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Roundup 6-2-2017

June 2, 2017

Roundup is slightly abbreviated this week.

Contents

Transportation – TB(n)X, The Editorial

Tourism/Sports – Why Not?

Downtown – Bar Moves Forward

Transportation – Airport News

Ybor City – That’s What You Get

Growth – Checking in With the Boom

Hyde Park – Altis Grand Central

Downtown – Encore, Encore Issues

Port – Dig

South Tampa – More of a Kind

Tampa Heights – Because We Can

__________________________________________

Transportation – TB(n)X, The Editorial

As one might expect, the Times had an editorial regarding the rebranding of TBX into Tampa Bay Next.  We will avoid excessive quotation and just go for the main point:

Opponents of Tampa Bay Express were quick to dismiss the announcement by Florida’s Department of Transportation last week that it was renaming the controversial plan to rebuild the area’s interstate system. But changing the name from TBX to Tampa Bay Next is more than a rebranding effort, and regional leaders and activists should take this opportunity to build state support for a more multimodal approach to solving the region’s transportation needs.

It may or may not be, but, note:

The DOT needlessly burned its credibility early on by plowing ahead with TBX without input or buy-in from the cross-section of the community that would be most affected. It’s the agency’s job to demonstrate that this new incarnation, Tampa Bay Next, is more than a marketing exercise. That certainly seems the case. But the state will need to bring hard commitments and money to the planning table. Likewise, those opposed to TBX need to recognize that roads will play a part, that the interstates are where they are, that a solution must be multimodal and that Tampa Bay Next might work.

The public needs a chance to be fully heard and for options beyond tolled lanes and highway construction to truly be on the table. The plan must be forward-looking and consider the value being either added or destroyed to these communities through the various transit modes. The one option that’s unacceptable is to stay put. The state and the region need to move ahead with Tampa Bay Next in the spirit it was proposed and offer a range of transit options where they work best.

That is generally right.  Except you can do worse than stay put.  You can have a bad plan that does more long-term damage and solves nothing while wasting billions in resources that could be put to a good plan. Just doing something, anything, is not always a good thing.  (And, while we are all for fixing the Howard Frankland bottleneck and Malfunction Junction – assuming that it does not mean a road 18 lanes wide or something similar, we note again that “multimodal” does not mean just roads for cars and buses.)

Right now, FDOT is saying a lot of the right things, which we appreciate.  We hope they actually mean it.  But nothing has really happened yet, and the burden is on FDOT (and local officials who blindly backed TBX) to build trust and show they can do better.  We think they can.  We hope they do.

Tourism/Sports – Why Not?

There was another sports announcement this week:

Tampa will host the NHL All-Star Game on the same weekend as Gasparilla Pirate Fest in 2018.

The National Hockey League on Monday announced that Tampa would host the All-Star game and related festivities on Jan. 27 and 28 in 2018. The weekend includes the NHL All-Star Skills Competition and the NHL All-Star Game.

First, we are all for the NHL All Star game being held here (though there are issues with the Winter Olympics).  That being said, we are not so sure about having it on Gasparilla.  It could be epic or it could be an epic cluster (especially given all the traffic and parking troubles that have been seen downtown with multiple, smaller events and our lack of transit) – or maybe both in their own way.  Whatever it is, it will be interesting.

Downtown – Bar Moves Forward

URBN Tampa Bay reported more about the renovation/bar development on Franklin:

The proposed multi-story bar/restaurant/lounge combo set to renovate the historic structure at 1007 N. Franklin Street in Downtown Tampa received preliminary approval from the city of Tampa today.

Here’s the picture they used of what it looks like now:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

On our Facebook page, a commenter wondered what it looked like under that façade (which was probably sold a “modernization” when it was done).  Based on the Google maps shot, the information on the page from the Burgert Brothers Collection, and the Property Appraiser website, we believe it is the three-story building on the left of this picture (how about those street lamps):

From Hillsborough County Library Collection – click on picture of website

You can decide which one you like more.

Transportation – Airport News

April was good at the airport.

Tampa International Airport saw its passenger traffic in April soar to nearly 1.8 million travelers.

The airport served 1,799,519 in April, up 5.6 percent for the same month one year ago.

* * *

April 2017 also boasted the highest total number of international passengers coming through TIA in the airport’s history. TIA served 98,844 international travelers that month, up 16.8 percent from the same period in 2016. Leading the way was Air Canada, which was up 23.4 percent due to larger planes.

TIA’s “Cuba service continues to thrive,” Minner said. “We carried 50 percent more passengers to Cuba in April of this year over last year.”

All of which is very good. And, following up on the Roundup we noted last week,

Additionally, TIA also announced new service to Montreal and Toronto on Air Transat, a 30-year-old airline focused on the Canadian holiday travel markets. The new service begins Feb. 18, 2018 and weekly flights will operate on Sundays. It will provide seasonal service through April 2018.

Great.

Ybor City – That’s What You Get

There was an odd report from ABC Action News regarding Ybor City.

Drivers who live in some of Tampa’s oldest neighborhoods say they are unable to drive down tight, crowded streets because there are simply too many parked cars.

Many streets in Ybor City are very narrow and many people do not have driveways. Many cars are parked on both sides of the street leaving some residents facing head-on traffic!

We are not sure why there is an exclamation point since that happens on many residential streets in many cities.  And note that they are not talking about the nightlife (though that probably plays some part). Yes, there is housing and people park on the street – like they do in old neighborhoods everywhere.  That is a feature of living in such a neighborhood.  We are not suggesting it is ok to park in such a way as to block the road – it isn’t.  But the road may get a bit crowded.

Transportation leaders say it’s illegal for any driver to leave less than ten feet of travel lane width when they are parked or stopped.

City Transportation leaders said when the department gets these types of complaints, they go out and investigate, and on occasion we install “No Parking” signs for one or both sides of the street.

The City of Tampa Code, Chapter 15, references parking restrictions and requirements.

They also said Tampa Police would enforce this code, if it were deemed that a parked vehicle was creating an impassable situation. 

While we think no parking signs on both sides of the road would be kind of silly, making sure the road is not blocked is fine (as long as the Police can figure out which car parked last and actually blocked the road, as opposed to all the cars parked properly that came before it).  The basic point is that Ybor is an old, urban neighborhood.  That is part of its charm.  But along with that come some challenges.  Parking is one of them.  And, as long as Ybor is doing ok, it will stay that way.

If you choose to live in Ybor you should do it with eyes open.

Growth – Checking in With the Boom

The Business Journal had an interesting item on the fastest growing (population growth rate between 2010-2016) cities in Florida.   Bradenton was the tenth fastest growing large city at 12.8%.  The rest of that list in ascending order is: Miramar, Miami, Jupiter, Orlando, Cape Coral, Kissimmee, Bonita Springs, Ft. Myers, and Doral.  Normally we would say that our larger size made our growth rate lower, but, with Orlando and Miami on the list, that is not the case. (Though Tampa probably came close to making the list – we calculate 12.3% growth for the city itself.)

Maybe there were high levels of growth in some smaller towns in the area.  None made the list.

So how about wage growth?

A bump in average annual wages for most Florida workers is ending a long period of stagnant paychecks.

Wages in the state averaged $46,236 in 2015, the highest they have been in a decade, according to a report released last week by the Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

Data in the report shows that years after the Great Recession ended, workers’ paychecks were still feeling the pinch.

You can see their report here.

In the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area, wages averaged $46,925 in 2015, compared to $44,175 in 2005. Like the statewide figures, the biggest gain came between 2014 and 2015, when wages went up 3.03 percent.

That is .61% over ten years or low wages to low wages (but not quite as low).  On the other hand, at least it is some growth and most of it came recently.  Some other areas of the state had no growth or negative growth.  Nevertheless, while any growth is good, we need much more.  Remember just how low our wages are to other areas around the country.

Hyde Park – Altis Grand Central

Per URBN Tampa Bay, the Altis Grand Central has finally been approved.

After an obnoxiously long (6 months) substantial change request process, the city signed off minor site modifications to Altis Grand Central yesterday. The mixed use project features 314 units and 10,000 square feet of retail across from the Oxford Exchange and should be starting construction in the next couple of months. Here’s what the modifications were:

– Increase the retail space by 423 square feet
– Increase height of the sundeck (this isn’t the tallest part of the building so it didn’t affect the overall building’s height)
– Increase the number of public parking spaces by 2

Again, why the city took so long on this is beyond us, but we’re happy to have it approved and ready to go now. The developer has already closed on the land.

We don’t know why the City took so long to approve it (whether you like it or not, if they are going to approve it, why drag it out?).  If it is a matter of staffing, they should get more resources.  If it is a political (or personal) thing, it should not happen.  Either way, it needs to get fixed.

As for the building, we are interested to see what it will actually look like given the oddly angled (and probably distorted) rendering:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

We shall see.

Downtown – Encore, Encore Issues

The Tempo saga continued this week. First, a reminder of the backstory:

Tempo was already behind schedule when the Housing Authority fired original Tempo contractor the Siltek Group, saying it was not complying with inspectors. There was also concern about the involvement of Siltek project manager Rene Sierra.

In December, he was sentenced to three years of probation, including six months of home detention with electronic monitoring. He was also ordered to repay $1.2 million to the government for his part in a multimillion-dollar kickback scheme involving affordable housing in South Florida.

* * *

As underwriter of the project, Berkley took over construction after the Housing Authority fired the original contractor, the Siltek Group, one year ago. Against the wishes of the Housing Authority, however, Berkley hired Tron Construction, a new firm run by Siltek’s owners.

Now,

The Housing Authority and its development partner announced they were terminating their contract with Berkley Surety Group and its contractor Tron Construction, bringing to a halt work on the Tempo at Encore, a seven-story building on the edge of downtown Tampa.

* * *

Housing Authority officials said it was obvious the building was not on track for its scheduled August opening, and they doubted it would be finished this year. Part of the problem was that Tron did not have enough workers on site, said Leroy Moore, the agency’s chief operating officer.

* * *

There were plenty of other problems with Tron’s work, Moore said. Windows were installed incorrectly, leaving the building prone to leaks. A separate clubhouse/office building was not built to specifications and had to be demolished and restarted.

And we have no problem with that decision.  This project is taking way too long.  What now?

The building will now be finished by a new contractor, Moore said. The estimated $10 million cost will come from leftover funds, with the shortfall being made up by the Housing Authority’s development partner, Banc of America Community Development Corp.

In exchange, the bank will be entitled to recoup that outlay if it and the Housing Authority win any damages from Tron and Berkley in future litigation.  

Fine, if it happens.

We hope the Housing Authority is learning many lessons from this project so they do not repeat the same mistakes if/ when the North Boulevard Homes land (where there have already been some unfortunate decisions) get redeveloped.

Port – Dig

There was news from the Port:

Port Tampa Bay has secured a $9 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the widening and deepening of the Big Bend Channel in southern Hillsborough County.

The channel project overall will cost $55 million, a press release said. The Big Bend Channel connects to the Tampa Harbor main channel and will be deepened from 34 feet to 43 feet and widened from 200 to 250 feet to accommodate larger ships.

“The members of our Board and our entire team are excited that the administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Office of Management and Budget recognize that the Big Bend Channel project will set the standard for innovative partnerships by utilizing a less than 20 percent federal stake in this estimated $55 million strategic project to support navigational improvements,” Paul Anderson, president and CEO of Port Tampa Bay, said in a statement.  

We are not sure how innovative it is, but we are happy they are improving the channel.  We are all for infrastructure improvements at the Port (and focusing on being a port).  Hopefully, it will help bring in additional business.

South Tampa – More of a Kind

There was news of redevelopment in South Tampa.

A St. Petersburg developer will demolish a strip of aging storefronts on South Dale Mabry Highway to make way for a new Starbucks Inc. drive-thru in one of South Tampa’s prime retail nodes.

J Square Developers is planning to begin construction Tuesday on the project at 1300 S. Dale Mabry Highway, which is adjacent to Wright’s Gourmet House and across the street from Publix Super Markets Inc. It is about two-and-half blocks from where Sprouts Farmers Market Inc. opened at the corner of South Dale Mabry and West Estrella Street. (See map below.)

The Sprouts project is disappointing from a design perspective.  It is basically a broken up strip center. (This is an example of how to do a smaller grocery store in an urban way and still provide parking)  Maybe, this will be better.

The existing strip center is 6,000 square feet; the new freestanding Starbucks will be 2,200 square feet with 28 parking spaces.

Not really.

Maybe, they will maintain the South Tampa tradition of having the curb cut extend across the entire length of the parking lot.   That is always a good look – and very pedestrian and bike friendly.

Tampa Heights – Because We Can

And finally, progress on the Pearl from the Height’s Facebook page:

From the Heights – click on picture for Facebook page

Note, it includes 28000 sq feet of retail.  We also like how there are apartments wrapping around the north side of the parking garage (which you can’t really see in this photo) that is not as tall as the south side but shields the neighborhood.  So far, it looks to be a good transition.

 

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