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Roundup 4-5-2019

April 4, 2019

Contents

Transportation – Bramble On

— Roads to Nowhere

— Veterans

— St Pete’s Choice

— BRT, the Beach, and Beyond

— TB(n)X Upcoming Meetings

— The Boulevard Idea

North Tampa/USF Area – A First Attempt

USF Area – Uptown Tennant

Westshore – Kind Of

Tampa Heights/West Tampa – On the Roof Looking West

Airport – Done Right

Economy – Indeed

— HQ’s

— Co-Working

— We Need This

Downtown/Hyde Park – Exactly

Geography – Whither Brandon?

Because We Can

________________________________________


Transportation – Bramble On


— Roads to Nowhere

Effort to build highways to nowhere continues apace.

Senate President Bill Galvano’s plan to start saving budget dollars for major corridor projects and rural roadways is gaining traction in the House.

The House Transportation and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee advanced a bill Thursday that’s identical to the Senate version (SB 7068) — part of what Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, has identified as his vision for his first Session as Senate President.

The legislation would require lawmakers to start stashing money for three major highway projects: extending the Tampa-area Suncoast Parkway to the Florida-Georgia line, connecting the northern terminus of the Florida Turnpike to the Suncoast Parkway, and constructing the Southwest-Central Florida Connector between Polk and Collier counties.

Democrats on the House panel were concerned that money for the projects would be stripped from General Revenue (GR) before task forces — written into the legislation to study the viability of the plans — reported back to state leaders by summer 2020.

“We’re already starting immediately next year to start moving money out of GR,” said state Rep. Matt Willhite, a Wellington Democrat. He and South Florida Democratic Reps. Barbara Watson and Bobby DuBose cast the only “no” votes.

The legislation would use $45 million in the next fiscal year’s budget for a series of transportation trust funds. “I don’t think we need that much money to create a commission to do a study,” Willhite added.

Each year, more money would be transferred out of General Revenue for the transportation trusts.

It is interesting to set aside money from general revenue for road ideas that are just going to be studied, especially roads which are not really in demand.

Despite one of the stated reasons for building the roads being hurricane evacuation, we already know that the idea was brought up by road builders because the Senator pushing the idea most told us so. (See “Transportation – Not Really On the Road to Nowhere Cont”) And we get why the road builders are trying to get more business, but that does not mean that the state should spend money on the projects they propose.  (Not to mention that building hundreds of miles of highway just for evacuations seems a bit inefficient – and will in not raise enough toll revenue to pay for the billions the roads would cost anyway.)

Another stated reason for the roads is to promote development in places where there are few people. We know that large landowners originally pushed at least one of the ideas, the Heartland Parkway.  This week we found out even more.

Thomas Peterffy, reportedly a member of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club and a resident of Billionaire’s Row in Palm Beach, bought about 561,000 acres in 2015 – a tract the size of Rhode Island – in the rural Panhandle, including land in Lafayette, Dixie and Taylor counties.  A large swath of the land includes an already-approved massive development corridor in rural Taylor County which envisions intense residential and commercial building.  It’s very rural now, but a new toll road would bring traffic and infrastructure – including connections for water, sewer and telecommunications – to the region.

* * *

The polluting Georgia Pacific wood cellulose mill that sits on Taylor County’s fouled Fenholloway River is owned by Republican mega-donors Charles and David Koch. Bo Taff, a former state official for Gov. Jeb Bush, was tapped to shepherd Taylor County’s development approvals.

Peterffy bought the land in 2015, through his company Four Rivers Land & Timber. The master development plan came with the property, and it allows over 45,000 mixed-use development acres,  25,600 residential units and more than 10 million square feet of industrial and non-residential land use, according to county economic development records.

* * *

According to Florida Trend magazine, Peterffy also bought a 32,000-acre tract in Highlands County several years ago. That area is a possible route for the new planned toll road connector to link Polk and Collier counties. The land once belonged to the heirs of citrus magnate Ben Hill Griffin, Jr.

(You can read more here.) And, once again, we understand people pushing for their own self-interest, but that does not mean the state should spend tax money for the projects. People have a right to advocate for their interests, and we expect them to do so.  The responsibility for how the money is spent in on the people in government.

Of all the things the Legislature should be addressing on transportation in the state, the proposed roads are about the last thing on the list.  They do not help the Florida residents in their daily lives.  They do not help the population centers with transportation or to reduce congestion (a stated goal of the Governor).

We are all for proper infrastructure investment (we don’t even mind some highways like an east-west connection in the north end of the metro area, Gateway Express – aside from some details and the variable rate lanes part – and Selmon-Gandy Connector), but this idea is not it. If and when there is actually a population in these areas that might justify the projects, then maybe it can be revisited.  Until then, we have ample other needs where the people are.  That is where the focus should be.


— Veterans

WFLA had a report on the small changes FDOT is doing to the bottleneck at the south end of the Veterans at the junction with SR60. It included this:

While the primary focus of the $1.9 million project is to relieve congestion during the morning rush, it also will pave the way for dynamic tolling. That means, rates will vary depending on the time of day, and traffic volume.

There’s no timeline on when dynamic tolling is expected on the Veterans Expressway, however, FDOT previously said that it would not implement the measures until the problems with congestion were taken care of.

Were that the case, dynamic tolling (aka variable rate toll express lanes) would not be implemented at all. (Of course, note that FDOT rebuilt the junction with SR60 not that long ago and failed to anticipate the bottleneck they are now supposedly going to fix.)  Moreover, the variable rate toll lanes are supposed to relieve congestion, so it is a bit odd to say they will not be implemented until that congestion is taken care of.  If it can be taken care of without the tolling, what is its purpose?

In any event, we expect the lanes to be tolled soon enough, and that they will not solve congestion.


— St Pete’s Choice

A while back, we discussed that St. Pete had a choice to make (See “Transportation – In the Bramble — A Choice”):

As they get ready to make room for a new rapid bus lane on 1st Avenue N and S between 20th and 31st Streets, city leaders were forced with a tough decision: Get rid of nearly 100 parking spots or the bike lane.

The decision:

Nearly 100 parking spots are about to disappear in Downtown St. Pete after city leaders opted this week to keep bike lanes, and nix half the parking spots along an 11-block section of 1st Avenue North and South.

Of course, there is some opposition,

Yet, the decision is infuriating for Ed Carlson.

“It’s insane! It’s absolutely nuts,” he exclaimed.

Carlson’s group “Citizens Against Lane and Parking Loss” is taking their fight to the streets by holding to let drivers know about changes like this along St. Pete streets.

“It’s insane to lose lanes and parking when we have a city that’s growing and growing,” Carlson said with a sigh.

Lance Lubin agrees.

“This traffic-snarling idea is being forced on the taxpaying citizens of St. Pete without a vote,” Lubin says.

Since this issue first got in the news, we have been checking traffic on the affected roads and, while Central can have issues from time to time, 1st Aves N&S do not really have many problems. (Let’s just say they are not the 405 in LA).  Moreover, you may remember that a parking study done by St. Pete found that the relevant spaces were not used much.  In other words, the bike lanes and BRT should not really trouble drivers.

The citizens against lane loss say they would rather see bike trails constructed instead of taking away driving lanes.

We will take trails, too.  We would love to see their proposals. And because the state seems to have so much money lying around for transportation, maybe FDOT can fund both the St Pete BRT and trails.


— BRT, the Beach, and Beyond

Speaking of St. Pete BRT, from the Times:

For years, St. Pete Beach officials have told transit officials they don’t support paying for a bus rapid transit system connecting their beaches to downtown St. Petersburg.

The forceful message stretches back until at least October 2016, when residents and commissioners declined to grant the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s request to support its 11-mile bus route proposal.

“We don’t need it, our community does not even use the trolley much less any kind of bus that they might want to bring onto our beaches,” resident Vickey Imes said at an Oct. 25, 2016 meeting.

But in 2017 when the county transit authority began seeking a $20 million federal grant for the $41-million project, the proposed financial plan included St. Pete Beach contributing $1.5 million.

Those dollars, combined with $5 million from the county bus agency and $4 million from St. Petersburg, helped the the Central Avenue Bus Rapid Transit proposal reach a key threshold: All applicants for federal money must have 25 percent of the project covered by local funds .

The article then goes on to discuss the real issues:

Commissioner complaints go beyond the money. Leaders say the county transit authority long ignored their repeated criticism of the project, which would bring 60-foot buses down Gulf Boulevard, a thoroughfare with heavy pedestrian traffic. Commissioners, who question the estimated ridership numbers, called the project “a safety issue” that can clog streets and endanger tourists.

Though the project has been lauded regionally and within St. Petersburg as the first bus rapid transit system in Tampa Bay, others along the beaches have questioned the usefulness of the route that would connect downtown St. Petersburg and the beaches using a dedicated lane along First Avenues N and S. The buses would move back into regular traffic along Pasadena Avenue and head south along Gulf Boulevard ending at the Don CeSar near the Pinellas Bayway.

On May 1, the city of South Pasadena sent a letter to the Florida Department of Transportation expressing concern over the proposal and other projects “that could negatively affect the flow of traffic within the city.”

On Jan. 30 the Sailboat Key Board of Directors passed a resolution opposing the project on behalf of the 818 units of the Harbourside community.

St. Pete Beach is not a member of the county transit authority, which means residents don’t pay into the agency’s budget through their property taxes. Instead, the city has an a-la-carte style agreement, where the city pays about $570,000 a year for trolley service and paratransit.

Most of those complaints are without much merit.  However, if people do not want this plan, which is a good plan, that is their decision to make. (We think they are mistaken, but that is their right.) And if the question is money, if the plan is good enough, it should be funded other ways.

More broadly, just like we think St. Pete Beach should support the BRT plan, we think Pinellas and Pasco should join Hillsborough’s transportation ambition.  But just as St. Pete Beach keeps complaining about the St. Pete BRT plan, Pinellas and Pasco may not become more ambitious.

It is a reminder of why Hillsborough should not just go along with any plan (read “BRT” plan) or merge MPO’s. While we are all for regional planning, we are not for settling for the lowest common denominator.  Hillsborough has shown a desire for better.  It should stick with it and maybe other will join.


— TB(n)X Upcoming Meetings

There are a number of upcoming FDOT “outreach” events (some on this graphic have already happened):

 

From Sunshine Citizens – click on picture for Facebook page

The only way to make your voice heard is to actually make comment so go see what they plan and tell them what you think.


— The Boulevard Idea

Speaking of TB(n)X, it does not include the “Boulevard” option for I-275 from downtown north. (The Boulevard concept website is here)  It does include just the build one lane in each direction option and the no build option.

Interestingly, though not surprisingly, this year’s Congress of New Urbanism Freeways Without Futures report (here) includes that stretch of I-275 and supports the “Boulevard” idea.  The idea is still interesting.

We did a discussion of the “boulevard” idea in 2017. Instead of rewriting it, you can read it here: “Transportation – On the Boulevard”.  (Apologies for the typos) When you read it, note that one thing that has changed since we wrote it is that (contingent on the courts) there is now funding for transit and the possibility of addressing that precondition for the plan to work.


North Tampa/USF Area – A First Attempt

Fowler and Nebraska is at the far edge of what may loosely be called the “USF area.” (that now is marketed as “the Uptown District”) For a long time, it has been under-developed.  This week brought interesting news:

A property near the interchange of Fowler Avenue and Interstate 275 is being prepared for transit-oriented development [ed. “TOD”].

More on TOD in a minute.

The site, in the southeast quadrant of Nebraka and Fowler avenues, totals 26 acres, said Frank Clewis with Commercial Real Estate Advisory Services in Tampa. Clewis’ wife is a member of the Logan family, which has owned that property for generations.

That land can be seen here. Long ago, there were shops, movie theaters, and even a DMV office.  It is land crying out for useful development.  Interestingly, it also touches the CSX tracks at a point where a spur to USF and the line to Pasco merge.

Clewis said Thursday that the family has had several meetings with the state Department of Transportation, and that DOT sees the property as a potential site for a multimodal center.

The Logan family’s vision for the property was unveiled Thursday evening at State of Uptown, an event to address the status of development and redevelopment in the Uptown corridor — a massive area spanning 25,000 acres bound by Busch Boulevard on the south, Bearss Avenue on the north and interstates 75 and 275 on the east and west.

Those efforts are spearheaded by the Innovation Partnership, which abbreviates its name as !p.

And that all sounds good (aside from the “!p” thing).  Really, it does.  Until you see the rendering.

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

The image in the Business Journal is oddly small, but not so small that the main problem cannot be seen.

First, we acknowledge that many transit oriented developments have garages where people park their cars before getting on the transit going somewhere and then return, get their cars and go home. (We are not completely sure if there is a garage in this rendering, but it does not look like it.)  However, TOD’s usually include a number of things: retail, offices, and residential. And this is the kicker: they are built in an urban design that focuses on walking.

The real problem with the idea shown in the picture, aside from there not being any real transit at this location right now, is that it appears to be a sprawling development with what seems to be some extra parking and a pond in the middle.

The whole concept of a TOD is that, not surprisingly, the development is oriented to the transit and its users who tend to do some walking, not the parking. TOD focuses on people, and it is urban in nature.  And if you want a TOD with a park and ride surface lot (not optimal, but anyway), the parking should be on one side of the lot and the development should be clustered around the transit stop and roads and provide a walkable experience to people using transit (and people living and working in the development) with a logical pedestrian circulation pattern. The plan in the drawing seems to have parking as the central focus and the development on the edges with no visible walkable experience.

We give the property owners credit for even thinking about TOD.  And we give them credit for consulting with FDOT. (Though, since there is no approved transit plan, we are not sure what FDOT can say.  Then again,  FDOT has been pushing the “BRT” plan and has been for many years, so maybe that is their focus here.)  However, the resulting plan is not really a TOD.

Nevertheless, we hope the land owners keep working at it and come back with a plan that we can all support and enjoy.  And, maybe by then there will be a real transit plan for their area.


USF Area – Uptown Tennant

Sticking in the USF area, the Uptown rearrangement of the University Mall may be getting its first tech-ish client.

The University of South Florida is set to expand beyond its campus to bring a new kind of awareness to engineering.

The Institute of Applied Engineering, which is less of an institute and more of a meeting of the minds, is looking to move to the Uptown Mall, 2200 E Fowler Ave., as part of a complete overhaul of the area.

Part of the second floor will span 30,000 square feet and be deemed “Tech Lofts,” which will house the institute and other technology organizations and companies. The floor will house a 250-seat auditorium lecture hall, the current movie theater which can hold events, full food service, lounge and restaurant.

* * *

The partnership is preliminary, with a lease still being negotiated. The pairing was announced at the Tampa Bay Innovation Partnership event on March 28. The Innovation Partnership, or !p as it is called, is a group with plans to completely overhaul the newly deemed Uptown neighborhood in Temple Terrace.

The institute is looking at about 4000 sq ft. What does the institute do?

Bishop said researchers working with the institute will focus on applied engineering, aiming to help the U.S. Department of Defense and the Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base solve problems in fields such as autonomous machinery, data analysis and cyber security.

That is all fine with us.  We want the mall property to become a useful, thriving area.

However, the possibility of an office/research tenant does not address any of our concerns regarding the rearrangement/redevelopment itself.  As we have often said, the stated vision for the proposal – a live, work, play urban center – has always been good. Stuff like this:

As for the mall, developer Chris Bowen with RD Management said construction should begin later this year on a 150,000 sq. ft. office building that will replace the old JC Penny department store.

“Do an adaptive re-use, turn it into a class A office for research and other technology players,” he said. “We’re going to line that along a new streetscape that’s walkable, experiential.

“We’re going to open up both lakes to the back, create opportunities to walk along those lakes, gather along those lakes. And we’re going to build residences along that street as well. That’s the first side, the west side of that development.”

Bowen said he expects the county will approve a development plan amendment in May or June that will allow for the re-zoning of Uptown as  “Innovation Corridor Mixed Use-35.”

“It’s a new color on the map for zoning,” he said. “It gives us the opportunity to build a very vibrant, mixed-use, urban-scale model neighborhood that is a platform that supports all the other innovation, technology, research and development-type overlay.

(For “replace the old JC Penny” read recladding the façade of the JC Penny space, presumably with some interior upgrades). Not to mention a significant portion of this article from 83 Degrees media which includes such encouraging things as this:

“Essentially, this work is the start of a walkable, mixed-use urban neighborhood concept and plan that will eventually flow throughout the approximately 100-acre site and become the foundation for a live-work-play ecosystem necessary to integrate, connect, and support the various aspects of the Uptown development’s anchor, life sciences and tech research and development community,” says Bowen. “The recent demolition work will make way for a new streetscape incorporating best practices in walkable urban development and providing new shopping and dining experiences.”

Unfortunately, while there are things we like (like the residential), the plans for the property that have been revealed so far have been far less truly urban and, frankly, somewhat disappointing with large surface lots, a sprawling restaurant row along the manifestly (in road design and built environment) unwalkable Fowler, and a lack of good connections to the area around the property.

Maybe with some success in leasing, the plans can get more ambitious and finally match the rhetoric.  We sure hope so.  There is much potential in that land, and the area could really use maximizing it. and the rhetoric sure sounds good.


Westshore – Kind Of

A proposal from 2016 (See “Westshore – Something Else”) seems to be moving forward. From the Times:

After two decades with no new office space, the West Shore area is now poised to get hundreds of thousands of additional square feet.

Huh? There are a number of buildings on Boy Scout that have been built within the last 20 years (including all of MetWest).  But setting that aside,

Zons Development of Tampa plans to start construction next year on Skyview Plaza, a 13-story building with Class A offices, retail, a restaurant and the first Cambria hotel in the bay area. The contemporary style building will be at 3415 E Frontage Road next to the Social Security Administration and close to Tampa International Airport.

 

From the Times – click on picture for article

This is an odd project.  First, frontage road is a bit on the periphery of the district in a relatively isolated spot.  (On the other hand, being on the west edge next to the highway, the top floors should have some nice water views.)  Second, it also a truly mixed use building, which is quite unusual. The garage is kind of clunky and there is surface parking (at least for now).  And, in all honesty, it is doubtful too many people are walking from this building.  Third, it has a bit of a layer cake feeling, but aesthetics are subjective and renderings are not always so accurate. (Though we do wonder if there are windows in the wall on the left or if it will be a big, blank 13-story wall.)

The developer, Zons Development, plans to break ground in 2020 and wrap up construction by early 2021.

At least it is mixed use, which hopefully becomes more common in the area.


Tampa Heights/West Tampa – On the Roof Looking West

Armature Works finally opened their rooftop bar.

In Tampa Heights, M.Bird just became the latest addition to Armature Works. The popular mixed-use building opened its second-floor rooftop bar and lounge to the public on Tuesday night, following a preview for press and a lively bunch of social media influencers.

You can read about it here. which also has a few pictures of the view.

Looking south:

From the Times – click on picture for article

Looking north:

From the Times – click on picture for article

That’s a pretty nice view and some decent construction in the neighborhood.  It also reminded us of what was going on across the river.

Nearby, the City recently put out an (ill-timed in our opinion) RFP for two “West River” properties.  The proposals have already been submitted:

Four months after the Tampa Bay Rays’ search for a new home hit a dead end in Ybor City, a development partnership is pitching a new ballpark site to Tampa City Hall, where Mayor Bob Buckhorn has pronounced it dead on arrival.

The site is about three miles west of the Ybor location, on 18 acres that City Hall owns near the Hillsborough River. Tampa Riverfront Sports, headed by architect William Henry and developer Geoff Weber, is one of four groups that submitted proposals for the land on March 20.

* * *

Tampa Riverfront’s first phase would include two high-rise towers with more than 1,500 residences. By comparison, the two apartment towers now under construction at Water Street Tampa will include a total of 420 apartments. Their second phase calls for a 30-story, 750-room hotel — bigger than the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina. The 28,000-seat stadium — home for any sport from baseball to tennis — could come in phase three.

* * *

But Henry’s proposal isn’t the city’s only option. Other groups that submitted proposals:

However, we don’t know the details because:

The proposals are exempt from disclosure under Florida’s public records law for 30 days after bids are opened or until the city issues a notice of an intended decision.

We do know this about the stadium idea:

But Buckhorn on Wednesday called the proposal a “non-starter” because he said the proposed scale, density and intensity of the development would overwhelm what is an existing neighborhood.

“I don’t see that as viable,” Buckhorn said of the Tampa Riverfront Sports proposal. “We’re not going to waste a lot of time thinking about that one.”

And that may be, but, given the Mayor has less than a month lest in his term, it should be decided by the next City government anyway.

Since we do not have the proposals right now, we will speak generally. In our opinion, whatever goes on this land needs to be actually urban and quite dense with full street activation, like much of the Heights project (though even that could use some tweaks, like removing the planned surface parking).

Tampa has limited large lots with as central a location and proximity to water (the river) as the property in the RFPs. We have not seen the proposals yet but this we know: we should not settle, no matter the developer.  This property should be developed with real quality and density.  Density done right does not have to overwhelm the existing neighborhood.

The original West River plan is five years old and the revised version (from Feb 2016) is not, in our opinion, not ambitious enough. (see here and here) The conceptual renderings basically show block after block of what definitely looks like squat, generic, stick construction. (You know, the kind that is most often built to flip.)  Tampa has no lack that kind of development by private developers on private land.  The City land should be reserved for better.

The bottom line is that this public land is not going to become less desirable over time.  We would love to see a truly urban redevelopment in the area that takes into account the uniqueness of the opportunity, but not building now is better than settling.  (There is always the option of doing it in stages to let the area develop more and at least some of the land appreciate, bringing better development, rather than just selling all the land at once.)

At least the Mayor said this:

“The response was not as robust as I had hoped,” said Buckhorn, who leaves office May 1 because of term limits. “As much as I want to get this done while I’m here, I’m not going to take a bad deal just to get it done.”

We are glad to hear it. (Too bad the City did not have the same attitude with the land on Florida downtown.) Though the decision should be left to the people who will have to deal with the choice – the next City administration and Council.


Airport – Done Right

This week, the Times had a piece entitled “We want to hear from you: Why do people love Tampa International Airport so much?”    Even though it is no secret that we really like the airport, we did not respond.  Then we saw URBN Tampa Bay’s take and it was so good, we are just going to put it here:

Here’s our answer: Tampa International Airport is awesome because it’s the one piece of transportation infrastructure we have in the bay area that has put people first since day one. Rather than design an airport for airplanes, and force people to walk long distances to reach the various terminals and gates, Tampa International is designed to serve its passengers. So, instead of being laid out horizontally like a typical airport, Tampa International is arranged vertically. Pickup, ticketing, check-in, arrivals, departures and parking, all stacked on top of each other and easily accessible by elevator. Plus, most places within the airport where people may have to walk a considerable distance, Tampa International offers a people mover or escalator. Its people-first design principle is something we think should be the top priority in all of the Tampa Bay area’s public infrastructure.

We would just add that the airport’s choice of technology for moving people around the facility was innovative but not gimmicky.  It was a new take on a proven technology, the proliferation (and ubiquity) of which around the world shows how good an idea it was.

In other news,

Cargo carrier Atlas Air Inc., a contractor for Amazon.com’s Amazon Air operation, is requesting to take up United Airlines’ (NASDAQ: UAL) former hangar space after a recent deal with Amazon.

Atlas will seek approval during the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority April 4 meeting to lease 7,650 square feet from April 4 through September 2020.

Atlas has been operating at the airport for years under a non-signatory agreement and it is seeking to also be signatory, which would save the operator costs in landing fees, an airport spokeswoman said. 

That is all part of the airport’s growing cargo business, and, barring some unknown complication, we are all for it.  Like international flights, the cargo aspect of aviation is an area that has been neglected under previous administrations and is being pushed now, as it should be.


Economy – Indeed


— HQ’s

Last week, we discussed the purchase of WellCare and how it is a blow to the efforts to make this area more of a HQ kind of place.  The next day a column in the Times echoed our sentiment.

Still, the deal hurts a little. WellCare was healthy and growing. It had 4,500 local workers, making it one of our largest private-sector employers. The potential was there to grow bigger, create more high-paying jobs.

It’s hard not to think of this as our loss and St. Louis’ gain.

* * *

Even so, our clout got dinged. That’s what happens when a mid-sized metro area loses one of its few large home-grown companies. The deal comes on the heels of two other local biggies getting bought. Canada’s Emera took over TECO, parent to Tampa Electric Co., in 2016. The next year, QVC purchased St. Petersburg’s HSN (Home Shopping Network).

The WellCare deal hurts a little more knowing that we’ve struggled to persuade other corporations to move their headquarters to our area.

Pretty much.


— Co-Working

Last week, we discussed WeWork’s moves in Tampa.  Less noticed was a move in St. Pete.

Houston-based coworking space company WorkLodge will open its first location outside of the Lone Star state across from Williams Park this October.

The St. Pete location will be about 28,000 square feet and take up the second and third floors of the office building at 136 Fourth St. N. WorkLodge CEO and founder Mike Thakur said that’s just the beginning for his company’s expansion.

“The park across the street? The main drag a block away?” Thakur said of their future Florida digs. “In Texas we work so hard to find spaces. None of them are like this one in St. Pete.”

And not to forget more co-working space:

Station House, another coworking space, is nearby on First Ave S. That local coworking company is opening its second location in South Tampa’s Hyde Park in April. Other similar spaces in the area include CoWorkTampa, Tampa Bay Wave and CoCreativ.

This kind of space clearly has its uses and it is good to have some, but it remains to be seen just how much demand there is for it in this area.  At least it is good for landlords.


— We Need This

There was another recent development that we think is kind of important.

With architecture as low-slung as a classic Florida ranch house, the new innovation center that Jabil opened Thursday is not much to look at from the outside.

No matter. What counts is what happens inside the labs that Jabil has moved into the 40,000-square-foot center. The research and development building is the first of four phases of construction planned as part of a $67 million expansion of Jabil’s headquarters campus on Roosevelt Boulevard. All work is expected to be done by the end of 2021.

You can read more about the research in the article here.

We think it is important that Jabil chose to stay in the area and is setting up dedicated research facilities here.  They could have put their HQ anywhere and they could have set-up the R&D anywhere, regardless of where their HQ was.  We are all for start-ups and university research, but much research and innovation comes from established companies (or start-ups founded by people who come from and academics who work with established companies), and we are very happy they chose to do it here.  It is something of which we need much more.


Downtown/Hyde Park – Exactly

There is news about the Grand Central area:

Fly Bar, a longtime staple of downtown Tampa, has landed just outside the central business district.

* * *

As Culbreath was looking for Fly’s new home, the real estate investors who bought Mise en Place’s building in the Grand Central area approached her for a property they own in St. Petersburg. Culbreath’s Hotel Bar concept, the principal of Tricera Capital figured, would be a good fit in St. Pete.

* * *

Fly obviously won’t be able to replicate the rooftop deck that was the signature feature of its Franklin Street space, but it is planning to have outdoor seating. Fly will occupy around 2,700 square feet on the ground floor of the building, in the western facing end that comes to a point at Grand Central Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard.

URBN Tampa Bay got it right:

Imagine if the city had settled and let the Altis Grand Central project that’s now under construction, get built without activating the south side of Grand Central Ave as it will soon do. Instead of being just another street defined by its lost potential, the small corridor just west of downtown is now set to become a mini-destination of its own.

Settling now almost never brings better things in the future, it just lowers expectations and reduces potential.  Thankfully, that did not happen in this case, but it still happens too often.


Geography – Whither Brandon?

It is time for another installment in our occasional series on geography.  The Business Journal has an article entitled “Garden-style apartments in Tampa suburbs sold for $63 million” that told us:

A sprawling apartment community in the Tampa suburbs has been sold for $63 million.

The Park at Via Rosa, which has 390 units in 33 buildings across nearly 24 acres, was sold to a joint venture of Chicago-based Providence Real Estate and Aegon Real Assets US (Aegon RA), Cushman & Wakefield Inc. said Monday.

The price breaks down to $161,538 per apartment. The seller was Grand Rivage at Brandon Lakes Ltd., which appears to be the only group that’s ever owned the complex since it was built in 2000, according to Hillsborough County property records.

The complex certainly is sprawling (you can decide yourself about the garden part), which should be no surprise since it is in Brandon, more specifically 2211 Grand Isle Dr, Brandon, FL 33511 (yes, Brandon is in the address) off S. Gronto Lake Rd almost due south of the Brandon Town Center.  It has been a long time, if ever, since Brandon has been referred to locally as “in Tampa suburbs.”

Draw your own conclusions.


Because We Can

There are a few new cranes up around town.

815 Water Street:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page (original Kevin Thurman)

Heights Union:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

And there has been one for the St. Joe’s expansion for a bit, but we do not have a picture.

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