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Roundup 6-22-2018

June 22, 2018

Contents

Transportation – A Petition for a Referendum

— One More Thing

Downtown – Still, No

Downtown/Built Environment – This is What Tampa Really Wants? Cont.

Transportation – Ferry Stories

— The Possible Transportation

— The Fun Cruise

Downtown – Riverwalk Plaza Sales

Airport – More

Westshore-ish – Tear it Down

Economy – Housing

Rays – Knowing

USF – A New Name

Economic Development – Pasco

Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

— Not a Surprise

— Detroit

_________________________________________________________


Transportation – A Petition for a Referendum

Not long after the failure (for many reasons, some good, some not so good) of TED/TLC/Go Hillsborough mess of a process, some local activists started calling for a publicly submitted referendum.  And there is something to be said for that, especially if it is really a grassroots process.  Local officials and the consultants they have hired and relied upon have made a mess of a number of transportation processes.  Maybe a grassroots proposal would cover more people’s concerns and win more support.  While it is a bit late in the game for this year, there was news of a referendum proposal:

Now, a citizens group has put county commissioners on notice that a new effort is under way to get a sales tax hike on the November ballot — and this time, their approval won’t be necessary.

The group has its own heavy hitters. Commissioners learned of the plan from supporter Jeff Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the driving force behind a $3 billion entertainment district around Amalie Arena.

All for Transportation, as the group is called, must collect 49,000 signatures in the next six weeks to get an initiative on the ballot. The measure would ask voters to approve a one penny county sales tax hike, from seven cents on the dollar to eight cents, for a 30-year period beginning in 2019.

For now we will set aside the fact that the 8% sales tax will be the highest in the area.  As we often say, if you want stuff you have to pay for it.  The bigger question is what is the stuff?  From the coverage, that is not entirely clear.  From the initial article from the Times:

Forty-five percent of the money raised would go to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit to improve bus service and pay for other mass transit. The remainder would go to Hillsborough County, Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City for road and bridge improvements, pothole repair, sidewalks, bike lanes and projects to ease congestion.

If approved by voters, the tax would raise about $280 million per year.

But what exactly is the plan?  If you have to by-pass local officials to raise the money, you don’t really want to then hand them a big chunk of change to do with as they like.  You need a real plan with a real vision.  The Business Journal had pretty much the same.

Maybe a Times editorial will tell us:

Under the plan, the county sales tax would increase to eight cents on the dollar, beginning in 2019, for 30 years. Forty-five percent of the money would go to Hillsborough Area Regional Transit to improve bus service and pay for other mass transit options. The remainder would be split between Hillsborough and its three cities for roads, bridges, sidewalks, intersections and other uses such as routine maintenance. The tax would generate about $280 million per year, and of that, about $126 million would go to HART, or more than three times what the agency currently receives in property tax, its single-biggest revenue source.

This is a substantial amount of money that could modernize the region’s transportation system. It could provide a funding base for rapid bus, light rail and other new services, while making roads safer and intersections more efficient. The set-asides for mass transit and roads would still give local governments the flexibility to set their own priorities — spending more for transit or pedestrian safety projects, for example —and the language is forward-looking enough even to accommodate autonomous vehicles and other emerging technologies. More importantly, it seeks to bring a closer link between land use and transportation planning, a big gap in Hillsborough that has fueled the far-flung exurbs. The proposal would include an oversight committee to ensure the money was properly spent.

It could modernize the region’s transportation system (which is the upside) or, intentionally or not, it could serve as a cash grab for various interests and consultants.  Latitude to set priorities is a double-edged sword.

After the initial roll out, another Times article provided some detail:

The group, which has the backing of Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, cleared a first hurdle Friday with the approval of its petition. It includes more details on how the tax, expected to raise about $280 million in its first year, might be spent.

Just over half of the money would go to Hillsborough’s four local governments — Tampa, Temple Terrace, Plant City and Hillsborough County — to spend on road projects.

Here’s a breakdown of how that share of the money would spent: at least 26 percent on projects to relieve rush-hour bottlenecks on existing county and city roads, 27 percent for projects to make roads safer, such as intersection improvements; 20 for repairs and maintenance of roads and bridges to fix problems such as potholes; and 12 percent for sidewalks, bike lanes and other measures to make roadways safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority would get 45 percent of the tax proceeds. Most of HART’s share would go toward expanding bus service while 35 percent would be spent on transit systems that “utilize exclusive transit right of way.” That could be a bus rapid transit, light rail or traditional rail using existing CSX tracks.

The priorities are based on a long range transportation plan that was developed four years ago by the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization, based in part on responses to a survey of more than 6,000 people.

The plan includes more frequent resurfacing and repair of potholes, increased use of intelligent transportation systems like traffic signals that can change cycles to reduce congestion, and an expanded bus network. A transit system that connects downtown Tampa with West Shore and the University of South Florida is also listed but not what form it would take.

No money has been allocated to the MPO’s long-range transportation plan but that would change if All for Transportation succeeds in its campaign.

(You can find the 2014 Long Range Plan here. And, just so you know, the long range transportation plan includes/assumes what basically became TBX managed express lanes. How will that figure into the whole plan and what exactly is the language?)

The use of the money on “exclusive transit right of way” projects is good idea, but still potentially open to manipulation.  And since we do not have the petition language (we assume there will be a website soon, but why did they wait?), we wonder about the “expanding bus service” portion and if that can or cannot include the exclusive right of way projects.  And another problem with relying on past plans is that they have 1) not rally been that popular and 2) have some poor ideas. Unfortunately, while there seem to be general priorities, there is no clear list of projects or vision that has been publicized yet. Without detail, you may not get the projects you actually vote yes for. (We do not expect a binding list for 30 years, but you need a first phase list and basic plans for potential later phases.)

As for the governance:

The charter amendment would levy the one-penny surtax for 30 years with funds deposited into an audited trust fund with independent oversight by the Hillsborough County Clerk of Court’s office.

Voters would answer yes or no, and the tax would take effect Jan. 1 if enacted.

The agency overseeing transportation surtax revenue would have to approve by Sept. 30 of each year a project plan outlying uses for funds during the following calendar year. Those uses would require approval during a public hearing. Failing to approve a funding plan would not cancel the tax, but it would pause spending any of the revenue.

That agency would be comprised of Hillsborough County residents appointed by various elected boards. The Hillsborough County Commission would appoint four, two of which would have to be experts in either transportation, planning, sustainability, engineering or construction. Mayors of each of the three cities within Hillsborough County would appoint one member and another each from those municipal boards. HART would appoint two members while the clerk would appoint one attorney.

The Hillsborough County Property Appraiser would appoint one land use or real estate expert and an accountant by the Hillsborough County Tax Collector.

If you think the PTC was messy, just imagine what is could happen with this board.  There is also the question of selection overlap.  For instance the HART board is composed of local government officials and their appointee, plus a few others.  Some of those officials would then have the opportunity to help choose oversight board members in more than one capacity.  That seems a bit odd.  Not to mention, with the latitude given it, the board will likely be dominated by crazy politics (seen and unseen) for the whole period. But we’ll set that aside for now.

We don’t mind the idea of a referendum or the general concept behind the priorities.  We have two big concerns.  First, as stated, we are concerned that there is not enough detail. We don’t mind paying for something but we want to know what it is for.  And we want less latitude when the money comes in.

The second issue has to do with where this came from.  This effort involves a petition drive in six, then a campaign for a contentious issue.  Getting it on the ballot and then selling it in an area that does not normally buy in to transit referendums will take a big effort.  Aside from the Lightning owner, where is this really coming from, who is really running it?

All for Transportation has not yet raised funds to aid in its petition drive, but the group will seek contributions to complement its grassroots campaign utilizing volunteers to collect signatures, according to Tyler Hudson, a local attorney and prominent Democratic operative heading the campaign. Hudson filed papers establishing All for Transportation on Thursday to raise money for the initiative. Conservative donor and strategist Nancy Watkins is the group’s treasurer.

Ok.  The Lightning owner and two politically connected people are involved.  Given how this area works, that leads us to believe there is more to the effort than is being presented.  In a way, it does not matter.  If someone can bring good transit, fine. (That is where the first concern – details and latitude – comes into play.)

On the other hand, even before you get to spending the money, any effort requires complete transparency (good for the Lightning owner for being up front) because, given the politics of transportation in this area, any hint of actual machinations, shenanigans or hidden hands (and hidden interests) could easily doom any referendum. (Hence the second concern)

While the Times editorial says this:

It’s early still, and there will be time to examine the details. But it says something about the state of Hillsborough’s transportation system and its elected leaders that private citizens would step up to fill the leadership void and lead an effort to address and the shortcoming that threatens to drag down the entire region. They certainly deserve public support at this formative stage.

There actually isn’t much time at all to examine (and fix) the details, which is also a problem.

We hope there is much more clarity in the near future.  We would like to be enthusiastically supportive of a solid effort to move forward on transportation.  We would like this to be it, but right now, while we like the general idea, we think there still is too much that is unknown/needs clarification.  Hopefully, starting with the meeting Thursday, that will be fixed.


— One More Thing

Of course, there are other things that might throw the referendum, if it happens, one way or another.  Like this:

Hillsborough County School District officials took an important step Tuesday toward asking the voters to pay higher taxes for schools that, they say, are not getting enough money from the state.

The board voted 5-0 to submit a tax referendum resolution to the state, a first step toward trying to place such a question on the Nov. 6 ballot — though other factors may render that a futile step.

Under a new state law, the Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (or OPPAGA), must now commission a performance audit.

The audit, which will not cost the district anything, will likely take about six months. The results must to be posted for two months after that, making it unlikely that such a referendum could appear on the November ballot.

“This is specific to a sales tax,” Superintendent Jeff Eakins told the board.

Under state law, such a tax can be used only to fund capital expenses such as buildings and heavy equipment such as air conditioners. It cannot be used for salaries or other ongoing expenses.

And

Eakins also told the board he is researching options for another possible referendum — this one to raise property taxes, as is done in certain school districts such as Pinellas County.

Pitting transportation against schools could create quite a mess. It will be interesting.


Downtown – Still, No

As you may remember, the City asked for proposals for a “signature” project for the parking lot across Florida from City Hall. After the initial proposals, the City chose an average at best proposal from HRI.  Then, after HRI was chosen, HRI changed the plan for something even worse. That caused some complaints, so they revised it a little – very little.  That was not enough. (Throughout the whole period we have had the position that none of the proposals was worthy of the lot and that there is no hurry to develop the lot, especially with Water Street and other projects underway. See, for instance, here, here, and here)

Last week, new renderings of a revised (sort of) HRI proposal for the lot across Florida from City Hall surfaced.

Kennedy:

From Florida Future at SkyscraperCity – click on picture for thread

Jackson:

From Florida Future at SkyscraperCity – click on picture for thread

Florida:

From Florida Future at SkyscraperCity – click on picture for thread

Site Plan:

From Florida Future at SkyscraperCity – click on picture for thread

The renderings are shiny (and feature the standard distortions), but if you look closely (and look at the site plan) you see that Marion and Kennedy are essentially dead streetscapes (though there now is a very tiny corner store on Kennedy) and Florida is a mess.  That is not to mention the complete lack of anything interesting architecturally about this project.  It is a bland box (rendered twilight shadows notwithstanding).

For us, nothing has changed regarding this project.  The building is bland to ugly.  There are still vast stretches of dead streets.  There is nothing signature or remarkable about the proposal.  If it were on a private lot we would be disappointed and critical, but at least it would be private land. (There are a number of private surface parking lots where this proposal could go.)  There is nothing to justify building this proposal on valuable public land in the middle of a downtown.

Interestingly, while thinking about this issue, we ran across an article on Curbed.com about a private hotel proposal in Atlanta.  This is the original proposal:

From Curbed.com – click on picture for article

Clearly that developer should have gotten a better artist to draw a twilight drawing.  In any event,

Atlanta’s urbanists cringed when they first saw renderings for hotel slated to develop at a bustling intersection in Midtown.

Granted, the building, a 14-story Marriott installation being developed by Noble Investment Group, is expected to replace a parking lot at the corner of Peachtree Street and Ponce de Leon Avenue. But early designs didn’t look much more exciting than the slab of parking spaces.

But now, thanks to a collaboration among the city’s planning department, the Midtown Alliance, and Noble, the bummer of a building mockup—urbanist blog ThreadATL called it “bland” and “run-of-the-mill”—underwent some upgrades . . .

This is what they came up with:

From Curbed.com – click on picture for article

We don’t know all the details of each proposal, meaning we may think there are problems with the new version, but it is definitely far better than the first version (which is much more like the HRI proposal, once again rendered twilight notwithstanding).  The real point is the attitude:

“It is critically important that Atlanta expect more from its designers and more of its buildings,” said Tim Keane, commissioner of the planning department, according to a press release. “City Planning is focused on design at every scale, so we can make a more vibrant public realm in Atlanta. Buildings are essential to this.”

Likewise, it is critically important in Tampa do the same. And to stop selling valuable public land for substandard and/or unnecessary projects that can go on other land (or just go away). And it is time for the City to actually have and demonstrate real pride (not just talk about it) and stop settling.  It is not anti-Tampa to think we deserve and can do better.  On the contrary, it is those who settle that sell Tampa short.

The HRI proposal should be rejected and the land kept by the City.


Downtown/Built Environment – This is What Tampa Really Wants? Cont.

Given the horrible plan amendment regarding storage buildings inexplicably proposed by the City Council (See “Channel District – This is What Tampa Wants?”), it was only a matter of time (and/or coordination) before we got a new storage proposal with “private recreation facility” for downtown.  This week, we got it, for 1307 North Jefferson Street, near Encore and even closer to Perry Harvey Park (in fact it would help frame the park, along with the snazzy new Burger King drive through).

Here:

 

Here are the elevations:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

 

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

Nothing like 11 story stall blank walls with basically no street interaction. (And, no, neither a rooftop feature nor a storage business office on the street mitigate the awfulness of having this downtown.)  It is bad enough to have old phone switching buildings in an urban area, but at least they were needed.  This is not.  There is no reason for this proposal other than poor planning and a City that has historically not cared (particularly in areas with certain demographics).

To allow this proposal downtown would be an embarrassment to Tampa.  This belongs in a warehouse/industrial district, of which there is one conveniently not too far from downtown.  (But, then again, the City Council voted for the downtown, drive-through Burger King so . . .)  Tampa definitely deserves better than this.

So tell City Council.  Here is the info from URBN Tampa Bay:

We encourage everyone opposed to this bad idea to write emails to the city opposing the project. Here is the information to write an email:

You must include the Project Number in the title: DDR-18-0000018

Who you should write to:
Tracie Norton – Tracie.Norton@tampagov.net
Planning Permit Technician I

Please also be sure to include the Tampa city council in your email as well: tampacitycouncil@tampagov.net

Please be courteous and respectful, particularly in your email to the planning staff! Somebody else submits the project to them, this isn’t their design.

Indeed, be nice.  Hopefully, they will all do the right thing.


Transportation – Ferry Stories


— The Possible Transportation

There has finally been a sighting of the South County/MacDill Ferry concept.

The Hillsborough County Commission approved Wednesday the next step in creating ferry service between south county and MacDill Air Force Base. The move launches the next phase of the ferry that will create a timeline for completion, a budget schedule and identify at least two possible sites for a ferry terminal somewhere in south county.

What exactly is happening?

. . . the measure [] extend[s] the county’s contract with AECOM and HMS Ferries through Sept. 30, allowing for continued pre-construction and design services.

The public-private partnership allows “ongoing due diligence activities” associated with creating ferry service, including proposing pricing and a schedule for completion. The three-month contract extension would also give HMS Ferries, the proposed ferry operator for eventual service, to undertake a connectivity analysis along the water corridor as well as transit coordination with the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority and MacDill Air Force Base.

The contract would also include ridership surveys and projections, preliminary planning and conceptual design, regulatory consultation, environmental evaluation, an analysis of off-site impacts and a proposed business plan. HMS would also be required to examine two alternative sites for the eastern terminus of the project that could be anywhere around Apollo Beach and Riverview, among other possibilities in south Hillsborough.

The cost of the contract extension to the county is $170,000 from the existing budget.

This is one of many steps anticipated under the county’s plans to implement a ferry route for workers in south county and at MacDill Air Force Base, where commuters face staggering congestion. It could save workers up to a half-hour from morning and afternoon commutes, according to a previous analysis by HMS Ferries.

One would think much of that would already have been done, or at least be paid for by the private company.

There are still several questions that need to be answered before service can launch. Approval for an on-base dock would require federal approval from the Pentagon. MacDill leadership has tentatively offered its support, but official clearance hasn’t been requested.

The site for an off-base dock in south county also has to be identified and must be both financially and environmentally viable. Two sites so far have been floated including the Fred and Idah Schultz Preserve just north of Apollo Beach and the Williams Park boat ramp near Gibsonton. Both sites present environmental challenges including possibly damaging sea grass or injuring manatees, which are prevalent in the area.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacey White said he would not support the Schultz site due to environmental concerns and urged planners to either find a financial path toward securing the Williams Park site or find an alternative.

One would think that would have been done, too.  That this process has gone on for four years but still does not have an actual route set is a says much about the effectiveness of the County’s transportation planning. (It would also be good to find out if the Pentagon will allow it.)

It’s the seventh modification to the original proposal approved in early 2014. HMS Ferries initially approached the county with an unsolicited proposal in May 2013. Since then, the contract has been extended several times to allow additional analysis on the project.

AECOM, who is contracted as the county’s agent in the partnership, expects an eighth modification sometime in late September that will further launch the county into planning by providing a schedule for complete pricing.

Well, at least someone is making money from the long, drawn-out process.


— The Fun Cruise

There was also news about the Cross Bay Ferry:

Hillsborough County is all in for its share of the Cross Bay Ferry 2.0. The board voted unanimously Wednesday to support a $150,000 expenditure for a second round of ferry service beginning this November.

* * *

“This is about really offering something to our citizens that’s not just in a car or an Uber,” Murman said. “It’s making use of our water. We don’t use our waterways.”

Setting aside that Uber generally involves cars, Pinellas and Tampa would still have to pony up to get the service back.  Our view on the Cross Bay Ferry has not changed.


Downtown – Riverwalk Plaza Sales

Riverwalk Plaza will begin sales soon.

Riverwalk Place, the mixed-use tower proposed on the downtown Tampa waterfront, has released pricing and floor plans for its condominiums.

* * *

Here’s a breakdown of the pricing:

The units priced from $600,000 are “live-work residences,” with one to two bedrooms ranging in size from 822 to 1,774 square feet. They are on levels four through eight, which would indicate they are on the same level as the parking deck. The luxury units began at the 22nd story; office space is planned between the parking deck and luxury condos.

The prices are on the top end of the market. We’ll see how it goes.


Airport – More

New airport passenger numbers are out, and May 2018 was up 9.14% over May 2017.  And, not surprisingly, freight is way up.

And, continuing a theme from last week, the airport is getting more Carolinas service, this time from Frontier.

The Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport will soon be stretching its footprint westward.

Denver-based Frontier Airlines announced plans Tuesday to begin direct service to Denver and Las Vegas beginning in September, giving the Greer airport direct access to those cities for the first time.

The discount-fare airline will also begin service from GSP to Orlando and Tampa. Introductory fares are available for $34 one way, and flights can be booked now, according to the Frontier website.

There was also news that Westjet’s planned ultra-low cost carrier Swoop has applied to fly to Tampa from its planned Hamilton hub.  The details are not clear and the effect on Westjet service is not clear.

In the meantime, Norwegian is expanding in Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale.  Hopefully, we will get more Latin American and/or European service soon.


Westshore-ish – Tear it Down

The Midtown developer seems to want to get going.

Bromley Cos., based in New York, is planning to demolish the building at 3725 W Grace St. at 10 a.m. on June 24. The building will be brought down in 30 seconds, the company said, by two Komatsu-brand excavators with 200-foot cables.

The 12,000 tons of concrete left behind by the building will be crushed and repurposed within Midtown. Barr and Barr is the general contractor on Midtown; Cross Environmental Services is handling interior and exterior demolition.

Well, at least they are prepping the site.  We will be more interested when they start.


Economy – Housing

Let’s check in with housing.

Tampa Bay’s two largest counties showed anemic home sales in May as prices continued to rise due to a tight supply.

In Pinellas, sales of single-family home plunged nearly 12 percent from the previous May, the second-worst showing in a year. Prices, though, shot up 10 percent, to a median of $253,000.

In Hillsborough, the number of sales crept up less than 1 percent as prices rose 4.7 percent.

The bay area figures reflect a nationwide trend as sales remain surprisingly weak given the solid economy and job market.

“Closings were down in a majority of the country last month and declined on an annual basis in each major region,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors. “Incredibly low supply continues to be the primary impediment to more sales, but there’s no question the combination of higher prices and mortgage rates are pinching the budgets of prospective buyers, and ultimately keeping some from reaching the market.”

There was a similar story in Orlando.

It is often said that our housing prices are low, and they are in comparison to other large metro areas.  However, with our low wages and housing price inflation, our prices are not necessarily that affordable to local residents. From abcactionnews.com:

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development considers housing to be affordable when a renter or homeowner does not have to devote more than 30% of their income to rent or a mortgage.

The new “Out of Reach” report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition finds a renter in the Tampa Bay area would need to earn $41,800 a year to afford the rent and utilities for a two-bedroom apartment. The average renter locally only makes $35,380.

The two-bedroom apartment in the Tampa Bay area costs $1,118 per month.

You can get more information at the website here. Even if the prices are low, if incomes cannot cover the costs of living, there is an issue.

As this map from a different article regarding a Harvard housing study about housing cost issue shows, we are not really in one of the most affordable housing markets based on incomes.

From huffpost – click on map for article

It is definitely a complicated situation.


Rays – Knowing

There was an interesting comment from the Rays this week:

The Tampa Bay Rays have kept mum about what happens next if a financial deal isn’t sealed for a new Ybor City ballpark by the end of the year.

That’s the expiration date on their agreement with host St. Petersburg to look in Tampa for a new home.

But this week, Melanie Lenz, the team’s chief development officer, told Ybor City residents and development officials that the Rays would know within six to nine months if a new ballpark will work there.

That means the alarm may sound on the Rays’ Ybor dream as early as March.

Lenz made her comments at an informal brainstorming session with about 15 people Wednesday in Ybor City, said Courtney Orr, manager of the Ybor City Community Renewal Area.

While nothing is done until it is done, the comment does not surprise us either as a negotiating tactic or as a statement of fact.


USF – A New Name

The Sun Dome is getting a new name.

Six years after undergoing a massive renovation, the most prominent structure on USF’s campus is set for another radical change.

Effective July 1, the USF Sun Dome will be re-named the Yuengling Center.

The school and Tampa Bay Entertainment Properties, the Jeff Vinik-controlled group that manages and operates the facility, announced Tuesday they have reached a 10-year agreement with D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc., for naming rights to the 10,500-seat arena.

* * *

Terms of the agreement weren’t immediately available, though USF is expected to receive an annual amount in the high six figures. TBEP receives 35 percent of USF’s annual naming rights licensing net profit, according to the contract it signed with the school in May 2017.

We are fine with naming rights idea.  We are not so cool with not having the terms of a naming rights deal involving a publicly owned building be public.

As for the beer aspect, we are sure the folks at Yuengling are fine people and we know college kids need no encouragement to get beer, but it still seems a bit odd for a college.


Economic Development – Pasco

There was manufacturing news.

TouchPoint Medical, an engineering and manufacturer of high-tech hospital equipment, plans to put its global headquarters into a 125,000-square-foot industrial and corporate office building in Pasco County.

Tuesday morning, county commissioners approved an incentive package of nearly $1.7 million to lure the privately-held company to a location at the northwest corner of State Road 54 and the Suncoast Parkway in Odessa. The deal includes $980,000 in property tax rebates, $464,000 for creating 116 new full-time jobs over eight years, $150,000 in permitting costs and $100,000 for worker training.

TouchPoint Medical plans to consolidate operations currently in Oldsmar, Atlanta and Connecticut into a new $23 million building. Its average annual wage for the news jobs is listed at $57,546, or nearly 60 percent higher than the countywide average, according Florida Enterprise data. The company expects to employ 228 people initially but acquired enough space for a future 100,000-square-foot expansion, said Brian McNeill, president and CEO of TouchPoint Inc., the parent company of TouchPoint Medical.

The company’s products include high-tech medication dispensing equipment, work stations and mobile monitor carts.

It is not that many jobs and some will not be relocating from very far, but we are all for HQ’s and manufacturing, so good.


Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida

More news on Brightline:

After winning approval Tuesday from Orange County commissioners, the company planning a high-speed passenger train linking Orlando with Miami expects to start laying rail in Central Florida later this year, a project executive said.

The 235-mile rail service includes a 22-mile stretch through Orange County that runs parallel to State Road 528 beginning at the St. Johns River and running to Orlando International Airport, mostly through protected wetlands.

The plan to ease the direct impact on 106 acres of wetlands required a permit approved by commissioners.

Michael Cegelis, executive vice president of rail infrastructure at Brightline Trains, said the proposed rail route from the airport terminal isn’t the shortest or most direct through the county to the east coast but it is “the path of least disruption.”

Still no news on when they plan to connect Tampa to the system.


Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country


— Not a Surprise

While many people interested in transportation issues already knew most of the information contained in a New York Times article on transit opposition groups, some did not.  Here’s a bit of the article:

The Kochs’ opposition to transit spending stems from their longstanding free-market, libertarian philosophy. It also dovetails with their financial interests, which benefit from automobiles and highways.

One of the mainstay companies of Koch Industries, the Kochs’ conglomerate, is a major producer of gasoline and asphalt, and also makes seatbelts, tires and other automotive parts. Even as Americans for Prosperity opposes public investment in transit, it supports spending tax money on highways and roads.

“Stopping higher taxes is their rallying cry,” said Ashley Robbins, a researcher at Virginia Tech who follows transportation funding. “But at the end of the day, fuel consumption helps them.”

David Dziok, a Koch Industries spokesman, said the company did not control the activities of Americans for Prosperity in specific states and denied that the group’s anti-transit effort was linked to the company’s interests. That notion “runs counter to everything we stand for as a company,” he said.

If you have not seen the article, you can find it here.


— Detroit

At the nexus of cars and trains is Detroit Central Station, which is a classic for those interested in ruin porn.  However, not necessarily much longer:

For the past year, Ford Motor has been working on a plan to reinvigorate its operations and jump-start profit growth. Now, as that strategy is just being put into place, the automaker is taking on another big renovation project: the city of Detroit and the hulking remains of its dilapidated train station.

Ford has purchased the Michigan Central Station, the abandoned and graffiti-covered 18-story office tower and train station that looms over the Corktown neighborhood. With its smashed and darkened windows, the station had long stood as the most recognizable symbol of Detroit’s decades of decline.

Ford sees the move as part of the race for supremacy in the next automotive era.

“To me this is about inventing the future,” William C. Ford Jr., the company’s chairman and a great-grandson of the automaker’s founder, said in an interview.

You can see what the station looked like back in the day here.  Good for Detroit.

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