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Roundup 3-9-2018

March 9, 2018

Contents

Built Environment/Planning – Choices

– East County

— Dunkin

Transportation – Potpourri

— Bus Plan, Another Editorial

— USF Area Circulator

— Actual BRT

USF – What Is It

Walking Violation

Ybor City – Old Maybe New Again

Port – You Want Competition

Meanwhile, in the Rest of the State

___________________________________


Built Environment/Planning – Choices


– East County

Last week, we discussed a request to allow denser development beyond the urban service area in Hillsborough County. We said:

We would not be surprised if the change is approved.  The County has routinely failed to enforce its plans for decades and then pleads poverty about unmet needs. That has, to a large part, led to our transportation woes and long list of needs, transportation and otherwise.

It is all about choices.  In this case, there is a boundary and a plan established by the County. The County should enforce it.

Of course they should, but:

In one of the first tests of Hillsborough County’s stated commitment to fight sprawl, commissioners are giving a green light to a contentious new suburban development in east county.

The 5-2 decision allows 131 new homes on 164 acres of rural land off Lithia Pinecrest Road just east of FishHawk Ranch. The change in land use from agricultural to residential means the number of homes that can be built there will increase by a factor of four.

The circumstances of the vote were somewhat unusual. The property in question was purchased decades ago by a Michigan couple as a retirement investment. The couple said they didn’t know the county lowered the allowable homes-per-acre in 1998 and the five commissioners who voted yes said they were righting a wrong.

But for the commissioners who voted against it, Pat Kemp and Stacy White, and the residents who oppose the project, the decision was a signal that it’s business as usual for a commission that just three months ago appeared ready to hold the line on further suburban sprawl. And challengers to several commissioners seeking re-election this year say the vote is evidence that change is needed.

* * *

On Thursday, Murman and Crist said their vote was about property rights, and didn’t reflect their commitment to changing growth policies.

“This is merely an unusual situation in a part of our county where (the landowners) were wronged,” Crist said.

The righting a wrong argument is quite poor (and disingenuous), as explained by the Times in an editorial:

Several commissioners who bought into the fantasy of this being a hardship case didn’t bother to substantiate their theories for the record. After all, the government modifies land uses all the time. The county did nothing wrong nor concealed the changes taking place. And it’s not the government’s job to ensure that land speculators make a profit.

If it were a valid argument then anytime the County (or any part of government) took any step that did not increase the value of property you own at the rate you planned for it to grow, it would be a wrong that needed to be righted.  But it just isn’t.  You invest hoping that the asset appreciates.  There are no guarantees.

In any event,

Commissioners are fooling themselves but not the public by describing their action as righting a wrong. At least Commissioner Ken Hagan had the honesty to explain his vote by declaring that more homes were appropriate “given the dense development in the neighboring property to the west.” In other words, sprawl is fine because sprawl is already there, so let’s keep going. The two commissioners who voted no, liberal Democrat Pat Kemp and conservative Republican Stacy White, showed by rejecting this line of thinking that the issue is about smart policy, not partisan politics.

Exactly.  We are not sure why those Commissioners persist in pretending that they care about decent planning. They should just be honest and say they don’t care if the entire county is covered in sprawl and has no possible way to pay to maintain the needed services. . . oh wait, we already don’t have enough money because of the Commission’s horrible planning, lack of concern about spreading sprawl, and bending over backwards to ignore good governance.

As the editorial says:

It’s also the complete opposite message from what the Urban Land Institute hoped to send after its meeting with the commission in December. The ULI urged the commission to act now to guide growth by holding a line on its Urban Service Area, where most roads, utilities and other infrastructure is already located, while developing new live-work-play clusters to serve hordes of new residents. Several commissioners who embraced that message only months ago reversed course with their votes last week. Why did the county bother paying ULI $135,000?

Defenders are quick to point out that the commission’s vote does not expand the county’s urban service boundary. But it has a similar effect by extending these public services into rural areas that had been walled off from suburban encroachment. These decisions will change only when voters make sprawl more of a political issue, and once they connect the value of rural lands to the local ecosystem and to the county’s quality of life.

It is all about choices.  Last week the County Commission continued its longstanding practice of making bad choices that will just increase the cost in the future.  Ask yourself: did you really think they wouldn’t approve more sprawl beyond the urban service area?

We have held out hope that someday they may actually care about the mess they have created and are creating and change their ways to actually provide decent governance.  We keep hoping, but we are not blind to the fact that, as a group, they show no signs of doing so, or even considering it.


— Dunkin

As many know, Tampa now has a Burger King downtown completely with a surface parking lot and drive through.  It is completely against the idea of what downtown is supposed to be developing into, but that is Tampa.  No one ever bothered to fix the code, and no City Council approved the Burger King.   The City just doesn’t care enough.

Over in St. Pete:

Business owner Sarah Arrazola delivered the rallying cry Wednesday for those opposing a developer’s bid to open a Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through in downtown:

“Please don’t Fort Lauderdale St. Petersburg,” she told the Development Review Commission.

The Orlando developer, Jonathan Moore, defended the project from charges that it would dilute the city’s local charm.

“National chains are already here,” he said, “and they’re not evil.”

The commission sided with the more than three dozen people who opposed the project, denying the developer’s drive-through after 90 minutes of debate and discussion at City Hall.

She should have said, “Don’t Tampa St. Pete.” Really, we don’t care about Burger King as a chain (there used to be a Burger King on Franklin Street that was fine).  We care about the building they are in and whether it helps or hinders having a proper downtown now and in the future. And whether downtown should have drive-through restaurants at all (they shouldn’t).

It is all about choices.  St. Pete made the right one.  Tampa made the wrong one.


Transportation – Potpourri

Would it be a week here without it?


— Bus Plan, Another Editorial

The Times ran another editorial about the bus plan. (here) Here is the core:

A state-funded consultant’s study recommends that the region build a bus rapid transit system, or BRT, along the I-275 corridor as the first link in an expanded mass transit network across the Tampa Bay area. A tri-county transportation panel, comprised of elected officials and transit agency executives from Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco, largely embraced the finding when it was unveiled in January. But in the past several weeks, several officials, notably Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp, have questioned the proposed route, projected cost and ridership assumptions, and other key details. Hillsborough’s mass transit agency, HART, voted last month to withhold giving the plan its imprimatur, with the board majority questioning whether it was bold enough to make a dent in the area’s traffic congestion or serve as a tool for economic growth.

The report chose BRT over rail as the first project recommended for the region. It said the 41-mile bus rapid line would be cheaper and faster to build, less costly to operate and likely more competitive for federal matching money. But the plan calls for buses to mix with cars along most of the route, both along Interstate 275 and on Tampa streets under the interstate where most of the bus stations would be located. By not dedicating a reserved corridor for buses, the buses could only move as fast as the cars traveling ahead of them. Some proposed stations are not at major transit connections, and the sheer number of stations — while boosting ridership projections — also means a longer ride between the three counties.

* * *

The consultants will spend the spring and summer floating this plan to the public. The core issue here is what does the bay area hope to achieve? While federal funding is a vital component, the plan — the first out of the box — must be meaningful enough to change the transit equation. It is essential that the public knows what the buses would — and would not — do, the costs and why a dedicated corridor that could serve buses or light rail has to be a priority. That’s the only way to make an informed decision about a key strategy for this region’s future.

They should add that, not only are some of the stops not at transit connections, but some activity centers supposedly connected have no actual stop. We really think this gets to the core of the issue:

While federal funding is a vital component, the plan — the first out of the box — must be meaningful enough to change the transit equation.

So far, we have heard nothing that would lead us to believe it will make such a change. Which makes us wonder about this:

Members of the tri-county transportation panel that serves as the key stop for vetting this plan, which meets Friday, have smartly reset the conversation. While continuing to correctly insist on a regional transit spine and better transit connections, they have raised their expectations for the vetting process, calling for closer examination of the proposal and a peer review by outside urban development experts. The plan is currently in the public feedback stage, and members insisted that this process be serious, transparent and welcome to public input.

We are not sure what the editorial is actually talking about.  The conversation was reset by people who pointed out the faults after local officials lauded the plan at the unveiling.  That was the first feedback.  As for feedback in the future, we hope it is, but in this area most conversations about transit get completely muddled, if not hijacked.

The place to start a conversation about the plan is to say why it is good other than being cheap. And, even setting aside the fact that the flaws have been pointed out clearly, the burden of the argument is on those in favor of the plan.  We are still waiting.


— USF Area Circulator

Somewhat related, there was an article in the Times about a long rumored USF (Tampa) area circulator:

Former County Commissioner Mark Sharpe wants to get people who live and work in the University of South Florida area out of their cars and on to public transit.

He hopes a new circulator connecting the university to nearby medical centers and Busch Gardens will help convince people to ditch their personal vehicles when going to lunch, stopping by the mall or grabbing drinks after work at World of Beer or other nearby options.

It could take years before people are willing to give up their cars. But Sharpe said this project linking the traditionally gridlocked area between Fletcher Avenue and Busch Boulevard could give a region full of commuters a taste of mass transit.

Of course, part of the reason the area is gridlocked is because the grid is not really a grid at all.  Most traffic is forces onto a few arterial roads where basically everything has been built for cars.  There is little chance for anyone to walk on Fowler or Bruce B. Downs (Fletcher is a little better in places, but just a little).  But we’ll set that aside for a minute:

The 7-mile loop is set to start running this summer, ideally in June, said Sharpe, chief potential officer for Tampa’s !P, a 6-year-old nonprofit that started as the Tampa Innovation Alliance. And, at least for the first few years, it will be free.

This is not a short-term, one-shot pilot, but instead a new transportation option for one of Tampa’s poorest neighborhoods. The high-percentage of working poor in the university area coupled with tens of thousands of college students makes the area prime for transit use outside of just business workers looking to grab lunch.

The circulator also aims to be one of the region’s first true examples of a public-private partnership for transit: while Florida Department of Transportation and Hillsborough County have agreed to cover some of the $850,000 price tag, the success of the project is dependent on !P’s anchors, like Moffitt Cancer Center, USF and the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital chipping in, Sharpe said.

* * *

Many of the details for the circulator still need to be refined, but Sharpe said the University area circulator plans to use smaller, potentially hybrid or electric vehicles, that seat about 14 people. Passengers can jump on at one of approximately 22 stops and take the shuttle in either direction. The goal is for the circulator to run every 20 minutes.

But as with any transit project that has been proposed in the bay area over the decades, two main questions dominate conversations: who will ride it and where will the money come from?

Sharpe imagines riders of all sorts: USF students who work at Busch Gardens, Moffitt employees who park on one hospital campus but work at another, tourists who want stop by the mall or the Yuengling Brewing Company, professors who have meetings off campus but don’t want to cross Fowler Avenue on foot.

Eng said there are about 17,000 jobs and 12,000 people living within a quarter of a mile of the stops, and the thousands of daily visitors, workers and students. That number could only grow when factoring in planned development at University Mall, the VA, Moffitt and other anchors.

* * *

The project is expected to cost around $850,000, Eng said, to be split amongst the state, county and local businesses.

The Florida Department of Transportation and Hillsborough County are willing to contribute more than $500,000 to pay for the project, as long as Sharpe and others are able to secure additional money from private investors, Sharpe said.

* * *

Sharpe said Yuengling and Moffitt had already committed, but he couldn’t say for how much. Sharpe is also going to connect with smaller businesses, like World of Beer, to see what sort of investment they’d be willing to contribute.

That’s all fine.  We are not clear why the County Commission and FDOT are being stingy (they should want there to be relatively cheap transit), but having private partners is fine.  The conditions and lack of enthusiasm also shows us the issues that will arise making any sort of express bus plan relevant to most people.  Without the circulators, the express bus plan won’t work, but the County and FDOT are not all in on circulators in the first place.

Sharpe imagines riders of all sorts: USF students who work at Busch Gardens, Moffitt employees who park on one hospital campus but work at another, tourists who want stop by the mall or the Yuengling Brewing Company, professors who have meetings off campus but don’t want to cross Fowler Avenue on foot.

We are sure some people will find circulator useful and ride, especially on good point to point connections and especially people who cannot drive.  Whether putting some small shuttles (which is what it sounds like now) on Fowler will really make a dent in traffic and congestion is another question, not to mention the fact that the circulator will be in said traffic.  In any event, URBN Tampa Bay was pretty much on the mark with their comments (including the comment on the ineffability of the organization’s name, which we do not quote):

We’re very interested to see the proposed route, expected trip times and vehicle before offering much in the way of an opinion on this.

We will say they’re off on the right foot by planning this to be fare-free. No fumbling for payment when you need to board people quickly so the circulator can start moving again. And if Busch Gardens is actually supporting this at all, let alone contributing to it, that in itself is newsworthy. Busch Gardens has historically loved parking revenue a lot more than they care about congestion.

Two big questions weren’t even mentioned in the article… How will this tie into HART and the heavily used Bull Runner? 

Without knowing more it is hard to really assess the circulator’s potential – and to see if, at some point in the future, it could serve as the actual connection between the express buses and USF.  Maybe it can, maybe it can’t.  Hopefully, they will at least try to use best practices for an urban system.


— Actual BRT

Meanwhile, St Pete is pushing forward with a plan that is actual BRT, for the most part.

Representatives of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority are heading to Washington, D.C. later this month to lobby federal officials for help funding the proposed Central Avenue Bus Rapid Transit line connecting downtown St. Petersburg to the Gulf beaches.

* * *

PSTA is asking the Federal Transit Administration for a $20 million New Starts grant to pay for a little less than half of the $42 million project. The agency is poised well for the grant because the FTA recently gave the BRT project its second highest ranking, “medium-high.”

* * *

Darden, along with other representatives from PSTA, the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and the Tampa Bay Partnership, will meet with members of the Tampa Bay Area Congressional Delegation and the FTA to garner support for the funding. They’ll also take in a portion of the American Professional Transit Association’s legislative conference.

So what is the plan exactly?

The route would run in a dedicated lane along First Avenues North and South, making it what’s known as “gold standard BRT.” That’s more than can be said for the 41-mile BRT route a regional transit plan is recommending between downtown St. Pete and Wesley Chapel along Interstate 275.

This really isn’t that complicated: having a dedicated lane is necessary to be “gold standard” but does not by itself make it “gold standard.”  There are other factors.

Nevertheless, as we said, at least the St. Pete plan is actually BRT for the most part, as opposed to the Regional Transit Feasibility Study express bus plan.  And it is a route that makes sense and runs on arterial roads, so there is a possibility of actually having at least some development along the route.

In fact, while we are fine with asking for Federal money, we are unsure why Pinellas/St. Pete does not seem to have a contingency plan to just pay the extra $20 million.  Hopefully they do have such a plan and are not telling.  We shall see.


USF – What Is It

The week, the higher education bill passed the legislature.

The Florida House of Representatives on Monday approved a higher education package that includes consolidating the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and the Sarasota-Manatee campus into one accreditation by July 2020.

The House approved a version of the bill already cleared in the Senate. The measure now heads back to that chamber for its final nod before hitting Gov. Rick Scott’s desk for his approval.

Now that it has passed the legislature, there is actually a bit of a discussion about whether consolidation of USF is actually good for students:

A few lawmakers spoke out about the USF consolidation idea, which appeared in the House higher education package mid-January and immediately prompted outcry in St. Petersburg, where campus loyalists and locals said a merger would just turn back the clock on a flourishing campus. Some in St. Petersburg recalled years of bitter tension, when they said local leaders had to claw for independence and money from tight fists in Tampa. Separate accreditation, achieved in 2006, granted St. Petersburg a measure of autonomy when it came to budgeting, hiring and programming, and strengthened its separate identity.

But that relative independence could also cost USF St. Petersburg, some lawmakers say. As USF Tampa reaches greater heights in state rankings, and rakes in bonus funding, the honor and wealth won’t trickle down to students in St. Petersburg or Sarasota. Removing the barriers means a rising tide lifts all boats, consolidation backer Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, has said.

“Those preeminence dollars that they receive would most likely only be spent on the Tampa campus,” said Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero. “If we move to one consolidated accreditation, it is our belief the preeminence dollars would be spent across all three campuses and that all students would benefit from it.”

* * *

Rep. Wengay Newton, D-St. Petersburg, said he’s watched USF St. Petersburg blossom under its current setup, but is optimistic about the money and student opportunities that could soon flow to the regional schools.

“All I keep hearing about is what this person didn’t like, what that person didn’t like,” Newton said. “But nobody’s talking about the students.”

Operating in silos isn’t good for anybody, he said.

“Is it perfect? Probably not,” Newton said. “But the opportunity to be able to afford more resources for the students that look like me and my district on all three of these campuses, I think that’s a good thing.”

There has been far too little discussion of the actual utility and possible implementation of consolidation, but now (unless someone can get the Governor to kill it) it has to be made to work.  That will require cooperation, good will, and focus on the students.

There was another odd article in the Times last week that we think is actually tied into the multi-campus, separate accreditation, amorphous structure of USF (and, no, it wasn’t the aborted plan to build a giant Picasso, which we think they should have done. They really couldn’t raise the money? We’re not that surprised.):

Turn in on LeRoy Collins Boulevard, past the gold university seal and the stiff serif letters that announce the University of South Florida, and signs point the way in muddled shades of green. Scattered Bull logos and mismatched block letters dot the campus, adding up to — what?

Online, the sense of USF’s identity is even less coherent. On the school’s homepage, four students chat in the grass. Except for their T-shirts in Bulls green, they could be anywhere in Universityland, U.S.A.

“It doesn’t have a theme,” said USF’s chief marketing officer Joe Hice. “It doesn’t really say anything.”

That’s why Hice has scrawled a phrase in green marker on his office whiteboard, a phrase he hopes will play a leading role in uniting USF’s fragmented sense of self: BE BOLD. BE BULLISH.

The slogan is the seed of a major rebranding campaign set to launch in the coming months as USF tries to sharpen its brand image, which is lagging behind as the university makes serious academic strides.

“Why don’t people know we’re $500 million-plus in research? Why don’t people know that we have great students?” Hice asks. “Because we haven’t been telling the story.”

Rebranding is always tough, even if it is needed. (Just ask people trying to promote the Tampa Bay area.) Have you ever noticed that Alabama, USC, Michigan don’t change their football uniforms?  Why?  Because they are (or at least have been) successful (yes, in football, but it is something recognizable) and created a real brand.  Everyone knows what they are instantly. USF is a little vaguer.

By the time he was brought aboard six months ago, bringing experience in corporate and higher education marketing, USF had decided the time was right to rehab its image and attract more students. Leaders commissioned a survey of 1,000 people across the nation, with findings that just rekindled old headaches.

There’s the albatross of USF’s name, for one. Students and parents still think USF must be in Miami or Fort Lauderdale — or even San Francisco. Some write it off immediately.

“Sounds like a party school,” one parent said.

Most parents outside of Florida couldn’t say where USF is located. Nearly a third had never heard of it. And when they had, they just talked about its affordability, not its medical school or strong job placement rates.

Meanwhile, faculty wring their hands, frustrated that the momentum of their research is going unseen. Administrators lament the specter of USF’s reputation as a commuter school, once derided as “U Stay Forever,” even as residence halls keep sprouting and graduation rates keep climbing. Fundraising is up. Incoming student GPAs are up. Rankings are up.

“It’s about time our reputation is as strong as our objective performance,” USF System President Judy Genshaft said in her fall address, her Bull U earrings glinting in the stage lights.

In some ways, USF is an underdog trying to claw its way into the standings of schools — like the Gator Nation — with a 50-year head start. It wants to deepen its roots, beyond being the source of talent for Tampa Bay employers. It wants to be the hometown team. It wants loyalty, even love.

Setting aside that Florida (1853) is about 100 years older than USF (1956), the whole Gator Nation slogan is largely irrelevant.  Florida is old, highly ranked, not regional, well-connected and has enthusiastic alumni.  And “direction” schools always have a disadvantage.  The article goes into some of the history, which we will not.  We will go straight to ideas for change:

One thing being considered, said USF trustee and advertising executive Jordan Zimmerman, is referring to USF as “the University of South Florida Tampa Bay.”

That just rolls off the tongue.  Not to mention making the main campus (if not the whole school) sound like a branch campus.  How many premier schools have that many words and two geographic signifiers and/or locations in their name?  How about a motto?

USF hasn’t locked into “Be Bullish,” but it’s the frontrunner among ideas including, “Be Herd,” “The speed of USF” and “Let’s build something.”

USF has been using “Unstoppable” for its fundraising campaign, but the phrase has gone quiet of late since the $1 billion goal was achieved.

The winning slogan has to work across a system made up of three institutions and 50,000 students. It needs to work for engineering and fine arts, police and lacrosse. It has to work on hoodies and billboards and Twitter.

Perhaps even more important than a rallying cry is the push for a unified theme. Last year, Hice showed school officials some of the 80-plus logos across campus. There was a shiny gold USF Health logo in retro 3D, a Bull U with a stethoscope, a parade of clip art bulls.

The audience groaned.

“Coca-Cola has one mark,” Zimmerman said. “We as a university have to have one mark that lives dynamically through every aspect of our university: The same look, the same feel, the same type, kerned the same way, so we speak with one voice.”

Genshaft has said the push will require serious discipline, “so people do know, right away, the iconic view: That’s the University of South Florida.”

From TBO.com – click on picture for article

We like the Bull U logo (though we do not understand why the U’s do not slant in the same direction on a football helmet. And, unlike the helmets, in recent years the ostensibly gold color on the jerseys is more hummus than gold. We like hummus and we like Bulls football, but we do not think that is the optimal way to combine the two. The allegedly gold part of the jerseys should probably be actually gold-colored.)  Frankly, we don’t understand why it is not universal.

And we have to say that the fragmented structure of USF does not help.  Is USFSP USF or is it something else? And, if so, how much something else, how much USF?  When a high school student gets recruiting messages from USFSP and USF, why shouldn’t they be more confused than from UCF which is a single entity?  But that stems from something else: the whole mission of the school is confused because our local officials are confused about what they want for this area – is it regional or is it each city/county first?  Is it do something that works or everybody just gets their cut no matter the harm?  Is it one region or just a cluster of different pieces stuck near each other?

USF is a fine school that contributes a lot to this area and whose graduates do fine work, but no one should be surprised that there is branding confusion.  It just reflects its home and its history.


Walking Violation

There was a very strange article in on WFLA’s website about pedestrians.

Most of us do it without thinking. We cross a street mid-block, or cross when the signal is red. 

On Wednesday night, a car slammed into two people scurrying across Highway 19 in New Port Richey, critically injuring them.

St. Petersburg police are watching for all kinds of violations.

“We should not be on our phones or any other instrument while we’re driving or operating a bike or as a pedestrian. We get too distracted and when you’re not paying attention, that’s what leads to accidents,” said Sgt. Bill Burris.

Setting aside that crossing the street while talking on a phone is not really a best practice, it is legal to talk on the phone while driving or walking (or standing on a sidewalk, as pedestrians often do).  That is not a violation . . . at least as far as we can tell.

Sobering statistics show why police want to educate people by stepping up enforcement. In St. Petersburg in 2017, there were 25 traffic fatalities. Ten involved pedestrians and two involved bicycles.

“If we can reach one person and educate them and prevent them from getting hurt or worse, we’ve done our job,” said Sgt. Burris.

A citation or a warning? It’s up to officers.

Education is fine. We are not going to complain about that.  And we are not going to complain about trying to stop people from just walking into the middle of the road nowhere near a crosswalk, which happens far too often. But we don’t know how useful this whole plan is unless the plan is to ticket pedestrians to push them into their cars where they likely will not be ticketed for ignoring pedestrians. No pedestrians, no pedestrian safety problem.

As URBN Tampa Bay pointed out, it would be nicer (and probably more effective) if local officials would actually properly account for pedestrians and cyclists in planning and permitting in the first place.  We would also like to see the police could stand on a corner under cover and ticket drivers who ignore all manner of rules to protect pedestrians.  After all, pedestrians do have the right of way.


Ybor City – Old Maybe New Again

URBN Tampa Bay has an interesting, if small, item about a slightly out-of-the-way building in Ybor.

A new office building is proposed for 2201 North 15th Street in Ybor City, to replace a burned down building. As you can see the project salvages the facade shell that still stands on the site. The developer is seeking a variance to reduce the parking from 8 spaces to 4 spaces, and we support that variance, since parking minimum laws should not exist.

This is the proposal:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

The reason this is interesting is that the building housed one of the first clubs/bars in the rebirth of Ybor starting in the 80’s, the Impulse.   At some point, there was a major fire, and the building has just sat there since.

It is nice that they want to salvage the façade and save a little history, even if few know it.

There is another new proposal, per URBN Tampa Bay:

A four story office building has been proposed for 1309 East 6th Ave in Ybor City. The project is called Renaissance Ybor.

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

This proposal is somewhat a mystery.  The architects usually do good work, but the building seems strangely bland.  If you read the notes on the rendering, there are different materials used on the façade, including some brick.  There even seems to be provision for some canopy, though it is not clear on the drawing.  From what we can see on this drawing, the building does not fit Ybor standards.  Based on the architects’  other work, we are willing to wait for more details before firming up our opinion, but the design needs to be better than what we have been shown.


Port – You Want Competition

We have said for a while that we think the local ports should work together, if not just unify, so maximize their advantages in the broader competition against other areas.  That is unlikely to happen in our political environment.  In fact, as seen with fruit imports, there is actually more competition, wasting resources.  Well, from Fox13:

The port has become known for its cargo, but Port Manatee Executive Director Carlos Buqueras sees the opportunity to attract thousands of tourists with a cruise ship operation. 

“It’s a matter of timing it right,” he said. 

There are six ports that serve cruise lines in Florida: Five on the East Coast, and only Tampa on the West Coast.  That could make Port Manatee attractive to potential cruise lines. 

“It just makes sense that the cruise lines would be interested in having a second port. The demand on cruise and terminals is almost unlimited,” said Buqueras.

Do we think this is also a waste of resources?  Yes.  Both our ports are behind other state ports in containers and cruises.  Arguing amongst themselves is not going to get us anywhere, but neither port seems inclined to pool resources.  That is not surprising, but it is unfortunate.

In other news, on a trade website, there was a little article about some smaller ports along Florida’s Gulf Coast.  It is worth remembering that there are a number of ports closer to the rest of the country than we are, and there are a number of ports looking to take some business from the area (they don’t care which port).  Just another reason not to have counter-productive local bickering.


Meanwhile, in the Rest of the State

There was an interesting article in the Miami Herald about the intersection of tech and media in Miami.  It is a rambling, but interesting, article that highlights social media (and other media) growth in Miami.  You can read it here. Needless to say, Miami is a bit ahead of us in that field.  But what really caught our attention was a quote that encapsulated a really positive attitude that we rarely see here:

These developments are helping Miami fulfill its promise as a tech hub — just as Miami’s tech growth is drawing new media, says Michael Finney, president and CEO of the Miami-Dade Beacon Council.

“Tech is Miami’s next big opportunity,” he said. “I don’t want to describe Miami as ‘the next big’ anything, but our growth curve in the tech space has been pretty impressive.”

We really like the tone of that quote.  It has a proper mix of acknowledging the good without hyperbole, but injecting some humility and realism.  It is a very healthy approach.

 

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