Skip to content

Roundup 8-9-2019

August 8, 2019

Contents

Transportation

— On and On

— HART

— Ferry Land

— Downtowner

— Pinellas, Maybe

Downtown – More Disappointing Encores

West Tampa – This One, Too

TGH – Hardening

Politics/Regionalism – Water

St. Pete – Development Developments

— Albert Whitted

— A Big Deal

Pasco – Um, Yes It Is

When the Lights Go On in Our City

Rays

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the State

— Cash Flow

— Same As It Ever Was-ish

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

________________________


Transportation


— On and On

The referendum lawsuits keep going.

Attorney and All for Transportation chairman Tyler Hudson filed his cross appeals in the bond validation case that is now pending before the Florida Supreme Court concerning the sales tax.

All for Transportation also filed cross appeals in the declaratory judgment action that is pending before the Second District Court of Appeal.

* * *

The legal actions are in response to separate appeals initiated by Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White and Apollo Beach resident Robert Emerson.

Emerson is asking the Florida Supreme Court to reconsider the All For Transportation tax bond validation, which would allow the county to have a revenue source. He’s fighting the validation in the capacity as an affected resident.

Emerson’s request follows White’s decision to appeal a judge’s ruling upholding legality of the passed transportation surtax. His appeal is separate from White’s.

As usual, we are not commenting on the substance of the lawsuits.  And, in our opinion, nothing has changed regarding what the County Commission should do.


— HART

It seems HART is doing what the County should be (is) doing – planning like they will have the referendum money under the formula.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority has made a priority list to prepare for the $120 million it’s expected to see with the passed surtax.

The authority reviewed the draft plan of its project for the Independent Oversight Committee, as it must submit the list to the group by Sept. 30.

So what made the list?

The recommendations include restoring three shuttered routes. Those are Route 46 serving the Palmetto Beach area, Route 4 in South Tampa and MacDill Air Force Base and Route 41 on Sligh Avenue. Those routes were eliminated after HART had to cut service to balance its budget.

The restored service will cost the agency $4.4 million.

The recommendations also call for 97,000 additional hours of operation including more weekend service with 30-minute bus frequency and expanded weekday service. Those enhancements would cost $2.1 million for weekend service and $3.9 million for weekday service.

The plan also calls for 16 new buses by the end of 2020, which would be needed to expand and restore service.

The HART board on Monday also expressed ongoing commitment to the agency’s downtown and Ybor City Streetcar partnership with the city of Tampa that’s currently under consideration for expansion. They also expressed support for a bus rapid transit study along the Florida and Nebraska Avenue corridors.

Discussions will also continue about the future of light rail in Hillsborough County,

Making a list is the responsible thing to do, and this list seems generally fine, though they just need to make sure they include figuring out how to connect the CSX line to a downtown-Westshore/airport line.


— Ferry Land

As you may remember, way back when the whole South County to MacDill ferry thing began six or so years ago, the proposed South County stop/terminal was to be around Port Redwing – more specifically the Schultz Preserve.  That was OK until environmental groups complained (with some basis) and then the Port, without much elaboration, said that the location was unsafe for maritime traffic. (See, from 2015, “Transportation – The Bizarreness of the Ferry”). Given that, the proponents of the ferry looked to Williams Park on the Alafia River.  But they needed some land owned by Mosaic which Mosaic has no interest in selling.  That brings us to the last few weeks:

Mosaic Fertilizer has offered to donate a portion of its Big Bend Marine Terminal site to the county at “little to no cost” for a Gibsonton-based ferry terminal.

In a letter sent to Merrill on Tuesday, the fertilizer and phosphate mining giant said it has earmarked a portion of land for the project in the southwest corner of its Big Bend plant, which receives, warehouses and ships out finished fertilizer products.

The site, located just south of Port Redwing and west of U.S. 41, already has the waterfront land needed to build the parking and docking structures for a ferry terminal, as well as access to Big Bend Road, the area’s main thoroughfare, the letter said.

Here is the exact location:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

There are a few things to consider.  First, we are not going to speak to the proposal by the operating company a few months ago with the St Pete-Tampa service, etc.  We are only considering the South County-MacDill service, because everything else is a fun-cruise that has nothing to do with transit.

Second, here is a comparison of the sites from a presentation to the County Commission from an August 7, 2019 BOCC agenda:

 

From County Commission 8-7-2019 Meeting Agenda – click on chart for pdf

As you can see (and URBN Tampa Bay also points out here) the Williams Park site serves more existing residents more easily.  It also seems that, even while saying that the road connections are more complicated at Williams Park, the road development cost is higher at Mosaic.  And, as URBN Tampa Bay points out:

The 25 acre (mol) Mosaic site at Port Redwing also offers the opportunity for plenty of parking, a bus terminal, and perhaps even some complimentary development, though we wonder how traffic would be routed to the terminal. As a port facility, there are numerous rail crossings and truck traffic. We wonder if there would be any issues with conflicts there as slow moving trains and trucks maneuver in and out of port facilities. Something like a new roadway in from US41, or viaduct, or reworking of the tracks might be needed to maintain timely access to the ferry terminal. We’re sure all of that will be figured out and factored in before anyone makes a decision.

We are not so sure all that will be worked out (in this process nothing seems to rally get worked out – see a few paragraphs below) but it needs to be worked out and is factored in, especially since the proposers of the ferry want the County to pay for all of the infrastructure.  Of course, if Williams Park is not workable, then it is not workable.  Big Bend is what we have.

Third, that brings us back to the Port.  Is Big Bend workable or are there the mysterious port operations safety issues?

Assuming Big Bend is workable, at least now there is a land that could be used (provided there is money and there are no safety issues).  Whether that means the actual terms of the proposed deal between the operators and the County are actually good is another issue.  The Times does not think so:

This would be an enormous commitment of county resources for what would be largely a closed transit system for MacDill employees. Spending millions to ferry workers to a restricted military base has no broad public benefit. While the ferry would be open to the general public on weekends, offering trips between Tampa and St. Petersburg, the selling point has always been MacDill. That’s why the plan should be funded with federal or private dollars, not an already over-extended county budget.

The latest modification to the deal underscores how many questions are still unanswered after all these years. While the county set aside $22 million to pay for the project through money it obtained from the BP oil spill settlement, the estimate cost rose to $30 million last year. Now it stands at almost $37 million. That figure could even rise at Mosaic’s site, according to material prepared for Wednesday’s commission meeting, because of the need to build access roads at Big Bend.

While we think the MacDill service does have a public benefit, it is not as large a benefit as a system open to other South Tampa users.  Nevertheless, it is a fair point.  The costs for this project keep rising – at least for the County, not for the companies that will operate the ferries and profit off the fun cruises. At some point, the idea fails to make sense.

We are not opposed to the ferry in theory, but we are not sure we buy this particular deal.  We would like all the question we have asked (See for instance “Transportation – Surf and Turf— Ferry”) previously to be answered, especially regarding sharing risk and profit.  And we think the operators need significant skin in the game, especially given the state of the budget the present Commission was left.

In addition to all that, the County Commission did this:

The agency that runs Hillsborough County’s buses should also run its ferries, the county commission decided Wednesday.

The Hillsborough County Commission voted 4-3 to “transfer” the proposed passenger ferry service connecting MacDill Air Force Base to the southern portion of the county to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority.

* * *

The four votes in favor of the idea have in the past all expressed doubts about the ferry project. Hagan, Murman and White make up the commission’s Republican bloc. Miller, a Democrat, questions whether ferry service would benefit all county residents.

After the meeting, Murman said transit authority officials did not know in advance that she would make the proposal Wednesday. “But I mean, obviously, they probably felt it was coming,” she said.

Transit authority CEO Benjamin Limmer, who took over in February, said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times that he “welcomes” the move.

Basically, nothing has changed except HART has even less money than the County government and more transportation professionals to convince that this proposal makes sense.  And the key issues are the same.


— Downtowner

The Downtowner is still with us.

As of July, funding for the service has run out other than a Florida Department of Transportation grant of $360,000 that must be matched by a local source — such as HART.

“If we don’t make a decision today, it shuts down,” board member Marvin Knight said during a Monday meeting, supporting a move to fund the service. Commissioner Mariella Smith suggested the board reach out to get financial support from various sources before agreeing that HART accept paying the full bill.

HART members agreed to move the item forward during the meeting to execute a memorandum of understanding between HART and the Tampa Downtown Partnership to assist with operating the Tampa Downtown on-demand transportation service through March 31, 2020 in an amount not to exceed $568,000. Although HART will be paying $568,000, it will be reimbursed for a portion and will be able to use the funds for another circulator service in downtown Tampa.

The financial commitment does not include the use of the Tesla vehicles that HART will provide for through 2020.

While we don’t really care about the Teslas, we are happy the Downtowner is still with us, but it needs a long term funding solution.  As URBN Tampa Bay put it:

So what is functionally a free taxi service for Downtown Tampa, paid for by Downtown Tampa property owners, is now being paid for by countywide taxpayers via HART.

Our first thought is the same as every other time we hear about the Downtowner: Too bad the PTC killed the local, private initiative way back when. (See “PTC – They Reiterate They Do Not Care What the Community Wants”) Second, even when the Downtown Partnership paid a good amount, taxpayers were paying.  But it needs to be understood that even if the referendum is upheld, HART will not have money to pay for every idea.  (It is worth noting that the FDOT grant to run the streetcar for free for three years was $2.6 million, or less than a million a year, and it is now carrying many more people.)

We are actually of two minds on the Downtowner.  On the one hand, it is not that expensive and serves a useful purpose.  On the other hand, there is a decent argument that the government/HART should focus on extending the streetcar and buses around downtown and let the small, local rides be left to a private shuttle, Uber, scooters, bikes or, God-forbid, walking.  Honestly, we have not decided yet, but it seems odd that the taxpayers would foot most of the cost of this service when its coverage is so limited.


— Pinellas, Maybe

It seems that Pinellas is thinking again a referendum. From Florida Politics:

Pinellas County residents could know as soon as January whether or not another transit sales tax referendum might land on the ballot.

The Pinellas County Commission is facing a major funding deficit for transportation and transit projects countywide if nothing is done.

A sales tax increase isn’t the only option on the table.

“We haven’t taken a position on that yet on the County Commission,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long. But it remains in question.

Given the last Pinellas referendum, we get them being a little hesitant.  Then again, Hillsborough . . .

So, what are the issues?

The county is facing a more than $130 million backlog of transit enhancements it can’t currently afford and a $392 million in unfunded needs for overall transportation.

That’s not counting the $31.5 million such transit and transportation enhancements would cost annually to operate and maintain.

The county commission is ramping up discussions about how best to fund transportation needs in the county as the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is facing a major budget challenge in the coming years.

* * *

The transit problem runs deep. PSTA is one of the lowest funded transit agencies of its size nationwide. Its annual budget is about $80 million. Other agencies like PSTA run on about $120 million, according to Long. 

It is all in the talking shop stage now, but just remember, even though we are sure there will be people who will claim otherwise, if you want something, you have to pay for it. We’ll see what happens.


Downtown – More Disappointing Encores

There was more news about parcels the Housing Authority wants to sell to private developers. As you may remember, these parcels were held out as being for dense market rate development.  As we have already seen, block 9 is disappointing.  But now we know how disappointing, from URBN Tampa Bay:

We now know the project is 5 stories (with loft on the 5th floor), and features 296 residential units. The parking garage is 8 stories and features 418 parking spaces. Lastly, there is 2,200 square feet of retail space.

They give a nice analysis of the problem:

When considering what makes a complete urban neighborhood, this project is underwhelming at best.

For one, 2,200 square feet of retails space is waaay too little for a project of this size. The project features 273,400 square feet of residential space, meaning retail space is less then 1% the size of the residential portion. This is not a mixed-use project. Encore should not be single-use buildings, they should be mixed-use buildings. That means at least two PRIMARY uses.

In addition, the project is over-parked. Featuring 418 parking spaces for 296 units and a single storefront will probably lead to many unused parking spaces.

The parking garage is also taller then the residential portion of the building (see the southern elevation), which is aesthetically unpleasing.

Lastly, the ground floor of the project does not interact well with the sidewalk. The units have those fenced off patios, instead of being walk-up units.

You can see what they are talking about at renderings here:

From Florida Future at SkyscraperCity – click on pictures for post

 

From Florida Future at SkyscraperCity – click on pictures for post

 

From Florida Future at SkyscraperCity – click on pictures for post

In other words, basically there are no parts of this proposal that are good (and there is no excuse for the garage). Some, though not many, aspects may be OK, but nothing is good.  Not to mention this is the map from the Encore website (just so you can keep track of parcels):

From Encore – click on map for website

That project is hardly high-rise.  It is just very disappointing.

Which brings us to Block 11 (which was planned for hotel/office):

The project is 5 stories and features 223 residential units. There is no retail space in the project.

The project is required to provide 223 parking spaces, and is providing 385 parking spaces. 

Here are some renderings:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

That is an absurd amount of parking, and it is arranged in a foolish way. But there is more. Here is URBN Tampa Bay’s take on this proposal:

Encore has become a big missed opportunity. The density of the development isn’t high enough to make any impact, and the lack of commercial space makes it a single-use no-man’s land. This proposal is woefully insufficient.

If there’s no mixed-use, what’s the point of the Tampa Housing Authority pursuing the development? It’s not making a city, it’s not making Tampa better, it’s just putting another apartment building with the stats of a suburban apartment complex in Downtown. That’s not an accomplishment, much less one which anyone should be proud of.

All of the excess parking simply makes the units more expensive. Another example of cars taking precedence over people in regards to Downtown planning.

They are right.  Encore is a wasted opportunity to truly activate this part of downtown.  Then again, there is a drive thru Burger King pretty much next door.  That should tell you all you need to know about the lack of vision and quality in these proposals as well as the earlier buildings.

The acceptance of that lack of quality at Encore is also a warning about what may be coming in the West River redevelopment.  The City government needs to raise its game and get this fixed before it squanders acres and acres of redevelopment opportunities in the urban core and locks in a pattern of poor, uninviting development for decades.


West Tampa – This One, Too

Guida House, the historical residence of George Guida in/next to MacFarlane Park (see here) is in the news.

The Guida House is also on the National Register of Historic Places — for its unique mid-20th century architecture and a namesake who was known as Mr. West Tampa.

Like the Jackson House, the Guida House has been vacant for decades, raising concerns about the future of the structure.

* * *

Fans of the Guida House, at 1516 N. Renfrew Ave. inside MacFarlane Park, say there should be more preservation options available than for the Jackson House. One reason is that the Guida House is owned by the city of Tampa.

“What good is it doing vacant?” said Tampa City Council member Guido Maniscalco, whose represents the West Tampa district where the Guida House is located. “We need to find a use for it.”

Tampa tried to help once before, issuing a request for proposals 10 years ago. Nothing came of it.

* * *

The city estimates it would cost $1 million to bring the building back to code, Maniscalco said.

“If you had to build this house today it would cost more than that.”

Perhaps, Maniscalco said, the city should seek grants or find a non-profit that can restore and use it.

He would like to see the 5,000-square-foot, two-story structure used as a community center or a West Tampa museum.

We are all for this effort.  The house is quite cool. (You can learn more about it here)  And since the City has it already, there is no reason not to make it useful.  The fact that the City could not get any takers in during/just as we were starting to come out of the recession is not relevant. Much has changed since then.

That is not to say that we are just for speculatively spending money, but searching for a good use is definitely a worthy idea.  Once again, plaques are nice, but real history is nicer.


TGH – Hardening

There was an interesting article in the Times regarding TGH:

Two years ago, the island-bound Tampa General Hospital prepared for the worst as Hurricane Irma barrelled toward Tampa Bay.

Luckily, the Category 5 storm weakened and veered away from the hospital, which serves as the region’s only Level 1 trauma center. It never lost power.

But the storm served as a wake-up call, said Cheryl Egan, the senior vice president of support services at Tampa General.

The hospital’s board of directors approved a $53 million project to upgrade and expand its central energy plant, and equip it with enough power to keep the entire hospital running like usual, even in the event of a disaster.

Frankly, we are not sure why they would need Irma to point out the vulnerability of the hospital.  It is pretty obvious just driving down Bayshore. In any event,

“We installed temporary provisions for generators that can be plugged in and brought to campus to provide 100 percent energy. We rent those generators for about half the year, when we might need them,” he said. “In the event of a hurricane, we store generators at our corporate center, and have them on stand by. If something happens to the bridges to get to Davis Island, we’ve made plans to fly them to the hospital. It’s a fairly thought-out plan, but a boot-strap plan.”

The new 7,300-square foot energy plant will change that. To avoid flooding, Pasteur said, it will be built on the eastern side of the hospital, 35 feet above sea level. It also will house a new fleet of generators and a new set of boilers.

“Even in Irma, we turned the boilers off,” Pasteur said. “They can explode.”

The hospital’s current boilers are located in the basement.

* * *

Construction is expected to start in 2020 and be complete before hurricane season in 2021. In addition, Tampa General is working with Tampa Electric Co. on a multi-phase project to move electrical and gas lines that serve the hospital underground. Recently-passed state legislation calls for public utilities to move much of their distribution lines, the wires that deliver power to homes and businesses, underground to better protect them from powerful storms.

We think that is all pretty reasonable, though we would put the generator clearly above category 5 surge/wave levels rather than just 35 feet.

But there is a bigger issue that goes undiscussed in the article (though we have mentioned it before).  As we are often reminded, TGH is the only level 1 trauma center in the area.   It is on a low island.  The above-mentioned helicopter resupply plan tells you exactly what the problem is.  In the event of a major storm, the hospital may just be cut off from the mainland – for a while.  There is no guarantee the bridges will survive a large storm.

We are not sure what to do about it now that so much money has been invested in the hospital and the cost of rebuilding it somewhere else would be enormous (though they have a lot of land on Kennedy, even if they have plans for some of it), but it is clearly risky to have it where it is.  We get that it is not high on anyone’s list and there is a lot of politics involved (and hopefully the worst case scenario will never come), but it needs to be considered.


Politics/Regionalism – Water

There was a development in the “toilet-to-tap” water supply issue.  From the Times:

A controversial plan by the city of Tampa to produce 50 million gallons a day of drinking water by pumping treated wastewater into the Floridan aquifer may have run into an insurmountable legal problem.

A memo from one of the attorneys who oversaw the formation of the Tampa Bay Water regional utility says only Tampa Bay Water can use treated wastewater for anything other than watering lawns. That means Tampa could not legally go forward with using reclaimed water for any other purpose, according to the memo.

“It seems clear that the parties intended to limit the use of reclaimed water by the member governments to irrigation and other non-potable purposes and for Tampa Bay Water to have the exclusive right to utilize reclaimed water for potable purposes,” attorney George Nickerson wrote in the Aug. 5 memo to Tampa Bay Water officials.

And then there was the standard reported discussion:

“This should be the nail in the coffin” for Tampa’s reclaimed water project, said St. Petersburg Councilwoman Darden Rice, a Tampa Bay Water board member who has repeatedly raised questions about Tampa’s plans.

“In a common-sense world,” she said, no one would want to spend another dime pursuing it.

She also predicted the memo would also save Tampa Bay Water from being torn apart by Tampa trying to launch a water supply venture on its own.

However the most vocal proponent of what the city calls the Tampa Augmentation Project, Tampa Councilman Charlie Miranda, pooh-poohed those comments.

“Attorneys are like tires,” he said. “Once in a while one of them will go flat.”

Multiple attorneys have looked at Tampa’s proposal, he pointed out, but this is the first one to say Tampa is legally prevented from attempting it. He said he didn’t understand why his Tampa Bay Water board members seem so deadset against even exploring the project — although he did have a theory.

“I think the taste of our water is going to be so great that it’s going to embarrass everybody over there,” Miranda said.

And that is all interesting.  However, the bottom line is that if the idea is good – meaning the science makes sense and the cost-benefit analysis is favorable – it should be pursued (especially if Tampa Bay Water is the organization that does it).

But that caveat is important.  The coverage of this issue has focused much more on arguments between politicians rather than the actual idea, more specifically the science and the cost-benefit analysis.  That lack of serious information about this project plus the aggressive push for it over time has made us wonder more and more.  Now, the Times tells us:

Critics have dubbed the $350 million project — expected to come online in 2027 — “toilet to tap.” It has faced a string of delays over unanswered questions about whether it would work and whether it would cause harm to the environment.

Well, why aren’t the questions answered?  And why did Tampa push the project so hard if they did not have the science proven and the cost-benefit analysis done? If there is a risk to the environment, is it worth taking for the benefit?  Is there a better/safer way to do it? And how is this project going to be paid for? Who is in line to benefit from the $350 million?  Is that even a reasonable number or is it going to be bigger (we suspect it will be)?  How much will it really cost the City after loans/bonds are accounted for?  How much of a burden on the City budget will that be?  What is the actual projected need for the new water?  What is the hurry? And why can’t/won’t Tampa Bay Water do it instead?

There are more questions, but that will do for now.   We need actual answers based in actual facts.  Institutional inertia (at City Hall) is not justification for a project, especially one this expensive.  If it wants this, the City should make the case (not just to Tampa Bay Water but to the people of the Tampa, who will likely have to pay some way or the other).

We still have no problem with the idea if the science works and the cost-benefit analysis makes sense, but the focus should be on that. (If it does not make sense now, maybe it will a decade or two in the future.  That is OK, too.)  But let’s have some real answers.


St. Pete – Development Developments


— Albert Whitted

There was some interesting news regarding Albert Whitted Airport in downtown St. Pete.

Historically, a lot of conversations about the future of Albert Whitted Airport have jumped off from the idea of closing the airport and building something else on its prime waterfront property.

“Same old story: It’s an ideal location,” says Jack Tunstill, a longtime Albert Whitted pilot, flight instructor and chairman of the airport’s advisory committee. He hears this less than he used to, thanks to a 2003 referendum in which St. Petersburg voters affirmed the airport’s future as, well, an airport. Still, the idea comes up once in a while. Mayor Rick Kriseman himself floated it in 2014.

Soon, however, the talk will be less about what else could be developed at Albert Whitted and more about what might be developed nearby. The city-owned and -operated airport is putting together its first master plan since 2005. Two topics are expected to get a lot of attention: extending and shifting the main runway and finding space for more hangars.

These are the ideas:

The runway in question is known as Runway 7-25, which goes roughly from southwest, near First Street S, to northeast, out over Tampa Bay. It’s 3,677 feet long and is used for about 70 percent of the takeoffs and landings at Whitted. Most planes that use it are small, carrying fewer than 10 passengers. But planes that need to use the full length of the runway can be required to reduce their weight — either by carrying less fuel, fewer passengers or both.

Adding 263 feet to the runway would help alleviate that problem, according to a feasibility study that American Infrastructure Development of Tampa did for the city in 2016.

Lengthening the runway, however, is only one possible change. Airport officials also are looking at shifting the runway to the east by 1,257 feet, or nearly a quarter mile. That would entail dredging and filling an area of Tampa Bay beyond the current eastern end of the runway at an estimated cost of $13.25 million to $15 million.

The shift has an obvious upside that development enthusiasts have long talked about:

That’s because shifting the runway eastward would allow the airport to move its “runway protection zone,” a cone-shaped area that stretches beyond the end of the runway, onto the airport’s property.

Currently, that protection zone is largely over the campus of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, and it limits how tall USF can build. Moving the zone onto airport property, airport manager Richard Lesniak says, could create new development potential to the west.

Sound like a lot? It’s a long-range projection. It’s also one that assumes the maximum amount of potential new or re-development and a huge influx of lucrative professional jobs. The consultants broke it down like this:

Like the Times (see editorial here), we are all for examining the idea.  That does not mean we are sold on it (there are all the usual issues, plus planning for rising seas and the environmental issues with dredging).  But it is worth considering because it would unlock the development potential for a sizeable chunk of land in a part of downtown and St. Pete that could use more development.  If it gets further along, there will be more to say.


— A Big Deal

Which brings us to the second big St. Pete story last week – the mysterious potential development:

A Miami developer is planning what could be a $2 billion project that would transform a now-sleepy area south of downtown St. Petersburg.

The project by Royal Palm Companies would include both affordable and high-end housing on roughly 50 acres bordered by Fourth Street S and Bay Street, and 14th and 18th avenues SE, according to property owners who have been approached about selling. The area just south of Bayboro Harbor and bisected by Salt Creek is currently home to some ’50s-era houses, a few commercial businesses and the Salvation Army’s administrative headquarters for southern Pinellas County.

This is roughly the area .  Note that it is south of Albert Whitted Airport.  It is not clear how any changes in the runways would affect this land.

There is not much public information about this project.  In fact:

City Council member Gina Driscoll, whose district includes the Bayboro area, said she did not know much about the project. She said her main concerns would be its location in a “vulnerable” part of the city and its environmental impact on Salt Creek.

Driscoll noted that many properties near the creek had been neglected over the years. “In general, that’s an area that could be put to better use,” she said. “Whether this (development) is a better use remains to be seen.”

However, in addition to how it interacts with the airport

The city has been trying with mixed success to revitalize neighborhoods south of its booming downtown. However, the low-lying area east of Fourth Street S where the Royal Palm project would go is in a coastal high-hazard zone at risk of extensive flooding. The St. Petersburg City Council is about to consider changes that would allow for increased density in high hazard areas with the caveat that new construction be flood resistant and environmentally friendly.

Hawk said he had attended recent meetings on the proposed changes where Royal Palm representatives also were present.

All these issues – airport, flood areas, redevelopment – seem to be related in this proposal.  Frankly, it is an open question if it makes sense to develop more density in high-hazard zones. (See here)   While we are generally for more density in urban areas (and this is an urban area), unless they raise the buildings and infrastructure, adding more density to such areas seems to fly in the face of warnings about sea level rise and other climate change.  Just look at what happened at the Vinoy and other parts of town last week. That does not mean what it cannot be done, but it is not just buildings but also infrastructure that needs to be hardened.

We have no specific information about the $2 billion potential development.  The fact is that we just do not know.  A $2 billion development is definitely interesting.  We just think St. Pete (and other cities) needs to approach knowingly building more in vulnerable areas with caution. And we look forward to hearing more about the project.


Pasco – Um, Yes It Is

We know Pasco is growing.  We also know it is poorly planned and seems to have learned no lessons from mistakes made in neighboring counties.  Last week, we saw a report about Trinity from abcactionnews (here).  A key point in the story is this:

Business leaders say this isn’t urban sprawl but intentional development in Trinity they hope will entice more people to live and work in this area.

“We have CEO level housing where the leadership of companies and can reside. We have workforce housing and everything in between,” said Bill Cronin, President of the Pasco Economic Development Council.

Even more development is coming to this former cattle ranch previously owned by the Mitchell family, with hundreds of new homes being built too.

Of course, they are talking about the “massive Village at Mitchell Ranch plaza at the corner of State Road 54 and Little Road.”  Which looks like this:

From Welcome to Trinity – click on picture for website

And you can see the surrounding area here.

It may have mixed levels of housing, but the only way to describe that is sprawl, though it is suburban (not urban) sprawl.  It is also another reason why we do not think Hillsborough County, where at least a good number of people (if not everyone) have learned from the mistakes of the past, should settle for the lowest common denominator in transportation planning with surrounding counties.


When the Lights Go On in Our City

In one of the better ideas FDOT has had in while:

The Florida Department of Transportation is in the process of installing about 1,800 colored LED light fixtures on the Sunshine Skyway bridge, FDOT spokesperson Kris Carson said in an email Friday. The Skyway lighting project has been in progress “for many years,” Carson said, and should be completed in about a month.

* * *

Although the lights are mainly an interesting addition to the bridge’s aesthetic, they also will help with safety and security in lighting the underside of the bridge, which “is very dark now,” Carson said.

 

From the Times – click on picture for article

We look forward to it.


Rays

This week’s Rays news here, here, here, and here.


Meanwhile, In the Rest of the State


— Cash Flow

If you like big projects and look forward to seeing them built, you should be aware of this, from the Orlando Sentinel:

Orlando area developers will be scrambling over the next four months to raise capital from international investors before new Trump Administration regulations for the EB-5 visa program take effect Nov. 21, according to a report in GrowthSpotter.

The new guidelines published last week nearly double the investment threshold for EB-5 projects from $1 million to $1.8 million. Projects located within qualified Targeted Employment Areas would require foreign nationals to invest $900,000, up from $500,000.

“There’s going to be a big push to get as many investors filed as possible in the next 120 days,” Orlando immigration attorney Edward Beshara told GrowthSpotter. “So the developers have to get a whole team of EB-5 professionals and lay out a plan of action.”

Beshara estimates that about 40 percent of existing or future EB-5 investors could get priced out of the system.

(Article here.) It may or may not be relevant to your favorite project.


— Same As It Ever Was-ish

And then there is an article from Curbed (admittedly from April) about growth in Central Florida.  You can read the whole thing here), but this is the conclusion:

While the future does look bright for this part of Florida, the narrative is pretty consistent with what we’ve seen in the past: a housing boom built on cheap land and car-centric planning—and an influx of retirees. The region’s transportation infrastructure will groan under the weight of tens of thousands of new drivers entering the workforce each year, and the dearth of dense, transit-friendly, affordable apartments will strain the regional housing market with new demand (per the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the Orlando metro area currently has only 13 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 extremely low-income renter households).

The central Florida boom has been predicted before (thankfully, the attempt to coin “Tamplando” and “Orlampa” didn’t take hold). The new jobs and affordable homes offer a welcome antidote to the nation’s concentration of opportunity—and rising housing costs. But the story of growth, though with different characters in a different setting, tends to be the same as it ever was. And that’s cause for concern.

It is an interesting take. You can read it (and look out the window) and decide for yourselves what you think.


Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

Now that scooters are all around us, it is worth asking if they are a net positive or negative for the environment.  The MIT Technology Review had an interesting piece about that:

The study concludes that dockless scooters generally produce more greenhouse-gas emissions per passenger mile than a standard diesel bus with high ridership, an electric moped, an electric bicycle, a bicycle—or, of course, a walk.

The paper found that scooters do produce about half the emissions of a standard automobile, at around 200 grams of carbon dioxide per mile compared with nearly 415. But, crucially, the researchers found in a survey of e-scooter riders in Raleigh, North Carolina, that only 34% would have otherwise used a personal car or ride-sharing service. Nearly half would have biked or walked, 11% would have taken the bus, and 7% would have simply skipped the trip.

The bottom line: roughly two-thirds of the time, scooter rides generate more greenhouse-gas emissions than the alternative. And those increased emissions were greater than the gains from the car rides not taken, says Jeremiah Johnson, an engineering professor and one of the authors of the paper.

Read the rest of the article here (study is here) and draw your own conclusions.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Lew sibert permalink
    August 9, 2019 12:04 AM

    One wonders. How can we tolerate this stupidity wrt to ENCORE and parking. And Tampa and parking? It needs to end. Now.

    And, as for TGH, how can any sentient being not acknowledge that for 1000s upon 1000s of us, access to critical care services and trauma services is ESSENTIAL. And TGH cannot guarantee to provde those services on an island. Let’s get moving.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: