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Roundup 11-17-2017

November 17, 2017


Economic Development – The Latest Report

– Talking About Talent

— Some Other Findings

— Conclusion

Transportation – All Sorts

— Less Help

— Less Ferry

— More on the Autonomous Buses

— More on the ex-HART Director

— More Ideas

— More of the Same

Rays – The Rundown

Downtown – Kress Moves

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the State

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the World


Economic Development – The Latest Report

 For years, local officials and economic development agencies have been putting out reports and holding meetings discussing this area’s economy and how to improve it.  And yet, year in, year out, it seems the same issues keep popping up, like low wages, lack of economic heft, talent issues, etc.  This year, there is a new report, which may (or may not, depending on what is done with it) make a difference.

If a broad spectrum of Tampa Bay leaders can agree on a common set of regional data that objectively measures over time how this metropolitan area is doing in comparison to other key U.S. metros, then our weaknesses can be better identified and improved, our strengths bolstered and celebrated, and this region can emerge a more competitive and prosperous place.

Sounds simple enough. Believe me, it isn’t. Yet the first steps have been taken to make it happen in Tampa Bay.

In what may be an unprecedented example here of regional collaboration and buy-in, the greater Tampa Bay community will soon unveil an in-depth, objective set of data tracking this metro area’s performance across six sweeping categories.

It’s called the “Regional Competitiveness Report” and will monitor Tampa Bay’s progress — or lack thereof — across more than 50 measurements in categories ranging from job vitality, innovation and infrastructure to talent, civic quality and outcomes (including poverty, unemployment and migration to this area).

And that is a good thing.  For a long time the Partnership had a much more limited survey (see for instance here).  This one sounds better.

And — this part is important — the report will compare on an ongoing basis how well Tampa Bay is competing in each of these measures against 19 other metros across Florida and the country. Some of those metros are “peer” places like Orlando or Charlotte, meaning they are of similar size and clout as Tampa Bay. Others among the 19 metros are “aspirational” — places like Austin, Atlanta, Dallas-Fort-Worth or even Seattle that a growing Tampa Bay might want to resemble in some positive fashion in the future.

Armed with such insights, relevant Tampa Bay leaders from business, government, education and non-profit sectors can then decide what most needs fixing, and who among those nearly 90 participating groups has the drive and resources to make it happen.

* * *

“All of this starts with the premise to manage by fact, not conjecture,” says Sykes Enterprises CEO Chuck Sykes, a respected veteran of economic development efforts who was asked to chair the Tampa Bay Partnership’s 29-member regional indicators task force. “Otherwise, we are relegated to who has the loudest voice in the room or who has the biggest pull in the community.”

You can see it on their website here and download it directly, at least for now, here. Setting aside that, especially if you include the areas covered by the partnership, Charlotte is not the same size, though has the same or more influence, that last comment is exactly on point.  It is well past time to deal in facts, and we have often said that, while we are improving compared to where we were, the key is whether we are improving relative to our competition. Treated properly, this effort could help clarify the situation and help point us in the right direction.  We’ll start with one aspect that is essentially at the nexus of all the others: people, and more specifically, talent.

 – Talking About Talent

In discussing economic development, both why companies do move and why they should move, one thing that often comes up is this area’s talent pool.  It is usually portrayed as deep and wide. (For instance see here,  here, here, and here)  Of course, it is unlikely that, in making a sales pitch, the person making the pitch will say anything else.  And it is unlikely that someone having made the decision to move and playing up that decision would say anything else, either.  We get that.

On the other hand, if one is trying to determine where one actually stands and what one needs to do to actually improve, the insistence on maintaining the sales pitch (which has too often been the case) is problematic.  One needs to be clear-eyed about deficiencies or they will never be fixed. So, what does the new report tell us?

Every tracked metro has strengths and weaknesses. Seattle, Denver and Dallas-Fort Worth rock in economic vitality, and Tampa Bay’s not far behind. Raleigh-Durham and Austin come up as talent powerhouses while Tampa Bay — along with South Florida, Jacksonville and Orlando — falls near the bottom. In most of the measures, Tampa Bay ends up in the middle, neither leading nor lagging.

Setting aside that, looking at the report, it sure seems like we are lagging in quite a few categories and that some are stronger than others, one could put the talent issue another way:

Talent, for example, is identified in the regional report as lagging behind many competing metro areas.

And drilling a bit deeper:

. . . The new Regional Competitiveness Report . . compares Tampa Bay and 19 other metro areas by more than 52 indicators. Its initial findings show Tampa Bay’s primary weakness — when compared to the other metros — is it is thin on talent. Among 20 metros, for example, Tampa Bay ranks 18th in high school graduation rates, 19th in its share of people 16 to 24 who are neither enrolled in school nor employed, and dead last in people 25 years or older who have attained at least a bachelor’s degree.

“I was not totally surprised by the talent indicators,” Taylor says. “We did our research when we came here, just as other companies will be doing their own research on talent. Look at the Amazon HQ2 (Amazon’s hunting for a place to open a second headquarters) search. Talent availability, Taylor says, is at the top of Amazon’s wish list.

Nor should anyone who is interested be surprised.  It’s not that there are not talented people here – there are.  And it’s not that we do not have certain areas where we are relatively strong – we do, but they often are in lower paying fields. (There is also the question of the use of talent, but that is for another time.) The most telling – especially in terms of higher paying jobs, significant clusters, and the knowledge-based economy – is the item on holders of a bachelor’s degree (and graduate/postgraduate degrees), though that has been known for a while. So what do we do about it?

“We have to be very cognizant of that. We have to address that weakness in this region,” he says. “There is no silver bullet here. This will take multiple years to address.”

Among issues Taylor’s group may address: Raising graduation rates; adding more certification programs to give workers more focused skills; and attracting more workers as they approach the peak of their careers.

Those ideas are all good.  And we like the last one, but it should also include attracting workers who are skilled and talented but at the beginning of their careers and retaining the ones who are already here.  Looking at the bachelor (and higher) degree issue (and our addendum) brings us back to the same old question:

if a person can live anywhere (or almost anywhere) they want, why would they choose to live here as opposed to another area that already has so many amenities that we are still talking about?

Because to address talent is to address a broad array of things – certainly education and training, but also opportunities (including to advance and availability of investment money to build companies), diversity of economic opportunities, diversity of lifestyles and the ability to choose among a variety of them (and, yes, that includes transportation alternatives and urban, suburban, and rural development), diversity of amenities (including beyond the “pop” realm to the cutting edge), taxes, connectivity (physical and otherwise), etc.

— Some Other Findings

There are other interesting things in the report, though they often circle back to attractiveness to talent. For instance,

USF business school dean, Moez Limayem, praised the depth of the Regional Competitiveness Report, but added that the indicators raised as many questions as answers. He and two data analytic experts from the school showed how Tampa Bay has struggled over the past decade or so to keep up with the nation’s gains in household income, higher graduation rates and gross regional product per capita — how much we produce in value per person. Even Tampa Bay’s seemingly low-and-getting-lower unemployment rate actually ranks this metro area 15th among the 20 metros tracked in the report.

First, we are happy they are paying attention to per capita gross regional product, a measure we have been discussing for years, and where we lag badly. Second, looking closer at income,

Tampa Bay residents have a mixed bag when it comes to disposable income. According to a recent income study by Trove Technologies, a California-based storage company, Florida residents have the highest amount of discretionary income in the southeast. But within Florida, Tampa Bay residents have the second-lowest amount, ranking No. 22 out of the 24 metro areas in the state.

“Non-housing expenses in Tampa are the highest in the state, while salaries are lowest in the state among large cities,” Michael Pao, cofounder of Trove, said in a recent release.

Non-housing expenses in the area are about 10 percent higher than the rest of the state, the study said. Despite the low ranking within Florida, Tampa Bay ranked No. 29 for disposable income out of the largest 63 metro areas in the country.

Low housing costs are nice, but not if the savings are 1) not covered by higher wages and 2) eaten up by other costs.  And one of the largest costs is transportation, where this area is far behind other areas.  So it is noteworthy that:

Tampa Bay was second-to-the-last among the 20 metros average wages, and at the bottom of the pack in the supply of transit.

Tellingly, on pg 49 of the report, we are ranked third from last in affordability, which is:

The Center for Neighborhood Technology calculates housing and transportation costs as a percentage of income, taking into account regional demographic and socio-economic data.

And third and second from bottom in housing and transportation affordability, respectively. (About the utility of those variable rate toll lanes . . .) That is not good for attracting and retaining talent.

That is all problematic and may have something to do with this:

While Tampa is third among the 20 metros for attracting new residents, it ranked No. 14 for attracting millennials.

And that goes back to the whole talent issue, now and in the future.  As does this from page 17 of the report regarding “advanced industry employment”, which is defined as:

The percentage of non-farm jobs that are in “advanced industries,” characterized by high levels of technology research and development (R&D) and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) workers. According to the Brookings Institution, “the sector encompasses 50 industries ranging from manufacturing industries such as auto-making and aerospace to energy industries such as oil and gas extraction to high-tech services such as computer software and computer system design, including for health applications.”

We are sixth from the bottom.

And some more nuggets from the report: On pg 19, we learn that the regional GRP growth rate in that sector is quite high. However, we are starting from a low level and adding people, so that is not surprising (and note it is not per capita).  On pg 20, we learn that our exports of regionally produced good to other countries is actually shrinking.  On page 25, we see that we are near the bottom of patents per capita. On pg 28, we see we are second only to Jacksonville in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities per capita (Florida cities make up the four worst). On page 30, we see we are in the middle regarding commuters with a 1 hour plus commute time but dead last in transit vehicle revenue miles per capita.  Though on pg 31, we rank third best in driving time in traffic congestion.

We could go on, but you can read it for yourself.  The report is actually well laid out and accessible.  The point is that we have a lot of work to do.

— Conclusion

We are all for this effort.  Quantification of our relative position is well overdue.  But the real question is what will be done with it.  If efforts are narrowly focused on certain metrics without looking at the whole ecosystem that drives decision-making and what people want, it will not reach its full potential, and neither will we.  It has to be understood that most of these categories are interconnected and require a holistic approach to improve.

And one of the biggest enemies of getting to where we should be has been (and to a large degree) is complacency (including institutional and political) caused by the fact that merely by attracting new residents, there is some growth to hang hats on.  This is summarized nicely by one of the drivers of the effort:

Chuck Sykes, who chaired the Regional Competitiveness Report task force and runs call center Sykes Enterprises from downtown Tampa, spoke of how easy it would be for an area like Tampa Bay to just let itself grow naturally — thanks to a steady population of new people moving to the area. “That is not what we want,” he told Tuesday’s audience, citing a need for “smart and sustainable growth.” Sykes, who relocated to this area from St. Louis — a major metro he said was “hard to believe it is shrinking” — and reminded Tampa Bay how fortunate it is to have a growing population.

He is right on both counts: we are fortunate that people want to move here, but that is not enough to get us where we want to, and should, be.

“Because we are growing, that gives us opportunities to solve problems that we wouldn’t have if we weren’t growing,” Law said.

That is definitely true.  However, we have grown for decades with reports and studies without taking the opportunity to fix those problems.  Maybe finally that is changing.  But, it has to be said again, this area has seen many studies, reports, announcements, and columns before, without much changing.  We hope this time is different, but, as always, the real proof will be not what happens at the beginning but what actually comes of it.

And, in the end, we need to be able to answer our constant question of why, if they can go anywhere, someone should choose here if we are ever going to get this area to where most of us want to be.

Transportation – All Sorts

 — Less Help

There was an odd report in the Business Journal:

Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are left out of Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s transportation improvement budget as part of his 2018-19 proposed budget.

Of the $10.8 billion in recommended expenditures, none goes to either of the Tampa Bay region’s two most populated counties even as the region struggles with increasing congestion and a lack of mobility options. Local officials have acknowledged woeful transportation could be a detractor in the bid to attract Amazon’s HQ2.

Setting aside the very small portion of the budget set aside for transit and that we have needs beyond anything related to Amazon, we get that money has been allocated for some projects already.  And we get that there are a number of studies going on.  However, even with that, there are enough needs in this area, and enough people, that the lack of money seems kind of odd.  We’ll see what the legislative delegation does about it.

— Less Ferry

There will be no Cross Bay ferry this year.

Still waiting for the Cross Bay Ferry to return? It’s going to be a while — say, 2018 at the earliest.

The ferry’s supporters, most notably St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, had hoped to bring the boat back for another season after the first six-month trial run ended in April.

But lack of regional cooperation and funding, the same things that routinely bedevil Tampa Bay’s transportation system, stymied those efforts. In the end, there wasn’t enough support from local governments — and by support, that means money — to run it again this year.

“We ultimately kind of ran out time for when we had to pull the trigger in order to get the boat reserved, to get it here and start service on time,” Kriseman said. “We decided to take a step back from this season, look at next season and really start planning for next year.”

In all honesty, we really won’t notice.  The ferry was an interesting experiment, but the price and lack of frequency made it more a novelty than real transit. It’s not that we are opposed to ferries, we just did not find the Cross Bay ferry as it was operated to be effective transit (yes, it may have been fun and even a nice attraction, but, for the most part, it was not transit).

So what held up the ferry this year?  In short, a mix of practicality and politics.  We are pretty sure that without the politics (which we will not get into here), it would have found the money needed to run again.  Whether it should have run again as it did last year is another question.  In any event,

But ferry supporters such as Ed Turanchik, a former Hillsborough county commissioner and lawyer who advises ferry owner and operator HMS Ferries, are hopeful the ferry will be back in 2018. For real this time.

To help with the cost — and the potential loss of Tampa as a partner — St. Petersburg applied for a Florida Department of Transportation grant. The state awarded St. Petersburg $438,131 to help pay the operating cost of the ferry in 2018-19. That could substantially reduce the funds needed from the cities and counties, and perhaps convince doubters like Buckhorn to sign-up for another year.

It’s a one-time award, though, DOT spokeswoman Kris Carson said, meaning St. Petersburg would either have to re-apply each year — the state program usually has less than $1 million to give out annually — or look elsewhere for the money.

What could help, Turanchik said, is the cost of a second season would likely be lower than the $1.4 million pilot program. For one thing, some of the initial overhead costs and necessary infrastructure were taken care of during the pilot program.

He also believes that if the ferry returns it will have “higher revenues” once poorly attended weekday trips are eliminated and the service focuses on beefing up night and weekend service.

That sounds like even more limited service than last year.  We are for developing a transit system – including potentially the largely disappeared from view idea of a ferry from South County to MacDill and, if properly organized a Cross Bay ferry type of service.  But we do not favor what sound like essentially party cruises.  That is for private business.  This area needs to focus on a real comprehensive, coordinated transit system and does not need distractions.  If there is a proposal to make the Cross Bay ferry a workable part of a real transit system, we are all ears.  If it is to make it even less than it was before, not so much.

The real question is what happened to the South County – MacDill ferry?

— More on the Autonomous Buses

There was some more news on the autonomous buses downtown.

The P-1 electric shuttle, an autonomous vehicle without a human driver, will be on display at the Fifth Annual Florida Automated Vehicles Summit, Tuesday and Wednesday at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay. The shuttle begins serving the public for free on a trial basis in January.

The P-1 has seats for 14 people plus standing room for six and will run 0.6 miles along Marion Street in eastern downtown from the Marion Transit Center south to Whiting Street and back.

Which we sort of knew, but it may fill in some gaps.

Manufacturer Coast Autonomous, based in Pasadena, Calif., loaded up the P-1 with information about its environment by recording a three-dimensional map of all possible Marion Street pathways. Sensors will enable the P-1 to get smarter over time, detecting and reacting to pedestrians and other vehicles in a 360-degree range.

The vehicle has never been put into public use before.

It won’t cover much ground at first, but Coast managing director Adrian Sussman said it will fill a gap in transit for people working in a section of downtown.

“Every transit agency in the country has the same issue of trying to convince commuters to leave their cars at home and take public transportation,” Sussman said. “But the biggest hurdle to this is the first mile from your house to the bus stop and the last mile from your office to the bus.”

Well, yes, many transit agencies have a first mile/last mile issue, but we submit that even fixing that would not get commuters in this area to leave their cars at home and take public transportation.  It may help them park a little farther away but not at home, namely because the biggest problems in our area are the first one to five miles and last one to five miles and all the space in between including the fact that service is slow, not convenient, and chronically underfunded.  Transit here, where it even exists, is not set up for commuters and other choice riders but for people who have no choice.

Plus the autonomous buses will only travel 25 mph.  Also, it is not clear if they will stop at every light, but the Marion Street tranistway has stops on basically every block making it even slower. That lack of speed and potentially excessive number of stops is not a plus.

Nevertheless, we are all for trying this system out and figuring out where it may fit.  It may form a piece of the puzzle, but, it needs to be remembered, just a piece.

— More on the ex-HART Director

As we discussed last week, the HART director is leaving.  So why did she decide to leave?  Because Pittsburgh has a different attitude:

But the Port Authority of Allegheny County enjoys a lot more support than HART and the agency has more money to work with.

“Rich Fitzgerald [Allegheny County’s top elected official] says good transit is coming even if there’s not federal funding,” Eagan said. “They’re very, very focused on making sure transit is funded.”

Fitzgerald’s commitment, Eagan said, is echoed by other elected leaders in the county in a place that has prioritized transit.

That’s not the case in Hillsborough County, where efforts to fund transit failed in 2010 and 2016. 

“I come to them and say, for example, we could run a downtown shuttle, and the response is, we like the idea, we just don’t want to pay for it,” Eagan said. 

And, as described in a Times editorial:

Eagan will leave in January to become chief executive of the Port Authority of Allegheny, Pa., which provides public transit in the Pittsburgh area. That system includes nearly 800 buses and more than 80 light rail vehicles on a 26-mile line serving about 200,000 riders a day. Compared to Hillsborough, the Pittsburgh authority serves five times the number of riders and fields four times as many buses as HART. It spends twice as much as the bay area does on bus service alone, even though the two regions have similar populations, and its overall transit spending is four times that of Hillsborough and Pinellas combined.

Pittsburgh also has dedicated bus routes in their own right of way.  (And, notably, the organization is the port Authority of Allegheny County, with a population of around 1.25 million, which is smaller than Hillsborough County, let alone Hillsborough and Pinellas or the Tampa-St Pete metro area.)  And as noted by the Times:

Mass transit in other metro areas is a preferred option for those across the financial spectrum. It is the lifeline between downtowns and the suburbs, airports and major employment centers. Reducing the need for a car also can free up 25 percent or more in household incomes, putting money into the pockets of lower-wage earners, giving middle-class residents the chance to buy first homes and making older neighborhoods ripe for revitalization. A 2012 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that earnings of transit riders in Pittsburgh were about 80 percent of the median of all area commuters. None of the four Florida cities included in the survey (Tampa Bay was not represented) had ridership with anywhere near that mix of incomes.

Nothing to argue with there.  And just remember that when discussing talent searches and economic development.

— More Ideas

There was some interesting stuff in a Business Journal article about St. Pete’s mayor and his second term.

As Rick Kriseman begins his second term as St. Petersburg mayor, he’s turning to creative solutions — think gondolas as aerial transit — to problems plaguing his city and the Tampa Bay region.

What is the advantage?

“I’m fascinated by aerial elevated transit,” Kriseman said. “It allows riders to travel at a faster speed. It’s about a fifth of the cost of light rail. It doesn’t have the same impact as your existing roadways because it’s above the right of way.”

Those things are true, especially given funding issues for transit.  However, in addition to other issues, if a system has to shut down at rush hour through much of the summer due to storms, that could be a problem.  Anyway, by all means think about it.  And there was this:

. . . Kriseman is looking at more than the one lofty ambition.

The city is continuing work with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority on a bus rapid transit line connecting downtown St. Pete to the Gulf Beaches along First Avenues North and South in a dedicated bus lane. Kriseman is also working to bring back the Cross Bay Ferry next fall. Efforts to do so this year failed due to lack of funding.

Setting aside that we have already discussed the issues with the ferry, gondolas, and problems with the bus (it’s mostly not BRT), there is a bigger issue.  If all this is brainstorming about how to build a comprehensive, coordinated transportation system, that is fine.  However, it very well may just be a number of ad hoc, cobbled together ideas that are not really coordinated or systematic at all.  And that would be a problem.  We, as an area, do not need to spend time and money on a number of unconnected pieces.  We need to get something that really connects us in a coordinated and systematic way.

In other words, brainstorm all you want, but keep your eye on the prize.

— More of the Same

Sometimes, there are news items that are not particularly surprising.  We got one this week:

I-4 has been named the most dangerous highway in America by GPS tracking company, Teletrac Navman. Using federal data, they found I-4 is death road with 1.25 fatalities per mile.

You can read more here and see a graphic from the company here. Whether it is just really bad or actually the worst depends on your criteria.  Regardless, it is bad and has been for a long time. And, it should be said, it is bad in Orlando as well as here – and in between.

And the most dangerous section of the most dangerous highway in America happens to run right through the happiest place on Earth from Lakeland to Orlando.

Then again, by government choice, there are no real alternatives to using it.

Rays – The Rundown

There was a nice little summary article in the Times regarding different sites that have been considered for the Rays stadium in Hillsborough.   We are not going to get into the whole thing, but it shows clearly why some of the ideas floated were not very good.  It also has some (somewhat funny) graphics that Photoshop present day stadiums onto aerial shots of the proposed sites.  While they do not follow MLB rules and mostly show open air stadiums, the one for the proposed site in Ybor is interesting:


From the Times – click on picture for article

What it shows is how close both the Channel District and the heart of Ybor (and parking garage) actually are to the site.   We are neither endorsing nor rejecting the site, but it does have some advantages.  One question that we still have is whether a retractable roof stadium can actually fit on that site.  And, of course, there is financing.

Which brings us to this from the Rays owner:

In speaking specifically for the first time about the site pitched last month by Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, Sternberg told the Tampa Bay Times:

We are glad he sees the need for a roof but a fixed roof will be a huge mistake.  Regarding the $150 million, it may be an opening bid or it may be more solid, but, given that the stadium will cost anywhere from $600 million to $800 million and maybe more, it seems a bit low.  How did they get the number?

He said several times the amount of their contribution to the public-private partnership would be based on detailed projections on increased sales of season tickets and sponsorships that were still in the works, and could be influenced by “a drive” or other public effort — such as “businesses knocking on the door” to take part — illustrating additional support, and thus proving that moving from St. Petersburg would be the catalyst.

But he also said they had enough preliminary information to use the $150 million — the same amount they were talking about committing to a failed 2008 proposal on the St. Petersburg waterfront — as a working number.

“We’ve tried to make some guestimates, some estimates on what would be prudent for us, what would give us the ability to take this step in committing to a physical place for another generation or two, and our thought process is it’s probably in the $150 million range,” Sternberg said. “We might find out that’s too much. We might find out that we can afford more.”

So it could change.  We hope it does.  We have a lot of things to pay for in this area.

Downtown – Kress Moves

After a couple of decades of basically nothing happening, the Kress block has been sold.

The historic city block containing the old S.H. Kress & Co. department store and a former F.W. Woolworth’s where 1960s sit-ins led to the peaceful desegregation of the city’s lunch counters was sold this week for $9 million.

The buyer is The Wilson Company, a real estate firm headed by president Carolyn Wilson, who is no stranger to ambitious projects to reclaim old buildings in downtown Tampa.

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

That leads inexorably to the issue of what are they going to do with it.

Wilson said she fell in love with the Kress, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, when she went to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s state of the city speech there in 2013.

“We’re just in love with the whole block,” she said Thursday evening. “We’re going to restore it. We’re not going to tear down anything.”


Wilson said there is no immediate development plan and no tenants lined up for the building. An event space is a possibility for the Kress. She’s thinking she would like to restore the historic lunch counter at the Woolworth’s.

“We think it’s jewel in the rough,” she said. “We have fuzzy plans, but we don’t know exactly what we’re going to do, except we’re going to restore it.”

That is fine.  We’ve been waiting a long time for the block to be restored. And we are thankful that it managed to escape being ruined by some of the past proposals. We can wait a little longer if it is done well.

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the State

Tampa and St. Pete are not the only cities in Florida looking to develop/grow institutions of higher learning in their downtown areas.  Orlando is also working on it.

More than $100 million of financing has been approved for construction of a student high-rise at the University of Central Florida’s proposed downtown Orlando campus, lenders say.

Holliday Fenoglio Fowler LP, a commercial real estate and capital markets group, helped assemble three loans to underwrite the 15-story building planned to house 600 students and provide 600 parking spaces. The project will also include 102,500 square feet of educational space to be leased by UCF and Valencia College. Valencia’s education space will be the home of hospitality and culinary arts programs.

Completion is slated for August 2019 with an expected 8,000 students, faculty and staff members. The project is at the northwest corner of Livingston Street and Terry Avenue in downtown Orlando. Future phases would include 600 to 900 additional beds on the land to the west of the site.

And they are selling their downtown campus the same way we are. It is just another example of competition being constant.  (We wish the University of Tampa would take a similar approach to integrate its growing campus more into the surrounding area.)

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

Given that a major investor in Water Street is an investment company for Bill Gates, we found this interesting:

One of Bill Gates’ investment firms has spent $80 million to kickstart the development of a brand-new community in the far West Valley.

The large plot of land is about 45 minutes west of downtown Phoenix off I-10 near Tonopah.

The proposed community, made up of close to 25,000 acres of land, is called Belmont. According to Belmont Partners, a real estate investment group based in Arizona, the goal is to turn the land into its own “smart city.” 

“Belmont will create a forward-thinking community with a communication and infrastructure spine that embraces cutting-edge technology, designed around high-speed digital networks, data centers, new manufacturing technologies and distribution models, autonomous vehicles and autonomous logistics hubs,” Belmont Partners said in a news release.

* * *

According to Belmont Partners, 3,800 acres will go towards office, commercial and retail space. Then, 470 acres will be used for public schools. Plus, there’s room for 80,000 residential units.

“Comparable in square miles and projected population to Tempe, Arizona, Belmont will transform a raw, blank slate into a purpose-built edge city built around a flexible infrastructure model,” said Belmont Properties.

He is a busy man.  We just hope that there is no cannibalization of potential tenants.

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the World

There has been talk for a while of using the CSX tracks for transit.  Previously, it had been in proposed that DMUs, which are more like light rail cars running on diesel, be used.  More recently, ideas have involved commuter rail, like SunRail in Orlando (which we do not favor here) that also uses diesel.  It seems there soon will be another option:

Commuters in northern Germany will be able to travel on the world’s first hydrogen-powered trains in four years’ time.

French engineering giant Alstom says it has signed an agreement to deliver 14 fuel-cell trains to LNVG, a rail company in Germany’s Lower Saxony state.

* * *

Hydrogen engines emit only water vapor and are considered one of the cleanest forms of transportation. The trains will replace diesel vehicles on non-electrified tracks.

There are plans to produce the hydrogen using electricity from Lower Saxony’s many wind turbines.

And hydrogen can be obtained from water, of which we have a lot.

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