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Roundup 12-8-2017

December 8, 2017


Downtown/Channel District – Lots of Water Street

– The Big Picture

— The Museums, et al

— Filling Space

— The First Anchor

— The Hotel

— One More Thing

Downtown – Riverwalk Place

Downtown – Kress

Airport – The Audit

Biking – About Sharing

Seminole Heights – Right Hand Meet Left Hand

Governance/Planning/Built Environment – Money Talk

Rays – Talking Money

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

The Last Word


Downtown/Channel District – Lots of Water Street

There was quite a bit of Water Street news this week.

– The Big Picture

First, this week SPP released a big new rendering of the project.  It is not really of the whole project, but it is of most of it.

From Water Street Tampa – click on picture for Facebook page

You can see a bigger version on SkyscaperCity here (thanks to Florida Future).

So what are we looking at?

What that rendering shows is a fully baked, strikingly vertical urban neighborhood, topped with green:

Construction on some of these buildings has been projected to start as soon as early next year. Other pieces of the project are likely still years away from breaking ground. Strategic Property Partners, a Vinik-Cascade development company, says it is working to release more details about its plans before the holidays.

It goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) that it looks better than what is there now.  Overall, it is pretty impressive.  There are some obvious things, such as all the green roofs, including on Amalie Arena.  We also like that the arena will be surrounded with useful buildings (MOSI to the east – see below), as opposed to empty space now.  That will certainly enhance the area.

While renderings are notoriously inaccurate, it is interesting that most of the buildings, including the USF Med School are shorter in the rendering than the taller of the two 815 Water Street buildings, which is 312 feet.  Of course, perspective may have something to do with it, but it is interesting.  From the picture, which, as we said, is not necessarily accurate, most of the building will be in the 250-275 range.  You also cannot really get an idea of the architecture.  Most of the buildings look quite similar – which may or may not be the case (though 815 Water Street looks a bit blander here than in the more detailed building-specific renderings) and is in contrast to this previous rendering:

From Water Street Tampa – click on picture for website

Another interesting thing is the seeming lack of connection of Water Street to what is the main part of downtown now.  We do not put that on the SPP folks, and it may not turn out that way (it could just be a function of highlighting the project in the rendering), but there are still surface lots and relatively dead areas between the two.  We assume that would fill in over time.

But, really, how can you not hope that this project gets built?  It is basically doubling downtown and with what seems to be, overall, more quality.  It would just be nice if there was some real transit to go with it.  There are a lot of people who will be trying there with limited ingress and egress.

— The Museums, et al

Last week, we learned that MOSI actually made money last year:

The north Tampa museum, known as MOSI, made $90,384 in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, according to financial statements provided to the Tampa Bay Times. The museum lost $1.4 million in 2016 and ran a $438,000 deficit in 2015.

Which is good. And as anyone who has been following it knows,

Next year, the museum will also unveil a new business model focused on taking science learning and experiences to elementary school classrooms with the goal of sustaining the museum while it plots a move to downtown Tampa.

What will come of the present location “if” there is a move is still not clear (it is up to the County, so caution is advised).  However, we now know where a new downtown MOSI would be located:

The Museum of Science and Industry’s new home in downtown Tampa could be between Amalie Arena and the Tampa Bay History Center.

The latest rendering of Water Street Tampa, released Monday evening, shows new development on either side of Amalie Arena. The building shown to the east of the arena is the potential new location for MOSI, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik said Tuesday.

While that may sound a bit vague, this doesn’t:

“We’re very excited about it,” Julian Mackenzie, the museum’s president and CEO, said Tuesday. “I think there’s a synergy with all the venues that are down there.”

That does not sound like someone who does not know what the plan is.

Looking back at the rendering above, the MOSI location is the building immediately to the right of the arena. (Though note the cars apparently parked in the middle of what is supposed to be MOSI.  We are not sure what that feature is.)  We are fine with that location with one caveat: the whole street frontage should not be taken up by just the museum part of MOSI (not including any restaurant or store).  If it is, there will be an extended area of Water Street which will remain relatively dead – basically from the west side of the arena to Channelside.  Yes, people will walk into the park, History Center or MOSI, but there will be little to do there.  While there will be some retail in 815 Water Street facing MOSI, we hope the plans include more.  It would be a shame to have the namesake street not be fully activated.

There was also this very vague news:

A new “art institution” is planned for the northern end of the district, for a cultural anchor there, Vinik said.

We will just have to wait for more on that.

— Filling Space

As anyone who follows local business knows, the Lightning owner has been very active in investing in local businesses and pushing startups.  Part of that is pushing the area (which it needs) and part of it is good business.  Given all that, this was no surprise:

Jeff Vinik says the Tampa Bay area needs a bigger, stronger ecosystem for startup companies, and on Tuesday he announced three major initiatives to nurture them.

First, Vinik said he will, with other investors, create a venture capital fund with as much as $50 million or more to support startup entrepreneurs, some with direct grants. That, he believes, would make it the largest fund of its kind in Florida.

“We’re going to have a grant program similar to what’s going on in St. Louis, called the Arch Grants there, where we give away $25,000 to $50,000 to those startups … who we think are really, really good,” Vinik told a summit on urban technology and development at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina. “We want to be a magnet for attracting them … from throughout the Southeast and the rest of the country.”

Which is great because, despite the disparate organizations working with startups, we need a better, more coordinated plan and better access to capital.

And given that Water Street is partnering with this group, it was no surprise to hear this:

Vinik said he’s taking a major equity stake in the startup accelerator DreamIt, which works with startups focused on health care and urban technology to help them raise capital quickly and grow their businesses. Vinik did not disclose how much he’s investing, but said he expects to end up with an ownership stake in the company equal to that of its founders.

“DreamIt and I are getting married,” he said in a telephone interview after his speech to the “Building Cities of the Future” summit. He expects DreamIt to be at the new innovation hub. “I think we can make it into one of the best accelerator companies in the country.”

And least surprising of all was this:

Vinik outlined plans to build an “innovation hub” on the second floor of Channelside Bay Plaza. He expects it to occupy 40,000 to 75,000 square feet of space — or 20 to 40 percent of the building — and take 12 to 18 months to create.

“That’s almost two acres,” he said. “That’s big, and that’s because we’re bold, and we’ve got to move the needle here.”

Plans for the hub are still coming together, but Vinik said he wants it to have room for hundreds of people, maybe even up to 500 people.

“We need a central location” bringing together startup companies, would-be startups, venture capitalists, potential mentors, academic resources, lawyers and financial advisors, all in one spot, with plenty of opportunities for support and cross-pollination.

First, it was no surprise because it is logical.  But even less of surprise was the location of the “central location.”  Aside from already having Tampa Bay Wave there, it makes sense for the Lightning owner to fill up the less expensive space in and around his Water Street project to bring activity and exposure to the area.  If you want your project to be known for innovation, it definitely makes sense to bring facilities in which you have an interest that involve innovation.  And it makes sense to have as many people as you can around, especially if you are just using lower cost space for them.

We are all for it.  The ideas are sound.  And even if they serve the Lightning owner’s interests, we have nothing against self-interest if it does not harm the public interest, and plainly this doesn’t.

And we are all for someone pushing this area to do better.  While we do not agree with everything he does, it is just one more example of the Lightning owner showing he gets it.

— The First Anchor

While USF Med School is often held out as the anchor to the Water Street project, the reality is that the first, and in many ways biggest, anchor is the arena.  And the biggest tenant of the arena is, of course, the Lightning.  So we were not surprised by this:

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Hillsborough County are narrowing in on a deal that would keep the hockey team here until at least 2037.

The two sides hope to have an agreement in place by January, according to county officials.

Under discussion is a proposal for the Lightning to exercise two five-year options to extend the current lease, scheduled to expire in 2027.

In exchange, Hillsborough County will commit $61 million over the next two decades to maintenance and upgrades of Amalie Arena, home of the Lightning and Tampa Bay Storm and one of the area’s top entertainment and concert venues. The money will come from the fifth cent of the Tourist Development Tax, a fee assessed on each night’s stay at a hotel or motel.

* * *

The county owns Amalie Arena, but under the existing contract Hillsborough is not under any obligation to pay for maintenance or upgrades. That onus falls on the team, which runs the day-to-day operations.

If approved by county commissioners, it would be the second time in three years that Hills­borough will pump money into the arena. In 2015, Hillsborough commissioners voted unanimously to split a $25 million upgrade with Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, also using hotel taxes.  

It should be noted that Tourist Development Tax has limited uses, by law.

State law restricts usage of the tax to three categories: beach replenishment, tourism marketing and tourism facilities such as museums, convention centers and stadiums.

(See here and here) So money would not be taken from general funds or transportation.

And, especially given the limited uses of the money, this makes a certain amount of sense:

County Administrator Mike Merrill said the team’s previous owners “didn’t know what they were doing” and “didn’t maintain the building.” When Vinik bought the team in 2010, he used the fortune he amassed as a Wall Street hedge fund manager to pay for a $60 million upgrade that salvaged the facility.

That investment bought a lot of goodwill, Merrill said, and the continued upkeep by the team to modernize the arena has ensured the long-term viability of the 21-year-old facility. The arena first opened as the Ice Palace in 1996.

“We don’t want to have to build a new venue, and it’s about the time that owners start saying they want a new stadium,” Merrill said. “Vinik is committing to stay in that building for 20 years. That’s huge. It’s a very worthwhile investment to avoid that cost.

It also makes sense for all involved, since the Lightning moving from the arena would not help the Water Street project.  We do not know all the details of the proposed deal, but, from what we know now, we do not have any problem with it.

— The Hotel

There were also some new renderings of the hotel planned for the lot across from the Marriott.  From URBN Tampa Bay:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

You can see larger versions here.

For the most part it is what we knew before and looks nice.  We are not really that high on the skywalk, but it has been a feature from the beginning.  We are also not completely clear if there is a way to walk under real covering across the whole streetscape.  We see there are awnings of a sort – though they appear to be the quasi-awnings made up of slats with gaps which may look nice but protect you from neither the sun nor the rain, and are therefore not particularly useful in Florida. (They could have some transparent material but that would be unusual.)  We still think that if you want to make a truly walkable area, you need to learn from the past architecture when people did walk and give them some real protection from the sun and rain.

Otherwise (aside from the skywalk), it looks good.

— One More Thing

With all this talk of Water Street, one thing should be noted.  If you look just north of the Selmon right in the middle of the picture, there is a squat little building.  That is the stick construction apartment complex, Aurora.  We said when it was built that it was out-of-place in the middle of downtown.  Now, we can see just how out-of-place it really will be.  It is a perfect illustration of why we should not settle.

Downtown – Riverwalk Place

There was an article in the Business Journal regarding Riverwalk Place (formerly Riverwalk Tower).

As has been previously noted, there is a lawsuit between the developer and a former partner regarding the project.  In that suit, marketing materials were filed, though they have since been removed from the court website.  However, before that was done, the Business Journal got a look at them.

First, the materials apparently included a yet to be publicly released rendering.  However, the Business Journal did not put it on the website.

The Business Journal also reported that the condo prices averaged over $1 million at all levels and over the per square foot price level for downtown condos now.  However, the developer said that the marketing materials were outdated.  A sales center is supposed to open in the second quarter of 2018, which would be good because construction has previously been reported to be scheduled to start in the summer.

We would love a new tallest building in Tampa and have heard that the design (at least tentative design) is quite nice.  However, there is a decided lack of information about the project.  We shall just have to see.

Downtown – Kress

There was news regarding the Kress building, from Fox13:

Tampa’s historic 1929 Kress Department Store building will get a facelift starting after the holidays.

FOX 13 News got an exclusive tour of the building and spoke with Wilson Company president Carolyn “C.W.’ Wilson, who says their $9 million dollar purchase of the building and surrounding properties wasn’t triggered by Lightning owner Jeff Vinick’s [sic] Water Street project.

* * *

She says the ground floor will likely be used as an event space. She’s not sure yet about the three upper floors.

Parts of the building are in severe disrepair, but she says its solid with old style craftsmanship.
Wilson says there’s no timetable on when the historic building’s restoration will be complete.

While we would prefer a more active use than an event space on the ground floor, we are glad it is going to be stabilized and look forward to hearing what the upper floors will be (and hopefully that there will be better use on the ground).

Airport – The Audit

A while back, a State Senator said he wanted an audit of the airport because of some (rather unclear) potential corruption allegations.  We were fine with an audit (and an audit of all other airports in the state, and port, and FDOT in order to protect the taxpayer).  Recently, some of the results have been revealed:

A much-anticipated audit of Tampa International Airport unearthed misuse of a state grant and raised questions about the awarding and oversight of contracts related to the airport’s $2.3 billion expansion, the largest public works project in Tampa history.

The report from the state auditor general, which is not finalized but was obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, also found questionable justification for a $3.5 million public arts fund and for raises given to the airport’s top executives, which in some cases were as high as 10 percent.

However, the audit did not conclude there was “public corruption” at the airport — words used earlier this year by state Sen. Tom Lee when he demanded a review of the airport’s finances. Nor did it find that the airport had a problem paying off its debt obligations, which the Thonotosassa Republican also suggested.

Most of the audit findings called for tweaks to airport policies to improve transparency or incorporate best practices.

Airport spokeswoman Janet Zink said administrators have acted on some findings and are reviewing others. They have until Dec. 29 to respond. 

Regarding the more substantive issues of the construction project:

The audit included 12 findings, several related to the expansion:

We do not have enough facts to deal with the first item, though we know that it sometimes happens for a variety of reasons. (And it goes to the Board.) The second one, the furniture, was fixed.  And the third does not seem to be an issue as there was a requirement to check licenses.

Regarding the raises:

For example, the report questioned how airport leaders rationalized five-figure raises that six executive team members received in 2014. The raises put the annual salaries of five vice presidents above $200,000.

Airport CEO Joe Lopano said in a 2014 memo that a study of executive salary ranges at TIA were “below the midpoint of the market.”

But auditors said the study, which was not disclosed to the board, only included salary data from one peer airport. The rest of the information came from businesses in other industries.

In a draft response to the audit provided to the Times, airport management pushed back, noting that “market data is a key part of benchmarking” salaries.

Relative to the area, the salaries are high, but the key issue is whether they are high relative to the market for airport executives, especially to attract the talent needed to fix years of complacency. We need to attract and retain talent in public as well as the private sphere.

We do not have the numbers in front of us, but the airport is correct in its benchmarking argument.  Whether they applied that properly or not is something we do not have information to decide.  However, we do not know why the audit only used numbers from one other airport, but, if it really only used one other comparable situation for comparison we question the methodology.

Regarding the art:

The state report also highlighted $3.5 million set aside for the airport’s Public Art Program, a fund to commission artwork displayed in terminals and at gates. Since 2012, the airport has paid artists $572,320 for an LED tiles and metal display, $300,000 for a 14-foot hanging structure and $297,000 for a 30-foot-by-20-foot tapestry.

According to the audit, “authority records did not always demonstrate the legal authority, or reasonableness of, artwork expenditures.”

Frankly, this seems like nitpicking.  We know art is subjective, and we are not that fond of some of the art in the airport (nor did we expect to be.  As we said, it is subjective).  And the “reasonableness” of the expenditure for art seems quite vague and subjective as well.  It seems the audit questioning the art, or having art, more than the procedures. Public buildings have public art.  It costs some money. There would have to be much more to it to make us worry.

And the airport responded properly:

“The findings, I believe, would be characterized as mostly administrative in nature, but every finding is one we take seriously,” airport CEO Joe Lopano said. “Of the 12 findings, we have already addressed eight of them.”

* * *

“The audit did find some things that were really good suggestions, and we implemented those,” Lopano said. “To the extent that we can improve, we’re all about that.”

It was good that the audit was done, and it does not leave us overly concerned.  There is nothing a few tweaks can’t fix.  We look forward to the findings of all the other audits statewide.

Biking – About Sharing

There was an article in the Business Journal about local bike sharing:

Locals and visitors have clocked more than 500,000 miles on Coast bikes since its inception in late 2014, which reduces traffic congestion and frees parking in the two urban cores. Those miles translate to more than 20 million calories burned and nearly a half million pounds of carbon not pumped into the atmosphere.

Which is all well and good, but does not really tell us much.  More interesting is this:

The systems in St. Petersburg, downtown Tampa and the University of South Florida Tampa have a combined 700 bikes including more than 30 each in downtown Tampa and St. Pete.

* * *

Coast Bike Share plans to increase its fleet with 200 additional bikes in Tampa in the coming months, the company announced this week. 

That tells us something – either, if it is making money and expanding, Gulf Coast is relatively successful or it is overreaching and poorly managed.  Because we have no evidence they are mismanaged, we will assume they are doing well.  And that is a good thing.

Seminole Heights – Right Hand Meet Left Hand

There was what is admittedly a small story about a street mural in Seminole Heights that just leaves us scratching our head about how government works.

The city’s first official street mural, painted along a Seminole Heights intersection, was covered with black asphalt on Thursday by city workers who mistook it for graffiti.

The brightly-colored, 28-foot wide “mandala” mural, a spiritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, was created in July through the combined efforts of the city, the county and neighborhood. That is explained by a plaque near the mural at N River Boulevard and W Louisiana Avenue.

Let’s say that again, there is a plaque explaining what it is. (Not to mention news stories, like here and here)

In a statement, the City of Tampa called it an “unfortunate mistake” by the code enforcement team looking to clean up the city’s graffiti.

“They were unaware this was an authorized installation,” Tampa spokeswoman Christina Barker said in a statement. “The City will be back out to try and correct the damage over the next few days. If we are unable to do so, we plan to commission an artist to restore the design.”

In its Facebook post, the South Seminole Heights Civic Association said it received an apology from Tampa’s director of neighborhood empowerment, whose workers covered up the mural.

“The city was quick to respond and very apologetic for it all,” the Civic Association wrote on its Facebook page.

We get it was a mistake, and we are not blaming the people who were told to cover it up.   But we assume someone had to authorize it and find money for it and why they did not know or ask whether it should be there.  It makes one wonder who is or is not talking to whom at a higher level and authorizing City activities.  And it makes one wonder about other issues where people are not communicating that are more important but not so publicly obvious.  We don’t think anyone should get in trouble for the mistake, but it is a good time to check procedures overall.

Governance/Planning/Built Environment – Money Talk

For decades, our local governments have followed a build it quick and cash out method of planning and measuring achievement.  There has not been much thought (at least not apparent thought) put into larger questions – especially long-term issues (can you say planning).  And that has been easier to do because we are growing in population and just throwing up buildings and developments in a haphazard way has brought in tax money (and donations from developers and large land owners). In other words, the short-term money has been good.  Which is why this is interesting:

Coastal communities from Maine to California have been put on notice from one of the top credit rating agencies: Start preparing for climate change or risk losing access to cheap credit.

In a report to its clients Tuesday, Moody’s Investors Service Inc. explained how it incorporates climate change into its credit ratings for state and local bonds. If cities and states don’t deal with risks from surging seas or intense storms, they are at greater risk of default.

“What we want people to realize is: If you’re exposed, we know that. We’re going to ask questions about what you’re doing to mitigate that exposure,” Lenny Jones, a managing director at Moody’s, said in a phone interview. “That’s taken into your credit ratings.”

So what are they looking at?

In its report, Moody’s lists six indicators it uses “to assess the exposure and overall susceptibility of U.S. states to the physical effects of climate change.” They include the share of economic activity that comes from coastal areas, hurricane and extreme-weather damage as a share of the economy, and the share of homes in a flood plain.

Based on those overall risks, Texas, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi are among the states most at risk from climate change. Moody’s didn’t identify which cities or municipalities were most exposed.

Bond rating agencies such as Moody’s are important both for bond issuers and buyers, as they assign ratings that are used to judge the risk of default. The greater the risk, the higher the interest rate municipalities pay.

Which brings us to this interesting piece from Zillow:

While the damage caused by recent hurricanes is a devastating reminder of how quickly the weather can undo people’s lives and destroy their homes, the potential for damage from a slower-moving phenomenon could be even more destructive: Rising sea levels.

Building on our 2016 analysis of the impact a rising tide could have on U.S. homes, we looked again at how many homes might be underwater by the end of the century — and whether those homes are in the top, middle or bottom tier in their areas. We also calculated the share in urban, suburban and rural areas.

So let’s get to the charts:

From Zillow – click on chart for website

You can get more detail by metro area in a handy tool on the Zillow website here. Let’s just say it is not good.

This area is constantly listed as one of, if not the, most at risk areas to rising sea levels and hurricanes.  Even if you don’t care about climate change per se, the fact others do is going to make it more expensive to do a large and wide variety of things.  Local government better take notice.

Rays – Talking Money

Last week, we highlighted a column in the Times that said that the Rays would have to come up with more than $150 million to get a stadium built in this area. We agreed.  Apparently, the Hillsborough County Administrator does, too.

Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill said Thursday that it will take more than $150 million from the Tampa Bay Rays to build a ballpark in Ybor City.

* * *

It will have to, Merrill said, who added that the county was treating the figure as an “opening number” in negotiations that will play out over the next year.

The county is operating under the assumption that a stadium will cost upward of $600 million, Merrill said, and recent history suggests its likely to be closer to $800 million.

“To that extent, $150 million doesn’t really— it’s part of it, but it’s not what they’ll need,” Merrill said.

“Until we can sit across the table and agree on a price and talk about the other pieces, folks shouldn’t really be grabbing onto anything as the final number.”

While we are not grabbing onto any number, it is clear $150 million is nowhere near enough to get anything done.

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

Let’s check in on variable rate toll lanes.  This week, we’ll focus on I-66 in northern Virginia.

Tolls on Interstate 66 hit $40 during the Tuesday morning rush, the second day of operation for the new express lanes from the Capital Beltway in Northern Virginia to downtown Washington.

At about 8 a.m., a driver entering the interstate at the Beltway would have paid $36.50. Minutes later, the toll reached $40. That tops the peak toll of Monday’s debut commute, which reached $34.50.

But despite complaints from some drivers that the rates are excessive, Virginia transportation officials said the lanes are working exactly as they are supposed to.  Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne declared Monday’s opening a success and said the lanes will help the state accomplish its goal of  “moving more people, not more vehicles” in the corridor.

We should point out that the lanes in question are HOT lanes.  That means that high occupancy vehicles do not pay, which incentives carpooling.  In contrast, Florida does not have HOT lanes.  Everyone pays no matter how many people are in the car because in Florida FDOT . . . well, we are not completely sure what they want.  In any event,

“As long as people are willing to pay, that is what will drive the tolling,” Layne said. Those complaining that the tolls are unfair have options, he said.

“No one has to pay a toll. You simply could have put another person in your car and avoid a toll,” Layne said. “This is fair to everyone because everyone has a choice. And that is why we did this. We wanted to change behavior, we don’t have the resources to continue to lay asphalt and have congested roadways.”

Of course, if, like in this area, you give no alternatives refuse to provide adequate lanes for the existing traffic in the first place and do not incentivize carpooling, then people do not have a choice.  Either they sit in traffic or they pay ridiculous prices. That is how things work in an unregulated monopoly.

To be sure, there are other roads that can be used as an alternative to taking the new toll lanes. Motorcycles and vehicles carrying two or more people have free use of the lanes.

Then again, as we pointed out last week, major surface roads in this area are just as busy as highways, if not more so.  And our local governments have been busy putting driving impediments on local roads, not to mention narrowing and slowing many surface roads without providing alternatives.

While we want real transit alternatives, we have long said that if FDOT is serious about changing behavior they would at least make variable rate express lanes HOT lanes (though just having HOT lanes will not really fix anything).  But they don’t even do that.  And local officials have been going along. While the I-66 tolls are high, even for variable rate lanes (of course, without our low incomes you don’t need to get that high to really hurt), our area keeps growing and, without real alternatives, the future is a choice between sitting in ever worse congestion and unaffordably high tolls.

The Last Word

The longtime business columnist for the Times is leaving and he had one last column, here.  You can read the whole thing for yourself, but the basic theme is very sound.

It’s okay for Tampa or St. Pete or Clearwater — or Wesley Chapel, Brandon, Seminole, New Port Richey or Tarpon Springs — to fight for better jobs or corporate relocations.

But on the big stuff like our transportation, our startup community, our environment, our political muscle — our regional economic future — a better connected Tampa Bay wins if everybody gets a little taste of prosperity.

Readers used to send in letters (and then emails) howling that “Tampa Bay” was just a body of water and not a real “place” to write about here. Maybe that was true decades ago. Not any more, folks.

Get over it. Embrace it. Fight for it. Give Tampa Bay some love.

Setting aside that we really don’t like our pilots saying, “We will be landing in Tampa Bay in a few minutes,” he is right.

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