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Roundup 5-24-2019

May 23, 2019

Contents

Transportation

— Roads to Nowhere

— Virgin Trains

Governance

— Fees

— CRAs

Airport – Oh Well

Downtown – Encore! Something New

South Tampa – Uninspiring

USF – Honors

Economy/ Economic Development

— Talent

— Housing

St Pete – The Old Police Station

Rays

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

— Biking

— We Work

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the World

_____________________________


Transportation


— Roads to Nowhere

As we expected, the Governor signed the toll road bill.   As any regular reader will know, we think the plan is ill-advised and does not address this state’s needs.  From this, we think the Governor probably also knows that:

DeSantis didn’t address the concerns from environmentalists, who fear the roads will lead to sprawl through rural and sensitive areas of the state, wiping out wetlands and wildlife corridors.

And he spoke only briefly about why the roads were necessary, saying just that it would be “good” to have new routes in the state.

“Completing the Suncoast Parkway, I think, would give another route to places like Tallahassee and Northwest Florida, particularly from Central Florida,” he said. “So I think that that’s something that’s good.”

After taking office in January, DeSantis had advocated for more urban infrastructure, and he said Friday that the new toll roads probably won’t be enough to handle growth in the state.

“We’re probably going to need more than that just given the state’s growing and just given that traffic could be a big problem,” he said. “So I’m supportive of infrastructure.”

However, given the sponsors and supporters, it was always likely he would sign it.  We also think that much of the criticism he has received has been a bit off the mark.  For instance this from the Times editorial:

A state desperate for a 21st century transportation system featuring cutting-edge mass transit should not waste billions of dollars on toll roads to nowhere. It’s unimaginative, unsustainable and unlikely to accomplish anything other than enrich big land owners and encourage urban sprawl. Yet Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the legislation into law Friday, undercutting his efforts to build his credentials as a fiscally conservative environmentalist.

And this from Creative Loafing:

the left-leaning advocacy group Progress Florida, as well as a number of other environmental groups and activists across the state, has dubbed the project the “Billionaire Boulevard,” chalking it up as a political payback for major landowners and development interests and describing it as “one of the biggest land grabs in decades, threatening large swaths of natural Florida in the process” in a petition drive in April. 

And this:

“This decision will haunt the governor,” Sierra Club Florida Conservation Chair Tim Martin said in a statement. “Teddy Roosevelt is probably rolling in his grave right now that a comparison was ever made between him and Gov. DeSantis.”

Yes, it is a bad bill.  And this is probably true:

During the legislative session, Democratic opponents of the bill echoed warnings from environmental groups that the plan will destroy wetlands and that the state should focus on fixing already-existing roads. They also said lawmakers should get the results of task-force studies before putting up funding for the toll roads.

But remember the Senate vote was 37-1 with 2 not voting.  That is hardly strong opposition to the bill or support for the environment by the other party.  There is enough blame to go around, especially when votes are explained like this.

** An aside **

Which brings us to this from a Times column this week:

Some things seem inevitable. Snowbirds return every fall, beach bars play Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, and Florida lawmakers pillage the affordable housing trust fund.

They did it again this year, sweeping $240 million to other purposes, leaving just $85 million to help house low-income families. This is the 12th year in a row that Republicans who control the state House have steered at least half the trust fund’s money toward other budget priorities. The raids date back even further. Since 2001, they have siphoned more than $2 billion from the trust fund into general revenue, according to a Senate report.

After the Great Recession, state leaders said they needed the money for vital government operations. As the economy improved, they kept doing it because they could. They liked to remind everyone that earmarks for affordable housing were merely suggestions for how to spend the money. The Legislature writes the budget, they said.  

While remembering that the toll road bill does this:

During the next fiscal year, the state will set aside $45 million in General Revenue and slowly take more over a three-year period. By 2022, an estimated $100 million would be available for the three major corridor plans.

Through the same period, another $32.5 million would also have been siphoned to other transportation funds designed to beef up rural infrastructure.

And remembering that money is fungible and there is a cost to everything.  And one can fairly ask why the Legislature is taking money from affordable housing to pay for, among other things, roads that are not needed, do not solve any presently existing transportation issues, and will probably create more issues than they solve.


— Virgin Trains

While it seems to have been said to have begun a number of times, work on the Orlando to South Florida leg of the Virgin Trains route actually go underway this week.

Virgin Trains USA has revealed its contractors for its $4 billion Orlando-to-Miami route.

The Coral Gables-based train service named Winter Park-based Hubbard Construction Co., Sanford-based Wharton-Smith Inc., Littleton, Massachusetts-based Middlesex Corp., Watsonville, California-based Granite Construction Inc. (NYSE: GVA) and joint venture HSR Constructors as the team for the project. The announcement comes as initial work on the first two zones of the four-zone project, including the vehicle maintenance facility, began Tuesday.

* * *

For zone two and three, which will include a 3.5-mile stretch at Orlando International Airport and about 35 miles of track between Cocoa and Orlando’s airport, Middlesex Corp. will handle phase 2 and Granite Construction will handle phase 3 of construction.

* * *

Phase 2 is expected to create 10,000 jobs and generate $650 million in state, federal and local tax revenue. Construction of the entire project is expected to take 36 months and be completed in 2022.

As we have said, they won’t get to Tampa until they get to Orlando, so this is positive news.


Governance


— Fees

Last week we discussed taxes and fees generally and said that we are not for raising fees just for the sake of raising fees, but, one way or another, you have to pay for the things you want. This week there was a very good editorial regarding specifically development fees in the Times.

For too long, Hillsborough County has charged real estate developers absurdly low fees. The fees often don’t cover basic costs, including the time county employees spend reviewing development proposals. Thankfully, the commission appears ready to address this unneeded subsidy. The sooner the better. Taxpayers in a county with a growing list of needs shouldn’t pick up part of the tab for these for-profit projects.

Take as an example a builder who wants to develop 100 acres in a way that is not outlined in the county’s land use plan. Hillsborough County charges $1,000 to have certified county planners analyze the project and process the application. In Pasco, developers pay $7,000, according to a consultant’s report. In Broward, it’s $17,500. In Manatee, it’s $20,000.

* * *

. . . The process takes time and expertise, far more than what’s covered by a mere $1,000. In fact, the county loses about $3,000 per report on average, according to a study from 2016.

The same study contemplated raising that particular fee to $4,000. If that sounds high, consider that developers often squeeze hundreds of houses into a single project. Build 100 homes, and it works out to $40 a pop, less than the price of a kitchen faucet. Build 400, and it’s $10. The fee becomes a mere blip in the overall price and certainly not enough to dampen development.

That is quite a compelling case for a change.  We see no reason Hillsborough should charge less than Pasco.  (By doing so, previous County Commissions have simply foisted the costs onto local taxpayers rather than the developers who profit.)  We doubt that developers are going to flee Hillsborough if it charges the same as neighboring counties.

It is time to rationalize the system.


— CRAs

Creating a Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) can be a very useful tool to help revitalize an area and pay for localized amenities.  Tampa actually has a quite a few with a sometimes odd maps, but still they can be useful. The Times had an article this week about an interesting proposal. (see here)

Tampa’s nine Community Redevelopment Areas, created to eradicate blight, have had their successes over the past 35 years: see Downtown and the Channel District.

But is their usefulness being maximized?

But their effectiveness as an economic development tool has come under fire from activists and some residents who question how much redevelopment areas have helped the average person, especially in heavily minority East Tampa.

That discontent has now found receptive ears on City Council.

* * *

Renewal areas get their revenue from property taxes within the district’s boundaries, specifically the difference between tax collected in 2003 — the base year — and subsequent years. Basically, if a property has gained any value since 2003, that money has gone to the renewal area.

Some residents say they haven’t gotten much in return for the millions collected, pointing to East Tampa’s continued status as one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

So

At a meeting earlier this month, some members of the council — which oversees redevelopment areas — said turning over management to outside agencies like local non-profits is an idea worth exploring.

What exactly do they have in mind?

Dingfelder suggested bidding out management of the East Tampa renewal area as a pilot project. The renewal area is one of the largest in the state, covering 4,817 acres roughly bounded by Interstate 275 and 50th Street between Columbus Drive and Hillsborough Avenue. Created in 2003, East Tampa’s renewal area had $2.921 million in its ending 2018 fund balance, third most among the city’s CRAs behind the Downtown and the Channel District.

Is there a specific complaint?

Connie Burton, a longtime East Tampa activist, said residents are upset at city officials salaries eating up a chunk of that money.

But City staff counters:

Using city staff to operate the day to day activities of the renewal areas saves money, said Bob McDonaugh, the city’s economic opportunity administrator who oversees their operations.

The overhead and administrative costs amount to 3.7 percent of the $29.1 million in total revenues. The city also provides plenty of free services to renewal areas, including legal and accounting services, construction bidding and inspections, McDonaugh said.

* * *

Complaints that city staff are being paid out of redevelopment area dollars are misplaced, McDonaugh said. Managers of the renewal areas work exclusively in those areas, “that’s their full-time job,” he said. Revenue from the renewal area pays 85 percent of their salaries. The city pays the rest — a cost-savings to the renewal areas, he said.

* * *

McDonaugh, whose $175,550 annual salary is split between the renewal area and the city, said city management provides an additional benefit to renewal areas by leveraging city and state funds to make improvements.

That is certainly an argument.  It may or may not be valid.  There is only one way to tell for sure – bid out a pilot program.  Two other City Councilors are already on board.  Anther had this to say:

The current renewal area chairman, Joe Citro, wasn’t sold on the idea of removing the city from its management duties.

“If he can find a better, cheaper way, more power to him,” Citro said of Dingfelder’s proposal. “But we’re saving money by using city staff.”

Of course, the entire purpose of a pilot program is to see if it is a better, cheaper way.  Another Councilor had this to say:

Viera said he thinks the bigger issue, especially in East Tampa, is a broader discussion on economic development for the city’s poorest neighborhoods—a constant issue in the recently concluded campaigns.

“In East Tampa, there is a lot of discontent. We as a City Council have to listen and act,” Viera said, adding he’d have to see evidence of abuse before voting to outsource management of renewal areas.

But that misses the point.  It is not necessarily about abuse.  It is about efficiency.  If there is a more efficient way run the program it that gets more for the money, that is how it should be run.

We have no firm position one way or other regarding whether City staff running CRA’s or someone else doing is better, but we think it is worth seeing at least what the bids, if there are any, would be.  It may be better or maybe not, but the constituents deserve to get the most out of their government.   Without examining the options, we will never know if that is happening.


Airport – Oh Well

The airport has been increasing its cargo business in recent years.  A big part of that has involved Amazon.  Apparently, that is going away.

Gene Conrad, director of Lakeland Linder International Airport, asked city commissioners Friday to approve a deal with Amazon to construct a 285,000-square-foot air cargo complex at their May 20 meeting. It will bring 800 to 1,000 jobs to the area, he said.

* * *

The 20-year deal will allow Amazon to lease 47.2 acres to construct a seven-jet cargo hangar, with an option to later expand on an adjoining 62 acres. The company will pay the city about $80,000 a month, with an option to renew the lease three times at 10 years each, for a total of 50 years. If Amazon exercises the option to expand, it can do so on the same rate and terms as the initial contract, according to city attorney Tim McCausland.

Amazon also would pay the airport 85 cents per 1,000 pounds of cargo landed at the airport, and a 3-cent surcharge per gallon of fuel.

For its part of the deal, the airport is expected to upgrade the landing systems at the airport, add five fuel tanks and improve one of the runways.

Not surprisingly, Lakeland approved it.  That is a big deal for Lakeland.  But what does it mean for Tampa International?

Lakeland city manager Tony Delgado told the Lakeland Ledger that he has been ‘led to believe’ that Amazon will gradually cease its cargo operations out of Tampa International Airport — where Amazon currently has a volume of seven to eight flights a day — by 2020.

And what was the Tampa reaction?

“We’re sorry to see them go, but this move makes sense for all parties. We had been in conversations with Amazon, but we don’t have the space to accommodate their future needs. Right now the Amazon planes are staging on the site where we want to build a new airside for passenger service, which is our primary mission,” Tampa International Airport spokesman Danny Valentine told the Tampa Bay Business Journal. 

“Lakeland has the room for Amazon, and the company’s interest in growing there attests to the economic strength of our region,” he added. 

That is a good attitude.  In reality, having Amazon expand at Lakeland into what is being called its largest hub in the southeast is good for the area, even if it reduces revenues a bit at the Tampa International.

Tampa International’s cargo revenues saw a boost with Amazon, but overall it represented a tiny percentage of its annual revenues, which are expected to exceed $250 million this year.

Amazon and UPS are currently operating in a temporary area that will become Airside D, a 16-gate international airside in Phase 3 of the airport’s $2.6 billion master plan expansion. As a result, cargo operations are being relocated to 70 acres east of the main terminal. 

How small?

First, operations. Amazon flies six to eight flights a day into or out of Tampa. By comparison, the airport handles a total of 450 to 500 flights a day.

Also, revenue. Amazon pays the airport about $1 million a year for those flights. That’s a fraction of the airport’s $250 million in annual revenues.

So,

“Actually, this is really the best for all parties,” Tampa International Airport spokeswoman Janet Scherberger said last week. In the macro sense, she said, growth anywhere in the region is good for everyone. More particularly, “Lakeland has the space for Amazon, and we just don’t have the space for them without making a really significant investment. … Really, our priority is passenger service.”

Plus, the business is staying in the area with more room to grow, and Lakeland is a logical place for a large cargo distribution center. (Though, they are still looking to get a little passenger service.)  And hopefully, Tampa International can replace the business with more cargo . .  and more passenger flights at the new airside.

(Final note: service to Amsterdam on Delta started Thursday)


Downtown – Encore! Something New

There was news about the Encore! project.  From URBN Tampa Bay:

After a long wait, ENCORE! Tampa appears to finally be moving forward with a new building. A 282-unit apartment building has been proposed for a portion of the block bound by Harrison, Governor, Central, and Cass Streets. The building also has 2,608 square feet of retail space.The existing uses on the southern portion of the block would remain.

————————————————————-

Looking at the site plan, we don’t understand why the loading, unloading, trash zones, and parking ramps face the park…

Here is the site plan:

From Florida Future at SkycraperCity – click on picture for post

That is an excellent point.  We get having units or retail on the main drag of Encore! But it makes no sense to have the loading docks next to the park (then again, it made no sense for other buildings to have parking covered only by a wall face the park.)

It is interesting that this application is for a building with 282 units that sits on a block that was designated for “high-rise residential,” and there is a contract in the application selling the property to a developer, even though the application lists the Housing Authority as the owner.  It is unclear how tall the theoretical building would be, though it does not seem like it will be very tall (for reference, Tempo has 208 units and Reed has 158).

Until we know more, all we can say for sure is that having the loading docks and trash facing the park is not a really good idea.  But we are prepared to be disappointed.


South Tampa – Uninspiring

As most readers know the Westshore Marina District is a rather large development south of Gandy on the waterfront.  The overall district is mixed use with some planned condo towers.  It also includes some pretty generic apartments and townhouses, some with surface parking.  Now comes a proposal for some land on a peninsula just west of the south end of the Marina District and just east of the Army Reserve Center. (see map here.  As a side note, notice the CSX tracks running right by the Marina district and this project).  From URBN Tampa Bay:

A new residential project has been proposed on the waterfront at 5105 Tyson Ave. just south of Gandy. The project features a mix of 3-story townhomes and 4-story apartment buildings, containing a total of 358 units over 11.937 acres.

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook Page

 

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

This is their take:

The project is being developed roughly adjacent to Westshore Marina District. Despite this, the project is walled off from the surrounding area and is single use. The developer is clearly trying to piggyback off of Westshore Marina District without actually contributing to the mixed-use community being created. This would be a huge missed opportunity to have such a walled-off and single-use development built next to the mixed-use Westshore Marina District.

The project goes before the Tampa City Council for rezoning on September 12th.

We agree that it is a missed opportunity, especially along the waterfront (where, while there will be a 10 ft walkway along the water, it appears to be fenced off from the project.  We assume there will be some gate access to that, but it is not entirely clear).  Unfortunately, while not walled, the Westshore Marina District contains similar developments even along the water (see here).  That is one of the problems with settling.  Once you settle, you tend to get more of the same, and it becomes harder to not approve it.

On the other hand, setting aside disappointment at the overall design, if done well, this project would essentially become part of the Westshore Marina District.  Hopefully, the developer will make some changes to make it better relate to its neighbors, at least.


USF – Honors

There was an interesting announcement of another big donation for USF this week.

One of the first things University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft did when she arrived 19 years ago was turn the Honors Department into the Honors College, and as she nears the end of her career, she wants to take it one step further by donating $20 million to create a new home for the Honors College.

The donation was announced Wednesday morning north of the USF Muma College of Business, which was deemed the new site of the Judy Genshaft Honors College. The college is made possible by the donation of Genshaft and her husband, Steven Greenbaum. It will create a five-story, 80,000-square-foot space.

* * *

Currently the Honors College exists on the first floor of the Allen Building. Officials noted the presence of an actual building would send both students and prospective faculty alike a message of the importance of higher education learning at the institution. There is also the hope an additional push for honors students will help cement the university’s preeminent status, which it recently received and gives the chance for additional funding from the state. Preeminence occurs when a number of metrics are met across the board.

 

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

 

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

USF definitely could use a dedicated Honors College building.  It will certainly help make the program more competitive, which is good for the area generally.

As for the building, it is interesting though we doubt it will be as isolated as the renderings make it appear.  It also has various screens and other features which make it a bit hard to get a real feel for the main building but it seems like slightly bigger windows overall might be nice.

In any event, good for USF.


Economy/ Economic Development


— Talent

The Business Journal featured a number of articles involving comments from its Tomorrow’s Tampa Bay Series regarding talent development, retention, and attraction.  We are not going to discuss them all but we will get to some.  Before we do, there is this, also from the Business Journal:

Five years ago, the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. took on research about how CEOs outside the area perceive doing business here — and ultimately, whether they would consider a headquarters move to Tampa Bay.

In 2014, San Diego-based Barry Quarles of Market Enhancement Group did the research, which included 350 CEOs, some of whom were local. Now, the EDC decided to check back in with about half of those CEOs for a gut check and enlisted MEG again.

“We wanted to make sure we aren’t believing our own hype here,” said Michelle Bauer, COO of the EDC. “The affirmation that this market has really leapfrogged as a high quality, headquarter-worthy destination is a great thing because the more headquarters we get here, whether they move here or are home grown, is good for everybody.” 

But there was also an “aha” moment, as 69 percent of those CEOs surveyed this time said the ability to attract qualified employees is up 57 percent from 2014 as a top five reason to move or establish a new headquarters here. A “more favorable labor environment” also took a big jump — as 31 percent more CEOs cited it as a reason to move here compared to 2014.  

Another improvement was in the perception of quality of life beyond beaches: 19 percent reported this as a negative in 2014; only 11 percent did in 2019. People are getting the message that there’s much more here than water and sand.

Which is interesting given some of the comments from the Tampa Bay Partnership head to the Business Journal:

TBBJ: Last year you guys embarked on a major project, the Regional Competitiveness Report. It assessed regional strengths and weakness. When we got to the talent category, oh, my goodness, Rick.

Homans: Yeah. The jaws dropped.

TBBJ: It was a big “wow.” Tampa Bay ranks at or near the bottom of almost every single talent indicator.

Homans: First of all, what we do is we have an annual report. And for anybody who wants to see it online, it’s very interactive. It’s regionalcompetitiveness.org. That’s the best way. We have a hard copy, too. It compares us in 60 different indicators against 19 different communities. We met with about 100 different groups to develop this framework, so it had a lot of input and inclusivity in getting to that point. And one of the big five foundational areas is talent. When you looked at educational attainment, for example, population 25 to 64 years old that has an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree or an advanced degree, we were 19 out of 20 of those markets. In some cases, 20 out of 20. Our labor force participation, 20 out of 20 in those markets. Our disconnected youth, which is 16 to 24 years old that is not in a job or education, we were 20 out of 20. Which many people call “disconnected.” As you would say, they call it “opportunity youth.” So when you kind of put them all together they were jarring. They were a wake-up call to us that sometimes the rhetoric doesn’t match the reality and that we have some serious work to do as a community in asking, you know, “What’s wrong? What’s happening here?” And these are not numbers that are pulled out of thin air. These are numbers that are drawn from the census data and Bureau of Labor Statistics.

TBBJ: How do you then begin to figure out what actions to take?

Homans: Our job in putting forth the data is to give that to the community. And we will be updating it every year. The community needs to figure out how it responds to that data as well. But the Partnership had to figure out, “What’s our role as business leaders with this?” We then went even deeper into the data and have embarked on a strategy to develop what we call an “employer-led demand-driven workforce strategy” in Tampa Bay. But lots of issues came out of all of this. Here’s a few “headlines” from the data. One is there’s a lot of growth in this market.  There’s population growth. We are leaders. When you have the wind at your back like that, you have the ability to solve problems. We’ve all been to markets where there’s population decline and it’s a completely different feeling in this market. There’s growth everywhere here. However, our average wages, which ties to workforce, are some of the lowest out of our competitor communities, at $46,000 a year. Our gross regional product per capita — and I think that’s one of the best measures of the health of an economy — we’re at $37,000. The markets that are in the top 5 are at $70,000 to $80,000. That’s an indication of value being produced in the market, which is an indication, when you put wages together with it, of have we really developed the high-wage, high-value economy that we aspire to? Now, we may meet some of the national averages, but when we’re trying to compete at a higher level, we’ve got our work cut out for us. And I think that’s one of the big questions, is how do we develop regionally, that economic strategy toward that?

None of that should be (or have been) a surprise, either from hard numbers or anecdotally. (Though, once again, we commend the Partnership for the competitiveness reports.  They are a very useful tool.)  One part of that remark we truly appreciate (enough to quote it again) is this:

They were a wake-up call to us that sometimes the rhetoric doesn’t match the reality and that we have some serious work to do as a community in asking, you know, “What’s wrong? What’s happening here?”

Indeed.

We know what is happening is complex, and we do not claim to have all the answers.  However, there are a few things to note.  First, for decades the economic development strategy of this area was based on real estate development and lower wage service jobs.  Those jobs do not require a large number of highly educated workers and they do not pay that well, though the people at the top made a lot of money.  Moreover, economic development officials touted the low cost of labor which, not surprisingly, attracts lower paid jobs.  Also, not surprisingly, many people who wanted higher paying jobs, including many of those with more education, left because the opportunities were not here.  In addition, there was a complacency that the water and the weather was all that was needed to attract money and talent.  But, as we have pointed out a number of times, other places have weather and water – and amenities.  And, frankly, much of the build environment was at low cost, to a low standard, and ugly. (See here about attractive places attracting talent)

That is not a comprehensive list of factors and all of them do not apply to every case.  But it is a start.  In any event, what to do about it?

TBBJ: Let’s pivot to action and what you have been able to do, specifically the Tampa Bay Works program. Please explain that.

Homans: When we saw the problem, what we started to do immediately was to scan the country and see what are some best practices out there. Based on my background from New Mexico where I was secretary of economic development for Gov. [Bill] Richardson there and had worked in workforce. We saw a new term kind of floating to the surface of “employer-led demand-driven,” so I started to look into that. I found a great example in Houston. I found a model that the U.S. Chamber Foundation had developed in the last five years called “Talent Pipeline Management.” And the beauty of this approach is you start from the collaborative side, the employer collaborative for an industry, and you begin. We have now hired an executive director, Peg Walton, who is sitting right here. Peg has great national experience. Fortunately, she was living here in Clearwater and available. We went through a competitive process with industries. We picked health care, we picked manufacturing.

TBBJ: Why manufacturing and health care?

Homans: Because they came to the table and they said, “We have terrible pain points, critical hiring needs. We are willing to work together as an industry. We’re competitors, but we’re willing to come around the table.” In health care, for example, we have six of the hospital systems sitting around the same table: BayCare, Tampa General, Moffitt, HCA, Guidewell’s company, and Advent Health. They are now going through a process to define what are their three most critical jobs hardest to hire. The interesting thing that happens when you do this with an industry is you find that — and they have already found this — that the jobs they’re trying to hire for, they call them all different things. They’ve got different job titles across the board. Then when you start to go deeper and say, “What are your requirements for those jobs?” they realize they’ve all got different requirements for the same job that they call different things. Then if you flip around and you look at the demand side and you look at the supply side, those are all the workforce providers. Think of the signals that they’re getting or not getting. It’s like static on your TV set. No way for them to understand what that industry actually needs until the industry can get its act together and define what are the job titles, synthesize it, and what are the requirements that you collectively need, and be able to communicate that as an industry to the supply chain. Then the supply chain begins to organize itself to respond, and there are preferred providers. It’s business bringing the principles of supply chain management to the job of hiring talent.

First, we think those things are fairly good ideas.  Filling the existing needs of local companies is certainly helpful to those companies and the people who get the jobs.

Nevertheless, it does not actually address the bigger questions of raising wages, raising productivity, and attracting and retaining talent.  (Those jobs openings discussed are already here and are already not attracting and retaining talent.)  We understand that there are local incubators and co-working locations.  And that is also good.  We also acknowledge that this area is better in terms of amenities than it used to be.  But other places are better, too.

So we go back to the old question that should be at the core of our economic development thinking:

If a person can live anywhere (or almost anywhere) they want, why would they choose to live here as opposed to another area that already has so many amenities that we are still talking about?

The answer still has to be more than a shallow marketing pitch (that serious people will easily see through).


— Housing

Time to check in with housing again:

After years of steadily rising home prices, it would appear that the Tampa Bay housing market has also finally reached its value threshold, according to a recent report from real estate site Zillow.

Home prices in Tampa Bay have continued to decline over the past two quarters, adding to the the first downward trend nationally in nearly seven years, says the report. Currently, the median home value in Tampa Bay for April was $213,800, which is a 0.4% difference from March, and a 5.7% decrease from this time last year.

Zillow report here. Moreover,

Based on figures released Tuesday by Florida Realtors, Tampa Bay’s real estate market continues on an erratic course as prices of single-family homes — the biggest share of the market — rose in Pinellas, dropped in Hillsborough and Pasco and were flat in Hernando. Houses are taking longer to sell than they did a year ago April. Sellers also are getting less of their asking price than they did in April 2018.

Here’s the county-by-county breakdown:

Pinellas: Prices up 6.8 percent to a median of $269,500, sales down 2 percent.

Hillsborough: Prices down 1 percent to a median of $247,390, sales up 11.2 percent.

Pasco: Prices down 2.1 percent to a median of $213,150, sales up 9.5 percent.

Hernando: Prices up less than 1 percent to a median of $190,688, sales up 8.7 percent.

And that does not get into affordability, which, given our low incomes (and compounded by high wealth inequality), plus transportation and other costs, is always an issue.

Of course, time will tell.


St Pete – The Old Police Station

There was news about the old St Pete Police Station property:

The 2-acre lot between Central Avenue and First Avenue N on the west side of 13th Street is poised to become the centerpiece of the exploding Edge District. Seven ambitious proposals to redevelop the property call for mixed-use development that would all facilitate Mayor Rick Kriseman’s “live, work, play” mantra.

Despite the city’s urging to incorporate affordable housing, not a single plan makes a serious commitment.

First, regarding the affordable housing, it is probably negotiable and if the City does not get what it wants, it should reject all the proposals.  There is enough development in downtown St. Pete.  They should be picky.

Now, back to the proposals.  The Times article (here) does a pretty good job of listing the proposals with a rendering.  They do not get into all the details, which can be found at the St. Pete website (here under “1300 1st Ave N. RFP Responses”).

We think this is a really promising piece of land.  On the other hand, we are not really excited about any of the proposals.  None of them are really that interesting architecturally.  Most have lots of parking.  Without delving really deeply, our initial impression is that, if we had to choose, we would favor the Altis proposal, but that is not firm.  Frankly, they are all a bit disappointing.


Rays

Here’s some more Rays news: Hillsborough still wants a shot here; bad attendance matters here; and another thing here.


Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country


— Biking

URBN Tampa Bay had an interesting USDOT/FHWA graphic regarding the comfort level people have biking in different kinds of bike infrastructure:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

(The source document is here) It simply reinforces what we and others have been saying regarding bike infrastructure.  Simply painting lines on a road does not really do much.

And that brings us to interesting Quartz article (here) regarding adding a bit to bike safety:

The hard truth is that bicycles are still largely seen as a nuisance on the road. We’re on the margins—literally. Cyclists are reminded of this every time we get skimmed by a car. According to the World Health Organization, over half of international traffic deaths involve vulnerable road users such as cyclists. And because Americans are among the least avid cyclists in the world, they’re among the most likely to get killed by a car.

But I’ve discovered a life-saving device that allows cyclists to protect themselves and take back the road: the pool noodle.

Find one for about $2 anywhere: dollar stores, shopping malls, even the supermarket. Choose from the array of fun colors and use a bungee cord to strap this light, flexible toy to your bike rack so that it sticks out to the left side (or the right side, if you’re in a country where cars drive on the left). Start pedaling and watch as car after car moves over to the other lane.

Why not?


— We Work

We work has been signing leases in this area recently which makes this interesting article from Bloomberg about their strategy for the future more interesting.  The main points: they burn a lot of money and want to become building owners.  It is worth a read.


Meanwhile, In the Rest of the World

There was another article about the not pending arrival of autonomous cars:

What’s changed? Self-driving cars—and their associated building blocks such as machine learning, computer vision, and LIDAR—continue to improve, but executives other than Musk have been admitting that reports of their impending deployment were greatly exaggerated. Ford CEO Jim Hackett said last month that the industry had “overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles.” Chris Urmson, the former leader of Google’s self-driving car project, once hoped that his son wouldn’t need a driver’s license because driverless cars would be so plentiful by 2020. Now the CEO of the self-driving startup Aurora, Urmson says that driverless cars will be slowly integrated onto our roads “over the next 30 to 50 years.” That’s nearly as long as it took computers to evolve from IBM’s first mainframe to Apple’s first iPhone.

You can read it here.

Because We Can

Finally, a picture of the progress on 815 Water Street.

From NaqoyqatZ at SkyscraperCity – click on picture for post

 

 

 

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