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Roundup 6-8-2018

June 8, 2018

Contents

Transportation – Comme Ça

— Ferry Stories

— Priorities

— Money

— How to Kill Innovation

— Speak

Channel District – This is What Tampa Really Wants?

Downtown – Straz

Channel District – Elevé61

Westshore-ish – More Midtown

Downtown – Not Yet

Downtown/Channel District – Water Street News

West Tampa (a/k/a North Hyde Park) – Another Cookie Cutter Project

Hard Rock – Growing

Economy – Move

Temple Terrace – La Fin

Geographically Challenging

____________________________________________


Transportation – Comme Ça


— Ferry Stories

There was news about the Cross Bay Ferry.

The city of St. Petersburg selected HMS Ferries after a competitive bid process in which one other company submitted a proposal. . . .

* * *

HMS Ferries would charge $747,000 for another six-month service with routes seven days a week.  Of that, St. Pete would pay $150,000.  The proposal assumes an equal contribution from Pinellas and Hillsborough counties as well as the City of Tampa.  Those boards would each have to approve funding.

Which, in due course, was approved.

The St. Petersburg City Council took the first step Thursday when it voted 6-1 to fund the Cross Bay Ferry for another six months, from November 2018 to April 2019.

It is all well and good for St. Pete to go through the process and choose for itself, but there is a slight problem:

. . . Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said during the ferry pilot project that he would not support using public funding for the service to come back.  The four-government ask is less than it was in 2016 by $200,000, but Buckhorn is not currently on board.  Ashley Bauman, Buckhorn’s spokeswoman, said due to budget constraints he will make a decision at the end of the budget planning process.

More specifically,

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is asking most of the city’s departments to take a 3 percent cut in order to bridge a $13.5 million deficit in what could be a nearly $1 billion 2019 fiscal year budget, according to documents obtained by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

Buckhorn and Tampa Chief Financial Officer Sonya Little are still working on the budget, currently at $974 million, but a worksheet shared with all city departments lists targeted budget reductions totaling $7.6 million.

The largest proposed cut is to the Parks and Recreation Department, which is being asked to slash $1.2 million from its $41 million budget.

We are not sure exactly how the budget ended up like that. While there is a debt payment coming up, it did not sneak up on anyone. But, settling that aside, the City’s position almost does not matter because:

Hillsborough County confirmed it has not placed an item on the commission’s agenda to consider funding.  Pinellas County did not respond to a request for comment.

In other words, right now St. Pete is acting alone.

As we have said many times, the Ferry is a nice tourist/leisure service.  However, it is not a real transit service.  It could be a transit service, but there is no apparent interest in that.  So be it.  There are other, more important things to do.  Speaking of which, while the Cross Bay Ferry ran for a whole season with almost no run-up period, what is going on with the South County-MacDill Ferry?


— Priorities

There was an interesting article about transit in the Business Journal entitled “BRT is the priority in Tallahassee, lawmakers say

There’s a lot of debate over whether the Florida Department of Transportation and regional transit planners are heading in the right direction with planned improvements that center on bus rapid transit.  When faced with questions, those on planning boards and in position of authority point to the existing plan’s low cost, timely constructability and ability to attract local, state and federal funding.

In other words it is cheap and runs on FDOT’s favored expanded interstate plan.

Based on Tampa Bay Business Journal conversations with four local state legislators, there’s no mandate on favoring bus rapid transit over other modes like light rail, but there does seem to be a general consensus that it’s the most likely project.

As for a mandate, FDOT gets its mandates from its funders, namely the legislators and Governor (but, of course, the Legislature has to fund anything).  If they favor the “BRT” plan then that’s what we will get.   The article then discussed the views of local legislators.  One State Senator who would like something better than the “BRT” plan, others had different ideas.  For instance:

Others in the legislature back bus rapid transit because they genuinely think it’s a better idea.  “Rail is an outdated technology,” said Rep. Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa) “We need something that can be flexible and adapt to newer technologies.”

Actually rail is not outdated regardless of whether you want more “flexibility,” though that is a standard soundbite. (And note that real BRT is not so flexible.  It has dedicated lanes and real stations.  It is not even always less expensive than rail.)  More interestingly, her website tells us:

As a professional engineer and transportation advocate I look forward to working as hard as I can to provide my community with what it needs to finally fixing our transportation problems. We have to make strategic investments in our transportation network to make it easier to get goods to market and people to and from their workplace and home. It is time for Tallahassee to get serious about this issue and provide the necessary resources to our local governments.

Which is fine.  But we are having trouble figuring out how spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a bus system (seemingly with the idea that the system will probably be dismantled at some point) that does not serve the area’s biggest needs or promote good urban development and infill so people do not have to travel as far to get to where they want to be fits with proper planning and urban engineering or truly strategic investment.  And we don’t see how huge highway expansion and a weak bus system that can be dismantled is going to aid her interest in developing walking and biking in this area.  We hope to get an explanation of how that would work.

The thing that always comes up in debates on accommodating emerging tech gadgets is autonomous vehicle technology.  State Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) has been one of the state’s biggest champions for autonomous vehicle technology by pushing legislation loosening regulations to use equipped cars on public roads and by supporting funding for research efforts.

“These things will be here faster than you think and that’s what we need to be focused on,” Brandes previously told the TBBJ about driverless cars.

To some degree we agree. We are sure at some point autonomous vehicles will show up at some point (and will need to be properly regulated, especially regarding liability) but, as Elon Musk and others have noted (for instance see here and here), autonomous cars will probably mean more congestion not less, especially in already dense areas.  Roads will still be very expensive and land will still be in short supply. Therefore, we will still need ways to get cars off the roads and to move a lot of people quickly and efficiently in denser areas.

While “gold standard” BRT may do that in some places, the “BRT” plan will not do that.  (Nor will express lanes.)  And, in any event, the comments above do not really support transit at all.

The main point is that if there is a mandate against rail, it is not “Tallahassee’s” priority. Any mandate comes from this area’s own state and local officials.  And they are not even promoting real, “gold standard” BRT.  The “BRT” plan being promoted locally is not even real, “gold standard” BRT (and there is no provision for making local buses robust).  It is a shallow shell of BRT (just express buses) that does not serve the area’s needs.


— Money

Speaking of BRT and buses, last Roundup we discussed PSTA’s ambitious plans for BRT in Pinellas with connections to Tampa. We noted that they would cost less to implement than the “BRT” plan being pushed right now. Well,

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is expecting a big hit to its 2019 budget amid rising fuel costs and increased ridership on one of the agency’s services.

PSTA CEO Brad Miller told the board of directors Wednesday he’s preparing for a major hit. Budget discussions are preliminary, but Miller expects a significant increase in the agency’s 2019 fuel costs and paratransit service. This year the agency plans to pay $4.3 million for fuel and $7 million for the Demand Response Transportation (DART) program for disabled riders.

“We are seeing our highest rate ever on our DART paratransit service,” Miller said. “Every time someone rides it’s door to door service at $30 a trip.”

Miller said the DART budget is his No. 1 concern as he moves into the budget writing process.

The agency is also expecting a surge in diesel fuel spending. The average gas price in Pinellas County as of this week is nearly $3 a gallon, according to Gas Buddy. This time last year prices were at about $2.20 per gallon. Gas prices are expected to rise because of President Donald Trump’s reenacted sanctions on Iran after withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.

Setting aside for now that the bus fleet should be running on more efficient and stably priced technology and that some of the biggest opponents of rail are sponsored by large players in the fossil fuel industry, it will be interesting to see if the local legislative delegation that supposedly favors BRT will help funnel money to PSTA to help with its services and to build out the BRT plans.


— How to Kill Innovation

As we have explained many times before, the Downtowner service presently provided by the Downtown Partnership (with some public money) has a predecessor – a free shuttle provided by a private company that was killed by the Public Transportation Commission (read: elected officials) at the behest of taxi companies.  Whether pretense or not, one of the taxi company complaints was that shuttle did not stick to strictly downtown.

Fast forward to now and the Downtowner, which by all accounts is very successful.  Indeed, it is apparently so successful that:

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit is in talks with the Tampa Downtown Partnership to take over running the Downtowner free shuttle service.

The partnership started the service in 2016, putting a fleet of 12 electric cars known as GEMs on downtown streets. The smartphone-app service averages about 500 riders per day and notched just under 280,000 rides in its first 18 months.

But running a transit system, however small, is a strange fit for a nonprofit group whose other initiatives include throwing events, sweeping streets, providing tourist guides dressed in yellow shirts and helping businesses with marketing.

Before we get to the nuts and bolts of HART running the Downtowner, it is worth noting two things.  First, the In-Towner is likely going away:

Talks are at an early stage, but HART could take over around the middle of 2019. The agency is already planning to scrap its In-Towner, a rubber-wheel trolley service that operates on many of the same streets as the Downtowner but has “extremely low ridership,” HART spokeswoman Vanessa Brooks said.

HART’s board of directors is scheduled to vote on scrapping the service at a meeting Monday.

Second, the Downtowner fleet is likely growing due to the demise of the much touted Tesla shuttles around USF:

At the least, the talks between HART and the partnership seem likely to result in an expansion of the Downtowner’s fleet this summer.

HART has offered to provide the nonprofit with four sleek Tesla cars to use for the service. The cars were leased for a pilot program known as Hyperlink, designed to give people rides to and from bus stops in the University area.

Hyperlink was lauded by HART as the first partnership between Tesla and a transit agency. Passengers, who hailed a ride using a smartphone app, were charged $3 a trip.

The decision to end the program was made after HART sought bids for a new vendor to run it.

“We found through the process that this business model is not sustainable,” Brooks said.

If that is confusing, URBN Tampa Bay has a nice summary:

Over the past couple of years, there have been three circulator type transit services started up in Tampa…

– The Downtowner, a fleet of oversized golf carts which circulate around Downtown Tampa. They’re hailed by smartphone app and are operated by the Tampa Downtown Partnership. It is free to ride.

– The In-Towner, small buses dressed up to look like trolleys, which operated on 2 set routes in Downtown Tampa. It is free to ride and operated by HART.

– and Hyperlink, an experiment that HART tried in the USF area which used rideshare in Tesla’s to try and get folks to and from distant bus stops. It was $3 on top of the bus fare.

Two of these have largely failed, and one did much better than expected. The good news is that the two that failed, Hyperlink and In-Towner, have been/are being cut by HART, with the vehicles from the failed Hyperlink experiment expected to be added to the Downtowner’s fleet to increase service. 

We’ll set aside the cause of the failures of the two services right now and focus on the Downtowner/HART issue.

The Downtowner covers an area from Harbour Island north to Interstate 275, and from the University of Tampa area east to the Channel District. The partnership also has received initial approval from the City Council to extend the area north to take in part of the Tampa Heights area.

The service costs about $1 million per year. Initial funding sources included a $560,000 award from downtown and Channel District community development funds, and $450,000 over three years from the state. Downtown commercial office towers and hotels also pitch in with contributions.

In other words, the Downtowner is outgrowing its limited scope, and extending beyond “downtown,” like the previous service.

It’s unclear whether the Downtowner would continue to be free under HART or what would happen to its drivers, who are employed by the Downtowner company.

“We want to take a thoughtful, methodical and holistic approach,” Brooks said in an email, “in developing a robust mobility solution for downtown Tampa that includes elements of the Downtowner, HART fixed-route bus service, the TECO streetcar and HART’s upcoming Autonomous Vehicle project all working together for a system for those that work, live and play in downtown.”

Having a coordinated system is good.  Of course, HART is already underfunded with no signs that the County Commission is going to fix that.  The service should stay free, but given HART’s issues, that will probably not happen.

This all could have been avoided if local officials just let the private company carry out its business model and keep the service free and not requiring taxpayer money.


— Speak

All the above brings us to the MPO. From Sunshine Citizens:

Don’t forget the annual Hillsborough MPO public TIP hearing is June 12th. This is a critical meeting where the MPO board will be voting on transportation projects for the upcoming year. Whatever your concerns are, safer streets, better transit systems, smarter transportation spending, this is the place where changes can be made. Help get the word out!

The meeting info:

Hillsborough MPO – TIP Public Hearing

JUN12 Tue 6:00 PM EDT · 601 E John F Kennedy Blvd, Tampa, FL 33602

Let your voice be heard.


Channel District – This is What Tampa Wants?

A while back, there was a short-lived proposal for public storage in the Channel District.  Thankfully, it disappeared.  That was likely because it was plainly not appropriate for the area.  Last week, a number of Facebook pages/Organizations posted about new storage moves.  We’ll just quote URBN Tampa Bay:

BREAKING: On June 11th the Hillsborough Planning Commission will consider an amendment to the zoning code that would allow standalone storage facilities to be built in Downtown Tampa as well as Seminole Heights! The applicant is also requesting that parking requirements be reduced for storage facilities citywide. The planning commission’s staff has recommended the board reject the proposal in its entirety.

We believe the proposal is being lobbied for by the same entity which previously proposed to build a storage unit at 111 North Meridian Ave in the Channel District, before withdrawing that application. They have since resubmitted it. We have also heard that they are seeking to build a similar facility in Seminole Heights at an unknown location.

In both parts of the city, such standalone storage facilities are currently illegal, but if this code amendment is passed, it would become legal to build them throughout Downtown and Seminole Heights, regardless of the adverse impact it could have on neighbors and the community’s ongoing efforts to restore walkability in both parts of the city.

We of course oppose this amendment.

More interesting is this:

From Florida Future at SkycraperCity – click on picture for post

From Florida Future at SkycraperCity – click on picture for post

 

From Florida Future at SkycraperCity – click on picture for post

The “proposed City Council initiated” text amendment?  If you read the discussion, there is something about reducing parking requirements, which is fine.  However, as the discussion rightly notes, storage is not going to bring vitality to the streets.  Why is the City Council promoting dead streets and single uses?

Note that the discussion is by the same Planning Commission (the one that approved the Rocky Point fill project) and that the staff finds the amendment inconsistent for a variety of reasons.  And, in fact, it IS inconsistent with having a vibrant downtown/urban area (sure, we’ll build out Water Street and toss in a couple of Public Storage buildings for good measure).  There is a need for storage, but not in the middle of an urban area.  There are more industrial areas where this belongs.

We really have no idea why the City Council would be promoting this (though it inexplicably allowed a stand-alone Burger King downtown), but we definitely think that support for this type of thing is not what we’d like to see in a Mayor or Council member.

To speak out against this, please attend the Planning Commission’s upcoming hearing at 2pm on June 11th at the County Center, 601 E Kennedy Blvd.

You can make your voice heard.


Downtown – Straz

We have already written about the Straz’s parking/Riverwalk plan.  Unfortunately, the more we learn, the less we like it. Per URBN Tampa Bay:

The city’s natural resource department has provided comments regarding the Staz’s proposal to replace a bunch of greenspace and trees with a parking garage along the riverwalk. As you might be able to imagine, it isn’t pretty:

Clearly, cutting trees along the Riverwalk to put up a parking garage and loading dock is quite questionable.

Once again, we get the Straz has a parking issue, but the plan presented is just not acceptable.  They really need to go back to the drawing board.


Channel District – Elevé61

Speaking of questionable ideas, per URBN Tampa Bay, Elevé61 has been approved by the City. While we are good with the height of the project, that is about the only good thing. As we have said before, the building is bland, the street interaction is bad, and here is little retail.   Or as URBN Tampa Bay said:

The tower itself appears to be blank stucco/concrete slab on three sides, with a row of balconies on the 4th side, facing downtown. We’re also not a big fan of streetscape, which leaves too much of Channelside Drive as an exposed parking garage. We would’ve liked significantly more ground floor commercial for such a prominent location on the streetcar line and across from the Port’s future developments.

Just more settling from the City which is completely inconsistent in its plans and the enforcement thereof. We can do much better.


Westshore-ish – More Midtown

There was more news about Midtown.

The developer of Midtown Tampa has paid $10.5 million for a property key to the massive, mixed-use project.

New York-based Bromley Cos. on Tuesday closed on the Circle K store property — just under 1 acre — at North Dale Mabry Highway and West Cypress Street, according to a Hillsborough County deed filed Wednesday.

The Circle K property is the front door to Midtown, which is 22 acres near the Interstate 275 and Dale Mabry Highway interchange. Midtown’s boundaries stretch from I-275 to the north; Himes Avenue to the east; Cypress Street to the south and Dale Mabry to the west.

It is an odd front door. Most if not all of the acre will be used for surface parking in front of Whole Foods.   It is not our money, but, given that use and the fact that Whole Foods is under a parking garage so the surface parking is completely superfluous, we think they might as well leave the gas station.


Downtown – Not Yet

The Tampa Housing Authority is still having trouble getting a grocery store at Encore.

TAMPA — Publix and Walmart have already passed on building a new store at the Encore public housing project.

Now, a third effort to bring a grocery store to the downtown Tampa urban renewal project has stalled.

St. Petersburg firm J Square Developers recently backed out of a $2.2 million contract with the Tampa Housing Authority to build a midsize grocery store on a two-acre lot at the northwest corner of Nebraska Avenue and E Harrison Street.

The deal was expected to bring a retailer that caters to lower-income shoppers, such as Lidl or Aldi. But J Square exercised a provision that allowed it to back out without penalty after a 120-day inspection period.

“The tenant we hoped to attract to the site simply didn’t believe there were enough households in the immediate vicinity yet to support their business model,” said Jay Miller, J Square president, who did not name the retailer because of confidentiality commitments.

It is unfortunate but not surprising.   The project is isolated from the rest of downtown and the development there.  The lot designated for the grocery store is at the eastern end of the project, not central to the Encore housing and away from the other apartments in the northern end of downtown.   And, while we don’t know exactly how the negotiations are going, the Housing Authority has had a number of issues in the last few years.

“It’s disappointing they didn’t proceed,” said Leroy Moore, the housing authority’s chief operating officer. “But we still have the land. The land is not getting cheaper.”

When complete, the community on the eastern edge of downtown near Ybor City will accommodate 2,030 residential units, 50,000 square feet of commercial retail space, 59,000 square feet of office space and a hotel.

Moore said there is still a lot of interest in the grocery store lot.

“We have never been in a hurry; we don’t have any debt so we’re patient,” he said.

Still, finding another retailer may be a challenge.

To keep Encore walkable, the Housing Authority doesn’t want a store that requires surface parking like a typical strip mall supermarket. That likely means the project will need to include a parking garage.

Parking led Walmart to back out in 2014 after Housing Authority officials balked at the retail giant’s request to fill a neighboring lot with parking spaces.

Publix also looked at buying two Encore lots in 2013 but decided against it.  

Publix is going in the Channel District.

The bottom line is we actually don’t care if Encore itself has a grocery store.  Eventually, if people keep moving in to downtown area housing, the north of downtown will get a grocery store.  More concerning is that Encore is not connected to downtown and is having trouble filling its retail.  While it is not that far from the downtown core, the design of the project left lots empty land for private development (like a hotel or office building) between Encore and downtown.  We understand why they did that, but it has created dead space and isolated the project (unless you want some Burger King).

And any problems with Encore make us concerned for the West River development process.


Downtown/Channel District – Water Street News

There was an article on Water Street on Curbed.com (see here).  Because it is basically a rehash of all the other promo articles and their talking points, we are not going to get into detail about it.  Feel free to read it.  The article did have this new rendering:

From Curbed.com – click on picture for article

We like that very much, especially because it includes what appear to be awnings.  Though, one concern, of course, is how all those people are going to get into and out of the district.

And in related news, with absolutely no suspense,

The tallest building yet at the $3 billion Water Street Tampa development on Thursday won a key approval from the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority.

Authority board members unanimously voted to approve a 314-foot height for the buildings two towers — a 26-story tower with 196 condominiums and a 21-story tower with 222 apartments. Both will rise from a base building that includes a grocery store and parking on the 800 block of Old Water Street.

Like they would say “no.”


West Tampa (a/k/a North Hyde Park) – Another Cookie Cutter Project

First, let us say we are all for developing the area now-marketed-as-North Hyde Park area (though it is really West Tampa as you can see here). In fact, a while back we suggested to the City that, given all the problems on South Howard, they plan ahead for all the coming development and take into account the fact that people will want entertainment.  That, of course, did not happen.  What has happened is that a lot of apartments have been built, most with limited to no retail and generic designs.

One of the big issues, as always, is parking.  Previously the City approved surface parking because of “market conditions.”  The argument was inaccurate and the approval was a mistake.  Conditions now are more oriented to parking garages but dealing with parking still an issue.  Another issue is street retail. They both can be seen in this proposal by the folks who gave you apartments with surface parking and no retail in the area (before flipping the project for a nice profit):

An Atlanta developer with a track record of building and cashing out on apartment properties in Tampa’s North Hyde Park is proposing another project in the nascent urban neighborhood.

Pollack Shores Real Estate Group LLC is asking the city to rezone an assemblage of 2.8 acres at 514 N. Rome Ave. — the block bound by Rome Avenue to the east, North Fremont Avenue to the west, West Gray Street to the south and West Carmen Street to the North — to make way for 246 apartments.

NoHo Square, as the community is named in public filings, has a proposed unit mix of 127 one-bedroom units; 99 two-bedroom units; and 20 three-bedroom units.

 

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

While we are far happier with parking garages than surface parking, as with many Tampa projects, the parking garage in this rendering is the tallest, most prominent feature of the building.  It is not that developers do not know how to hide the garages.  There are a number of projects where that is done reasonably successfully.

Making matters worse is the lack of retail.  While according to URBN Tampa Bay, this proposal has a 696 square foot corner store on the SE corner, the main features are the parking garage and a very long, bland stretch of apartments. While we don’t like it, we can at least understand an argument that the longer facades in this project face side streets that are not good for retail (though they are getting lined with apartments).  However, there is frontage on Rome (near the developer’s previous, surface parking filled project) that is a very good location for retail in the growing neighborhood.

The City really needs to get on the ball in that emerging prime urban corridor.  The opportunity to guide development is still there (sort of) but will soon be lost.


Hard Rock – Growing

As has been obvious for a while from the cranes on the site, the Hard Rock is growing.  There will be more restaurants, gaming, pools, and

The centerpiece of the expansion is a new 15-story hotel tower with an additional 564 hotel rooms and suites. In total, the expanded Seminole Hard Rock Hotel will offer approximately 800 guest rooms, including 79 new hotel suites for a new total of 88 suites. The top floor of the new hotel tower will feature a private gaming parlor for VIP guests, with an exclusive check-in and private elevators to rock star suites.

That is all fine.  The only thing is the location.  Then again, most of the activity at the casino focuses on the casino, so it is not clear that even a more central location would do much other than make traffic that much worse.  At least the Hard Rock is something mildly attractive at what is essentially the eastern gateway to Tampa.


Economy – Move

There was interesting news from the financial sector, which has a lot of back office operations around here.

T. Rowe Price Group Inc. plans to close its Tampa operations center in June 2019, in a move that reflects consumer shifts away from using the telephone to going online for customer service.

About 400 employees currently work in the Tampa office, a leased location at 4211 W. Boy Scout Blvd. at Tampa’s International Plaza.

The company said about 30 of them with assigned client relationships will remain in the area and work remotely. Another 220 positions will be transferred to other T. Rowe Price sites in Maryland and Colorado, and Tampa workers are being encouraged to consider relocation, the company said.

About 150 jobs will not be replaced, a press release said.

The move is a blow for economic development efforts to build a strong financial services sector statewide and in Tampa.

First, any loss is bad, though there is good job growth in this area right now so hopefully absorption of the workers should not be that hard.  On the other hand, we wonder if this is a sign about the long-term future of customer service jobs which are plentiful here.

And, interestingly, T. Rowe Price has played around with having a Pasco County facility for years (though never built one), but the jobs are going to Maryland or Colorado.  And what are the advantages in Maryland and Colorado locations?  We wonder if the relocating employees will get a pay bump and relocation costs.


Temple Terrace – La Fin

The quest to build a downtown in Temple Terrace appears to be complete.

A round of applause from the audience followed the recent vote by the Temple Terrace City Council to negotiate a contract with a company that plans to build and manage luxury apartments in the long-idle downtown redevelopment area.

The residents, many of them council meeting regulars who have followed the ups and downs of this saga for 15 years, were celebrating what appears to be new hope in the effort to fill the empty acreage in the swath of land on the east side of 56th Street that stretches from Bullard Parkway to the Hillsborough River.

“We made some monumental progress tonight,’’ said City Manager Charles Stephenson. “I will sleep good tonight.’’

If the deal goes through as expected, Richman Group will pay the city $3 million for 4.86 acres of land off Bullard, at the northeast corner of the development, and build about 200 high-end apartments. In July, the city will close on the sale of 2.56 acres on the northwest corner for $3.58 million. The Paragon Property Group plans to build a bank and retail stores there.

You can see some documentation from last year here.  While we do not know all the details and hope we are wrong, we doubt that the nature of the project will vary from the suburban apartment complex model.  (apparently the buildings will be four stories not three.)  The real issue is this:

Together, the two sales should reap more than $6.1 million for the city, which can use it to pay down a $10 million loan the city closed on this week with Republic Bank.

Without a pay-down, the loan would come with a whopping balloon payment of more than $10 million in 2023. It’s one of two loans totaling about $23.5 million, money the city originally borrowed last decade to buy and improve 29 acres in the downtown redevelopment area.

The city recently refinanced the loan through two banks. It took out a $14 million loan with the second bank, CenterState, to be paid off over 20 years. After the Republic loan is paid off, the city will have to pay about $1,041,000 a year in principal and interest, according to Finance Director Lyn Boswell, who noted that there is no penalty for paying it off early.

The bottom line is that this entire process has been a mess.


Geographically Challenging

We saw something in the Business Journal this week that really made us wonder.

A North Tampa Heights shopping centers has been sold for $6.075 million.

Northpointe Crossing, at the intersection of North Florida and East Fletcher avenues, sold to Florida-based AST Investors LLC, Tampa-based Plaza Advisors said Tuesday.

We get that sometimes in real estate geographic boundaries get a little bent for promotional purposes (like saying an office building in Town and Country is in Westshore), but saying Fletcher is “North Tampa Heights” (is there even a thing?) is really a bit too much. First, it is around six miles from MLK to Fletcher.  Second, to get from Tampa Heights to Fletcher, you have to go through a number of acknowledged neighborhoods, like Seminole Heights and, to some degree, Forest Hills.  It really is inexplicable.

Correction: While we still find the name inexplicable, apparently the area around Florida and Fletcher is called “North Tampa Heights” in some record somewhere because it showed up on a map we just looked at.  We have never heard that area referred to that way and it makes little sense, but that’s the way it is.  We stand corrected.

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