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Roundup 11-22-2019

November 21, 2019

Contents

Transportation

— St. Pete BRT

— Those Flashing Crosswalks

— Ferry Survey

Davis Islands – HCC Land

South Tampa – Uninspiring, Cont

Built Environment/Channel District – Missed Opportunities

— And One More Thing

Ybor City – A Plan

Downtown – Jackson House

Built Environment – Speck in St. Pete

Economy/Economic Development – Maybe This Time

Economy/Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

_________________________


Transportation


— St. Pete BRT

There was news about the St. Pete BRT plan:

Last week, City Council unanimously passed the final components of the Central Avenue Bus Rapid Transit Interlocal Agreement, bringing the Central Avenue BRT project one step closer to its projected opening to riders in late 2020/early 2021. Council also approved a Participation Agreement with PSTA and Forward Pinellas for the development of a federally-funded transit-oriented development (TOD) strategic plan for the Central Avenue Corridor.

* * *

The Central Avenue BRT project has found strong support from the City of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County, as well as the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce. But it has been formally opposed by the City of South Pasadena and St. Pete Beach, two cities integral to the BRT route.

* * *

The project is estimated to cost $43.9 million dollars to complete. Funds will come from a mix of sources, including $10.5 million from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), $7.6 million from the PSTA, and $4 million from the city of St. Pete. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is expected to approve the final funding piece, a $21.8 million Capital Investment Grant, later this year.

We are in favor of this project (and FDOT should pay whatever the Federal government won’t.).  Aside from some objections to running it to Pass-a-Grille, which we understand and have been addressed, in our opinion, the objections from St. Pete Beach and Pasadena have not been well made (though the process could have been smoother on St. Pete and PSTA’s part, and there are other options they could have pursued once the opposition arose). And while we do not think the project will “form the bedrock for future Tampa Bay transit improvements, eventually connecting St. Petersburg and Pinellas County to Downtown Tampa and Tampa International Airport” as the St. Pete Catalyst article and proponents portray it, we think it is a good idea and will be useful.

 

From St. Pete Catalyst – click on picture for article

And note that some of St. Pete Beach’s concerns have been addressed.  From another St. Pete Catalyst article:

Plans submitted to the Southwest Florida Water Management System by H.W. Lochner, Inc. show that PSTA plans to move forward as planned with the Central Avenue Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) despite formal opposition from the City of South Pasadena and the City of St. Pete Beach. The BRT route is expected to open to riders in late 2020/early 2021.

H.W. Lochner submitted plans for 30 stations along a 10.3 mile route, and has removed the proposed Station 1, which would have terminated the route at the Don CeSar. PSTA agreed to terminate service at the county’s public beach access, just north of 46th avenue, combining Stations 2 and 3, in order to alleviate concerns by the City of St. Pete Beach. PSTA also agreed to use smaller buses on the route, reducing the size from 60-foot buses (the default standard for BRT projects across the nation) to 40-foot buses.

The first St. Pete Catalyst article had one other component which is relevant not just to this project but more broadly:

According to a study commissioned by the National Association of Realtors and the American Public Transportation Association, the value of both residential and commercial properties located within a half mile of public transit service outperformed those further away.

Conducted in seven metropolitan areas including Boston, Mass.; Eugene, Ore.; Hartford, Conn; Los Angeles, Calif.; Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.; Phoenix, Ariz; and Seattle, Wash; the study showed that between 2012 and 2016, residential properties near transit increased in median sale price between 4 to 24 percentage points above properties further from transit. Commercial properties saw gains between 5 and 42 percentage points.

In that same time across the seven regions, more than 43,500 residential units were added in close proximity to transit. The study also showed that households located in transit-oriented neighborhoods experienced lower transportation costs – saving between $2,500 and $4,400 annually – and 25 percent of those households did not own a vehicle. 

You can find the study here.

While this is often discussed and logical, it is useful to have reminders. Proper transit is not only useful to get around and provides people with options.  It is an investment in an area which has tangible financial returns for public and private investors.  Moreover, in a growing and developing area, those benefits stand to keep growing. (Of course, as in the “BRT” plan, if you invest in transit on the interstate, you limit the ability to take advantage of the transit and, consequently, limit amount of return.)


— Those Flashing Crosswalks

We have often said that the flashing yellow-light crosswalks are not really the best idea because there is too much ambiguity and confusion over how they function.  This week, we got an example.

First, a video came out of a guy biking on the Pinellas Trail, crossing at 666 49th Street South, and getting hit by a car that did not stop.  This is the video:

You can see the intersection here. It appears to be a standard flashing-yellow crosswalk.

Interestingly, a lot of the comments on the Facebook pages (here and here) where we initially saw the video blamed the cyclist for not stopping at the stop sign.  Then the Times had an article on the episode:

The bicyclist hit by a car while pedaling inside a crosswalk along the Pinellas Trail earlier this month had the right of way, according to a clarification issued Monday by the St. Petersburg Police Department.

Meanwhile, officers continue to look for the driver of the white sedan that struck Steven Weldon in the area of 666 49th Street S on Nov. 1.

Why is it the cyclist’s right of way?

Shortly before Weldon enters the crosswalk, one of two cyclists crossing from the opposite side of the street presses the button to activate the flashing lights signaling traffic to stop. Weldon crosses half of 49th St. S before he is hit by the sedan, sending him sprawling over the hood of the car and crushing his bike.

* * *

By law, drivers must stop if there is anyone in a crosswalk. . .

Although Weldon, 42, could have exercised more caution, according to police, he had the right of way and won’t face any charges.

We are fine with that explanation.  However, if that is the case then why is there a stop sign and why is it so far from the street where it is harder for drivers to see?  And where is the cyclist in the street relative to the car’s distance to the crosswalk?

The point is not that the car should not have stopped.  The car should have stopped.  The cyclist probably should have stopped, too, if just for self-preservation.  But that shows the problem. The whole yellow-flashing system creates an ambiguity and causes confusion.  If that had been a red light at the crosswalk, there would be no ambiguity. The car would have known to stop.   Maybe cars would have to wait at the light for a minute or two.  Maybe cyclists would have to wait a minute or two for the light to go red.  That is OK.  At least it is unambiguous.  We would rather people wait a minute and know what they are supposed to do than have people get hit.


— Ferry Survey

The ferry promoters have put up a survey called the “Cross-Bay Ferry Permanent Service Survey.” While the name does not roll off the tongue, the survey asks somewhat relevant questions, albeit in a stilted, limited, somewhat leading, and not wholly useful way.  If you want to fill it out, you can do so here.


Davis Islands – HCC Land

There was an interesting article in the Times regarding some HCC land on Davis Islands.

If the market is right, and the offers prove adequately alluring, Hillsborough Community College is poised to put its Davis Islands office building on the market, records show.

The college began quietly gauging interest in the prime waterfront parcel this fall, soliciting “non-binding letters of interest or intent” from potential buyers from September 27 to October 31. The 3.7 acre property netted three offers — one with a $12 million purchase price and two others offering $15 million, records show.

But now it’s up to HCC’s Board of Trustees to decide whether those proposals portend a market that’s ripe for selling the college’s flagship property, located at 39 Columbia Drive in a coveted corner of Davis Islands real estate.

* * *

It’s an attractive offer for developers. The college’s compound is nestled in a residential area of Davis Islands at the southeast corner of Columbia Drive and Arbor place and boasts more than 300 feet of prime waterfront property overlooking the west side of Seddon Channel opposite Harbour Island. To the south, the parcel is bordered by the City of Tampa’s Sandra W. Freeman Tennis Complex at Marjorie Park.

This is the property:

Three developers answered the college’s call: the Palm-Beach based Kolter Group Acquisitions, Cushman & Wakefield on behalf of Tampa General Hospital, and Accardi Real Estate Co., owned by the twin brothers behind Seven One Seven Parking Services, Jason and John Accardi.

While the Accardis declined to outline a proposed use for the property in their submissions, the Kolter Group envisioned the space holding an 8-story, 99-unit luxury condominium building and parking garage, while Tampa General hoped to expand the existing hospital facilities that abut the north end of the property.

We are not opposed to the concept of selling the land, but to gauge any offer, we would have to know what the plan for the land is.  We do not know what the Accardis’ plan is, and, owning a parking company, they have a tendency to put surface parking and land bank.  We do not find that attractive, especially for waterfront Davis Islands property.

An eight-story condo building is ok, but without more information, we cannot assess it.

Tampa General could always use more land, but, as we have noted before, we are more inclined to have it expand where there is less flood/hurricane risk.

There is no set deadline for when HCC has to reach a decision, Carl said. The trustees hope to review the three submissions at an upcoming meeting Dec. 4 or Jan. 22.

As we said, we are not opposed to the idea of selling, but without more, we are not sure any of these ideas is attractive enough.  HCC should be in no rush to sell.  The waterfront property is not going to become less valuable or less attractive.  Time is on HCC’s side, even if it has to wait out a recession at some point.  And why did was it quietly soliciting offers?  If selling is real possibility, do an open and advertised RFP.  See what real interest there is.


South Tampa – Uninspiring, Cont

A few months ago, we wrote about a proposal for 5105 Tyson right next to the Westshore Marina District development. (see here)  We quoted URBN Tampa Bay saying:

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.

And we added:

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 . . . 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.

Well, it did not go before the City Council until last week and apparently the developer did not make many (if any) changes.  Per URBN Tampa Bay:

BREAKING: The apartment proposal at 5105 W Tyson Ave was denied by Tampa City Council, 5-2, on a motion by Councilman Dingfelder, based on issues with addressing Coastal High Hazard Area impacts and hurricane evacuation clearance times. Councilmen Viera and Miranda voted no on the denial.

We are not sure the details for the denial, but it gives the developer a chance to improve the proposal.  We are not against having a development on that land, but it should connect with and enhance the development already occurring.


Built Environment/Channel District – Missed Opportunities

Last weekend, we were walking around downtown and the Channel District looking at all the Water Street development.  We wandered to Sparkman Wharf and then up to the streetcar station.  We marveled at the people and activity.  Then we looked at the Port parking garage, especially the second stage that faces Sparkman Wharf along Channelside but completely fails to activate the street.  We thought about how, when it was built, we knew the design was a mistake and how it was the classic example of a lost opportunity resulting from a lack of vision and settling.  Then we let the thought slide for a few days. . . until Monday, when URBN Tampa Bay posted this:

With Water Street Tampa and Sparkman Wharf coming in, something really needs to be done to activate the ground floor of this garage. The ground floor should be converted into some retail space fronting Channelside Drive.

It leaves a huge dead zone in an otherwise revitalizing area.

We also wish 12th Street had been allowed to punch straight through this garage to Channelside Drive. This garage cuts off the Channel District from WST and Sparkman. The Channel District misses out on the positive windfall of the nearby redevelopment due to this physical isolation, and walking between the two is unnecessarily difficult.

 

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

And they are completely right.

This is why you do not settle.  When the garage expansion was planned and built (in 2010, here and here), no one knew Water Street was coming, including the Lightning owner.  But anyone who knows about urban design and development could see that the street level frontage across from Channelside (now Sparkman Wharf) would be better used as retail and offices than for a parking garage.  And the Channel District had gotten going and was clearly area with a future.  You could see that having a messed up grid was not good for it.  These are all basic things.

While it could be done, it will be much harder to go back and retrofit it now.  It should have been done properly in the first place.


— And One More Thing

URBN Tampa Bay also posted a couple of aerial photos (here) including this one:

From Jeff Zampitella via URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

It shows just how much land relatively low-rise projects like Pierhouse use up with relatively little return.  Not to mention this 12th Street   streetscape, which is comically bad, especially when it could be like this a block north. Sure, the developer made money, but the city lost out.  The obligation is on the City, not the developer, to care.


Ybor City – A Plan

The Ybor City Community Plan is being updated.  A proposed revision was presented last week:

On Thursday at 9 a.m., representatives from a planning firm will present the final update of the Ybor City Vision 2020 Master Plan.

ABC Action News spoke to the senior planner on the project that’s been going since February. When asked if the possibility of the Rays stadium played a part in their analysis, we were told no. We also asked about the future plans for the Muvico that recently shut down. We were told the announcement for the company taking that space should be released soon.

The presentation took inventory on what makes up the main part of the entertainment district on 7th and 8th avenue. 20% of the space is occupied by offices, bars make up 15%, restaurants take up 13% and 14% of that space remains vacant. There’s also only 1% of space that account for grocery stores, which aren’t really even grocery stores at all. The tenant examples listed are the Ybor City Food Mart and a 7-Eleven. With the prospect and trend of growing the residential sector, that will be a need that has to be fulfilled.

At the end of the presentation is a list of strategies the planning firm created. Each item is listed as high or medium priority. None were listed as low priority. In the infrastructure category, more than half were stamped high priority.

You can find a small version of the presentation at the ABCactionnews article here. The draft plan documents can be found here and the draft pdf here. The chart of recommendations starts on page 111 of the draft plan pdf (102 of the document). There are a lot of recommendations, though most are pretty straightforward ideas.  Interestingly, the idea of increasing density and increasing the allowed height comes up in a number of them. It is also discussed in the land use section beginning on page 28 of the pdf (19 of the document).  For instance:

As change has occurred, development and redevelopment have shaped the current conditions into a variety of multiple-use sub-areas that relate most directly to these physical corridors. One area where land-use transition is anticipated to occur in the District is in the southern portions of CRA 2 along the Adamo Drive / SR60 corridor. South of N. 6th Avenue to Adamo Drive / SR60 is an area where a transition to higher density/intensity mixed-use development is anticipated to occur. Larger parcels with industrial/heavy commercial use occur inside and immediately adjacent to the Ybor City CRA limits. While portions of this area are outside the Ybor City CRA limits, it is anticipated that future redevelopment of these larger parcels and replacement of the light industrial or vacant uses with higher density/intensity mixed-use developments will dramatically affect Ybor City. Portions of these areas are railroad adjacent which also provides the potential for future transit-oriented development if proposed high-speed rail is realized using the existing CSX railroad line.

Community stakeholders identified their general level of support for higher levels of intensity/density redevelopment in these transitioning locations. Portions of this area are also affected by increased floodplain base flood elevation and finished floor elevation requirements. Overall building height standards in the Ybor City CRA were also identified as a redevelopment issue of concern by community stakeholders. It is recognized that the overall building heights in the District are lowest (45-feet) along the E. 7th Avenue corridor in the YC-1 zoning district in support of preservation of the business corridors historic contributing structures context and that building height standards increase (up to 60-feet) along the perimeter of the District, see Figure 21.

Figures 22 – 24 depict a base parcel condition with historic and non-contributory parcels with two through five-story development near the historic structure. The figures depict redevelopment yields increasing when new development is permitted to meet existing Future Land Use standards in close proximity to the historic structures. Architectural design techniques, such as second-floor building step back along public rights-of-way, help to retain a street-level context with adjacent historic structures at the pedestrian level. Higher density/intensity buildings typically permit the inclusion of private parking spaces within structure or on other portions of the development parcel.

We understand that increasing density and height might be controversial with some.  And we are not for just allowing anything to be built anywhere.  However, some reasonable steps to allow slightly taller buildings and some increased density in Ybor City, particularly away from the historic core of the area, while maintaining Ybor’s character and historic designation, could be a good thing for the City generally and for Ybor in particular.  It will require care and the maintenance of standards, but it can be done.


Downtown – Jackson House

As regular readers will know, we have long advocated for doing something to save Jackson House, the historical building from the thriving African-American community around Central Avenue.  It has long been in disrepair and has needed help.  This week, there was good news.

Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and his wife, Penny, have committed $1 million to restore the Jackson Rooming House, a historic crumbling structure in downtown Tampa.

The city announced the Viniks’ donation Monday. The Jackson House was built in 1901 by Moses and Sarah Jackson and operated as a boarding house for African Americans during racial segregation. It closed in 1989 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole were hosted at the Jackson House as they passed through Central Avenue, which was a thriving black business district leading up to the 1960s. Martin Luther King Jr. visited the Jackson House in 1961.

* * *

“As Tampa continues to grow and change, it is critical that we invest in preserving the unique and valuable history of those who laid the foundation for our progress,” Jeff Vinik said in a statement. “Tampa’s diversity is our most valuable asset.”

It isn’t the first donation the Viniks have made toward saving the property: In 2017, through a Tampa Bay Lightning Community Hero award, the Jackson House Foundation worked with local engineers to stabilize the house, but the condition of the structure has since worsened.

Just last week we said:

. . . we are in no way opposed to people from elsewhere investing in this area (especially if they move here, like the Lightning owner). 

Now they go and do this.  We just want to say “Thank you.”

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said the deteriorated state of the building, originally a private home built around the turn of the 20th century, means it will likely have to be largely rebuilt.

“It’s in such a stage of disrepair that it’s more than likely we’re just going to be able to take as much of the original structure as we can. And then just rebuild,” Castor said Monday about the two-story house at 851 E Zack St. near the county courthouses and Union Station.

Whether the house will move from its current location, which is wedged between parking lots, is a decision for the nonprofit foundation that has worked to save it, Castor said.

The first observation is understandable.  The building is in bad shape, and much will have to be replaced.  However, we would very much like it to stay where it is – where belongs. Moving it would detract from its historical significance.

State Rep. Dianne Hart and State Sen. Darryl Rouson are seeking state aid and Castor said the city will seek grants to help cover whatever costs remain.

“Our history is imperative. Future generations need to understand how this city was built and who built it,” Castor said.

The State should contribute to save it.  The history is important, especially given how much of the history of that area has been destroyed and why (which is also why we would like to see it stay where it is).  And thanks to the Lightning owner’s generosity, there is a chance.


Built Environment – Speck in St. Pete

St. Pete Catalyst had an article on planner Jeff Speck:

Renowned new urbanist and author of Walkable City Jeff Speck shared his insights on walkability with a crowd of hundreds Wednesday, in an event hosted by Preserve the ‘Burg and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg’s Open Partnership Education Network. But before his lecture, this reporter had the privilege of accompanying Speck and Preserve the ‘Burg’s Monica Kile on a walk through St. Petersburg.

Speck, who has consulted with cities and developers across the county, including Water Street Tampa, gave a thoughtful overview of the importance of walkability in terms of economic development, epidemiology, climate and more. But his most thought-provoking insights came as he applied his “Theory of Walkability” – that a walk should be simultaneously useful, comfortable, safe and interesting – as it relates to St. Petersburg, using examples from cities across the country.

It is actually kind of a long piece, so we will not detail it all.  You can read it here. However, we wanted to point out a few things.  The article has six takeaways for making St. Pete more walkable.

The first is Revert Interstates 175 and 375 to surface boulevards.  We are fine with that, especially 175, which we think would be easier to do.

Then there were other items that are clearly true, such as:

Invest in safe biking infrastructure. Speck argues that bicycling culture follows investment in bicycle infrastructure.

* * *

Many of the bike lanes and “sharrows” (shared bike and vehicle lanes) currently utilized in St. Petersburg are now considered unsafe, Speck said. Bike lanes on 1st Avenue North, in which the bike line is sandwiched between the traffic lane and parking lane, puts cyclists squarely in “the door zone,” where they are most likely to be hit by car doors or sideswiped by traffic.

Yes and yes.  And this is true of Tampa as well.  As we have noted many times, far too often the bike infrastructure in this area involves form over function.  If you ride a bike on the simply painted streets, you would figure the issue out very quickly.  We need to build real, useful infrastructure.  It can start with simply not sandwiching bikes between parking spaces and traffic lanes (which involves the same amount of paint), and move on from there.

Next:

Invest in transit. The St. Pete Catalyst reported Wednesday that the Central Avenue BRT project is moving forward as planned, despite opposition from the City of South Pasadena and the City of St. Pete Beach. In a conversation with the Catalyst, Speck said that true BRT, with dedicated bus travel lanes, are a step in the right direction. “You can have a perfectly walkable neighborhood with no transit. But a walkable city requires transit,” he said. “Because if we can’t easily connect the walkable areas to each other conveniently, then of course those who have the choice will buy cars and the city will be shaped around their demands and become less walkable.” Speck also argued that Bike Share should be considered a form of transit and, if necessary, subsidized like transit. In the long-term, he said, it will ultimately pay off. “It’s taking people out of cars and allowing them to participate in cities in a much more social way.”

The point about being able to have a walkable neighborhood without transit but needing transit for a walkable city is very well-said.  And it is a concern we have raised about Water Street, especially after they are done constricting traffic in a naturally constricted area.  Water Street has to be connected to the outside, which the streetcar does in a limited way but not enough.

We even agree with the bike share point, with one caveat.  We think that, if this formulation is used, there are many opponents of real transit who will use it as an excuse to shortchange larger transit. We do not think that is what the planner meant, but they still will.  They already do.

Next:

Eliminate parking requirements.

That speaks for itself. And:

Density and height, responsibly. Speck argues that from an environmental perspective, an economic perspective and a walkability perspective, the more density, the better in the downtown core. “Here’s the caveat,” he said. “Density of people is great, density of cars is not great. The city should provide the largest density it can without requiring vehicles that come with it.”

We are fine with that.  That is why you have transit and a walkable area.

However, there was one we have mixed feelings about:

Design downtown streets to curb speeding above 25mph. Changing street design is about changing driver behavior.

We do not really disagree with slowing traffic down (though we are not sold on 25 mph for a downtown area, as opposed to possibly a neighborhood shopping district).  However, in the absence of comprehensive transit and the ability for people to get around, we are still concerned about slowing the roads that much.  We have been in many cities where large numbers of people walk and traffic is not limited to that speed.  So, we agree that cars should slow down, and we agree that the other transportation infrastructure and built environment should provide ample alternatives for getting around. But we are not sure the conditions are there for this policy, at least to the level proposed.

That being said, it is a very good overall piece that has equal application in St. Pete, Tampa or elsewhere.


Economy/Economic Development – Maybe This Time

There was an interesting article in the Times last week regarding Water Street.

James Nozar gave an update Friday on progress being made on the biggest real estate project in the city’s history.

The Strategic Property Partners chief executive officer listed the ways the Water Street project — a joint venture of Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Microsoft founder Bill Gates — will be a big deal when completed in 2026 or 2027.

And Water Street will be a big deal.  You can go downtown now and get an idea of the extent of the change it will make.

But a big crowd at Café con Tampa, a weekly civic gathering that features prominent speakers and topics, also pressed Nozar for more details on how affordable the 3,500 residential units will be.

In his brief presentation before a Q&A session, Nozar had said it bothered him when he heard people referring to Water Street as a luxury project.

“It’s not,” Nozar said.

Strategic Property Partners is committed to providing housing at different “price points,” he said, with an aim to satisfy the lower-end demand as well as high-end clients.

“We think we’ll have some of the most affordable units downtown on the market side,” Nozar said.

The first 1,350 units will be market rate housing, Nozar said, although the company is exploring ways to widen affordability opportunities in its second and third phases.

Which drew this response:

Former state chief financial officer and gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink questioned that approach.

“I’m not sure that’s really a good message for the community and would encourage you to rethink that,” she said.

Nozar responded that by market rate he meant the company isn’t using any public subsidies to build it.

“The housing that we’re providing is in the range of 50 to 80 percent of median area income. Typically developers require an incentive to build that,” Nozar said.

There is more and you can read it here. (You can also read more about an opportunity zone controversy here.  We are not going to get into that right now.)

While they have said from the beginning that there would be a range of prices for various residential products in the project, we have never expected Water Street to fit in the “affordable housing” category as the speaker defined it.  There is nothing in the economics or how the project has been promoted that would indicate that it would.  You can make your own judgment about that. But the discussion does point out once again that affordable housing – and not just subsidized housing – is a major issue (and not just here).

Which brings us to an article from Florida Politics this week. Florida has a fund that is supposed to be set aside for affordable housing, the Sadowski fund.

The Sadowski Coalition has looked over Gov. Ron DeSantis’ budget request, and it likes what it sees.

The nonpartisan group comprised of 32 statewide organizations praised the $91.4 billion spending plan for its inclusion of state and local housing programs.

“On behalf of the Sadowski Coalition, I want to thank Governor DeSantis for again distinguishing himself as a leader for recommending that all of the funds set aside for affordable housing be appropriated and used to create affordable housing in the State of Florida,” said Jaimie Ross, facilitator of the Sadowski Coalition and CEO of the Florida Housing Coalition.

The problem is that:

Sadowski funds are supposed to be used housing projects, though they are often directed toward other projects. Over the past decade, lawmakers have swept more than $2 billion from the state’s affordable housing trust fund into general revenue.

Despite calls from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to leave the fund untapped in his 2019-20 budget, lawmakers sent $125 million of the $332 million available into the general fund.

While we do not expect it to go to Water Street and it will not solve the problem (especially when you consider the next item), hopefully this year the Legislature will actually spend the money on what it is supposed to be spent on.


Economy/Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

Bloomberg had an article on the metro areas with the fastest growing salaries in the country. (here)  We can just use their graphic for the top 20:

From Yahoo.com – click on picture for article

As you can see, there are number of oil regions and some of the usual suspects make up most of the rest.  It is interesting that Miami made the list (though at number 21).

For the fifth year in a row, metropolitan areas in the U.S. outpaced rural and small towns in per capita personal income — total pay divided by population.

Metro areas increased 4.9% in 2018, up from 4.1% in 2017. In non-metro areas, per capita personal income increased 4.7%, up from 3.3%. The five year streak is the longest in records going back 50 years.

Per capita personal income last year averaged $56,527 for Americans living in metropolitan areas and $41,552 for those in smaller regions.

Looking at the full set of numbers from the Bureau of Economic Analysis at the Commerce Department the Tampa Bay area average was $47,240 and growth in 2018 was 4.3% (ranking 243 out of 384 metros) up from 3.5% in 2017. You can see the whole data set excel file here.

Among all the talk of growth and booms, it is useful to look at the actual numbers.  Once again, we are doing better than we were, but the question is how are we doing compared to our competition.  These numbers give us an idea.  Do with that information what you will.

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