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Roundup 9-21-2018

September 19, 2018

Due to circumstances beyond our control, the week’s Roundup is being posted early and is slightly abbreviated.


Transportation – Not as Much Jangle

— Westshore, FDOT Inaction

— Why You Need Dedicated Lanes

Downtown/Channel District – 400 Channelside

West Tampa – Still Settle City?

University Mall/Uptown – What Is It?

Westshore-ish – Midtown One

Tourism – Up

Economy – The Future

Rays-ish – The Trop Site

Development Photos

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the World

— Fuel Cell Trains

— Walkable Cities


Transportation – Not as Much Jangle

— Westshore, FDOT Inaction

There was an interesting article in the Business Observer about FDOT’s activity in Westshore.

State transportation officials made a big splash in early 2016 when they purchased the Doubletree by Hilton Tampa Airport Hotel and an adjacent restaurant near the Tampa International Airport for $45 million for a future intermodal hub.

Around the same time, the Florida Department of Transportation also sent ripples through the Westshore business district near the airport with plans to acquire as much as 700,000 square feet of office space for an Interstate 275 expansion.

Last August, the agency spent $35.7 million to acquire the three-story Centrepointe office building in Westshore from Boston-based TA Realty for that program, which also involves State Road 60 right-of-way. The 5100 W. Lemon St. property contains 163,378 square feet.

But two years after the hotel deal was expected to usher in a wave of purchases aimed at transportation improvements — at least on the surface — not much has happened on either the intermodal or right-of-way front. Both programs continue to inch along, awaiting final analysis reports, funding and the political will to push them forward.

Last year the department began negotiations to acquire the 12-story Westshore Corporate Center, at 600 N. Westshore Blvd., but talked with New York-based owner Angelo Gordon & Co. ultimately broke down.

Kristen Carson, an agency spokeswoman, says the department is “not actively purchasing ROW” but would be willing to have discussions with landlords who are interested in selling their properties.

One interesting thing is that FDOT is buying up all these properties right along the interstate, properties in the heart of the business area, to tear them down. Aside from the Doubletree, those properties are for the I-275/SR60 project, which is officially still under consideration/study. One sign that may be true is that FDOT has apparently stopped going out and trying to buy properties for now (though if you ask them nicely, they might take some land off your hands).  On the other hand, if you saw the most recent FDOT presentation to the MPO, you know the plan is probably already done (spoiler alert: it seems very TBX).

Also noteworthy is this:

What is known is that the Doubletree will serve as the eventual hub for any public transportation that is developed, and that additional properties won’t be required.

That’s because the 489-room hotel occupies roughly nine acres. Intermodal sites typically require just over half that amount, officials say.

It depends on what kind of “intermodal” site you are building.  While the modes (other than cars) make up “intermodal” are unclear, at least the site is seems clear.

— Why You Need Dedicated Lanes

Here’s just another example of one all too common scenario that makes bus on shoulder is not fit for a “spine.”

All northbound lanes of Interstate 275 have been reopened after a crash involving multiple vehicles temporarily stopped traffic, Tampa police said.

The crash did not result in any major injuries, a spokeswoman said. All northbound lanes were closed for about one hour Monday afternoon while police investigated and cleanup crews cleared the road of debris.

Officers temporarily diverted all northbound traffic off I-275 at the Hillsborough Avenue Exit 47 ramp, causing traffic delays as far back as the Interstate 4 interchange.

We need true alternatives.

Downtown/Channel District – 400 Channelside

There are now more renderings of 400 Channelside.  First, the summary of the information from URBN Tampa Bay:

The tower is 302 feet tall and features 106,048 (!!!) square feet of retail space. 542 parking spaces are required and 1,714 parking spaces are provided, with the majority of that parking being set aside for events at the arena according to the documents.

It would be slightly shorter than the proposed Element building next door (listed as 318.5 ft. in a recent filing)  The amount of retail is impressive.  We are not so excited about the parking, but we knew there was going to be much parking in Water Street.

Now to the images (we are not going to put them all.  Click on the images for more and bigger versions):


From Florida Future at SkyscraperCity – click on picture for post

From Florida Future at SkyscraperCity – click on picture for post

From Florida Future at SkyscraperCity – click on picture for post

Site Plan:

From Florida Future at SkyscraperCity – click on picture for post

At least it appears that the large garage in the back will have retail on the street, which mitigates it a bit.

As we said previously, from what we have seen, right now, this is our favorite design in Water Street. (Though there is still room for improvement. For instance, how much protection does that overhang provides for pedestrians? Certainly not much from the sun.)  We wish they were office building this one first.

West Tampa – Still Settle City?

We have previously discussed the proposed apartment building at 914 N Rome.  You may remember that, initially, it was single use and had no retail.  Then, after the City rejected another project, the developer added a nominal amount of retail.  Last week, per URBN Tampa Bay:

BREAKING: The proposed development for 514 Rome Ave. received first approval tonight. The vote in favor was 4-2 with Reddick and Maniscalco voting no, and Capin absent. This result is disappointing.

Planning staff incorrectly characterized the project as mixed-use. With only about 0.5% of the floor area of the project being retail space, the project is not mixed-use. The second hearing will be in about a month, due to the required waiting period for a necessary comprehensive plan amendment. We hope to flip a council person or two in the meantime.

We are also somewhat surprised the council went along with a 15% parking waiver for the project. That is something the city is usually hesitant to budge on. While we generally support lower parking minimums, we wish it was under better circumstances.

We also find it funny that the rents in this project were framed as “affordable”…..starting at $1300 a month.

We pretty much agree.  The project may now technically be “mixed use” in that there is residential and nominal retail, but it is not really mixed use nor does it really promote a positive vision for the area in which it is being built. The City has basically two methods to make influence development in an area: the code/planning guidelines and approvals.  The Council has not seen fit to fix the code.  And it seems willing to settle on approvals as well.

Recent sales of apartment buildings in Tampa have made it clear that the apartment projects can fetch quite a good price.  Holding developers to good standards will help us get the city the council all says it wants while still earning developers nice profits.    In other words, there is no reason to settle.  (And keep in mind that the second vote on this project is not the only voting coming up.)

University Mall/Uptown – What Is It?

There was more confusing information about University Square Mall.

Bowen and others hope a new federal tax break program that designates the mall’s census tract an “opportunity zone” could be the spur needed to get the adaptive-reuse construction underway.

For now, much of Bowen’s ideas are in planning phases. RD won’t break ground until an anchor has signed onto the project, he said.

In February, the firm said it would release a $1 billion development plan that has yet to go public, though Bowen has been open about his general plans.

“We’re basically creating a city within an existing city,” he said.

It was Bowen’s entry as the project leader at the start of this year that marked RD’s shift away from the retail-focused plan of new tenants, free-standing restaurants and lush landscaping that was announced after it bought most of the property in 2014 for $29.5 million.

That is what it is not going to be.  What will it be?

Now Bowen calls the mall a “laboratory” as RD figures out its own perfect formula.

The premise: the indoor corridors that connect the big boxes to the mall will be knocked down to create pedestrian-friendly streets and outdoor store fronts. The spine of the mall is likely to stay as an artery for the property, offering meeting space and indoor retail space like is there now.

Years down the line, Bowen envisions food halls, a dog park, apartments, high-rises and a lifestyle center that will turn its slice of Fowler Avenue — long known to be a seedy area with a large transient population — into a destination that feeds off of university life and research just down the street.

And that all sounds promising.  But then you get this:

“University Mall has a lot of good bones to it, good structure,” said BDG architect Deighton Babis, who is working with RD on the Uptown project. “Tearing down and scarping doesn’t make sense anymore when there’s so much of the mall that can be reused.”

The JCPenney that shuttered in 2005 has already been gutted. The high ceilings could be ideal for a wet lab, which house chemicals and heavy equipment. The loop system used for the mall’s electric power is already strong and reliable.

Bowen pitches it like this: A company eager to expand could be up and running in a new office sooner than if an office is built ground-up. Meanwhile, the mall’s spine will continue to operate as normal.

Rehabbing and repurposing department store shells does not really seem the same as a vibrant, urban neighborhood.  It makes sense as part of a much bigger project, but not a central focus. As we have said before, while there are some promising comments, most of the discussion sounds like a cross between Wiregrass and Netpark.

It is not that we don’t want them to succeed with the urban redevelopment they talk about.  It is that they give that larger vision but then always come back to rehabbing the mall, which, without more information, does not seem to really fit.  Still, we hold out hope.

Westshore-ish – Midtown One

There was news about Midtown’s first office building:

Midtown One is planned to rise seven stories, grounded at the base by first-floor retail and topped by a curved, sail-like facade. Construction is expected to begin in early 2019, with completion expected in late 2020.

* * *

The project’s cost is still being calculated, and developers plan to start Midtown One on spec — that is, without having it fully leased up before construction begins.

* * *

At Midtown One, an 1,850-square-foot roof deck will offer views of downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg, Tampa Bay, plus an on-site 3-acre pond with a landscaped running and walking trail. A 100-foot pedestrian bridge will connect the second floor of Midtown One to adjacent parking. Its 140,000 square feet of Class A space will be part of 750,000 square feet planned for Midtown Tampa’s three Class A buildings.

Looking at all the renderings, this one seems to capture the essence best:

From the Times – click on picture for article

You can see more renderings in the article here.

Aside from the roof deck and the planned construction start date, the building is not particularly interesting. What is interesting is this:

Spec construction also is the plan for the first office tower at Water Street Tampa, announced less than two weeks ago as downtown Tampa’s first such “trophy” office building in more than a quarter-century. Construction on that 20-story tower is scheduled to start in the spring with an opening projected for the second quarter of 2021.

The last time there was large-scale truly spec construction in this area, it did not work out that well (except for the County, which got a great deal on the County Center) but that was quite a while ago.  Hopefully, we do not have a repeat, and they will be able to fill all that space.

Tourism – Up

There are routinely articles about how tourism records are being broken in this area.  And they are.  And they should be because:

Florida tourism is on pace to set an annual record, with an estimated 65.5 million people traveling to the state during the first half of the year, according to numbers released Wednesday.

The tourism-marketing agency Visit Florida estimated that tourism during the first six months of 2018 was up 5.9 percent from the same period in 2017.

Gov. Rick Scott said the pace should allow the state to easily surpass a record 118.5 million tourists estimated for 2017. “If we have that sort of growth the rest of the year, we’re going to have 125 million tourists,” he said.

* * *

Visit Florida initially estimated the 2017 tourism total at 116.5 million but has adjusted the estimate to 118.5 million. The tourism industry was affected in 2017 by Hurricane Irma, which closed the Florida Keys for nearly a month after hitting the state last September.

The public-private Visit Florida noted that preliminary estimates are made 45 days after the end of each calendar quarter and that final estimates are issued after additional data comes in regarding hotel-room stays and airport use.

The strong tourism sector in this area is a very good thing, and we hope it gets even better. Just remember that it is part of a bigger picture.

Economy – The Future

The same day that the Times had an article on Marianna not doing very well economically, they ran this article, “Fueled by more people, Florida’s economic prospects look good over next 30 years.” What can they tell us?

Florida’s economy should be in good shape 30 years from now. There will be bumps, including four to five recessions, if history is a guide. And not everyone will get an equal share of the prosperity.

But thanks largely to a steadily growing population, the state’s financial fortunes look rosy. By 2047, the state will be home to more than 29 million residents, up from about 21 million today.

“One of the big economic distinctions between Florida and states in the northern Rust Belt is our growing population,” said Sean Snaith, director of the Institute for Economic Competitiveness at the University of Central Florida. “More people in a state’s economy by default means more economic activity.”

First, yes, population growth helps and, yes, there will be downturns.  How well we are doing in 30 years is an open question.  We like to think we will be doing well (though can anyone really know 30 years into the future).

Snaith recently released his institute’s annual look at where Florida will be in 10, 20 and 30 years. By 2047, he forecast the state’s total economic output will more than quadruple in today’s dollars from about $1 trillion to just over $4 trillion. Retail sales and personal income will also rise significantly. Housing starts will tick up, too.

Some industries will do a lot better than others.

Snaith forecast construction jobs to jump from a little over 500,000 to more than 1.1 million, propelled by more demand for houses, condos and apartments.

The health sector will continue its nearly uninterrupted decades-long climb, adding another half a million jobs in the next 30 years. State and local governments will continue to add jobs, as will Florida’s large leisure and hospitality sector.

The information sector will continue to have ups and downs over the next decade as newspapers and magazines continue to struggle with how to find enough people to pay for their work. After that, Snaith predicts a quick expansion, pulled along by the sector’s high-tech components, including computer programmers and software developers.

The already massive professional and business services sector will more than double to over 3.1 million jobs. The forecast highlights the ongoing shift away from industries that make things and toward service providers, including professionals in science and technology.

The trend also shows up in the steadily declining number of jobs in manufacturing, a sector already dinged by automation and foreign competition. Snaith predicts the number of manufacturing jobs will tick up slightly in the next few years and then decline through 2047.

We don’t have the numbers for the last 30 years in front of us, but quadrupling state GDP in today’s dollars seems a bit ambitious when the population is forecast to grow by less than 50% total.

We feel compelled to point out that 30 years ago was 1988: when the best hand-held cellphones looked like this, the MacIntosh portable had not been released, Windows was new, and the publicly accessible internet – not to mention Google, Facebook, and Amazon – didn’t exist, but the Soviet Union did.

So, 30 year predictions can be hard. If the predictions in the article come true, great, but we’ll just wait and see. In the meantime, this area needs to keep pushing to get better.

Rays-ish – The Trop Site

The Pete is moving forward with plans for the Trop site:

The Pinellas County Commission agreed last week to let St. Petersburg direct about $115 million in tax dollars to help redevelop 86 acres around Tropicana Field, regardless if the Rays move to Tampa or not.

With a 5-1 vote, the commission approved Mayor Rick Kriseman’s request to use the money in a special downtown taxing district for projects like utilities, infrastructure and streetscape work.

The city and county created the Intown Tax Increment Financing District in 2005. It has been amended several times and is slated to sunset in 2032. Millions of tax dollars from the district have helped the city pay for the downtown pier project.

Thursday’s amendment allows the city to spend up to $75 million on projects west of Eight Street to make the land shovel-ready to recruit new businesses.

Another $40 million could be spent east of Eighth Street, which includes the waterfront, for projects such as creating transit infrastructure, rebuilding seawalls and conserving historic priorities.

While we do not think the Rays should play there, we are all redeveloping the Trop site.

The amendment was crucial in order to develop one of the best parcels of land in Pinellas County and had nothing to do with the future of the Rays, Kriseman said.

“Our intent is to move forward with the development of the Tropicana site,” he said. “It represents the best job-generating parcel in the city and county.”

Whether it is the best or one of the best, it has much potential that needs to be promoted.  Good for Pinellas County.

Development Photos

The Business Journal released their latest in aerial construction photos.  It is definitely a nice feature by them.  If you haven’t seen it yet, you can see it here.

JW Marriott constriction. From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the World

— Fuel Cell Trains

We have discussed the fuel cell trains before, but now they are in service.

Two bright blue Coradia iLint trains, built by French TGV-maker Alstom, on Monday began running a 62 mile (100km) route between the towns and cities of Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervoerde and Buxtehude in northern Germany – a stretch normally plied by diesel trains.

* * *

Hydrogen trains are equipped with fuel cells that produce electricity through a combination of hydrogen and oxygen, a process that leaves steam and water as the only emissions. Excess energy is stored in ion lithium batteries on board the train.

The Coradia iLint trains can run for about 600 miles (1,000km) on a single tank of hydrogen, similar to the range of diesel trains.

While the trains are more expensive than diesel trains (now), it is also true that we happen to be very close to a potentially unlimited source of fuel.

— Walkable Cities

The Guardian had a very interesting article on what a walkable city would really look like. (here) You should read the whole thing, but we just thought we’d point out this passage that seemed like something we’ve heard before about this area:

When people move to Denver, Colorado, from places like New York, “they’re, like, ‘What’s wrong with the sidewalks? Why is it so hard to walk here?’,” says Jill Locantore.

It is worth a read.

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