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Roundup 5-18-2018

May 18, 2018

Contents

Downtown – Parking Down By the River, Cont

— One More Thing

Economic Development – Mosaic

Westshore-ish – More Midtown

Hyde Park – It Was Better

South Tampa – Approved

Transportation

— Pasco Tunnel?

— Coastal Connector

USF – What Is It, Cont

Port – Different Ships

Built Environment – Filling It In

St. Pete Downtown – A Lot

List of the Week

_______________________________________________________


Downtown – Parking Down By the River, Cont

If you read last week’s Roundup, you will noticed a large number of items involving the river or land right around the river, including some news about a proposal regarding the Straz.  This week we got more detail about the Straz’s plans for expansion.

Plans to redevelop the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts are evolving as new growth brings more visitors and residents to downtown Tampa.

The Straz Center first unveiled a conceptual plan for redeveloping its waterfront real estate in 2015; a master plan for a renovation that could cost up to $100 million was unveiled in 2016.

In early May, Ryan Cos., a Minneapolis-based real estate developer with a large presence in Tampa, filed a design review request with the city that shows the most detailed plan yet for the Straz property.

It is a bit odd for a developer to be central to a public building expansion, but anyway.

As we noted last week, the Straz folks want to build out towards the River and create a more active riverfront.  As a general concept, activating the relatively long stretch of riverfront of the Straz is fine.  The devil, as always is in the details.

This week we got some renderings, like this:

 

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

 

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

and of the back/front (depending on how you want to think about it):

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

We have mixed feeling about the above renderings.  First, the updated parts look ok, though we are not sure how they will look slapped on the old, brown building.  That leads to the question of whether the expansion will blend at all with the original building and are they going to paint the building white or eggshell? Moreover, there is a concern that the proposed generic bubbly screening may very well look quite dated in not too long.

Another issue with the expansion to the west is the apparent lack of pedestrian covering.  As you can see in the second rendering, there is some covered area, but much of what looks like it will be covered is actually open (with some decorative screening).  That is something that should be clarified.  There are some other things, but we will skip those for now.

But, by far the biggest issue is the parking garage. The Straz has long complained of parking problems so we get they feel the need to do something.  However, this is the key rendering:

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

And here are the plans:

Ground Floor:

From Florida Future as SkyscraperCity

Second Floor:

From Florida Future as SkyscraperCity

You can see that the loading dock (now on the east side of the Straz) is right on the river.  While on the first floor there is a restaurant (or something) hiding the loading dock/garage from the river, on the upper floors, the garage extends to the Riverwalk.  From the rendering, you can see there is screening of a bit of the garage but the garage is exposed on the higher floors (you’ll get a really nice view of the loading dock and upper parking levels from the newly renovated Julian Lane Riverfront Park).  Moreover, the loading dock is basically right on the Riverwalk.  This setup is not acceptable.  As noted by URBN Tampa Bay:

First off, this is already an identified “restricted use” within the Tampa Comprehensive Plan:

“ENV Objective 1.14: In order to maintain or improve the character, retain the natural functions, and maximize the public benefits of the river corridor, the following principles will be applied to all development/ redevelopment projects proximate to the Hillsborough River during the land development review process…

ENV Policy 1.14.1: The following principles shall be applied by the City to all proposed development/redevelopment projects that have frontage along the Hillsborough River:

Strict environmental performance standards will be applied to:

Minimize adverse environmental and/or aesthetic impacts, provide technical standards and guidelines consistent with the unique character of the urban core, lower, middle and upper river for, or otherwise restrict, certain uses i.e., parking lots, parking structures, truck service roads, loading docks, warehouses, manufacturing plants, ship building and repair, dredging equipment operators, and heavy uses.”

Either the Riverwalk is very important and in need of activation (like the plans for the southwest side of the Straz and restaurant on the first floor) or it isn’t (like the plans for the loading dock and exposed parking garage).  And either we have comprehensive plans or we don’t.

And, even more interestingly, from the Straz statement we discussed last week:

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.

Look again at the floor plans.  That atrium appears to be the yellow space just above the parking garage.  We get that it is a slightly odd shape for a garage.  However, why are they putting an atrium/entrance essentially in an alley and putting the parking garage/loading dock on the riverfront?   The plan as presented is definitely not a creative way to get parking.  It is clunky and, frankly, lazy.

The bottom line is that the plan as presented is not acceptable.  We are sympathetic to the Straz’s issues, but Tampa does not need more parking (or a loading dock) on the river.  And while we understand they sort of try to hide the garage, they do not succeed.  The Straz needs to go back to the drawing board.


— One More Thing

URBN Tampa Bay laid out something we have thought (and have said, if not written) for a long time:

We understand the Straz has a parking problem. Much of that is due to the lack of transit options in the Bay area. A lot of it is also due to the face the Straz decided to build on valuable and boxed-in waterfront land, instead of a more inland location where there are better expansion options and lower design standards. The Tampa Convention Center did the same thing.

Hopefully, Tampa has learned its lesson about placement of such facilities.


Economic Development – Mosaic

This week Mosaic announced that it would move its headquarters to Hillsborough County.

The Mosaic Company announced plans Monday to move its headquarters from a suburb of Minneapolis to Hillsborough County, making the phosphate mining giant the first Fortune 500 company to decide to relocate here.

Key details — when Mosaic will move and where it will land — are still under consideration.

So is how many employees will be relocated. Mosaic, No. 377 on Fortune 500’s ranking of companies by total revenue, currently has about 150 employees at its corporate office in Plymouth, Minn., company spokesman Benjamin Pratt said in an email.

First, it is great they are moving. Second, it seems that there are a number of unknowns.

The phosphate giant’s real estate search is in the preliminary stages, and office space across the county is in the running, Ben Pratt, Mosaic’s vice president of corporate public affairs, told the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

“We are considering downtown Tampa as well as our existing office buildings in FishHawk and Highland Oaks,” Pratt wrote in an email.

Pratt said the size of Mosaic’s Florida headquarters is to be determined, though it’s rumored in commercial real estate circles to be looking for 30,000 square feet.  In Minnesota, Mosaic’s corporate headquarters is in a suburban office park, where 150 employees work in 73,987 square feet, Pratt confirmed to the Twin Cities Business Journal, a sister news organization.

If Mosaic knows, they aren’t saying publicly. So we have to wait and see.

Obviously, this has led to speculation they may be moving to Water Street.  From the Times:

Mosaic is not saying where it is likely to land, but it doesn’t sound like Water Street Tampa is off the list.

“We are considering downtown Tampa as well as some other locations,” Pratt said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. “We haven’t specifically considered Water Street yet.”

Strategic Property Partners did not comment on whether it has had any contact from Mosaic or would pursue the company to join a planned $3 billion project with two new hotels, office buildings, residential towers, a grocery store, dozens of new stores, bars and restaurants and a new building for the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine.

“Water Street Tampa will be a great place to do business for both retailers and for office tenants,” Strategic Property Partners spokeswoman Ali Glisson said in an email. “That having been said, it is our policy not comment on any potential tenant discussion or negotiation.”

Port Tampa Bay president and CEO Paul Anderson said the port would “definitely” talk to Mosaic about the possibility of moving onto port-owned land.

That would be nice, but they also may just build another building next to their office near FishHawk Ranch (which is on Mosaic Drive after all)  or use the present building.

Aside from the office location, there were a couple of interesting things about the decision.

Asked whether Mosaic considered other potential locations, Pratt said, “the choice really came down to Central Florida, or stay where we are.”

Which is not surprising given that

Mosaic already has its largest domestic presence in Florida, including in Tampa. The company employs 3,000 Floridians and another 3,000 contractors.

(And don’t forget the resort.) As their own website says:

Our largest centers of operation are in Central Florida and Brazil, where we mine and process phosphates, and in Saskatchewan, where we produce potash. Our headquarters are in Plymouth, Minnesota.

Which also may help explain this:

Unlike other corporate recruitment efforts, the discussions with Mosaic have not included offers of state and local tax abatements for creating new jobs, Richard said.

“There’s no incentives on the table at this time,” he said, nor was he “aware of any intention to apply for incentives.”

Moreover:

The Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. only had limited contact with the company, according to Pratt.  EDC President and CEO Craig Richard said he remembers talks with Mosaic about moving to Hillsborough dating back to about four years ago. “But I’m aware that sometimes a company has to be ready for those type of changes,” Richard said.

It appears the move it serves Mosaic’s interests, and that is great.  The fact that they just seemed to want to move here is the best kind of relocation.

The company does expect several benefits from a move to Hillsborough, including:

“This move will drive improved efficiency and good value,” Mosaic president and CEO Joc O’Rourke said in announcing the relocation.

Here is a map of their worldwide locations.

 

“We believe locating our corporate office there will give us opportunities to amplify Mosaic’s presence and engage more closely with communities where we operate. With the cost savings we expect to achieve and the closer proximity to our Mosaic Fertilizantes business in Brazil, this move will drive improved efficiency and good value,” Mosaic President and CEO Joc O’Rourke said in a statement.

We will speculate about something else: maybe, just maybe, this put us over the line to get us a flight to Brazil (and Saskatchewan, of course).  That would help their efficiency.

We would say welcome to Mosaic, but they have been here from the beginning of the company (and long before with the predecessor companies).  Nevertheless, welcome to the new people moving here and their new presence.


Westshore-ish – More Midtown

The Midtown developers, who had their rezoning approved this week, are wasting no time rolling out news.

Crescent Communities has built hundreds of high-end apartments around Tampa in recent years and will build 390 more above a base of ground-floor stores and restaurants as part of the $500 million Midtown Tampa project, developers announced Thursday.

Construction on the Novel Midtown Tampa apartments is scheduled to begin late this year, with completion expected in the second half of 2020.

Neither unit sizes nor rental rates have been determined yet, said Margie Martin, spokeswoman for The Bromley Companies, the New York-based master developer for Midtown Tampa.

The apartments will be part of Midtown Tampa’s 1.8 million square feet of office, residential, retail, entertainment and hospitality development on 22 acres at the southeastern corner of Interstate 275 and Dale Mabry Highway.

 

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

Well, that would be fast (at least for the newest iteration).

“Tampa has really evolved into an attractive market, with strong employment growth and an active, livable environment, making it ripe for the first truly-integrated, walkable, mixed-use development in this region,” Jay Curran, senior managing director for Crescent Communities, said in a statement.

Of course, Midtown is not necessarily the first project of that kind, but it is one of the few. More importantly, as we have previously said, the Midtown development has nice walkability internally.  We have no doubt these apartments will be nice, and the ground floor retail is good (though it would be nice if the retail had more practical protection for pedestrians, not just decorative awnings).

Nevertheless, even with all that, the real issue we have with Midtown remains its connection to the area around it and the surface parking lot.  The apartments could easily be just as nice while those issues are addressed.  We hope the apartments get built quickly and nicely and the retail gets filled with good stores. We also hope the developer tweaks the project to make it more connected to the city.


Hyde Park – It Was Better

The owners of Hyde Park Village have been renovating the complex for a while now.  Most of the renovations have actually been pretty successful.  This week, they released updated renderings of the old Jacobson’s portion of the complex.

First, here’s the previous rendering:

From Florida Future as SkyscraperCity

It’s not awesome, but at least they try to cover some of the parking garage.  Here’s the latest:

From Florida Future as SkyscraperCity

From Florida Future as SkyscraperCity

Needless to say, the newer renderings are not nearly as good, especially the first one, which is facing Swann.  (In our opinion, the contrasting colors of the present façade, while a bit old, looks better.) We get that it may be cheaper.  However, it is really not very good, and that is a shame.  Hopefully, they will rethink their ideas.


South Tampa – Approved

The Sanctuary was approved by City Council (7-0 no less).   We have nothing against condos on Bayshore, but it is too bad that the Council did not make sure the project was not utterly bland in the part that faced most of the City.


Transportation


— Pasco Tunnel?

Pasco, along with FDOT, has been trying to figure out how to solve the mess they have created at the SR54/US41 intersection.  They have seen all sorts of ideas.  This week we learned the fate of one idea:

Transportation planners are burying the idea of tunneling under U.S. 41 to ease traffic congestion at the road’s intersection with State Road 54 in central Pasco.

Even with the conceptual cost dropping $300 million, Pasco’s elected county and city officials, sitting as the Metropolitan Planning Organization, said the tunnel was too pricey.

“Clearly, the option and the price is much higher … I think we should move past that,’’ said Commissioner Jack Mariano, who broached the tunnel idea in January and asked for the cost study.

A month ago, the planning board got sticker shock after it learned that building a 6,000-linear-foot tunnel, including approaches, to take SR 54 beneath U.S. 41 could cost $550 million.

* * *

Thursday, the planning board staff lowered the estimated price of the tunnel, now referred to as a underpass, to $250 million. The expense dropped because the length of the approaches and below-grade highway was reduced to just 2,500 linear feet, based on a design of an underpass in Broward County.

“This is just conceptual,’’ cautioned Ali Atefi, the planning board’s engineer.

It was a concept the board unanimously agreed was too rich.

“Unfortunately, it’s cost prohibitive,’’ said Commissioner Mike Moore.

We suppose that is based on this:

[The higher estimate] is more than the $455 million projected cost of the proposed 41-mile Bus Rapid Transit system connecting Wesley Chapel to St. Petersburg via buses in dedicated highway lanes. Likewise, a prior state Department of Transportation plan to build a fly-over at SR 54/U.S. 41 had a cost estimate of roughly $160 million.

We are not really sure what benefit a tunnel gives in that location, but, regardless, it does not seem likely to happen.  Of course,

Studying the proposed tunnel triggered a five-month delay in the board’s consideration of recommendations from a citizens task force on how to improve the bottleneck at the intersection.

The task force spent two years studying the intersection and the entire State Road 54/56 corridor to winnow 18 alternatives to four recommendations. They included: building elevated lanes; at-grade improvements; and its top choice of constructing a network of frontage roads known as a parallel-flow intersection. The task force did not consider the tunnel idea.

Thursday, the transportation board agreed to send the task force proposals to the state DOT for additional study. A time line on a final decision is not yet known, said Atefi, but the county plans a public outreach campaign to gauge public interest in the proposals.

That the top choice is to make the intersection even more sprawling is not surprising.  Pasco seems quite intent to double down on sprawl and poorly planned arterial roads.  Unfortunately, they have not learned from the counties around them.  And those counties, in turn, do not seem to have learned from the SR54/US41 fiasco.

Just remember the numbers being discussed are to “fix” one intersection.


— Coastal Connector

Last week, we discussed the “Coastal Connector” which is a northern stretch proposed for the Suncoast Parkway heading to I-75. You can find more information about it here.  Comment on routes is apparently supposed to have ended this week.  However, as we are learning, FDOT comment dates are necessarily not hard and fast.


USF – What Is It, Cont

A few months ago, we discussed USF’s latest effort to rebrand. (See “USF – What Is It”)  At the time we presented our views on USF’s branding problems.  This week, we learned this:

The University of South Florida has hired the Tampa and San Diego-based branding and advertising agency SPARK to boost the school’s stature nationwide.

The school announced last week that it signed a 12-month, $200,000 contract with the agency to create an advertising and marketing strategy that will better engage current and prospective students as well as faculty and the community.

* * *

Despite its success, Hice said locals still aren’t seeing USF for the “gem” it is, and nationwide, incoming students aren’t looking to USF as a top-tier research institution.

“We’ve got literally hundreds and hundreds of stories that we could be telling, but we have limited resources,” Hice said. “SPARK will help us with a creative approach to telling those.”

In the morning article the Business Journal told us were told that the strategy is due out in late summer/early fall. In an afternoon article, it told us this:

The University of South Florida’s latest marketing campaign will feature the slogan “Be Bullish,” highlighting the school’s brand personality as one that is bold, agile, quick thinking and innovative, with students and faculty who are united, loyal, impactful and high quality.

An early presentation created last month highlights the school’s marketing priorities as it works with Tampa ad agency SPARK on the initiative.  “Be Bullish” will be an ongoing tagline meant to show “relentless optimism for the future,” proving there’s nothing school leaders can’t achieve.  It plays on the school’s mascot Rocky the Bull and the Bulls football team.

We get the “Be Bullish” reference.  And it’s not bad for a slogan (though we’re pretty sure some students will quickly change it to the obvious play on words).  We don’t think it indicates anything that the marketing language says it indicated, especially that the school’s leaders can accomplish anything (and, really, is that a selling point to students?  Shouldn’t it be the students can accomplish anything?).  But it will be catchy enough on promotional materials.

The full campaign is still in development.  USF is definitely moving forward and is a great asset to this area (even if, as we have noted before, it seems a bit confused by its own identity).  We only wish it success.


Port – Different Ships

There was cruise news from the port:

Cuba is proving to be a boon to Port Tampa Bay’s cruise business with the arrival of Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas on Monday.

The Majesty of the Seas, which carries 2,350 guests, is the larger vessel brought in by Royal Caribbean (NYSE: RCL) to accommodate more than 500 additional passengers during the 2018 summer season. The ship will offer four- and five-night itineraries to Havana that include day and overnight stays through this October.

The new larger ship arrives after Port Tampa Bay made $1.7 million in improvements at Terminal 6, which is used by Royal Caribbean. Terminal 6 previously could only handle cruise ships with 1,800 passengers. Now it can handle ships with 2,500 passengers. The terminal underwent a 7,277-square-foot expansion of the ticketing area and had 32 new ticket counters and 28 new baggage tables installed. The terminal also saw an increase of parking west of the facility.

This is the second summer in a row that Royal Caribbean will offer cruises to Cuba out of Tampa. Last year, the cruise line sailed Empress of the Seas from Tampa to Cuba, which carries 1,602 guests.

Moreover,

The demand for cruises to Cuba continues to increase, according to the Cruise Lines International Association.

That is interesting given news like this from the Washington Post about lowering numbers of US tourists going to Cuba.

In other news, Carnival will be switching out comparable ships in 2019.


Built Environment – Filling It In

There was an article in the Times about Rocky Point.

Many of Tampa Bay’s most scenic and pricey waterfront neighborhoods were built by pouring soil into the open water. Known as “dredge and fill,” the practice largely ended in the 1970s as lawsuits and state and federal laws designed to protect marine environments made it difficult.

Ended for good reason.

Now, officials in Tampa may be turning back the clock.

On Monday, the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission approved a proposal to fill in 3 acres of open water north of Rocky Point Drive, near the eastern end of the Courtney Campbell Causeway.

An Albany, N.Y., developer wants to build 16 townhomes there, each 3?½ stories high with a private dock. Residents would enjoy views of private Scarborough Park and what’s left of an 8.8 acre lagoon once part of it is filled to create the property.

The 6-3 vote followed more than 90 minutes of contentious discussion among planning commissioners, neighbors and businesses. Opponents call it a precedent-setting decision that would harm marine life, limit public access to the water, and encourage people to move into a coastal flood zone.

Here is the area.

Planning Commission staffers found the project consistent with the city of Tampa’s comprehensive land-use plan, meshing with the goal of promoting residential development in the West Shore district. The water has its own zoning designation and it’s compatible with nearby properties. What’s more, there’s no evidence of sea grass growing in the man-made lagoon, carved out during the dredge-and-fill operation that created Rocky Point decades ago.

A retention pond proposed for the development would also help clean polluted stormwater from Rocky Point Drive before it reaches Old Tampa Bay, the staff determined.

We don’t really buy any of that. Notably:

“The decision to change the future use of an underwater parcel located in a high-hazard area simply boggles the mind,” Kent Bailey, chairman of the Sierra Club’s Tampa Bay Group, said Tuesday. “Clearly, the Planning Commission isn’t taking the threat of sea-level rise seriously. That area is plagued by serious flooding now.”

* * *

Opposition came from the nearby Dana Shores neighborhood.

“It’s water that people use and boat in,” said Margaret Bowles. “We’re concerned that it’s just going to start a trend of development.”

Surrounding hotels like the Westin Hotel and Hilton’s Doubletree Suites also protested, saying the project would hurt their business because guests rank water views and sightings of dolphins and manatees as reasons to book rooms.

“Where does it stop?” asked Steve Michelini, a Westin consultant. “The fact that the city and the county staff can’t find policies to object doesn’t mean it should be approved. We should be going the other way. Where is it that it says you should fill water to provide development land?”

So who was for it?  Other than the developer and people who voted for it.  Of course, Tampa messed up planning on Rocky Point, which could have been/be really cool but is just a sprawling mess, so much that this would not really change anything, except the create a precedent of more fill land for not very important developments. But that would be a bad precedent.  We understand there may be limited time where more fill makes sense, but it needs to involve a compelling reason. (And, really, the whole situation arose from a weird planning mess involving zoning and planning categories for submerged land.)

In any event, now it is up to the City:

The Tampa City Council will consider the Planning Commission’s recommendation when it makes a decision on the project. Speaking at the Monday meeting, a Tampa representative said the city’s own planning staff objects to the proposal for eliminating open space, damaging the park and bringing more residents to a high-hazard flood zone.

Those are all good points.  And, importantly, there is no compelling reason to allow any of those things for this project.

City approval to fill in the lagoon is one stop on a regulatory road for Prime Cos. Separate permits would have to be acquired from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the proposal is subject to a formal review by the county’s Environmental Protection Commission.

Let’s see if the City Council listens to staff this time.


St. Pete Downtown – A Lot

There was an interesting article in the Times regarding a church parking lot (really).

Christ United Methodist Church said it has signed a contract to sell its parking lot at First Avenue N and Fifth Street to Miles River Development for $5.65 million.

The developer could not be reached for comment, but church leaders say they believe there are plans to build a mixed-use tower on the little more than half-acre lot.

A half-acre right here.

In an area zoned for mixed-use, the property is in the city’s downtown core district, which allows the highest densities and building height. Elizabeth Abernethy, the city’s zoning official, said there is no height restriction, but buildings more than 158 feet above mean sea level require an airport obstruction permit to verify that there are no airspace safety hazards. Buildings more than 375 feet high require a public hearing, she said.

* * *

The church will get 150 parking spaces on Sundays and 30 Monday through Saturday in perpetuity, Jones-Smith said.

We do not know what the plans for the lot will be, though past history would indicate it will likely not be a short-ish stick construction apartment building. (see here)  St. Pete’s downtown has shown that smaller lots are getting filled in, often with nice, relatively dense projects like a mature urban environment.  Our hats are off to them for that.


List of the Week

Our list this week is ACSM’s American Fitness Index. (Summary report here)  The methodology can be found on pg 6 of the pdf here.

Here’s the top 40: coming in first is Arlington ( VA), followed by Minneapolis, Washington (DC), Madison (WI), Portland (OR), Seattle, Denver, St. Paul, San Jose, Boise, Oakland, Plano, Irvine, San Francisco, Boston, San Diego, Lincoln, Raleigh, Fremont, Atlanta, Anchorage, Aurora, (CO), St. Petersburg, Colorado Springs, Miami, Durham, Sacramento, Albuquerque, Cincinnati, Virginia Beach, Dallas, Chicago, Omaha, Milwaukee, Chula Vista, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Orlando, Long Beach, and Santa Ana.

Once again, the top of the list is populated by usual suspects.  St. Pete came in 23rd and Tampa 37th.   You can review the numbers here for what it is worth.

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