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Roundup 2-22-2019

February 21, 2019

Contents

Transportation – Not Really

— TBX Stage One

— On the Road to Nowhere Cont

— Ferries

Downtown/Channel District – 1010 Water Street

West Tampa – RFP

Westshore – Met West

Westshore – Some More

South Tampa – Hyde Park House, Again

Downtown – Straz Tower

Port – More Is Better

Economy – Tourism

Rays

Water, Water Everywhere and Maybe There Should Be More to Drink

History – Jackson House

___________________________________


Transportation – Not Really


— TBX Stage One

TB(n)X (Tampa Bay Next) was supposed to be a wholesale reopening of the TBX plan to see if the community wanted it and/or to revise the whole plan.  Some things have changed, as far as we have been told.  Other things have not changed much at all.

The Florida Department of Transportation, looking for a public relations win amidst toll-lane backlash, is planning to rebuild the West Shore interchange ahead of its more controversial counterpart in downtown Tampa.

District secretary David Gwynn said the Tampa office is hoping to get money in the state’s next five-year work plan for the $1.1 billion overhaul of one of the region’s most frustrating traffic snarls.

A project of this size will require about five years to build, meaning the new West Shore interchange is still about a decade out. Until then, the state is in the process of adding additional lanes near the Kennedy Boulevard exit for Interstate 275 that should open by the end of 2020.

Gwynn’s scheduling decision at the heavily-trafficked business center means changes to Tampa’s downtown interchange — a long-debated project — are further delayed. That may give opponents to highway expansion in the urban core more time to negotiate with state officials.

“Everyone seems to be saying if you have to focus on one part, focus on West Shore and then we’ll come back to (downtown),” Gwynn said. “We have not received anywhere near the pushback as we have in the downtown interchange area.”

So what are they doing?

The new West Shore interchange will redesign exit ramps, add travel lanes, establish more north-south connections within the district and link toll lanes in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties that are either already completed or about to start construction. Once the interchange opens, drivers who choose to pay will have a continuous path from the Gateway area in Pinellas to Tampa International Airport and north to Carrollwood.

We are not sure exactly why it is a public relations win “amidst toll-lane backlash” to build the variable rate toll express lane project through Westshore, because that is basically what the reconstruction is.  It is the first stage of the express lane project.

Not to mention that, up until just now, FDOT has said that the decision regarding whether to toll express lanes still had to be made.  We never really believed that, but that was the story. The truth is that most of the added capacity through Westshore (and pretty much all of the added capacity for the area-wide project other than the little bit in Westshore) are tolled express lanes.  (And remember that even the full fix in Westshore will not fix the 4 lane to 2 – soon to be 3 – lane bottleneck at the east end of the Howard Frankland.)

And then there was this from a Times columnist:

The bad [news] is that it could be forever and a day before this project is finished. The Times reported it could be 2024 before the project is added to the state’s work plan.

Add construction time to that and, well … relief could be a long time coming. At least there is a plan, though, and thank goodness for that.

Of course, by the time the ribbon is cut on the new and improved roadway the number of daily commuters will have no doubt increased far beyond that 150,000 number. The next generation of commuters can deal with that.

* * *

Every part of town has its own traffic horror story.

This is the path we have chosen. We want cars, and cars need roads. There are howls of outrage when something like commuter rail is mentioned, usually over the cost. Yep, it would be expensive.

Did you notice the price tag on the West Shore interchange, though? A cool $1.1 billion – with a B. That’s just for one location.

And when it is built, there will be lanes with so-called “dynamic tolling” where people with more disposable income than most of us can zip along in a managed lane while the common folk play that joyful game called “tap-a-brake.”

True, with the caveat that there is ample evidence that express lanes have their own problems. And there is another truth about express lanes that is rarely discussed: all the focus on them is only to create a road that is useful for a very limited time during each day.  Setting aside that the express purpose of variable rate toll lanes is to limit the number of people using those lanes during periods of high congestion, when there is limited congestion, they serve no purpose.  Because they are separate from the free lanes and have limited exits, they do not make local traffic lanes flow better or make the drive more pleasant.  They do not allow people to pass slower drivers.  They do not promote alternative transportation or promote Vision Zero.  They do not promote transit oriented development (if anything, the opposite is true).  That is a lot of limited transportation funds to be spent on something of very limited utility.

The truth is that we understand doing the Westshore portion of the interstate first.  Because of development patterns, it is less sensitive than older areas and the bottleneck needs to fixed.  But they should do it right and with the proper priorities and creating alternatives to roads.

FDOT consistently said that the reason it did not work with us on real transit was lack of local will.  At least in Hillsborough, where Westshore sits, there is now clear proof of local will, though, while people would like the roads improved (see bottleneck at the east end of the Howard Frankland), there has never been a groundswell of demand for variable rate toll lanes.  So maybe, because there is time, FDOT should actually plan to fix the bottleneck – not 4 lanes to 3 – and to eliminate all the bad merging around the airport, and meanwhile work on creating true, useful alternatives (not the “BRT” plan) to roads.


— On the Road to Nowhere Cont

A few weeks ago we discussed proposals that resurrected plans for the unnecessary Suncoast Parkway and Heartland Parkway.  (See “Transportation – Round and Round — On the Road to Nowhere”) As we noted then, there was really no reason for those plans.  This week, the Times had an article on the Heartland Parkway.

Last month, when Senate President Bill Galvano called for building more toll roads to boost the economy of Florida’s rural areas, he only mentioned one by name: the Suncoast Parkway.

But anyone who follows transportation issues in Florida recognized the second one from his description of its route from Polk County south to Collier County: the Heartland Parkway, a 140-mile road that has as many lives as an accident-prone house cat.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist killed it in 2007. The Florida Department of Transportation killed it in 2011 and again in 2015. Then Crist’s successor, Rick Scott, nixed it one more time in 2016. It is supposed to be kaput.

“The Heartland Parkway is not on the books,” Florida Department of Transportation spokeswoman Ann Howard said last week. “Officially, we don’t have it in the works.”

But road projects are never quite dead in Florida (except rational ones like linking I-75 to US 19 in Pasco).  Why specifically did this road proposal come back?

Galvano, R-Bradenton, said the idea for his roads announcement came from discussions with the Florida Transportation Builders Association, which represents state road and bridge builders, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. The road builders gave his Innovate Florida PAC $20,000 during his run for the senate presidency, while the chamber gave it $125,000 during that time period.

Credit where credit is due for the honest answer.  And, quite reasonably, the road builders want work (though that does not mean taxpayers should have to pay for it or unnecessary roads).  Does anyone else really want the road?

The Polk County Commission has already sent a letter to Galvano supporting a Heartland revival, although according to commission chairman George Lindsey III, support for the road among his constituents is tepid.

“I don’t think there’s been a groundswell one way or the other,” he said. But he said commissioners are backing Galvano because hurricane evacuation times could be improved by building the Heartland, along with “the movement of goods and services” from one part of the state to another.

Local officials want something that they even admit their constituents do not.  But why?

However, the people who backed the Heartland Parkway weren’t the state’s rural poor. As the Tampa Bay Times reported then, they were well-to-do landowners like the Lykes Bros. and big corporations like phosphate giant Mosaic. Even the name came from them, not the state.

* * *

In early 2006, an attorney representing about 10 major landowners made a phone call to the state Department of Transportation director to pitch the idea of building a new north-south toll road. Then he drew a proposed route on a map and faxed it over to the state turnpike division.

A month later, the agency announced it would consider building that exact highway, and using the name its backers suggested. It didn’t hurt that the highway was being pushed heavily by JD Alexander, a powerful state senator whose family held a large amount of acreage that would benefit. (Alexander, now a private citizen, did not respond to a request for comment.)

* * *

But a lot of people noticed that the road would also make the landowners’ property more valuable. And they noticed that some of the landowners already had plans to develop their property, which a new toll road would help. They also realized that, rather than conserving environmentally sensitive land, the road would slice through some that is crucial to the state’s ecosystems.

(See this week’s Times article here for the full history) We do not know if all the land is in the same hands, but we suspect many of the landowners have the same desires. But some things have changed:

“I was surprised when Sen. Galvano brought it back,” Dantzler said. He noted that, because of recent improvements to State Road 17 and major investments in land preservation along the old Heartland route, “the argument for it has become more difficult to make.”

In sum, the road is unneeded and mostly unwanted.  We previously said this:

Instead of building roads that are unneeded, the money should be spent investing in real infrastructure needs where people already live and need to get around.  We are not against all toll roads . . . But we are against wasting public money trying to solve a problem that does not exist with a solution that almost no one wants.

It was true two weeks ago, and it is still true today.


— Ferries

A reader sent us a link to a Federal DOT website:

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today announced the opportunity to apply for approximately $30 million in Fiscal Year 2019 competitive grant funding for passenger ferry projects nationwide. The Passenger Ferry Grant Program is authorized by Congress for projects that develop and support ferry service on many of the nation’s waterways, including the purchase, repair, and modernization of ferry boats, terminals, and related facilities that communities depend on.

We would suggest that, if anyone is actually serious about the South County-MacDill ferry, they apply, though this might be a problem, from August last year:

If the long-awaited commuter ferry service between south Hillsborough County and MacDill Air Force Base ever happens, it will likely be without federal money.

Leaders of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit authority acknowledged Monday that project delays means they will lose a $4.7 million grant from the Federal Transit Authority.

We would suggest the Cross Bay Ferry, but:

Projects will be evaluated and selected based on criteria outlined in the Notice of Funding Opportunity, including the need for improvements, demonstration of benefits to transit service, and integration with local and regional long-term planning. Applications will be accepted until 11:59 p.m., Eastern time, April 15, 2019.

But, as a Times article explained this week:

And halfway through its six-month season, the second year is going much better — with a lower-priced ticket and a new schedule that focuses on nights and weekends.

The ferry sold more than 23,000 tickets between Nov. 1 and Jan 31, according to data maintained by operator HMS Ferries. That’s a 40 percent increase in ridership compared to the first half of its pilot season.

January alone saw a 70 percent jump in ticket sales from the first year.

The increase is good, but that is not the point.

The vessel holds up to 149 people and travels between the downtowns of St. Petersburg and Tampa. It typically makes four round trips on Fridays and Saturdays and two round trips on other days. It does not sail on Mondays.

* * *

Unlike two years ago, there are no morning trips outside of Friday and Saturday.

Data from the pilot year showed people weren’t interested in taking the boat to and from work. Instead, the schedule caters to weekend events, sports games, date nights and other entertainment options.

The ferry continues to see most of its success on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. More than 18,500 tickets were sold on weekends in November, December and January. Weekdays were much slower, with the boat sometimes sailing with a handful of people or less.

As we have said for a while, we have no problem with the Cross Bay Ferry being there. It is clearly an enjoyable fun cruise/tourist attraction. But it is not useful transit and it should not be discussed or funded as such.  (It should be a nice, profitable, private service)


Downtown/Channel District – 1010 Water Street

The folks at Water Street released information about a planned 22-story apartment building 1010 Water Street:

Strategic Property Partners, controlled by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investment LLC, said 1010 Water Street will include 481 apartments and 32,000 square feet of street-level retail space at the southwest corner of Water Street and Cumberland Avenue. The target demographic, SPP said, is “younger” and “more active.”

* * *

The units, which will include studios and one- and two-bedrooms, will likely be on the smaller side. SPP emphasized the shared amenities and surrounding neighborhood as part of the lifestyle at 1010 Water Street. Rental rates, a square footage range and a date for beginning construction were not revealed; SPP said previously that both 1010 Water Street and another forthcoming tower, 1077 Water Street, would begin construction in fall or winter 2019.

You can read more about the amenities at the website here.

Here is the rendering released:

From Florida Future at SkycraperCity – click on picture for post

Without a site plan and more renderings, there is not much to say other than this seems to be another nice, if a bit boxy (or rather multiple-boxes), urban building at Water Street.  (It even looks like it might have real awnings along the sidewalk, though that remains to be seen.)  With no need for pre-sale before construction and financing in place, hopefully it will begin soon.


West Tampa – RFP

The City has issued RFPs for two large chunks of land in the “West River” area.

The city of Tampa is seeking proposals from developers for 18 acres of publicly owned land west of the Hillsborough River.

The city on Tuesday issued a request for proposal for the site, which is south of Columbus Drive and north of Spruce Street.

It is immediately adjacent to the 44-acre former public housing site that Related Group and Tampa Housing Authority are redeveloping in a joint venture. (The parcels are at 2609 N. Rome Ave. and 2301 N. Oregon Ave.; see image above for specific location.)

This is the land:

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

From the City website:

. . . The land is located in the West Tampa CRA and is immediately adjacent to a 44 acre redevelopment area known as West River.  West River is a joint venture partnership of the Tampa Housing Authority and the Related Group of Florida.  Collectively, that partnership is currently developing 676 mixed income residential units in 5 projects with a total investment exceeding $121 million. At buildout, West River is planned to contain 1600 housing units containing a mixture of approximately 50 % workforce and affordable housing and 50% market rate. The project plans includes hotels, retail and office space.   

The City’s intent in the sale of the land is to encourage mixed use or residential or office and or hospitality and retail development on the site and to continue the redevelopment of the West Tampa CRA. Therefore, responsive proposals will demonstrate, (1) successful experience in the development of residential/office/retail/hospitality in urban areas, (2) architectural sensitivity to the proposed site, adjacent residential neighborhoods, buildings and activities, and (3) satisfactory financial references. Proposals shall address planning, design, financing, construction, timing, and project implementation. A workforce housing component is strongly encouraged. 

We expected an RFP at some point, though this actually seems less detailed with looser requirements than we expected given the whole West River mater planning process.  Of note:

Proposals are due no later than 4:00 P.M. on Wednesday, March 20, 2019 to the City of Tampa Purchasing Department office, located at 306 E. Jackson St., Tampa, Florida 33605.

And:

Earlier this year, the Tampa City Council approved lengthening the election by a month. Term-limited incumbent Mayor Bob Buckhorn will now turn the city over to his successor on May 1.

Because there are no proposals yet, there is really nothing to say about that aspect.  However, with elections occurring before the proposals are even due, it would make more sense to wait until the new mayor and City Council are in place to gather and examine proposals and pick winners.


Westshore – Met West

The Met West project in Westshore is not really our favorite.  Yes, it has office, hotel, and retail.  It is also planning residential (though we would not say it is a “live, work, play” development in the sense that term is usually used).  Unfortunately, it is all laid out in a very insular, detached, office park way.  In any event, the one element that would actually come closest to connecting to the areas around it in a real way is the residential (though, in line with the northern Westshore development pattern, even that connection is not the best).  In any event, the developers are looking to expand the residential a bit:

MetWest is moving forward with phase 5, the residential portion. The developer is look to significantly increase the density of the residential portion:

“1) Increasing the number of Phase V multi-family dwelling units from 254 units to a new total of 424 units

2) Adding 4,170 sq. ft. of retail uses within Phase V

3) Modifying the Phase V / multi-family building footprint and related modifications to the westerly portion of the existing surface parking lot

4) Increasing the building height in Phase V from 10 to 12 stories and to allow for a commensurate increase in the number of floors in the Phase V garage – up to 12 floors”

Site plan (proposed building in lower left corner):

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

Most of the proposed changes are fine with us, with the caveat that any height change should require the garage to be hidden by occupiable building.  We already have too many buildings where the garage is the most prominent feature.  Other than that, we are for making the development denser.

It is just too bad that this development could have been so much better with just some simple tweaks that do not even change to free parking, office park appeal to office clients.  They would just create more access and better circulation.  It is a lost opportunity.


Westshore – Some More

On the other hand, Westshore Plaza seems to be seizing an opportunity to do much better.  Last week the owners filed their previously announced proposal for the development of the mall parking lot.  From URBN Tampa Bay:

. . .What the developer is proposing is to be granted a certain total amount of development rights, and has created a conversion matrix between uses. This gives the developer the flexibility to change the use of the project as it develops the project, without having to get the project re-approved. But it also means we won’t know exactly what mix of uses we will be getting, before approving it.

The project is set to go before the city council on April 11th.

 

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

 

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

 

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

We are not sure how they know what the elevations will look like if they are not sure about the uses, but it is what it is.  As we said when this proposal first surfaced, we very much like the idea, contingent on the details.

Regarding their filing, we understand their proposal for flexibility, and there is a certain logic to it, but we would prefer having approval for specific amounts.  The developer wants some freedom to adjust, but we also think there should be some planning control.  Maybe there is a middle ground (something like general development rights with maximum levels of specific uses, and, if there is a change in excess of the any specific use level, it requires new approval).

In any event, broadly speaking, this is what should be on Westshore, not auto repair or restaurants with their back to the street.


South Tampa – Hyde Park House, Again

When last we left the Bayshore condo proposal Hyde Park House, it has requested three variances, one of which was not granted.  Now, per URBN Tampa Bay:

As expected, the developer of Hyde Park House has re-submitted plans for the project without any variance requests.

The 21 story, 70 unit condo tower proposed for 2103 Bayshore Blvd. was originally rejected by ARC on February 4th. Specifically, the developer’s request for a variance regarding an on-site maneuverability issue had been rejected.

Indeed.  That was expected.

More importantly,

This should be further proof that the city should not be scared of rejecting proposals due to sub-standard design, in fear that developers will not build here unless we let them build anything they want.

As we have said over and over (and recently when discussing a report on how strong the real estate market was), there is no reason to settle. (Though this proposal could still use a little tweaking)


Downtown – Straz Tower

There was news about the apartment proposal next to the Straz that was recently abandoned.  From URBN Tampa Bay:

A new entry has been uploaded on the city’s website, for a tower project listed at 110 W. Gasparilla Plaza in Downtown Tampa:

“26 Story Multifamily Residential Building with Accessory Retail. 275 Dwelling Units and 476 Parking Spaces.”

*** . . . [the] previous design was 33 stories with 271 units. ***

——————————————————————–

The developer is American Land Ventures and the architect is Cube3, the same team as the Straz Tower, so we believe this is the next iteration of the Straz Tower. However, the address listed is the Children’s Museum’s address. This would not be the correct address for the Straz Tower, and we highly doubt a tower would be built on top of that museum or demolishing that museum, so we believe the address is incorrectly listed.

Given the lack of renderings and the address issue, it is difficult to have a full opinion.  However, it is notable that the proposal is shorter but has more units.  We will have to see if whatever the proposal is, it provides proper street activation and connections to the Straz from the Poe Garage and whether there is attention to architectural detail.


Port – More Is Better

Recently, the Port finally got on its first direct container ship circuit from Asia.  And that was a big deal.  Now,

The biggest container ships ever seen in Tampa Bay will begin making weekly calls at Port Tampa Bay from Asia starting in May, port officials announced Tuesday.

* * *

The CMA CGM Group is adding Tampa to its existing Pacific Express 3 service between Asia and the United States. Headquartered in France, CMA CGM has a fleet of more than 500 ships that carry cargo to and from 160 countries, making it one of the biggest carriers of shipping containers in the world.

* * *

Now, the just-announced Pacific Express 3 service will expand that network, with calls at Singapore, Vũng Tàu in Vietnam, the Chinese ports of Hong Kong, Shekou, Ningbo and Shanghai, Busan in South Korea, then via the Panama Canal, Houston, Mobile, Ala., New Orleans, Tampa and Miami, before returning to Singapore.

* * *

And with a capacity of 8,500 to 9,500 containers each — though not all or even necessarily most of those containers would be destined for Tampa — “these ships that will be calling on the rotation will be the largest ships ever to have entered into the bay,” he said.

Very good. We are all for growing container business.

Even before the Cosco ships started to call in Tampa last month, the number of containers handled at the port for the three months from October to December rose 31 percent, from 19,432 to 25,362, compared to the same period in 2018. Anderson said the port expects container revenue, once a mere 3 percent of the port’s total revenue, to double or even triple over the next year.

Those numbers are still quite small for container ports, but, as we have said before, you have to start somewhere.  And getting more service is a fine thing.


Economy – Tourism

Last week, we discussed a report that 2018 tourism tax revenue in Hillsborough County was up 4.5% over 2017. (See “Economy/Economic Development – Reports — Tourism”) We also compared that to other counties around Hillsborough and noted that tourism is up statewide.  This week, we learned how much:

The state’s tourism marketing agency reports that Florida welcomed an all-time record number of visitors last year with 126.1 million out-of-state visitors.

Visit Florida’s Feb. 20 announcement marks the eighth consecutive record year for visitation to Florida, exceeding the previous record of 118.8 million visitors in 2017 by 6.2 percent.

While tourism numbers and tourism tax revenues do not necessarily correlate directly (in fact, revenue should probably increase at a faster rate given that added demand would raise hotel prices, but maybe not), it is still an indication of the general environment.


Rays

Here are your weekly Rays articles: here and here.


Water, Water Everywhere and Maybe There Should Be More to Drink

Last week, we made our first comment on the Tampa water reclamation plan. We noted that, in general, the idea seemed like a good one to us, but we are open to reasonable criticism.  This week,

The fate of Tampa’s plan to convert highly-treated wastewater to drinking water will remain in limbo for a few more months after the Tampa Bay Water board voted Monday to delay a final vote until April.

For nearly four hours, the water agency’s nine board members wrangled over a half-dozen areas in dispute.

They agreed to monitor how much future growth in Hillsborough County is served by Tampa’s municipal water supply. They debated whether Tampa’s recent request to seek state funding represented an attempt to go around the water agency formed twenty years ago. They settled on a roadmap that allows six or more board members to squelch the project after a year if their concerns aren’t resolved.

Finally, they agreed to wait until attorneys for each government had added all the changes into a memorandum of understanding before taking a final vote at the board’s April 18 meeting.

That is something.  What are the concerns?

St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice, who has led the opposition to the project, said that apparent consensus on previous areas of dispute is different than support for the overall project. She and other board members, including Hillsborough County Commissioner Mariella Smith, have concerns about possible health risks.

Health risks should be checked.

Rice also suspects that Tampa becoming self-sufficient in its water needs could unravel the three-county compact comprised of elected officials from Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties.

* * *

Oakley pushed for both changes, saying he was worried that Pasco was at risk of being locked into an agreement that might benefit Hillsborough growth patterns more than his constituents.

We think the Times got it right in an editorial.

The utility board – whose members include Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties, and the cities of St. Petersburg, Tampa and New Port Richey – has withheld its approval for months. The delays are in part over environmental concerns and fears that a Tampa-driven project could undermine the agency’s regional mission. Tampa officials have worked to reasonably address those issues, offering assurances that the environmental benefits could be substantial and the project would come in on budget.

The process of permitting and design will expose any improvements Tampa needs to make in the project. For now, the consultants see three key benefits: The plan could help the region meet its water needs, avoid about $35 million in unnecessary regional water supply projects and remove thousands of pounds of pollutants daily from Tampa Bay. Redirecting water to the reservoir would also improve the health of the Hillsborough River, an increasingly important feature of Tampa’s urban rebirth.

This is an opportunity to save local ratepayers money, clean area waters and put a wasted resource to precious use for the entire region. The project reaffirms the commitment of the member-governments to manage Tampa Bay’s natural resources in a collaborative and mutually beneficial way. And it lays a foundation for area governments and Tampa’s next mayor, who after upcoming elections will take office in May, to carve a strong and long-term working relationship.

Health and environmental concerns should be examined, but the idea that having more water to put into the system is a problem is a bit odd.  It seems to us that, even if one county might benefit more from one project, reducing the demands of one county on the overall system leaves more water for other counties.  If it is a truly regional system, making the overall pie bigger would seem to be a good thing even if not every county gets a bite from every piece.

Once again, we are open to considering real objections, but having more water for the system does not seem to be a good one.


History – Jackson House

There was news about Jackson House this week.

Safety concerns have kept the public out of downtown Tampa’s historic Jackson House for three decades.

With broken windows, a sagging roof and splintering wooden walls, it looks as though the slightest breeze could topple the century-old structure.

* * *

Using laser scanning technology, a team from the Tampa Bay History Center and the University of South Florida recorded every inch inside and outside the two-story, 4,000-square-foot structure at 851 E Zack St.

Next, they will create a 3D digital replica.

The work will one day make the Jackson House accessible to the public through a virtual tour available at the downtown History Center.

But the scans might also help preservationists open the real Jackson House to the public once again.

That is a very good idea.  We are all for it.  But there was also this:

The timing of the project couldn’t be better.

The historical value of the building, owned by the nonprofit Jackson House Foundation Inc., has been raised during ongoing candidate forums in the race for mayor of Tampa. So far, candidates have spoken only in generalities about whether it should be restored or demolished and rebuilt.

It should be repaired and restored as much as possible. Whether it will be or just end up preserved in a virtual tour on a website is another question.

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