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Roundup 5-11-2018

May 11, 2018

Contents

Transportation – Here and There

— The Survey

— The Way It Is

— Uptowner

— Regionalism In Action

— Suncoast Extension

Downtown – Parking Down By the River?

West Tampa/Downtown-ish – In a Park Down By the River

Westshore-ish – Midtown

Downtown – Riverwalk Tower

Downtown-ish – UT Riverfront

South Tampa – More Sanctuary

Channel District – New Name, Same Issues

Tourism – Pinellas

West Tampa – West River Starts

South Tampa – A Little More Clarity

Downtown/Public Art – It’s a Logo

Clearwater – Reuse

Rays – Money Talk, Cont

__________________________________________


Transportation – Here and There


— The Survey

As part of the Regional Transit Study, there is now an online survey about the “BRT” plan.  You can find it here.  We recommend you take the survey, but note that some of the questions are loaded.  There is space to comment regarding the “BRT” plan and the USF/downtown CSX idea.  On the other hand, where it asks about options for further or other transit ideas, the options are limits (and inadequate) and there no room for comment.  So, for instance, you cannot say that you favor arterial road BRT rather than (as opposed to along with) the “BRT” plan.  The most you can say is that you want it in addition to the “BRT” plan.

Nevertheless, let your voice be heard.


— The Way It Is

While the County Commission can mysteriously find hundreds of millions for road construction and claims to care about the East County, this week we learned:

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority is working with management of the Westfield Brandon to solve a growing parking problem that recently left several bus riders worried they would return from work to find their vehicles towed from the premises.

Warning tickets were placed on several vehicles that were parked at the mall by people catching HART buses into downtown Tampa or MacDill Air Force Base, according to Westfield’s marketing director Dawn Arvidson. However, Arvidson said mall management has no intentions of towing vehicles as they work with HART to come up with a solution.

“Obviously, we want it to be a safe environment for everyone in the system,” she said.

HART chief operations officer Ruthie Reyes Burckard said the transit authority was “disappointed” by Westfield Brandon’s decision to warn commuters that they were in danger of being towed, but “both organizations are working toward a solution that meets the needs of both parties.”

We get that the mall wants to make sure it has parking, though we doubt that parking is really a problem most of the time.  Nevertheless, a dedicated park and ride lot for commuters would be useful.  Well,

This isn’t the first time plans have been in the works to address commuter parking woes at the mall.

In 2012, HART abandoned plans to build a large park-and-ride station in Brandon on 4 acres off Falkenburg Road, just south of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway and west of I-75. The park-and-ride would have had space for 200 to 250 vehicles, as well as amenities such as restrooms. HART pulled the plug on the project because costs soared about $1.6 million above original estimates of $2.25 million.

In the greater scheme of hundreds of millions of dollars for roads (or even $15 million for playing fields ), a little less than $4 million is still not that much to create at least mediocre transit where riders are not afraid they will have their cars towed.  One Commissioner even considered trying to put the money toward transportation, but no. Welcome to Hillsborough County.

It is just another example of a key problem with the “BRT” plan: there is no reason to expect the local governments to fund proper local systems that would make the “BRT” plan work, let alone fund the “BRT” plan, especially given Pasco’s hostility to New Tampa.


— Uptowner

Meanwhile, around !p, the ineffable area near USF (the website of which has random pictures of other cities, we assume to indicate aspirations):

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority board approved Monday a participation agreement paving the way for a circulator bus service in the University of South Florida area.

HART approved a joint participation agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation to contribute $270,000 for a 7-mile loop around USF and neighboring businesses including Moffitt Cancer Center, the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital and local bars and restaurants where people work and spend time.

Given that the owners of University Mall are trying to rebrand it as Uptown,

The Uptowner, as its being called, would serve some of Tampa’s poorest areas as well as the nearly 50,000 students attending USF, making it an ideal location for local transit service. The route could serve USF employees heading out for lunch or residents in the neighboring communities going to work. 

Setting aside that the whole “Uptown” thing is a bit premature, we assume the circulator will have riders, especially when it is free, though the number of choice riders is an open question.  Importantly, where does it actually go and how often (and how long the route will take)?

The route would include 20 or more stops and run ideally every 20 minutes. Hours of operation and other details are yet to be ironed out.

In other words, it is not entirely clear where it goes (though we have to assume USF, the Mall, the Florida Hospital, the VA), and how long it will take (and running every 20 minutes is not good for getting people to and from lunch in an hour or so, especially when each bus has 20 stops).  Nor is it entirely clear what kind of bus they will use, though previous reports have said they will be small.  At least it is a small amount of money put toward transit (though in a piecemeal fashion).

We are all for circulators, though most of the area is entirely unwalkable so it will have to deposit people at front doors of their destinations, which is not very efficient. If we see the City and County moving to change their codes and really build properly, maybe we would become more interested in the potential of transit for choice riders.

And there is another thing. The discussion of the circulator is constantly tied to the “BRT” plan with the circulator being one of the key local links connecting to the “BRT” plan.  While, as we said, we are fine with a circulators, a circulator picking up people next to the interstate and shuttling them to their main destination at USF and beyond is quite poor transit planning.  Done properly, the main transit line should run to the biggest destination, here USF, and smaller systems would circulate smaller groups from there (though the more miles of circulation you add, the less efficient it gets). Just another problem with a “BRT” plan that seems more focused with using the interstate than being useful.


— Regionalism In Action

There is a lot of talk about regionalism in transportation, but, as we have previously discussed, even the simplest coordination is lacking: K-Bar Ranch is a clear example.

The Tampa City Council decided Thursday to wait on Pasco County’s next move regarding connecting crucial roads between booming New Tampa and Wesley Chapel.

Council members agreed to delay a final vote to June 28 on a proposal to place up to 700 new homes in K-Bar Ranch, the northernmost tip of New Tampa.

The nearly two-month wait is designed to see if Pasco County will change its stance on completing and opening the 30-foot stretch of no-man’s land between Kinnan Street in New Tampa and Mansfield Boulevard in Pasco County.

Pasco and Tampa have been in a stand 0ff for at least a decade over the roads.

Years ago, Pasco residents traveled to New Tampa to shop and dine. Since the Shops at Wiregrass opened, however, Pasco County has been less interested in opening its housing developments on the Hillsborough County border to New Tampa traffic.

“We have a constant crisis in this area. Not just what we’ve heard here today. A crisis of government is not really working together and we’re all the victims here today,” said council member Luis Viera, who represents New Tampa.

This issue could not be simpler (connect the ten feet or so), but, yet, the roads are not connected.  At least the Tampa City Council sensibly slowed down the process of adding more congestion a little.  However, we doubt Pasco is going to rush to do the simple and right thing.

After the vote, a Pasco County Commissioner said his county’s study on the issue wouldn’t be ready for months and his county wasn’t going to step up  the pace for Tampa or K-Bar developers.

“We have our schedule to look at any possible connections and we’ll be sticking to our schedule here in Pasco County,” said Mike Moore.

Even this area’s road-centric plans cannot be executed properly, and there is no cooperation on even the smallest thing (and little sign of good will). Which may lead some to ask: why fund the “BRT” plan that focuses on Pasco commuters especially when the study found that transit needs in Hillsborough (and Pinellas) are more critical anyway? Not a good sales pitch, Pasco.


— Suncoast Extension

Right now the Suncoast Parkway has a northern terminus that is less than bustling (here).   FDOT is working on stage 2 of the road, which will move to the west close to US19.  After the planned move west, FDOT is now thinking of going east (and north).

Billed as the answer to ease the strain on existing major highways, the proposed Coastal Connector is causing some Marion County horse farm owners their own fits of stress after the state unveiled the proposed routes for the road.

* * *

The plan is in its earliest stages and the current study is only gathering public input. The highway would connect north Central Florida with the Tampa area and run through Citrus and Marion County. The new road, likely a toll road, would reduce the strain on Interstate 75 with the goal of keeping up with growth and improving transportation and future emergency evacuations.

The project is decades from fruition with no construction expected before 2045, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.

The road would connect State Road 589 (Suncoast Parkway) — which is now set to end at State Road 44 in Citrus County — to Interstate 75 and U.S. 441 in Marion County.

 

From Ocala.com – click on map for article

We are in basic agreement with URBN Tampa Bay, with a few tweaks:

After much study, FDOT realized that connecting the Suncoast to I-75 might be useful (duh). Sounds reasonable enough, right? Except this is FDOT, so the proposed routes are all zig-zagging messes which needlessly head several miles west before doubling back east towards I-75. We’re not sure how making a highway several miles longer than it needs to be is good for anyone but FDOT and their cronies. This senseless zigzagging means more land must be acquired and more highway must be paved. It means trips on the road will take longer and the tolls will cost more. It also makes the highway less safe.

We hope that before FDOT goes any further with this, they simply step back and look at what they’re proposing through the eyes of the people expected to use it and live with it in the shadow of their community. There is definitely merit to this concept to get the Suncoast linked to the interstate instead of being a literal road to nowhere, but not this zig-zagging nonsense.

We think the Suncoast should be connected to I-75 further south, but up north would be fine, especially given how bad traffic can be on I-75 from Gainesville south. We are not sure why the path is not more direct, unless it is to avoid the land of some large landowners.  (The Ocala.com article from which the quote is taken is about landowners complaining about the road coming near their horse farms.)

Frankly, we would like the road project to be moved forward (2045 seems way to long from now).  But we would like it planned reasonably.


Downtown – Parking Down By the River?

When last we left the Straz they were 1) trying to figure out parking and 2) proposing all sorts of changes to the waterfront.  However, things have been kind of quiet, until now.  The Straz is looking to move forward with their expansion/rearranging project. From URBN Tampa Bay quoting the Straz statement:

An important component of the project is the integration and expansion of the Carol Morsani Hall and Louise Lykes Ferguson Hall Lobbies into one grand space that opens to a Grand Terrace and the Riverwalk. These expanded lobbies will provide space to relocate both the formal Maestro’s Restaurant and the casual Maestro’s Café to the riverfront so that they can serve the public year-round rather than just on show nights. The expanded lobbies will also provide additional vertical transportation, restroom and service facilities. The space above the new lobbies will provide a flexible-configuration 600 seat Event Center and a Rooftop Terrace. The space between the Patel Conservatory and the expansion will become an enclosed Atrium offering a second entrance to the theaters from the north, a main entrance to the Event Center, and added activity space for the Patel Conservatory and the Straz Center.

The greatest challenge facing the Straz Center and the entire Arts District, and now the Riverwalk and Curtis Hixon Park, is parking. The Straz Center, in concert with the City, Hillsborough County and its neighbors have explored literally dozens of options for adding parking facilities in the Arts District. None of the off-site options proved feasible or possible. At this time all of the immediately adjacent potential sites are under development by the private sector. Thus, the only solution possible is construction of an on-site parking facility integrated into the new expansion project.

The first paragraph is conditionally fine (depending on the details).  The basic idea seems ok.

However, the second paragraph is going to require a lot more information because it definitely sounds like the Straz is proposing some sort of parking garage on their present property. Looking at that property, there is not much room for a garage anywhere but near the river, which is most likely a very bad idea.  We are not saying they haven’t worked out something more creative.  We simply don’t know.  However, it is bad enough that the Riverwalk tower has a big garage on the water (though it, at least, has some decorative screening) to add to the legacy parking garages you see walking on the Riverwalk.  We really don’t think that Tampa should get into the practice of putting more parking garages on the riverfront.

That being said, given the lack of information, we will withhold final judgment until we see more.


West Tampa/Downtown-ish – In a Park Down By the River

Julian Lane Riverfront Park will reopen this weekend (after the Mayor’s state of the city speech Friday), this weekend.  Or, as the Times put it:

On Monday, Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the signature public works project of his two-term administration was 99 percent ready to go for its Mother’s Day weekend debut, when concerts are scheduled by the Florida Orchestra, the U.S. Navy Band and pop act Third Eye Blind, which the mayor referred to initially as “Third Blind Eye.”

Setting aside the lack of nearby parking (not that we think they should build more – but it not really a great event venue.  Curtis Hixon Park is much better), lack of transit and lack of a good connection to the Riverwalk on the east side of the river, the events should be fun.

We are sure people will use the park, and, really, it had to be fixed up.  We just don’t think the City should have spent the amount of money on it (and we disagree with some of the changes, but we are not going to get into the theories of proper park design now).  The point is, the money is spent; we need to make it as successful as possible.  And that is where the City is already failing.

The Times article headline was this: “Tampa’s version of Central Park gets its finishing touches before Friday’s debut.” We don’t know who came up with the Central Park line, but it is silly and not just because Tampa is not Manhattan (and all sorts of park design issues).  Central Park is surrounded by developed city.  Riverfront Park has a river on one side (obviously), a school on another, a highway on another, and underdeveloped land on the final side.  That means only one side of the park can be developed properly to take advantage of the park and give it an urban environment.  So, of course, the City, knowing this and wanting to maximize its investment has changed the code for the property fronting the park . . . or maybe not.

From URBN Tampa Bay:

The city should amend the zoning code/comp plan for any nearby parcels already zoned for urban density to be even denser, with a substantial minimum density that the city will not approve a project below that threshold. Moreover, the city should consider steps it can take to ensure that any redevelopment fronting N Blvd near the park features a walkable design with public facing ground floor commercial and an activated streetscape.

We can scarcely think of a more relevant time to amend development densities upwards, than after building high capacity public infrastructure such as this. This is a golden opportunity for Tampa to break out of its settling ways by being smarter on urban development than we have in the past. The park is built, let’s make maximum use of it to help shape Tampa’s urban core into the high quality, walkable community we all know it can be, and is becoming.

Exactly.  It is so basic that it should not even have to be said.

And one more thing, here is a Times story about Mayor Julian Lane, for whom the park is named.   Read it and maybe you’ll agree with this:

Historian Hearns hopes more is done to honor what Lane.

“In Tampa his name is very seldomly repeated for what he did for this city,” he said. “Mayor Lane needs a statue in the park. He is one of my heroes.”

Seems like that idea has some merit. (As does shortening the name of the park to just Julian Lane Park).


Westshore-ish – Midtown

In the last few weeks, we have discussed the proposed Midtown development.  We have noted that it appears to be internally quite good but does not connect well to the areas around it.  Regardless of that, the City Council has given its first support.  Now, presumably to bring some enthusiasm about the development, the developers have released the names of some of the future retail tenants.

Bromley appears to be targeting an eclectic mix of local and national names that is more in line with the lineup at Hyde Park Village than other retail properties that line North Dale Mabry Highway.

Restaurants on the site plan range from less than 3,000 square feet to more than 6,000 square feet. Outside of Ulta, Whole Foods and REI, the retail space is mostly small shops, in the range of 1,000 to 3,000 square feet.

Fly Wheel, a cycling studio, and Solid Core, a fitness studio specializing in Pilates and boot camps, are listed on the site plan. Hopdoddy, a burger and beer restaurant, and Sixty Vines, a wine bar, are also allotted space, as is an unnamed concept from Tampa restaurant veteran Bob Basham, an Outback Steakhouse co-founder.

Some boutique retailers that are growing their brick-and-mortar footprints are also represented on the plan: Shinola, a Detroit-based leather and accessories store, and South Moon Under, a women’s lifestyle boutique, are both listed.

It’s unlikely that the final mix of tenants in Midtown lines up exactly with the names presented on the site plan. But Bromley’s vision — at least on paper — is one for the future, bringing together a mix of services and storefronts that aren’t easily replicated online.

And that’s all great.  We are all for it.  The thing we don’t quite get though is why they can get those retailers but they can’t figure out how to not put a surface parking lot next to a Whole Foods built under a garage.  The quality of the tentative retailers does not change the deficiency in the design.  Tampa should want (and expect) quality throughout.


Downtown – Riverwalk Tower

Once again, there was news about Riverwalk Tower.  From URBN Tampa Bay:

Feldman Equities, LLC uploaded numerous building documents today to Tampa’s Accela planning portal in pursuit of a permit to build their 52 story mixed-use tower at 103 South Ashley Dr.

According to these updated documents filed with the city, the tower is set to rise to 649 feet. The project includes 236 residential units, an increase from the 220 previously proposed. The office space has decreased down to 136k square feet, from the earlier proposal of 155k square feet. There is 49,500 square feet of retail space. There are 727 parking spaces provided. City code required 424 parking spaces.

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

Setting aside the extra parking, that’s all fine.  It appears that the height went back up, but we will just wait and see.


Downtown-ish – UT Riverfront

The University of Tampa has been building a lot for a while (some good, some unfortunately placed in view corridors).  Through all that the buildings facing the river have been the old, plain buildings.  Now:

The University of Tampa’s Riverside Center, which was built in 1962 on the Hillsborough River and has supported various administrative and academic functions over the years, will undergo a major renovation this summer and fall. The renovation will allow for significantly increased space for Career Services, classrooms, conference rooms and for a transformed post office.

The current building, which is a mix of single-story, story-and-a-half and two-story spaces, will become two-story throughout, but will remain approximately the same footprint. The renovation will add nearly 20,000 square feet for a total of 54,000 square feet. The project is expected to begin in early May, and to be fully completed for the Spring 2019 semester. However, the post office, language lab and some administrative spaces are expected to be complete by the Fall 2018 semester.

There are two renderings in this article.  This appears to be the one fronting the river, which is what we care more about:

 

From the University of Tampa – click on picture for article

It is a (modest) update to the look.  But this building is not the worst offender on campus. There are other buildings on along the river that definitely could use some (quite a bit) improvement (if not demolition and moving their function elsewhere).


South Tampa – More Sanctuary

Last week we noted the updated rendering of the front of the Sanctuary condo.  This week, the Business Journal had more renderings. There were a number of renderings of interiors and the pool area.  We will stipulate that they will be nice (especially if you like having a pool in a Central American jungle).  The only new rendering of the exterior was this:

 

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

At least we know how we will look driving up in our white Bentley.  However, this does not give us any idea of how the building will interact with the area around it.  Nor does it tell us what the other sides of the building will look like (which from previous information, we assume will be bad).

Taub said the house will be demolished “in the next month or two” with construction of the condos due to start this fall. Completion is set for 2020.

Once again, we are sure the units will be very nice.  We have no problem with that.  What we do have a problem with is if the building sticks everyone else with ugliness, which seems to be the case.  That needs to change.


Channel District – New Name, Same Issues

It appears that Mercury Advisors have renamed their Del Villar project “Elevé61.”  Whatever.  There is more information at the project website, though it is quite generic and may be old.  They do say, “Rezoning approval has been obtained for this 36 story residential condominium tower in the Channel District.”  As far as we know, this building has not been finally approved, though it may technically have proper zoning.  Regardless, there are what appear to be updated renderings:

 

From Mercury Advisors – click on picture for website

From Mercury Advisors – click on picture for website

Nothing has really changed from our previous discussions. (see here, here, and here) There is still poor street interaction, lack of retail, and the poorly designed, ugly garage.  (While the latest Del Villar proposal had a very small retail space, it is not enough.)

As for the overall design, we are not fond of the blue stripe, but the real problem is the blank walls.  Just like with Sanctuary, that is what the most prominent feature, and that should not happen.  Tampa deserves better (and Mercury Advisors has done better).  So why this poor design now?


Tourism – Pinellas

Last week, we discussed Hillsborough County’s bed tax collections. This week, we discuss Pinellas:

VSPC reported tourist development tax or bed tax collection of $8.9 million for March, which is traditionally the county’s highest grossing month, in part because of spring break. “March is to tourism what December is to retail,” Downing said.

Bed tax collections for February 2018 were also strong. At $5.9 million, it represented a 14.09 percent jump year-over-year and reflected the highest non-March month of tourist development tax collections in the county’s history.

Interestingly,

The numbers are not driven by more travelers, Downing said. The Revenue per Available Room (RevPAR) and Average Daily Rate (ADR) numbers outpace occupancy, Downing pointed out. Boosting those numbers is the tourism tax money being collected by Airbnb, Downing said. The online home-sharing platform delivered $1.87 million in bed taxes to the county in FY 2017.

“We’ve seen unparalleled growth in the destination, not so much in visitors, but in terms of economic impact,” Downing said.

In other words, hotel prices went up.  The article then discusses the various efforts to attract tourists with an air of success, which is a bit odd given that we are told the number of visitors hasn’t really gone up.  Given the higher prices, if we Pinellas could draw significantly more tourists, think what could be done.


West Tampa – West River Starts

The first building of the “West River” project, Renaissance, is breaking ground.

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

The Renaissance at West River officially breaks ground Thursday at the corner of Main Street and Rome Avenue in West Tampa, the Tampa Housing Authority said. It is part of the $350 million West River redevelopment, a 120-acre area bound by Rome Avenue, Columbus Avenue, the Hillsborough River and Interstate 275.

To us, the building is a bit disappointing, especially regarding street activation.  What is not disappointing is this quote:

The redevelopment will “create a true center city designed to support a diverse, multi-generational mixed use, mixed-income community that will seamlessly integrate into the nearby West Tampa area and support the greater development needs of this community,” Jerome D. Ryans, the housing authority president and CEO, said in a statement.

If all the Housing Authority designs were as creative and smoothly flowing as that rhetoric, we would be huge fans.

Anyway,

. . . the Housing Authority expects in the next few weeks to announce a development partner for construction of a 70,000-square-foot office block.

* * *

Next up for West River is the rehabilitation of the 150-unit Mary Bethune High Rise Apartments. Built in 1966, the complex will cost an estimated $70,000 per unit to bring up to date.

Groundbreaking is scheduled for the end of the year on a 118-unit apartment block earmarked for families.

We’ll see about all that, and whether it matches the rhetoric or not.


South Tampa – A Little More Clarity

Developers of the office building proposed for Henderson near Dale Mabry released a new rendering.

The project, called Crown Tower, will include an eight-story, 102,355-square-foot building; a seven-story parking garage and a remodeling of the existing Crown Building at 3825 Henderson Boulevard.

 

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

It is a nice enough rendering though it does not add much, except to make it appear that there will not be any retail on the ground floor facing the street.  This project is definitely better than what is there now, but it would be nice if the retail faced out and the garage was not as prominent.


Downtown/Public Art – It’s a Logo

In an odd event this week,

Tampa Bay has a new attraction for the traveling crowd — especially those who are social media savvy.

A new sculpture unveiled Tuesday at Poe Plaza in downtown Tampa brings to life the keyhole and crossed keys logo of Visit Tampa Bay. The 8-by-8-foot structure created by artist Dominique Martinez, owner of Tampa Heights-based Rustic Steel Creations, is expected to attract vacationers in search of a memorable photo opportunity.

“This sculpture encapsulates the essence of this community — the welcoming spirit, the treasured past, and, yes, our love of pirates,” Santiago C. Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, said in a statement. “In this age of Instagram, we are giving all fans of Tampa Bay a way to show their love for our community with this eye-catching piece of public art.”

So why did they stick a logo in the middle of a plaza in downtown?

Tourism officials are hopeful the crossed keys will add Tampa Bay to a “short list of dynamic communities that boast landmark tourism art pieces,” said VTB’s Chief Marketing Officer Patrick Harrison.

* * *

Art already plays a huge role in downtown St. Pete where museums dot the landscape. There is the Dali Museum, with the largest collection outside of Spain of the work of the late surrealist Salvador Dali; the Museum of Fine Arts, which features classical and contemporary masters; The Chihuly Collection by glass artist Dale Chihuly adjacent to the Morean Arts Center; and the Florida Holocaust Museum.

However, the goal of this new landmark artwork at Poe Plaza in downtown Tampa is to have it join the ranks of iconic pieces in cities the world over such as:

This is the memorable, eye-catching art:

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

You decide if it fits in the same category as those other works.

Setting all that aside, really, we want to note this which was in the same article:

Leadership Tampa Bay raised its portion through donations by class of 2017 members. The unveiling included a $5,000 gift to St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital’s Chronic-Complex Clinic in memory of a classmate’s son.

That is by far the most important part of the article.


Clearwater – Reuse

The 1100 Cleveland Building, an office building that was going to get reused as apartments called the Strand, until the recession, is getting another chance:

The redevelopment of an aging office tower in downtown Clearwater is underway.

McShane Construction Co. said Wednesday that it is the general contractor on Apex 1100, which will convert the 15-story office tower at 1100 Cleveland St. into 134 luxury apartments with 4,300 square feet of retail in surrounding two-story storefronts on the property. Some of the units will be two-story townhouses; others will have single-floor floor plans.

The two-story parking deck will be able to accommodate more than 200 vehicles.

GSP Development is the developer behind the project. The tower was built as office space in the 1980s and has been vacant since 2009.

Setting aside that a quick check of the property appraiser website indicates the building was built in 1972 (not to mention  looking at the original façade, see here, it sure looks like a 70’s building), we are glad that the project might actually get finished.  While it is not really in downtown, it would be a shame to have it either sit there empty any longer or be torn down.  Clearwater has many needs to get where it should be.


Rays – Money Talk, Cont

In our continuing not so detailed coverage of the Rays stadium issue (we are just not going to delve into detail on too much speculation), there was something interesting this week:

The Tampa Bay Rays have said for a couple of years they want a new ballpark that’s not just for baseball, but that draws fans and non-fans alike year-round.

So, they’ve thought out loud, how about making the stadium a showcase for local food? Or using training facilities as a community wellness center? Or letting a culinary school use the ballpark’s kitchens? While we’re at it, how about a water slide?

Turns out, that goal — to create a multi-use destination that increases traffic — plays a significant role in how the potential public-private financing is being put together for the Ybor City site the Rays have said is their top choice.

Do tell.

Here’s a key principle:

“You want those who use it and go there to help pay for it,” said Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill, who is at the center of the Tampa-Hillsborough effort to study stadium financing options.

So what’s at the stadium counts. What’s around the stadium matters. And the design of the stadium, he said, should lead to “good fun but also to spending money.”

In an interview last week, Merrill also touched on a related goal.

“We’re aggressively looking for private capital, private developers, to build a stadium,” he said.

Which is fine, but the devil is in the details.  Like maybe this:

Another potential source of revenue for the stadium is tapping into economic activity that is attracted by and grows up around the stadium.

There is a variety of ways to do this, and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn recently outlined one possible scenario. The city could create what’s been loosely described as an entertainment district around the stadium. Inside the district, a surcharge on sales of food, drinks and merchandise could generate revenue that would be used to help pay off stadium construction bonds.

And you can read more about possible plans in the article here.

In any event, while they’re figuring it out, just keep this in mind:

Check out this tweet from MLB Network’s Jon Morosi:

Rob Manfred said on @FOXSportsSD telecast that @MLB “would like to get to 32” teams, citing benefits to scheduling and playoff format. When asked about Montreal and Mexico, he said both are possible expansion locations. @MLBNetwork @LasMayores

— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) May 5, 2018

We’ll see.

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