and several smaller industrial buildings. A CSX rail line runs along the south edge of the property, which is on Tyson Street across from the popular Hula Bay Club restaurant.

While residents might not want a freight train running nearby, the rail line that goes from Tyson to Tampa’s city center eventually could be part of a regional transportation network.

“Down in Miami there were railways that all of a sudden turned into a commuter train,” noted Michael T. Fay, another Avison Young agent.

It is interesting that they are promoting the property with nonexistent transit connections. Years ago there was an idea to use those tracks for transit. (you can see the tracks better here)  That was killed by South Tampa residents.  Whether it could come back is an open question.

The land certainly has potential.  Whether it will be realized remains to be seen.

Economic Development – Not Like That

While we understand supporting local businesses, and do so, there was some oddness in St. Pete this last week:

Mayor Rick Kriseman led a march down Central Avenue on Wednesday night to signal his support for independent businesses who fear getting priced out of a booming downtown.

Kriseman said he’s working on a draft ordinance — no timetable has been set yet on when it might reach City Council — that would privilege locally-owned businesses along Central Avenue to 31st Street and Beach Drive. Those commercial areas, the mayor said, are essential to keeping St. Petersburg unique.

The measure would make it difficult for chains or even stores that use similar logos in multiple locations to set up shop in those corridors. They would need a variance to do so, the mayor’s staff said. However, the mayor said the final details of his proposal were still in flux.

In reaction, the Times had an editorial that got it right:

Kriseman held a campaign-style rally and march this week to promote his plan, which is still being drafted into a proposed ordinance. The idea is to keep chain stores and businesses from opening on Beach Drive and along Central Avenue from the waterfront to 31st Street. Any such “formula business” would have to obtain a variance from the city before it could open on those corridors. The new restrictions wouldn’t just apply to national chains, which include bank branches, drugstores and other necessities. They would also affect local businesses that operate multiple locations.

So a Kahwa Coffee couldn’t open a new store on Central without special permission from City Hall. Or a Columbia Restaurant. Or a locally owned Ace Hardware. Or a badly needed locally owned men’s clothing store with multiple locations. How does that benefit the city and thousands of new downtown residents who will be moving into the new condos and apartments?

Kriseman, who is in the midst of a re-election campaign, says he wants to preserve the unique character of Central Avenue, which cuts through trendy stretches of downtown, the Edge district and Grand Central. He says the proposal is not meant to discourage chain stores from coming to St. Petersburg but rather to nudge them toward areas in need of new development, such as 16th Street or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street. Encouraging preservation, economic development and locally owned businesses are fine priorities, but Kriseman’s proposal invites unintended consequences and claims of unfairness. It won’t stop market-driven rents from going up for locally owned shops, and it’s hard to conceive of a variance process that isn’t arbitrary. Some will be granted, some won’t and lawsuits will fly. And what about landlords, who would be unfairly restricted on which tenants they could sign?

And, as noted by the Times, the highly touted second downtown Publix in St. Pete is on Central Avenue.  And, as noted, this idea seems to give an odd level of power to a city government to choose what goes into private space.

Once again, we get supporting local business, but that should be voluntary, not determined by the City.  We are all for good planning and health and safety regulations, but this proposal is neither.

Tampa Heights – Addition

It appears that the developers of the Heights have bought the building at 220 W 7th Avenue.  That is the Beck Building.  It is not clear what exactly that means for the project (if anything.  It may just be more property for the owners). It is the two-story building above the Armature Works building at the bend of the river in this photo.

From The Heights – click on picture for Facebook page

In other news about the project,  construction on the Pearl is coming along nicely.

Transportation – The Greenway

When we say that things get overhyped and painting a stripe on a road does not make for real bike infrastructure, we mean it.  We can also show you what we mean.  Let’s take the Selmon Greenway – the much hyped trail under the Selmon connecting Ybor to downtown.  We were driving around and noticed some segments which can be highlighted with the help of links to Google maps and Street View.

For instance, this is where it gets to the outskirts of Ybor. While not exactly part of the Greenway, it is the logical path to Ybor. Not only is that just a sidewalk.  It has pole in the middle of the sidewalk making both walking (especially with two people of a double stroller) and biking difficult. It does not appear to be officially part of the Greenway, but that is the gateway to Ybor – so what is the point of riding your bike to that point and then having that.

But if you want to keep going on the Greenway, you also have to cross Adamo again going south, even though the Greenway came from the south. (see here) and then it just kind of dies out.

And in other places it kind of disappears, like here, where there is not real trail, but there is a sidewalk heading east into the Channel District (like this) which sort of defeats the whole trail idea.

It’s not that we are opposed to the Greenway at all – we aren’t.  We just want it to make sense and be truly useful.  It needs to connect to Ybor – the heart of Ybor.  And it would be nice if it was much greener downtown, where it is more like a shaded Mulch-way.  It is a good idea, but it can be executed much better.

Meanwhile, In The Rest of Florida

We often discuss VC and attracting capital investments.  Well,

Warburg Pincus, a global private equity firm, may have just made the biggest investment of 2017 in a Florida-based tech company, Boca Raton-based Modernizing Medicine.

The firm announced Wednesday it was plowing $231 million into the company to provide liquidity for existing shareholders and to fund expansion.

Modernizing Medicine provides a mobile, cloud-based, platform for medical records and health care business management — and it is adaptable to specialties like dermatology, gastroenterology, and plastic surgery. The company was founded in 2010 by Daniel Cane and Michael Sherling, a Palm Beach dermatologist.

The investment is a large private equity infusion, which can mean the investor assumes control of the company. With the new investment, two Warburg people are joining the board of directors: Fred Hassan, managing director at Warburg, and Amr Kronfol, principal. Hassan is also the former CEO and chairman of Schering Plough and executive chairman of Bausch & Lomb.

The investment is one of the largest in a Florida-based tech firm since augmented reality firm Magic Leap attracted more than $500 million in venture capital in 2015, led by Google Ventures. Magic Leap is also based in South Florida.

So that is a positive sign, in that Florida companies can attract the investments, but it would be nicer if the investments was a little closer.  Maybe the Lightning owner’s new partnership will help that along.

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