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Roundup 6-23-2017

June 23, 2017


Transportation – Go West Some More

Downtown/Channel District – Tear It Down

— Speaking of Which

Downtown/Hyde Park – Build It Up

Transportation – The Gandy Link

Downtown – Underwhelming

Built Environment – About Walking

Tampa Heights – Good Idea,  But . . .

— One More Thing

Bicycles – Paint for Numbers

— One Last Thing

International Trade – Digging Cash

Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida


Transportation – Go West Some More

The airport announced another flight to another target city – this time San Diego.  Cue cool graphic:

From the Tampa International Airport – click on picture for Facebook page

Southwest Airlines will offer new nonstop service from Tampa International Airport to San Diego International Airport beginning Jan. 8, 2018.

By our count, on the West Coast, that leaves a flight to Portland and increasing frequency across the board. (And there is also a few new seasonal flights on Spirit to Hartford and Pittsburgh)

Once again, good job to the airport.  It is just another example of them methodically executing their good plan.

Downtown/Channel District – Tear It Down

The Lightning owner’s group asked the Port for permission to tear down a chunk of the Channelside complex:

The southwest portion of Channelside Bay Plaza will be razed to make way for a heavily programmed park featuring art, festivals and pop-up bars and restaurants.

The Port Tampa Bay board of directors on Tuesday voted unanimously to grant Strategic Property Partners permission to demolish a portion of the plaza and allow for tenants other than retailers and restaurants in the space. SPP is the real estate development company controlled by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investment LLC.


The demolition of the building that houses the Hablo Taco and Thai Thani restaurants will begin this summer, said Bryan Moll, an executive with SPP who lead a presentation at the port meeting. SPP is working with Hablo Taco and Thai Thani owners about relocating the restaurants to another wing of Channelside, though their long-term future there is uncertain.

SPP wants to replace the building with a waterfront park, which will have a stage for music and outdoor film screenings. In addition, SPP wants to lease out temporary, pop up “kiosks” to local chefs and retailers to create an outdoor market-like setting. A communal dining space and pedestrian trails are also part of the plan.

This is how it looks now:

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

And this has the new open space in blue:

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

We are fine with this.  From the beginning, we never understood why the Channelside design was inward facing (even before the waterfront/wharf was closed off).  This would correct that, but only for a short time because this is probably just the first step to tearing down and rebuilding the whole complex:

In September, SPP CEO James Nozar revealed long-term renovation plans for Channelside Bay Plaza to the Port Tampa Bay’s board of directors. The multi-million-dollar plans, which include new waterfront condos, restaurants and a park, would demolish the entire existing Bay Plaza structure. The project has not yet been approved by port commissioners.

The port owns the land on which Channelside Bay Plaza sits and will need to approve any renovation. If approved, the demolition, part of SPP’s $3 billion plan to reinvent the 53-acre area around Amalie Arena, could occur by 2018.

Port officials said that CBP Development LLC, an entity owned and operated by SPP, has been negotiating “in good faith” with the port to sign a long-term lease agreement for the future of Channelside Bay Plaza and an adjoining surface parking lot. The current ground lease restricts SPP’s ability to add new uses to the retail center, which is why this amendment is being considered before the approval of SPP’s long-term renovation plans for the plaza.

When the board of directors approved the amendment, it extended SPP’s lease of the facility by 18 months. 

Remember this rendering:

From the Times – click on picture for article

It is highly unlikely the Port will get in the way of a deal.  Nor are we opposed to starting over on that land to build in a denser, more urban, and more inviting way.  If only it had been done properly the first time.

— Speaking of Which

Speaking of the Lightning owner’s project, there was an article on Politico by the Times’ Tampa government reporter about downtown.  It paints a favorable portrait, which is fine (though it omits some facts).  Nevertheless, the part about the Lightning owner’s project is good, though, including some nuggets like this:

For context, Nozar and SPP director of development Bryan Moll, another JBG alum, have looked at Tampa’s older neighborhoods, including Ybor City, the city’s historic Latin quarter and the home of its cigar-making industry about three-quarters of a mile from downtown. To enhance the pedestrian experience, they’ve focused on the ground floors of their buildings—their scale, how they interact with the public space as well as the pedestrian’s need for a variety of experience and—crucial in Florida—shade. The new project will include new parks, and one main street will have a double row of mature trees along one side, a single row along the other. SPP is building a centralized air-conditioning plant for the entire district, which is expected to help drive energy efficiency, something that’s rare in commercial developments, though more common in large campus projects like universities and healthcare facilities. For SPP, it makes sense because of the project’s single ownership and long-term focus. It also frees rooftops for dog parks, swimming pools, restaurants and green space. One 300-foot-tall office building will have planted terraces or ledges on every floor, plus a green roof. An apartment building will be topped with 10 feet of soil on its roof so mature trees can grow there.

Along with a name, one thing that Vinik and Cascade have not announced is a tenant list. But Vinik says the company has a long list of prospective tenants. Because they are self-financing, Vinik and Cascade do not have to worry as much about an economic downturn, about repaying construction loans or about building quickly, leasing up and selling out.

“There is no intention of flipping here,” Vinik says. “We’re looking very long term. We believe the real value creation in the district occurs over five to 10 years as it becomes one of the best places to live, work and play in, hopefully, the Southeast.”

And the nice thing is that, so far, he has done nothing to make us not believe him.  We recommend the article for that information.

Downtown/Hyde Park – Build It Up

Last week, a number of developers spoke to the Downtown Partnership.  Of course, being good business people, they were pushing their projects, which is fine.  And there was stuff like this:

The third speaker, Arturo Pena of the Related Group, said the river was a major factor in his company’s decision to buy the riverfront site of the former Tampa Tribune and build a 400-unit apartment complex there. Related is also the lead developer on Tampa’s massive revitalization of its West River area.

Asked why Miami-based Related chose to come to Tampa, Pena had a quick reply:

“In a nutshell, jobs and the waterfront.”  

If he says so, but we were sure it was quick profits on the sale of relatively cheap (by Related standards) projects.

More interesting, though not really providing that much new information:

Riverwalk Place, a 53-story tower planned for downtown Tampa, will have four restaurants, “many, many” outdoor tables and a rooftop bar atop the garage.

* * *

“I don’t want to hear any more, ‘Why can’t downtown Tampa be like downtown St. Pete?’ ” Feldman said Thursday in reference to the bounty of restaurants and cafes along St. Petersburg’s Beach Drive. “I hope (Riverwalk Place) will set an example for everybody else in town.”

Well, Tampa is not going to be the same as St. Pete, but that’s ok.  St. Pete’s downtown has some really nice aspects, but there are many models for a thriving urban area.  More interestingly,

Expected to start construction next year on the site of the doomed Trump Tower Tampa project, Riverwalk Place would be the tallest building on Florida’s West Coast. Its design will be a nod to what Feldman called the “sardine-ization of America” — the tendency of companies to save costs by squeezing more employees into less space.

For that reason, Riverwalk Place will have balconies on every office floor so employees can step outside, get some fresh air and network.

The tower also will cater to millennials, who make up a good part of downtown Tampa’s workforce, by including “chill zones” with cappuccino machines and the type of fitness center where even “gym jockeys will feel really comfortable,” Feldman said.

* * *

Feldman says he expects to open a sales office and release more detailed plans for the tower in September. Although it has generated the most attention, the tower on S Ashley Drive is just one of several projects that will benefit from proximity to the Riverwalk.

We like the concept of balconies for office floors.  We have seen it in other cities, and it can work well. And a rooftop bar, even if just on the garage, could be very nice.

There are rumors of designs floating around already.  We are not sure why they would not be revealed until September, but so be it.  This building has the potential to be a really nice addition to downtown, especially if and when the Lightning owner’s project gets built.

Transportation – The Gandy Link

There was news about the very short freeway segment of Gandy being built in Pinellas:

After missing a spring completion date, engineers working on the Gandy Boulevard construction project pushed the completion date to this summer.

Now they say it won’t be done until the fall.

The $83 million, 2.5-mile project started 3 ½ years ago with the goal of clearing up heavy traffic congestion in northeast St. Petersburg by adding six elevated lanes to Gandy Boulevard.

Drivers are already using some of the overpasses: Two westbound elevated lanes were opened over the weekend , and two eastbound elevated lanes are scheduled to open Friday. But that also depends on the weather.

The Florida Department of Transportation originally predicted that Gandy construction would finish ahead of schedule, but senior project engineer Marty Sanchez said recent heavy rains have delayed construction workers.

Setting aside that, given such delays, the project should be audited,

The DOT estimates that more than 57,000 people take Gandy Boulevard east of Interstate 275, and that many of them cross through crowded intersections as they do so, slowing movement.

The Gandy expansion project was aimed at solving that problem by carrying traffic over crowded intersections via elevated lanes instead of through them.

And we have no problem with the project as far as it goes, but it never went far enough.  It should have at least gotten to 275 and really should have connected to the bridge.  Maybe when Hillsborough finally builds the Gandy Connector, Pinellas will finish the task.

Downtown – Underwhelming

URBN Tampa Bay first reported on a proposal on the north end of downtown:

There’s a new proposal from Ariel Homes for 14 townhomes at 1211 North Tampa Street. The project sits on roughly half an acre of land along Franklin St., Tampa St. and Fortune St. The site plan and an outline map with the location of the project is attached.

This is a suburban-style development in Downtown and we oppose it. There’s simply not enough units for how much land there is, it lacks ground floor retail or any mix of uses and the driveway cuts up the lot’s sidewalks too much.

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

Built somewhere else, this project could be fine (assuming the details were ok).  However, given this is in downtown (not even north of the Interstate), it is probably out of place (even though there are a few townhouses just to the south on Franklin, we still think it is probably out of place) And we totally agree with URBN Tampa Bay about the driveways.  (And note, it touches Tampa Street, though it does not face it.  Rather, it just puts has walls and an alley.  We do not think that really is what Tampa Street downtown should be)

While we are dubious, we reserve final judgment until we see the whole thing. However, it would be better to just rework it into a truly urban proposal and be done with it.

Built Environment – About Walking

There was news about pedestrian safety.

Pedestrian deaths in Hillsborough County fell by almost 25 percent last year, following the deadliest year on record in 2015 for people walking the streets.

But transportation planners warn not to read too much into the drop. The county is still the deadliest in the region. Bicyclist deaths are up from the past few years. And in Pinellas County, pedestrian fatalities have increased 18 percent in the past five years.

Well, even if not great, that is something, unless you’re biking or in Pinellas. So maybe it is not that much. (As we have noted before, it also would be nice to also have stats about people who get hurt.  That would fill in some of the picture of what is going on. And people should not have to die for government to notice there is a problem and take action.)

For one thing, the 2015 spike was unusually high, with 51 pedestrian deaths. The 39 fatalities in 2016 still is more than any other year since 2010.

As previously discussed, there is a move to have some safety measures installed.

Increasing the frequency of those signalized crosswalks is a big help, though. Transportation officials and local governments are making more of an effort to install mid-block crosswalks, where a light flashes for traffic to stop when people push a button to cross. The Florida Department of Transportation has plans to build four of these in Hillsborough in 2017 and two in Pinellas, and are studying locations for others.

It’s something Pinellas County has focused on for years, especially on the beaches and along Gulf Boulevard, said Pinellas MPO executive director Whit Blanton. And drivers are becoming more accustomed to the flashing signals and driving slower on those roads just in case.

Which is something, but the real change needs to be in planning and design in general.  More grids.  Fewer huge stretches of road lined with strip malls and few real crossroads. More logical and intuitive crossing points.  More of an environment that naturally makes drivers at least consider that someone might be walking or biking nearby (and also people not just crossing in the middle of the road).

There’s a tension in transportation planning between mobility — how quickly and easily we get around — and safety. Often, planning prioritizes mobility, sometimes at the expense of safety, especially for pedestrians.

“We’ve had a mentality of making sure we don’t have traffic signals put too close together because it slows down traffic,” Blanton said. “If you have too many signals per mile, that creates a congestion problem, but it also leave a sort of barren wasteland for pedestrians to cross.”

Regardless of crosswalks and education initiatives, wide, fast roads remain dangerous for pedestrians throughout Tampa Bay. That’s especially true for Pinellas, which is a tight, concentrated, urban community, Blanton said. And those types of roads are at odds with ongoing redevelopment in places like St. Petersburg and Dunedin, which make areas a more attractive place to walk.

Actually there is a tension between mobility in the completely car-centric built environment that has been allowed to be created and mobility. (Even Pinellas is mostly built with the characteristics of sprawl.) That is a matter of choices and bad planning. It can be changed. While some stretches of road are probably beyond redemption, but it is never too late to start trying to do it right.

Tampa Heights – Good Idea,  But . . .

Having said that, we like (most aspects of) the Heights project.  It looks to be a good, urban project that will enhance the area and create a favorable walking, biking, and, maybe, transit environment. This week, as featured on the Heights Facebook page:

Sorry for the inconvenience, Palm Ave will be closed for a little while. We are taking it from 4 lanes down to 2 with parking and 🚴 paths! 🙌🏻👌🏻 #roads #bikepaths #city

With a photo featuring a nice 1970’s look:

From the Heights – click on picture for Facebook page

We have discussed this before.  We are not opposed generally to what they are doing regarding biking and walking, and we are all for bike and pedestrian safety.  However, as a practical matter, doing this work before any buildings in the area are done (or any of the “West River” development that will also probably add traffic) and before the streetcar and transit studies, which both may relate directly to the streets in that area (and if Palm is the best place for a bike lane), are complete seems a little premature (especially if there will be budgetary pressure).

It may be that what they are doing now is the best thing to do, and we really don’t want to delay enhancing the bike infrastructure.  However, we do not want to have to go back and redo the roads again, and we do not want to foreclose transit and mobility possibilities in that corridor right now. It would have been better to work it all out first.  But, of course, it really would have been better if the studies should have been completed years ago.

— One More Thing

A couple of weeks ago, we mentioned the lower rise parts of the Pearl that will shield the neighborhood from the parking garage.  The Heights Facebook page posted a nice shot of what we were talking about though they still have a way to go before finishing:

From the Heights – click on picture for Facebook page

Looks good to us.

Bicycles – Paint for Numbers

URBN Tampa Bay  highlighted a article on bicycle infrastructure.    The article discusses a study on “bike sharrows”:

From – click on picture for article

You’ve seen a sharrow painted on city streets: it’s that image of a cyclist below two arrows in the middle of a lane that—you guessed it—is meant to be shared by bikes and cars. The Federal Highway Administration gave sharrows its official blessing in 2009, and the symbol is now ubiquitous across urban America. It’s also arguably the least-loved nod to cycling, a low-cost way for cities to say they’re doing something about safety and street design without really doing much at all.

That sounds familiar.  And, apparently, they are not better than nothing (as we often say, doing something is not necessarily better than doing nothing):

From the Atlantic – click on chart for article

You can read all the details here. It also reminds of those bike lanes on Dale Mabry which, except the most intrepid long distance riders, are completely ignored by in favor of the sidewalks (bad as they are).  It’s not that we don’t want more and better bike infrastructure.  We do.  We just want it to be safe, useful, and actually better, which brings us to a Guardian (UK) article about Denmark’s infrastructure:

Connie Hedegaard, former Danish EU commissioner for climate action, puts it this way: “One might say that Europe faces a choice. Do we want to pursue an American-style approach where kids depend on their parents to take them to school for many years? Or do we want a Nordic-style approach in which mobility considerations are integrated into urban planning, and where the necessary infrastructure is provided so kids can bike to school by themselves? I know which I prefer.”

The secret behind this Nordic approach is simple: segregated, curbed bicycle lanes, where the layout of every inch has been taken into consideration – such as covering intersections with traffic lights, integrating retracted stop lines for cars and having pre-green lights for cyclists. Give-way lines (“shark teeth”) where smaller roads join bigger ones mean that everyone – including other cyclists – must make a full stop before they move on to a main road. In most places, pavements and bicycle tracks run down smaller side streets as well, illustrating how we give priority to pedestrians and cyclists.

We doubt the US will ever get to the level of biking they have in Denmark.  And that is fine.  It does not change the fact that if you want to really develop a bike infrastructure and create real mobility solutions, you have to do it right. (Like protected bike lanes or urban trails that actually go somewhere.)  And to do it right, you should study from the experts.

— One Last Thing

Which brings us to another article, this one from Mobility Lab.   The main thrust of the article is a plan to build bike infrastructure based on paths that have lower biking stress levels.  Anyone actually interested in building a proper bike infrastructure should read the article. (here)

International Trade – Digging Cash

There was news about the Big Bend channel:

Port Tampa Bay is moving forward with plans to widen and deepen the Big Bend Channel after securing instrumental state and federal funding for the project.

The port was awarded a $5.7 million grant from the Florida Department of Transportation, which will be used toward the widening and deepening of the Big Bend Channel. The port’s board of commissioners unanimously approved the allocation at a board meeting on Tuesday.

* * *

The port will receive $9 million from the Army Corp., this year. FDOT will be allocating funds over the next two fiscal years, which will require the port to match that amount. Mosaic Company and Tampa Electric, two of Port Tampa Bay’s largest tenants, will also contribute to funding the project. Those amounts were not disclosed.

* * *

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. Anderson also noted that the port “has already invested $30 million in infrastructure for the growing Port Redwing maritime complex that will be served by the Big Bend Channel. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has estimated that the widening and deepening of the Big Bend Channel will cost $55.2 million.

As we said before, we are all for improving the facilities, including the channels.  Hopefully, it will bring more business.

Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida

In Miami,

The Maersk Shanghai slipped into Government Cut before dawn Wednesday and headed to its berth at PortMiami, becoming the largest container ship to ever call at a Florida port.

The 1,063-foot-long, 159-foot-wide megaship is almost the length of three football fields. Before PortMiami underwent a widening and dredging of its shipping channel from 44 feet to a depth of 50-52 feet, the Maersk Shanghai wouldn’t have been able to dock in Miami. The ship’s gross tonnage is 115,000 tons.

* * *

It took most of the day to unload the10,081-TEU (the equivalent of a standard 20-foot container) vessel, which arrived at PortMiami at 4 a.m. It was scheduled to leave the port at 11 p.m.

To put that in perspective, according to the Port website, Port Tampa Bay handled 49,716 TEU’s in fiscal year 2016 (and 56,742 in FY 2015).

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