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Roundup 10-19-2018

October 18, 2018

Contents

Referendum – Just the Beginning

— One More Thing

— Another Thing

Airport – Record

Ports – Growth

Westshore-ish – Midtown Hotel

Westshore – About the Mall

Ferry – Attraction

South Tampa – Howard Hotel

Downtown – Tampa Museum

Bayshore

— Closing

— Flash for Walking

Tampa Heights – The School

Tampa Heights – Interesting

Seminole Heights – Sure You Can

Downtown – Welcome to Encore

Meanwhile, In the Rest of Country

Meanwhile, In the Rest of North America

_____________________________________________


Referendum – Just the Beginning

Last week, we wrote about the transportation referendum.  In all honesty, we thought we would not say much more until the election, but then the Times ran a number of articles about it.  In particular was one entitled “Here’s how money from a sales tax hike would improve transportation in Hillsborough.”   After readings a number of comments on various fora, we decided to raise another point – something that many already know but is worth repeating. From the article:

The latest stab at an answer comes from a citizens group backed by business leaders grown weary of inaction by government leaders. They’ve succeeded in landing a proposal on the Nov. 6 general election ballot to raise the sales tax by one cent on the dollar and bring in $276 million a year for road and transit projects.

If approved, local government agencies say the money could be used to:

Other priorities include adding bus and express-bus routes in south Hillsborough, the restoration of bus routes that were cut by the cash-strapped Hillsborough Area Regional Transit authority, and more crosswalks and street lighting to make roads safer. 

To us, the key word is “could.”  The money could do all that or it could not (or it could do some). It all depends on who decides what exactly happens with the money. (Yes, the money is divided into various categories, but the exact projects are not determined.)

Later in the article, there is a focus on transit:

The plan proposed by All for Transportation includes mass transit linking the university area, downtown Tampa and Westshore, but does not commit the county to rail. Instead, the plan promises only a transit system that has its own right of way, meaning it could not be held up by road traffic.

Whether that would be rail, light-rail, bus rapid transit or a combination has yet to be determined. Still, the long range blueprint from the Metropolitan Planning Organization offers a few clues.

It shows that the segment between the university area and downtown Tampa would use an existing CSX rail corridor. Cost estimates in the plan assume the corridor will remain as rail. Adding a passenger service to the existing line would cost $296 million and another $54 million to run for the first 10 years, the plan says. Some of the funding would come from federal and state grants.

The link between downtown and Westshore would use track now traveled by the TECO Line Streetcar System as well as state Department of Transportation right-of-way along Interstate 275. The plan is based on building a modern streetcar line at a cost of $456 million. It would cost $57 million to run in the first 10 years.

Officials stress that any transit system has yet to be designed so no choice has been made. Whichever alternative is chosen, HART would build and run it.

From the Times – click on map for article

The map is interesting, but the key point is that no transit system has been designed.  No choices have been made.  Right now the only transit plan is the “BRT” plan (and some discussion of limited expansion of the streetcar).

Yes, there are ideas that can be referenced (and maybe even followed), but there is no actual plan and no guarantee that the referenced plans will be advanced. (That is the reason we wanted a list of initial projects) In other words, even if the referendum passes and there is money, that is only the beginning.  Those advocating for transit will still have a lot, actually most, of the work still to do.  All the decisions still have to be made.

We are not saying do not vote for the referendum.  We are saying that if you want transit – real, properly designed, useful transit – and other transportation alternatives (and even roads) do not think for a minute that just passing the referendum will get you what you want. (Just google “Miami 2002 Metrorail referendum”) There are all sorts of local, state, and federal issues to overcome and are/will be many factions vying for their projects and/or for a cut of the money.  And do not assume that all those who endorse the referendum want what you do.  (Many have supported every plan put forward, including the “BRT” plan and TBX.  Remember that MetroRapid was initially held out as BRT, too.  And remember that MetroRapid expansion was a main feature of Go Hillsborough, not any real BRT.)

We don’t know if the referendum will pass or not, but, if it passes, to make the referendum truly worthwhile, people will have to stay engaged for years.  If it passes, it will not be the time to settle.


— One More Thing

Last week we pointed out that the membership of the Oversight Board on transportation could not be announced because the composition of the organizations that would pick the members was still unknown (and, to a large degree, will be until after the election).   That is why it was odd to see this in an otherwise well-worded opinion piece by the Lightning owner:

Just as important, the authors and backers of the plan are intelligent and trustworthy. After collecting 77,000 citizen signatures in support of placing this plan on the November ballot, these civic leaders are now running the campaign. Should the plan pass, they will work alongside independent experts on an oversight committee dedicated to ensuring every single dollar is invested properly.

Because, at this point, if everything is functioning as it should, it would be very difficult to know who would be on the board or who would choose the members, we are going to assume for now that the Lightning owner just meant people who are engaged would probably get on the board.  However, if somehow the oversight committee has been “chosen,” the names should be made public, like the schools referendum oversight committee.


— Another Thing

The Times article had one other note:

The tax won’t go toward relieving the infamous traffic jams at “Malfunction Junction,” where Interstates 275 and 4 meet in Tampa, or for backups on the Veteran’s Expressway — both the responsibility of state and regional agencies.

Actually, nothing will go to fixing the Veterans specifically.  The Veterans was supposed to be fixed with express lanes (hint: it’s not).  There is no room and are no plans for anything else on that road.  That is just another reason why we need alternatives.


Airport – Record

The airport reached a major milestone this last fiscal year:

Tampa International Airport closed Fiscal Year 2018 after logging 21,013,788 passengers – the Airport’s first time surpassing the 20 million mark and an all-time record for TPA. The number represents a 9.3 percent increase over the previous year, beating earlier projections. TPA’s fiscal year runs from October 1 through the end of September.

Additionally:

The announcement followed last week’s news that United Airlines is doubling its Tampa-to-San Francisco service starting next June. Lufthansa also plans to increase its service from five to six days a week next summer, and on Halloween Norwegian Airlines will launch its nonstop service to London’s Gatwick Airport, marking the first time two airlines will fly to the same European city from TIA.

There is really nothing else to say but “great job,” and it is good that the aggressive airport advocates won the argument against those who supported complacency.

The airport also garnered another high-ranking, this time from Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards.  The airport came in fifth behind Indianapolis, Portland (OR), Hartford, and Minneapolis-St. Paul.  We have no idea why, but so be it.

Additionally, there will be a new commuter airline at the airport soon. (See here)

In further news, St Pete – Clearwater also broke records:

The airport saw 121,192 passengers, which is a 21 percent increase year over year. Year to date, it grew by 13 percent, according to the airport’s monthly passenger report.

The airport has experienced 1.7 million passengers thus far, but is expecting to see more as passenger levels are projected to increase to 2.1 million by fiscal year 2022.

The big downside to the St. Pete – Clearwater numbers is that they are reliant on one airline.  Nevertheless, good news.


Ports – Growth

The local ports seem to be humming along, at least relative to their previous performance.

Port Tampa Bay set a new operating revenue record at $59.7 million for the Fiscal Year 2018, which ended September 30th. This record eclipses the previous high in FY2017 of $53.8 million. The operating revenue figure includes only those dollars generated as a result of Port Tampa Bay operations. It does not include ad valorem tax revenue or grants.

Port Tampa Bay attributes FY18’s success to record cruise and container activity, new and expanded leases like the Port Logistics Cold Storage facility, and imports of increases in commodities such as petroleum, limestone, citrus, and sulfur.

That is very good and probably driven to a large degree by cruises (which had previously made up about 25% of the Port’s revenues).   We are all for growth in revenue. (We do not have the FY2018 container or other cargo count, but it would be interesting to see.  We would also be interested in how much, if any, of the fruit business moved from Port Manatee.)

Meanwhile, at Port Manatee:

Port Manatee also continues to break records. The Palmetto port handled a record high of more than 9.3 million tons during this fiscal year, up 19.1 percent from the previous fiscal year.

Due largely to a more-than-tripling of phosphate rock imports, Port Manatee saw its dry bulk products rise 48.5 percent, reaching a record 1,970,340, while liquid bulk, the port’s largest sector, saw an 11.4 percent boost, to a record 6,207,219 tons.

We are not sure how that translates into actual money, but, generally, more business is a good thing.


Westshore-ish – Midtown Hotel

There was news about a proposed hotel for the Midtown complex between Dale Mabry and Himes north of Cypress. From URBN Tampa Bay:

Midtown Tampa, a massive mixed-use project at the Northeast corner of Dale Mabry and Cypress, is moving ahead with an Aloft and Element dual-flagged hotel. The hotel is 7 stories with 226 rooms and a solid 24,900 square feet of retail space.

Frankly, we were hoping for something a bit more ambitious in regards to the project’s hotel portion.

(You can see more here) While the picture is a little small, the hotel appears to be planned for the smaller rectangle in the middle of the complex:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

Here are some renderings:

From Florida Future at SkyscraperCity – click on picture for article

 

From Florida Future at SkyscraperCity – click on picture for article

First, we like the retail and what appear to be awnings.  However, the retail/awnings cover the north and western sides of the building.  That leaves the southern and eastern side quite bland and uninviting.  Like URBN Tampa Bay, we were hoping for something a little more interesting both architecturally and, to some degree, in brand.  Then again, it is consistent with the other things we have seen with this project which seems determined to fill an ambitious plan with quite conventional elements.  We will have to see.


Westshore – About the Mall

There was interesting news from WestShore Plaza this week.

The ownership of WestShore Plaza confirmed to the Tampa Bay Business Journal that it has recaptured the space Sears leases, which takes up more than 2 acres on the northeast side of the mall.

Washington Prime Group (NYSE: WPG), the Ohio-based real estate investment trust that owns WestShore Plaza, “is in active negotiations to transform the Sears space currently occupied by Sears,” Kim Green, a spokeswoman for Washington Prime, wrote in an email.

WestShore Plaza is an interesting case of a shopping center that has gotten denser over the decades (here is an old picture ).  This could be one more step.  What are they considering?

A potential redevelopment of Sears’ real estate in Westshore has been speculated for years in commercial real estate circles, as Sears has been on the decline for more than a decade. With a $134 million loan payment due Monday, the department store is said to be preparing a bankruptcy filing, with its largest lenders urging for Chapter 7 liquidation.

While a few Sears (NASDAQ: SHLD) boxes around the Bay region have already been redeveloped, Sears’ location in Westshore was its best location in the Tampa area — it’s in an urban corridor, situated at one of the city’s busiest intersections. At Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg, the Sears store was replaced by a lineup of smaller boxes, including Lucky’s Market and Five Below.

In Westshore, a redevelopment might look like a little different than bringing in different retailers. Real estate brokers expect a mixed-use redevelopment and say that a variety of property types — including retail, residential and office space — make sense for the site.

Mixed use is nice, but we are not sure they need to add more retail to the existing mall.  We would really like to see residential, though we shall see what they come up with.


Ferry – Attraction

There was news about the details of the Cross Bay Ferry service this year.

The Cross-Bay Ferry returns Nov. 1 with lower ticket prices and voyages that sail later for dinner-time and evening-out trips to Tampa and St. Petersburg.

One-way fares will be $8 for adults — $2 less than during the ferry’s first season two years ago — with discounts for children, seniors, college students and active or retired military.

The service will run Tuesday through Sunday, dropping Mondays, which had poor ridership, in favor of later hours. The idea is to allow passengers to have dinner or catch a hockey game across the bay and still catch the ferry home.

“We found out that there was very strong ridership in the evenings during the week and on weekends, so we’re tailoring this service to meet what customers’ demands and interests were,” said Ed Turanchik, an attorney for operator HMS Ferries (and a candidate for mayor of Tampa)

Additionally, the docking locations will change a bit:

In St. Petersburg, the ferry will dock at the North Yacht Basin. The dock, roughly at 418 Bayshore Drive NE, is near Straub Park and the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort. The cheap option for parking, Turanchik said, will be at the SunDial garage, which will offer a shuttle to the ferry terminal. With proof of a ferry ticket, parking there will be free.

In Tampa, the ferry will dock behind the Florida Aquarium, 701 Channelside Drive, because of construction at the Tampa Convention Center. The board of Port Tampa Bay voted Tuesday to approve the berth and waive dockage charges and passenger fees.

That is all well and good, but it also makes clear that the ferry service is not really for transportation/transit.  It is an attraction.  No service that truly planned to serve as real transportation/transit would skip Mondays (real transportation would run all week).

As we have said for a while, we do not mind the Cross Bay Ferry, but it needs to treat as what it really is: a novelty.  It may be a nice ride and it may be fun, but it is not a real transportation system or transit.  And pretty soon it needs to not have subsidies.


South Tampa – Howard Hotel

Recently we discussed a proposal for a hotel across the street from the Epicurean.  At the time there was only what were essentially massing diagrams.  Now there are some more detailed drawings:

From Florida Future at SkyscraperCity – click on picture for article

 

From Florida Future at SkyscraperCity – click on picture for article

 

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

As you can see from the site plan and the west elevation, much (if not most) of the building is actually off of Howard behind some existing buildings.  The part that does touch Howard has garage access, an entrance, and what appears to be a loading dock. In other words, most of the frontage is for cars and trucks.  That is disappointing.  We do not think that, given the specific location on Howard, the street needs crazy pedestrian activity.  A slightly more sedate development would be fine.  But that does not mean that driveways and exposed parking.  Of course, they need a way to get to the parking and a loading dock, but we think they can do, and the neighborhood should have, better.


Downtown – Tampa Museum

There was news about the Tampa Museum.

“The economy is strong, the downtown is growing. It’s an opportunity to move the project forward,” Tampa Museum of Art Executive Director Michael Tomor told the Tampa Bay Business Journal. “It speaks to the growth of the city, but it was something always on the horizon back in 2007, so this is a conversation that is now 12 years old and the timing is good.”

Tomor said the museum was meant to be built in two phases. The current building, built in 2010, was the first phase.

Now a second phase would address some of the building’s aging problems, including the storage facility being at capacity and problems with leaky roofs and flooding during inclement weather.

“It was clear a new facility needed to be created,” Tomor said.

We are not sure what the last comment refers to given that the museum is not that old.  We are also not sure why there are leaky roofs and flooding, but we have no reason to doubt that it is true (or that it needs to be fixed).  We definitely think expansion would be in order given that there really is not that much room for exhibits.  So what are they looking at?

The renovation could include an indoor event space rather than completely relying on the terrace.

* * *

Tomor said they’re also looking at creating a restaurant with a full kitchen and large spaces for overflow programming. The museum worked with Sono Café for a number of years, which is operated by Mise en Place in Tampa, but recently ended the contract and partnered with SaltBlock Hospitality to open its Riverwalk Cafe concept this year. But the vendor has to prepare food off site to cater to a large event; expanding with a kitchen would allow dishes to be made on site.

That’s not really what we were thinking.  But, anyway:

The museum wrapped up a six-month-long analysis on the master plan and reached out to more than 25 architectural firms. Now it has a shortlist and will start the interview process.

Expansion and renovations will be funded the same way the museum funds its operational costs — through philanthropy, individual and corporate foundations and government funding. The amount of the entire renovation was not disclosed as the feasibility of the project is ongoing.

To be honest, that makes us a bit nervous.

Although many of the renovations will take place inside the 66,000-square-foot museum, the building may structurally be expanded by 20,000 gross square feet along the Riverwalk while maintaining the same iconic look.

Whatever they build needs to be consistent with the building they have, but we shall see.  We also think they should focus on non-government money, especially if they are not expanding exhibit space. We are all for good museums, but we think the focus should be on the museum part.


Bayshore


– Closing

A while back we discussed a condo proposal for Bayshore.  The preliminary drawings resembled a ziggurat and were, shall we say, not good.  This week, the developer closed on the land between Howard and DeSoto.   The proposal still would need to make it through the architectural review process.  This is one of the early drawings:

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

There are a couple of others and they are not better.  What did the developer have to say?

“We’re confident in the site and our ability to get through” the public process, said Brian Van Slyke, one of Kolter’s development executives.

“We’ve gotten positive zoning review from the city staff, and we believe there’s a path forward through the ARC,” Van Slyke said.

We agree.  There is a path forward.  Change the design.  To wit:

The initial drawings submitted to the city are preliminary, Van Slyke said, and will likely change as the project advances.  Kolter is beginning to refine the design and floor plans, he said, and anticipate “some back and forth” on the architecture with ARC.

That is fine, though, to be fine, we construe “some” very liberally.  We are not opposed to a condo near Howard on Bayshore.  We are opposed to an ugly condo near Howard on Bayshore.  Hopefully, the developer will really redo the design and come forward with something we all can like.


– Flash for Walking

Speaking of Bayshore:

The City of Tampa will be installing Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs) and enhanced crosswalks to four additional locations on Bayshore Blvd. south of Howard Ave. to enhance pedestrian safety. These crosswalks will be located near the intersections of W. Alline Ave., W. Knights Ave., W. Euclid Ave., and S. Carolina Ave. Work on these installations is expected to be completed before the end of the year.

The four new RRFB locations are an extension of ongoing safety efforts by the City of Tampa, including work underway to install three RRFBs at S. Delaware Ave., S. Dakota Ave., and midblock between S. Brevard Ave. and W. Swann Ave. These three locations will be activated on Wednesday, October 24, 2018.

This is the area.

We agree with URBN Tampa Bay in this assessment:

An RRFB is a flashing crosswalk, there is no pedestrian activated red light to halt traffic. They are a design compromise, which compared to other crossing options, trades some pedestrian safety for higher traffic flow and lower build cost. The pedestrian still must wait for passing traffic to clear, or for that traffic to voluntarily stop and let the pedestrian cross. It works about as well for pedestrians as one would expect from a device designed to make the pedestrian the #3 priority behind traffic flow and cost.

We would much rather see a light with a crosswalk at Euclid (which should not be a problem, especially if the City really is lowering the speed limit on Bayshore).  Then, maybe a crosswalk about halfway between Euclid and Gandy would be useful.  While they have become very popular in this area and are ok in limited use, just tossing up RRFB’s does not make for a good walking environment and is not a substitute for good planning (not to mention they are ugly).  And RRFB’s are no substitute for a light where traffic knows it may have to stop.


Tampa Heights – The School

Following up on last week’s discussion of Lee Elementary,

Things have come full circle as the Hillsborough County School District moves ahead to rebuild fire-ravaged Lee Elementary School.

The board on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan that the district negotiated with its insurers that pays full cost of building the century-old elementary school at its current location at 305 E Columbus Drive.

We are glad they are rebuilding the school.


Tampa Heights – Interesting

There was news this week that the Salvation Army is planning to consolidate its Tampa Heights properties into one building at 1603 N. Florida Ave.   It wants to sell three other properties:

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

Tampa Heights is a hot area right now, so we assume there will be a lot of interest. For now, though, it is a wait and see situation.


Seminole Heights – Sure You Can

There was news about one of the urban developments on Florida in Seminole Heights.

Two boutique businesses that got their respective starts in downtown Tampa and downtown St. Petersburg will join forces in the same mixed-use development in Seminole Heights.

Grassroots Kava House and Duckweed Urban Market have both committed to storefronts on the ground level of the Avenue Lofts, an apartment-and-retail development at 5236 N. Florida Ave. It has 52 apartments above the storefronts and a three-story parking garage with 100 spaces on the property.

Developer Wesley Burdette said Grassroots has leased an 1,800-square-foot endcap and Duckweed has taken a 3,600-square-foot space. Duckweed has two locations in downtown Tampa and the Channel district; Grassroots is in downtown St. Pete on Central Avenue.

First, good for Seminole Heights and the redevelopment of Florida.  Florida is primed to be a key urban corridor.

Second, it just shows why there should be no excuses about market conditions or the like, especially regarding major corridors and street retail.  More importantly, the City Council needs to take notice and really require developers to activate the streets of their projects.


Downtown – Welcome to Encore

The storage project requests keep coming.  From URBN Tampa Bay:

A developer is asking for a special use permit (SU-2) to build an 11 story A/C storage facility at 1301 North Jefferson Street in Downtown Tampa. The project would feature a rooftop “private recreation facility” on top floor. The project is asking for a parking waiver as well: 24 spaces are required and the developer proposes 12 parking spaces.

As with all these storage requests, we think it should be rejected.  Not only is it a storage building, it is only a storage building (we don’t really care about the private recreation facility” on the top floor.)  We care about nothing happening on the street.  We care about what appears to be a surface parking lot.  We care that this is across the street from a park and near Encore (See here.  Never mind that the City approved the ridiculous Burger King drive through.  That was bad enough. There is no reason to compound the mistake)

Storage buildings do not belong in a downtown the City claims it is trying to revitalize.


Meanwhile, In the Rest of Country

A reader sent us a link to a YouTube video about the ill-fated Cleveland Balloonfest of 1986.

 

If you never heard of it, watch the video.  Even if you have heard of it, watch the video.  Pay particular attention beginning at 2:10.  “Why?” you might ask.  Because you will hear some very familiar sounding phrases applied to Cleveland in 1986.  You are free to do with that what you will.  However, while acknowledging that we are not Cleveland in 1986, it is just another reason why we do not buy into hype.  Talk is not an achievement.  Actual achievements are achievements.


Meanwhile, In the Rest of North America

The Guardian (UK) had an interesting article on building a pedestrian/bike bridge in Calgary. We’ll just highlight this snippet as a teaser.

Bringing in a big name didn’t change people’s opinions, however. For the opening of the bridge, councillor Farrell was escorted by four bodyguards. Even Farrell’s brother had to endure the ire directed at the Peace Bridge when a dinner guest discovered their relation and said to him: “You tell your sister that if we wanted beauty, we’d travel to Paris. In Calgary we just need it to work.”

“It was the first piece of significant infrastructure predominantly for active mobility,” Farrell explains. “If it had been for vehicles, we would not have had any debate, and it would not have been controversial.”

It is worth reading.

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