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Roundup 6-30-2017

June 30, 2017

We were going to take the week off but then a number of things happened. So read on and enjoy the 4th.

Contents

Downtown/Channel District – Water Street

— The Project

— Now, About the Name

Transportation – Let’s See It

Economic Development – Housing and Affordability

— One More Thing

Downtown – Something Made Better

Channel District – Still Pretty Much the Same

Downtown – Still Not Good

Temple Terrace – Still Waiting

Westshore – Not Really Sure

________________________________________

Downtown/Channel District – Water Street

There were a number of articles about the Lightning owner’s project.

— The Project

Much of it was about the name – Water Street Tampa (a little on that later), but we will focus first on the more substantive parts. (As you would expect, they have a website and even some electronic billboard ads.)

The first vertical construction in Water Street Tampa will be the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine, which includes a Heart Health Institute, which is slated to break ground in August. A central cooling facility, which frees up rooftops in the district for things like terraces, restaurants and dog parks, will break ground in fall 2017.

By early 2018, more than 20 cranes will dot the Tampa skyline as work begins on the majority of vertical construction in the first phase of the district. Ten architectural firms are currently designing 18 buildings, including office and residential towers with ground-floor retail space. A grocer and a fitness facility are targeted anchors, Nozar said.

The first phase of development totals 4 million square feet across 10 blocks and is slated to wrap up by 2020 — just in time for Super Bowl LV, which Tampa hosts in 2021.

SPP did not reveal the exact placement of buildings in the first phase. A spokeswoman said details on individual buildings will be rolled out in the coming months. (See site plan embedded below.)

It includes a major hospitality investment:

And

Water Street will become the “main spine” of the new neighborhood, Nozar said, and will be the center of retail and cultural activity. SPP is planning to build a linear park along Water Street that will be flanked with a double layer of trees to create a canopy-like setting for pedestrians. While SPP did not reveal more details about retailers, restaurants or office tenants that are slated to come to the new district, Nozar said that the firm will break ground this summer on many of the buildings in the first phase of the ongoing development.

Setting aside a bit of vagueness in those timelines, Water Street will basically be Old Water Street extended to the north where it now intersects with Channelside. This is the site plan, though if you look closely you notice it is probably just the street level uses and not just the first phase:

From the Business Journal – click on map for article

Since we do not have details on any of these specific buildings, it is hard to say much other than the overall, it looks good.  (We especially like the apparent addition of retail around Amalie arena, especially facing the park.  Without it, Water Street would be pretty dead there.  We are also curious about the buildings on the north side of the Selmon, but we assume those are a later phase.)  That being said, twenty cranes at one time would certainly be an impressive sight.  Still, it would be nice to know just where the first phase is going (and where is MOSI going? Orange rectangle at the north end of Water St?) and who might be there:

SPP declined to disclose any potential flags on the new hotels.

Nozar said the group has engaged a brokerage team to officially market the office space in the district, though those efforts won’t formally begin until the fall. SPP is in “preleasing discussions” with tenants on both the office and retail space, Nozar said.

“We have a good roster of tenants we’re talking to,” he said, “and interest has been very strong.”

We hope so.  The biggest question right now is if there is demand to sustain something on this scale. (We think there will be over time, but we do not know their internal business considerations.)

One of the cooler things in the information dump was a before and after skyline shot:

Before:

From Water Street Tampa – click on picture for website and a bigger version

After:

From Water Street Tampa – click on picture for website and a bigger version

While it is always nice to have a new tallest (there are other projects that could do that), saying we would be happy if it builds out as represented in the picture would be an understatement.  And we like the idea that the buildings seem (at least at this preliminary point) to not all look the same.  And we like that there should be so much attention to the street level.

However, the rendering does raise another issue.  If we really have a downtown on a peninsula that is that built up and that dense, the incredibly limited transit and transportation options we have will create a mess.  No matter how walkable it is or nice it is, people are going to live elsewhere and have to get in and out over limited roads (especially if Tampa Street and Florida get diets). Regardless of if the interstate can get them to downtown, getting around downtown itself will be a problematic.  We think the Lightning owner gets it, but if construction is going to start soon, it needs to be addressed relatively quickly.

— Now, About the Name

As we said, the name is Water Street Tampa.  Much of the coverage was taken up with explaining the name – a/k/a branding.  It can all be basically summarized by this:

“The goal of the project is to be grounded in what makes Tampa, Tampa,” said James Nozar, CEO of SPP, in an interview on Monday. “We’ve been dealing with pretty much a clean slate, with surface parking lots that don’t have a lot of history. One of the key attributes that we picked up was Water Street, which has always been part of downtown, even though it’s changed names over the years.”

And

“When you come to Tampa or downtown Tampa, we want you to think of Water Street Tampa,” said Nozar. “It’s a memorable street, like Newbury in Boston or Broadway in New York City.”

That last part seems to be the big theme, as it was repeated in numerous articles.

It’s definitely historical, named for Old Water Street. That’s the street that runs through what will be the retail core of the project, right in front of the Tampa Marriott Waterside and the Tampa History Museum. That is the key street Strategic Property Partners (the Vinik-Cascade joint venture heading the project) wants to transform into what it calls “the new heart” of downtown Tampa, connecting people from the current downtown to the waterfront.

As the SPP folks envision it, given enough time, marketing money and (most of all) some compelling place-building, the ambition of Water Street Tampa is to evoke the same connection of Old Water Street to downtown Tampa as other great streets are celebrated in other great cities.

Think Broadway in New York, Michigan Avenue in Chicago or Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

(We’re not sure why they skipped Brickell, which is probably way closer than Bourbon both in terms of history and likely flavor of development – we doubt that the Lightning owner wants his development to really be like Bourbon Street, but you never know)  Though that line is sort of contradicted by this in a Times column:

Water Street Tampa clearly lands in that camp, tipping its hat to local history and offering a name, it should be noted, that smartly includes the reinforcing word “Tampa.”

With a destination name now in hand, a tougher task begins: Branding those three little words to the rest of the world.

To be honest, we think the name is pretty bland (and the historical aspect is a reach), but it does not really matter if the name is exciting now or not.  What really matters is what gets built and how the area develops. If it gets developed as advertised (which we have always liked) and is successful, the name will be good because people will associate it with a place they want to be.  If not, it won’t.

And, finally, as with the other famous roads mentioned, you will know that the street or district really is famous when people know where it is without a city name attached to it.  Hopefully, we will get there.

Transportation – Let’s See It

It seems FDOT is starting to roll out some ideas for TB(n)X.

The Florida Department of Transportation met with about 20 community members, politicians and planners Wednesday morning for an update on Tampa Bay Next, a $6 billion project that would add toll lanes to 90 miles of the region’s interstates. The meeting was the first public glimpse of what other options might look like.

Do tell.

DOT officials presented seven alternatives to the downtown Tampa interchange and Interstate 275 north to Bearss Ave. during Wednesday’s meeting. None of them included toll lanes on that span of I-275 and they all had some sort of transit, such as light rail or express bus.

Some of the options, which were displayed on long vertical blueprints in a DOT boardroom, had the same footprint as the former TBX plan. Building those alternatives would take just as much property in Tampa Heights, Ybor City and other urban neighborhoods, a key criticism of the old plan.

Others called for less right of way and could be built with a smaller impact, DOT consultant Brad Flom said.

Ok.  What does that mean in practice?  Where can the public see them?

Those documents will be online at some point, DOT spokeswoman Kris Carson said. They will also be shown to a variety of community working groups over the next several months.

At some point does not really seem good enough.  Why not put them on the website before the meeting?

Anyway:

Those concepts are versions of just one of the alternatives being considered. DOT consultant George Walton said the department also is looking at a beltway, turning the downtown interchange into a street-level boulevard or using reversible, elevated or sunken lanes.

“Those are the types of things we’re going to begin to roll out collectively at these community working groups,” Walton said. “What we’re doing today is showing a little more transparency about how this all gets developed.”

The Times article also says that  “[t]he draft concepts and public meeting notices are available at www.tampabaynext.com.” If you go to the website you find that it lists the following options other than express lanes without elaborating:

In addition to Express Lanes, we are considering:

Looking at a number of ideas is commendable (even if some are completely unworkable or would cause many of the same problems as TBX).

Earlier this week FDOT did have this pdf of a meeting PowerPoint linked in a comment on their Facebook page, but it does not include the options discussion.   The Tampa Bay Next Facebook page also had a video of a presentation, but you could not see any of the slides.

(You can’t see any slides in this video either)

We also have to wonder a bit the live community outreach.  From their website, this is how they define communities in this area for their “working groups”:

From FDOT’s Tampa Bay Next website – click on map for website

Let’s just say that most of those areas seem a bit large.  And the community meetings are often quite far from a large number of people in the “community” live. (And remember, transportation in this area is bad.  Making people drive half way across Hillsborough County to go to a meeting at rush hour is problematic.)

One of the reasons FDOT got into this mess in the first place was they tried to control the conversation. They have taken steps to fix that (really), but the efforts are still clunky. We suggest they the information on the website, clearly and before meetings, and make the website more intuitive. Let everyone see it. And have more meetings in convenient places.

FDOT has it within its power and within the elements of the process to make it a real community discussion so it becomes a real community decision.  Whether that happens or not is still to be determined.

Economic Development – Housing and Affordability

A big part of the sales pitch for the Tampa Bay area (and all of Florida, really) is that the cost of living is low.  The average prices are still low, relative to other major areas, even with this:

The median value of a bay area home jumped to $184,900 for an 11 percent gain, tying with Dallas for the second biggest increase among the nation’s 35 largest metro areas. Seattle was No. 1 as home values there shot up 13 percent to a median of $440,100.

But houses have to be available.

According to Zillow, the number of U.S. single-family homes for sale is dropping at the fastest pace in four years as an increase in home rentals takes away a chunk of sellable inventory.

* * *

In May, the Tampa Bay area had 17.6 percent fewer houses for sale than it did a year ago while the percentage of houses for rent has soared 110 percent since 2000. 

That is one issue.

But there is another, bigger, aspect – cost relative to income.  (Not to mention other expenses.) URBN Tampa Bay pointed to a good discussion on the relative cost of housing and transportation here.

In virtually every major urban real estate market, a major determinant of rent and housing prices is accessibility.  If you live in a dense, walkable urban neighborhood, you might manage to live quite comfortably not owning a car, or having just one car for a two-worker family.  If you live on the exurban edge, in a low density subdivision, you might need to own multiple cars just to manage the daily chores of school, shopping and play, as well as commuting to work. It turns out that the value of accessibility gets priced in to the walkable, well-located housing; and conversely, rental and for sale housing that’s located at a distance from everything is priced at a discount to the market.

What this means as a practical matter that you can’t judge whether an individual household’s living situation is affordable just by looking at whether they spend less than 30 percent of their income directly on housing. Consider this example: two otherwise identical households.  One lives in a suburb, owns two cars, and drives most places. They spend 30 percent of their income on housing and 20 percent of their income on transportation.  The second household lives in a city and owns one car.  Their house is more expensive than the suburban one, so they spend 40 percent of their income on housing, and just 10 percent on transportation. Is it really accurate to describe the second (city) household as any more “cost-burdened” than its suburban peer?

This is the essential insight behind the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s “H+T” Housing and Transportation Index, which quantifies the approximate costs associated with housing and transportation in different neighborhoods. They’ve used census data on income and housing costs, and estimates of commuting patterns, transit available and car ownership to estimate what fraction of a household’s income gets spent on housing and transportation in different locations. They show that some neighborhoods with high housing costs are actually more affordable than lower rent areas, once you add in the savings in transportation costs.

There is a very good interactive website (here) that allows you to compare the relative affordability of housing and transportation in various areas.  When you plug in Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, you see that the average housing & transportation cost is 60% of income.  That is broad, so we can narrow it. In Hillsborough County it is 61%, and in Tampa it is 59%.  So how do some other metro areas compare?  We looked at a few of the usual suspects.  And, as indicated in the last paragraph above, understanding that living in the main city rather than the suburb (though Tampa is not much) might be less expensive, we have include the municipalities in parentheses:

Denver 49% (Denver city 43%)

Raleigh 49% (Raleigh city 45%)

Salt Lake City 50% (SLC city 44%)

Seattle 50% (Seattle city 46%)

Dallas 51% (Dallas 45%)

Portland, OR 53% (Portland city 49%)

Atlanta 54% (Atlanta city 50%)

Austin 51% (Austin city 48%)

Charlotte 54% (Charlotte city 53%)

Nashville 55% (Nashville-Davidson 50%)

San Diego 58% (San Diego city 56%)

Orlando 61% (Orlando city 54%)

As you can see, most of these areas have lower relative costs than we do.  The difference might not seem great (though Denver the city is a 16% difference to Tampa), but it is not small, especially when you consider their average incomes are usually larger than ours so each percentage point is more money than a percentage point in this area.  And living in the cities makes even more of a difference in other areas, but not really here.

There are a few lessons one can quickly draw.  First, our housing/transportation costs are not that competitive given our low salaries.  (Just note this serendipitous USA Today article this week regarding car affordability – or in our case, lack thereof. .)  And, given the small difference between the city, county and area, our planning both in the cities and in the suburbs need to improve significantly to give people more and better living and transportation options.

Poor planning and poor investment in infrastructure is not just an image problem for relocations.  They have practical costs to our residents, our productivity, and to attracting the best talent.

— One More Thing

Which leads us to another item from realtor.com noted by URBN Tampa Bay:

Younger and older generations alike are gravitating toward smaller dwellings in more urban, walkable suburbs and cities, with restaurants and coffee shops around the corner. It’s leading to a real estate traffic jam: Increasingly, boomers are getting stuck, because most can’t buy the home of their dreams until they unload their current ones. And many millennials have neither the desire nor the means to help them out.

Notice they do not say just cities.  The article acknowledges that Millennials are buying in the suburbs, but a certain kind of suburb – a walkable one with more urban amenities.  We don’t really have too many of those around here, but they exist in other places where metro areas starting absorbing small towns.

For one thing, many younger Americans are reluctant to give up the excitement of urban life to settle down and start having kids. About 45% of millennials who plan to buy a home in the future are waiting because they aren’t ready to settle down yet, according to a survey of 24,000 millennial renters by the rental website Apartment List. (Other top reasons were not being able to afford to become homeowners and preferring to wait until marriage.)

So when they do make that move to the suburbs, millennials often seek more walkable towns that have many of the urban amenities they’re used to, like bike lanes, social events, and lots of shops and restaurants.

“What’s really attracting millennials are the communities that are bringing the urban flavor out to nonurban towns,” Palacios says. “They don’t want the traditional massive homes and big yards. They want smaller homes and cool things to do.”

And those places are often connected to the main city by transit, another thing this area is not providing (just go to Google maps and look at South Hillsborough or Wesley Chapel)

So, yes, there is growth here, both in the urban areas and elsewhere.  We doubt it will stop.  But how much is good, well-planned growth and how much of it the kind of growth that pads stats but will just increase costs to the taxpayer in the future (see Hillsborough transportation, school, fire station, etc., needs) without really making us more competitive or a better place to live? While definitely not all, there is still far too much in the latter category.

Downtown – Something Made Better

A few months ago a Mill Creek project for northern downtown, next to the Times building was proposed, unimpressive, and withdrawn.  Now they are back with a new proposal, per URBN Tampa Bay:

Mill Creek has returned with new plans for the Tampa Bay Times lot in Downtown Tampa. The project is improved, and now features more sides of retail frontage. The project includes 300 units in an 8 story building along with a pretty significant amount of retail space and a sort of pedestrian plaza area. The project is called Modera Tampa.

Site Plan:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

Rendering:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

URBN Tampa Bay took this position:

While we would like to see some site plan tweaks, such as more retail on the north and western side of the project and flanking the pedestrian plaza with retail a bit better as opposed to garage, we can support a project like this.

We agree.  While it could be tweaked, this is much better than the first iteration (and the other apartments under construction nearby).  We’ll be interested to see what the Straz says, especially about another parking lot being developed.

Channel District – Still Pretty Much the Same

There are some updated renderings of the hotel project proposed for Meridian.

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

Just like before, the project is pretty bland and the parking garage is too prominent.  However, we will give them credit for actually having an awning running the length of the building.  It is a good idea that should be more widespread – like in the Lightning owner’s project.

Downtown – Still Not Good

There are now renderings for the proposed townhouses between Franklin and Tampa on Fortune. Here is the Tampa Street portion:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

You can see more at URBN Tampa Bay.  Like we said last week, in another location, this would be fine.  Looking at it here, it could be worse, but it still does not fit.  (Maybe they have not noticed that Tampa Street is basically downtown’s Main Street.)  Tampa deserves better.

Temple Terrace – Still Waiting

The story of Temple Terrace’s non-downtown just won’t end.

A company that wants to build a bank, retail building and two restaurants in the Downtown Temple Terrace redevelopment area received the highest ranking by a committee reviewing bids to buy city-owned property there.

A hospital’s bid to put a stand-alone emergency department on the same southeast corner of Bullard Parkway and 56th Street ranked second, and another bank plan ranked third.

But the City Council this week seemed inclined to accept none of the bids and ask its real estate broker, Cushman & Wakefield, to see what it can put together, possibly with some of the seven companies that submitted a bid along with others that did not. Council members sitting as the city’s community redevelopment agency will discuss the matter further at a special meeting Tuesday (June 27).

The last paragraph is the most heartening thing we have heard about this story in a while.  Why?  Because you can see all the bids here. We have no idea why the two listed ranked highly.  They are both just the sprawling poor use of land with large parking lots. (bank here and hospital here)  Most of the bids were like that with parking facing the street (the Hospital put the doctors reserved parking lot on 56th Street. Huh?)

A couple of the proposals began looking promising – with talk of multi-use and showing urban looking apartments. (here and here) But when you dig further, one had site plans of a building surrounded by parking (page 24 here).  This is the only bid that seemed to really get it at all, though it has a lot of parking.

We are not sure why Temple Terrace is having such a hard time getting this done.  (Maybe they need to change their RFP.)  But they should keep trying until they get it right.  There is no reason to settle.

Westshore – Not Really Sure

There was news of an odd project at the corner of Cypress and Lois (sort of).  Highwoods Properties wants to build basically a parking garage with a little retail out front.  As URBN Tampa Bay described it:

The project features 22,500 square feet of retail and office space, built under a parking garage. Our question is, if you’re going to go through the effort of designing something proper on the ground floor, why not build up and put some units on top?

The only design complaint we have is putting the curb cut for ingress/egress on Cypress. It should be on one of the sides of the building that doesn’t have retail and won’t see as much pedestrian traffic instead.

There is that, but there is also the question of what is the point?  This is what the project looks like:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

And the site plan:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

Three floors of parking from 22,000 sq ft of space?  Is the parking for the office buildings across the street?  IF not, what is it for?

In any event, we are ok with the street retail.  And while we don’t really get it and URBN Tampa Bay makes good points, it is not the most awful thing, unless you live across the street from the garage and have to stare into it every day.

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