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June 4, 2020

There will not be a Roundup this week.

Please remember that, regardless of openings being allowed, the virus is still here. (Check the dashboard link below for Hillsborough County’s increasing positive test rate and increase in number of cases)  The real issue remains whether people will follow the proper advice because it is really up to people to care for themselves, their families, and their neighbors, even during the opening. So be responsible, stay safe, and take care of your community.

Wash your hands, wear a mask when appropriate/necessary, and practice social distancing.

You can find a number of videos on how to make a simple mask, including this from the CDC, this from the Times and this from the County.

Here are some links to government resources:

CDC

Florida Department of Health

Florida Department of Health Updated Statistics/Map Dashboard

Florida Health, Hillsborough

Hillsborough County

City of Tampa

 

 

 

Roundup 5-29-2020

May 28, 2020

This week we had an almost sitcom-worthy cascade of events that we had to address.  As a result, the Roundup is very abbreviated.  However, the first item is time sensitive, so we decided to post it and a couple of other notes.

Contents

Transportation

— TBARTA Vision Thing

— St. Pete BRT

Governance – Yes

Rays

Finally

______________________________________________


Transportation


TBARTA Vision Thing

TBARTA has put out (actually they did it a while back but the virus intervened) a proposed document called Envision 2030.  Per TBARTA’s handy weekly email (the one that often links to articles that help explain all the flaws in TBARTA’s “BRT” plan):

Envision 2030, TBARTA’s proposed regional transit development plan (RTDP) to connect five Tampa Bay counties through world-class regional transit, is open for public review and comment, but only through June 1. After that, the TBARTA Board will hold a public hearing and vote on the plan at its upcoming June 22 meeting.

Setting aside that nothing yet proposed by TBARTA is world-class, why the hurry, especially with all the disruptions and no one paying attention?  You’d have to ask them.

In any event, you can access Envision 2030 here. We will focus on a few things in the Executive Summary, which you can find here.

For instance, there was this nugget on page 16 in the description of “Regional Transit Vision Elements”:

Premium Regional Transit Services: New regional transit service options across county lines and between major activity centers where vehicles operate outside of general traffic lanes.

Page 16 of the pdf.  See what they did there.  The “Premium Regional Transit,” which is aforementioned and discussed “BRT” plan (which really never was a BRT plan, though it was originally sold as one) has now become just “premium transit” (defined by FDOT on page 1 here as “transit service that moves a higher number of riders, longer distances, more quickly as compared to local transit.” In other words, anything other than a local bus) not in general traffic lanes.  Forget dedicated lanes, which is what BRT needs. Forget fixed guideways. “Not in general traffic lanes” could/will include express lanes or shoulders, which is not BRT.  In other words, it will be a very expensive, highly packaged, (maybe express) bus. (It is an admission, and, in a way, it is more honest, but it still tells you the plan is not worth it.) So why spend all the (or really any) money pretending it is anything other than an express bus? And how is an overpriced express bus “world class”?

But there is more. Page 23 of the executive summary is the 10-year “impact scenario.”

From TBARTA – click on picture for bigger version

If you look closely, you will note that the “BRT” plan from downtown to Pasco is not even contemplated to be done by 2030. (There are not going to be express lanes there, either.  Go figure)  The whole idea of bringing commuters from Pasco by bus (which was one of the big “regional” things) is gone.  And, for us, that is ok because Pasco stops really did not justify any service more than maybe an Express Bus. But the timeline also means the entire TBARTA “spine” idea is out the window (and, remember, that was one of the major justifications for the “BRT” plan).  Maybe they will do that leg one day.

What connects USF to downtown for people coming from St. Pete?  On the map, it is the proposed HART Florida/Nebraska BRT project which we have discussed previously (and which will require a bus change in downtown Tampa to even get from USF to Westshore or the airport under TBARTA’s 2030 vision) and which is not a TBARTA project anyway.

Then on page 25, there are the TBARTA Board’s recommendations for selling their plan.

From TBARTA – click on picture for bigger version

Which is necessary because of page 26, which is where they say they need funding, including from local sources.

From TBARTA – click on picture for bigger version

As we have said many times before, if the funding is for the “BRT” plan, we do not think Hillsborough (or any county) should give TBARTA money, whether it is AFT money or otherwise, because TBARTA’s plans do not address Hillsborough’s needs.  In fact, the “BRT” plan with the buses running in express lanes is incredibly wasteful.  Every improvement TBARTA can get by spending hundreds of millions to drive in express lanes, they can get by spending much less on an express bus in express lanes through an agreement between PSTA and HART (especially since service to Pasco is way off in the future) with a some FDOT funding.  TBARTA is completely superfluous.

And, yes, on page 17 there is a line for rail on the CSX tracks, but on the ten-year plan there is no mention of it.

Given no spine, no dedicated lanes, no money, no vision, etc., we go back to the old question: why not just run an express bus in the express lanes from St. Pete to Westshore or downtown?  Then Hillsborough (and any county that wants to join it) can spend the money on it real needs.

As we have said before, we wish TBARTA was a real transit agency with good transit planning.  But it isn’t.  Whatever the board decides, we see no reason for Hillsborough to give it any money until it becomes that.

However, you feel about it, you have until June 1 to let them know here.


— St. Pete BRT

As regular readers will know, there has been a proposed BRT route from downtown St. Pete to St. Pete Beach for a while.  Aside from some opposition in St. Pete Beach, one of the hang-ups was waiting for the Federal government to give the project around $20 million dollars (we often wondered why the State wouldn’t just pay it, but anyway).

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority will be awarded $21.8 million for its bus rapid transit project connecting St. Petersburg to the beaches.

The announcement was made by President Donald Trump via Twitter on Thursday.

The president also tweeted about other transit projects throughout the U.S. receiving funds.

PSTA’s Central Avenue BRT project is a 10.3-mile rapid transit connection between downtown St. Pete, the city of South Pasadena and the city of St. Pete Beach. PSTA is calling this service a BRT project due to speedy frequency compared to typical buses, having its own lane and having a limited number of stops.

Although Trump made the announcement, PSTA officials have not been given official notice regarding the award.

This is a good plan which, unlike the “BRT” plan actually has dedicated lanes along much of the route.  Assuming they get the money, good for St. Pete.


Governance – Yes

If you were paying attention to the Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group meetings recently, you may have an opinion on this:

Originally formed to deal with emergency situations like hurricanes, the coronavirus pandemic was a new challenge to the group, and it become the focal point of the county’s response to the crisis and has exposed fault lines between Tampa, the county and its two smaller cities.

On Wednesday, Castor said it should be restructured to give Florida’s third-largest city more power, responding to a question asking if Tampa should have more representation on the board.

” I do agree that after we go through this COVID-19 situation and make it safely through hurricane season that we should revisit the number of individuals on there, ” Castor said during a virtual Tampa Bay Chamber event. “For us to have 400,000 in our community and Plant City and Temple Terrace have around 80,000 combined residents. I think we should just discuss the structure.”

Plant City has 39, 794 resident and Temple Terrace has 26,639 residents, according to 2019 U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Tampa has 399,700 residents.

We completely agree.  We do not want to silence Temple Terrace or Plant City, but it is odd that their views should carry the same weight as Tampa.


Rays

Here is your Rays news: the MLB is the MLB.


Finally

Remember, regardless of openings being allowed, the virus is still here and the real issue is whether people will follow the proper advice because it is really up to people to care for themselves, their families, and their neighbors, even during the opening. So be responsible, stay safe, and take care of your community.

Wash your hands, wear a mask when appropriate/necessary, and practice social distancing.

While there are many places online you can buy them, you can find a number of videos on how to make a simple mask, including this from the CDC, this from the Times and this from the County.

Here are some links to government resources:

CDC

Florida Department of Health

Florida Department of Health Updated Statistics/Map Dashboard

Florida Health, Hillsborough

Hillsborough County

City of Tampa

Tampa Bay Partnership Covid-19 Statistics

This week we return to Eagle 8 WFLA’s Twitter feed:

From Eagle 8 WFLA – click on picture for tweet

 

 

Roundup 5-22-2020

May 21, 2020

Contents

The Great Reopening, Cont.

— And A Little Longer, Please

Governance – Maybe They Will Actually Be Enforced Now

Ybor City/Channel District/Downtown/Rays – A Whole Mess of Something . . . Or Not

South Tampa – Some Change

South Tampa – Condos

Downtown/Channel District – Water Street

Economy/Economic Development

— Advisory Committee

— Manufacturing I

— Manufacturing II

Airport – Less

Port – Less

History

— Movies

— Seminoles

Meanwhile, In the Rest of North America

Finally

______________________________________


The Great Reopening, Cont.

As we have said previously, we are all for having a cautious reopening based on data (though we are not sure this fits that category).  Unfortunately, we get news like this (and this and this) which makes one wonder a bit.  We are not saying we know which version of the story is more accurate, but that is kind of the point.

We check the dashboard daily (and there is a link to it below).  We know there are some quirks (like a surprisingly low numbers one day followed by spikes then next) but that can be reasonably chalked up to issues in collecting data every day from multiple sources.

However, if (and it is a big if) the numbers are not presented honestly, it does not engender confidence that decisions are being made on the data and, moreover, it will lead people to make poor decisions.  (And that does not take into account the delay in numbers due to the nature of the virus.)

Locally, the Tampa Bay Partnership has come out with another nice tool:

Tampa Bay leaders and businesses now have a one-stop-shop to track local data on coronavirus testing, cases and hospital bed availability.

On Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Partnership introduced its Covid-19 Regional Re-Opening Dashboard, a comprehensive dashboard that tracks data county by county, which can be used to help guide leaders when making decisions about reopening, and could also show if Tampa Bay would experience a second wave.  

You can find it here. Moving through the pages there are statistics in a number of categories and then information by county.

What does it tell us:

The gathering of criteria for a phase one reopening calls for the community to meet the following benchmarks, according to the partnership’s release:

And how are we doing?

These are some of the findings from the dashboard, which the partnership pointed out in its release:

There is no big spike yet, but it would be nice if the case numbers were dropping and the positive test rate clearly declining.  (It is also notable that, after having fewer cases for pretty much the entire “lockdown,” at the time or writing, Hillsborough has now passed Orange County in the number of cases. And, according to the State’s dashboard, Hillsborough had one of its largest daily reports of new cases – 69 – reported on May 20, though one day does not make a spike) And keep in mind:

Data will be updated periodically; the number of cases and available hospital beds are delivered daily, while testing data is released on a weekly basis. However, the data on the dashboard is only as accurate as the state data being collected, Homans said, adding there must be full transparency and disclosure.

Exactly.  You need good data to make good decisions.  And, as we have said before, people can have differences of opinion about some of those decisions, but what we don’t need is the widespread, and ill-advised, politicization of this issue (and we mean by anyone).  It does a disservice to the area, the state, and the country.


— And A Little Longer, Please

There is news that the City’s street closing program to promote businesses is being extended to May 26. We favor that.  In fact, we think it should go at least a week longer.  While we are not really for permanent closing of major streets, soon enough it will be hot, humid, and rainy and sitting in the road will lose its allure.  Let it go on a little longer.


Governance – Maybe They Will Actually Be Enforced Now

The County Commission voted to increase impact fees:

Hillsborough County commissioners agreed to increase impact fees for new park construction and transportation Wednesday.

By a pair of 6-1 votes, with Commissioner Ken Hagan dissenting, the commission said park and transportation fees will increase beginning Jan. 1, but at a reduced rate rather than what a consultant recommended. On both fees, commissioners agreed to a phased-in approach to implementing the higher fees. They also agreed to do an annual review of the charges.

That is actually a larger margin than we anticipated.

The park impact fee will increase from an average of $388 to $3,300 for a new, 2,000-square-foot, single-family home. That fee hasn’t increased since its adoption in 1985. The plan also includes a $2,042 park fee for each new hotel room. The commission agreed to charge 55 percent of that rate in January, and increase it to 65 percent a year later.

A study from Tindale Oliver proposed increasing the transportation fee from $5,094 to as much as $9,183 for a single-family home. The fee would be reduced to $7,401 if the legal challenge to the voter-approved transportation surtax is rejected by the Florida Supreme Court.

The commission agreed to charge 80 percent of the recommended transportation fee on Jan. 1, increase it to 90 percent a year later and then fully implement the charge on Oct. 1, 2022.

Commissioner Stacy White advocated for the stepped increases to avoid fees going up in the 2020 calendar year because of economic uncertainty from the coronavirus pandemic.

We have made no secret for our support in creating an impact fee system that, as opposed to the previous incarnation, actually deals with impacts.  The previous policy was to simply subsidize development.  We also understand phasing the increase in and having reviews.  There is some logic to that.  However, it should also be remembered that previous Commissions created the system, then gutted it over time.  It will take work to maintain a proper system.  So, phase it in, but make sure it stays in place and up to date.

In any event, it is a good, and long overdue, step.


Ybor City/Channel District/Downtown/Rays – A Whole Mess of Something . . . Or Not

When last we checked in the with nexus of downtown, Ybor, and the Channel District, the Tampa Park Apartments were being bought.  The buyer also owns (most of) the land on which the Rays proposed to build a stadium in Ybor and some connecting property adjacent to the apartment property.  Of course, the Rays unceremoniously walked away from the Ybor proposal previously, then, after a while, started to come back to it:

. . . the team still would like to play ball in Ybor City one day, according to developer Darryl Shaw.

The BluePearl Specialty & Emergency Pet Hospital co-founder owns most of a block that the Rays said was their preferred site for a Tampa ballpark. The team unveiled a design for a $892 million ballpark in 2018 before scrapping the idea after clashing with county officials over funding.

The Rays later announced a controversial plan to play half their season in Montreal. But the team is still talking to Shaw about the site at the northeast corner of Adamo and Channelside drives, he said last week. Those conversations were with Rays Chief Development Officer Melanie Lenz as recently as this year.

(For some interesting thoughts on the Rays situation, go here.)

Moving on to what else might be seen on the land:

Shaw said his development will be in keeping with a trend of more people moving into urban cores and being less car-dependent. His corner of Ybor is served by the TECO Line Streetcar and is close to Tampa Union Station.

In a nod to Tampa Park Apartments, he would like to include lower-cost housing, which could include affordable and so-called workforce housing.

“You can’t have an urban core and only have really expensive housing,” he said.

Shaw said his plan is to enhance Ybor, not to create a separate district like Water Street. He wants to recreate Ybor’s neighborhood feel, although he would like the city to relax height restrictions that apply in Ybor to parcels south of Fourth Avenue.

That is all quite vague, which is not surprising at this stage in the process.  Nevertheless, as general ideas, they sound good.  We will just have to see what comes of it.


South Tampa – Some Change

We have previously discussed a proposal for 3816 West Morrison Ave. (here and here. Really, this is a Henderson project, but designated addresses are what they are).  The original proposal was to build an office building next to the Crown Building with a garage that had ground floor retail.  However, the new proposal makes some changes, including the removal of the Crown Building:

A new office project is proposed for 3816 West Morrison Ave. right where Henderson and Dale Mabry cross. There was a previous office proposal on this lot several years back, and now it looks like a developer is moving forward again.

The project is 10 stories and features 211,352 square feet of office space along with several thousand square feet more of flex commercial space including some ground floor retail space. There is a parking garage with 1,192 parking spaces. There’s also a single penthouse residential unit on the top floor.

At 145 feet tall, this will easily be one of the tallest things in the immediate area.

The rezoning hearing is set for 9/10.

 

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

 

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

We think this project is OK.  We do not have a problem with the height or size of the building.  We appreciate the retail/commercial on the ground floor of the garage.  However, it would be nice if there was something on the street on Henderson which, as we said, is the main road. (We also have to admit some, probably misplaced, sentimentality for the Crown Building.) And, even with the retail, the garage is quite hulking for the area and likely includes more spaces than they will ever need (unless it is overflow parking for the Christ the King Carnival). We are not sure about the rooftop penthouse, but it is not a major issue.

As we said, we think it is OK.  It could be tweaked to make it better.  We shall see what happens.


South Tampa – Condos

There was some new information on Bayshore(-ish) condo projects.  First, Hyde Park House:

Kolter Urban, a division of Kolter Group, is beginning site work for Hyde Park House on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa and Saltaire, which is on the former parking lot of the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront in downtown St. Pete. Hyde Park House is 21 stories and 70 units; Saltaire is 35 stories and 192 units.

In early May, the developer secured a $156.5 million construction loan for Saltaire from Wells Fargo and a $75.5 million loan for Hyde Park House from M&T Bank, said Brian Van Slyke, Kolter’s regional president for Florida’s West Coast.  

We are not huge fans of the Hyde Park House design (though at least the exterior is a bit more diverse than another white box), but we hope for the best.

In further news, per URBN Tampa Bay:

Here’s a new rendering of Altura Bayshore, a condo tower which should be going up soon at 2910 West Barcelona Street.

The project is 24 stories with 73 units.

 

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

The height is fine. We are sure it will be nice inside.  The façade is what it is.


Downtown/Channel District – Water Street

Time for some more Water Street information.  First is from URBN Tampa Bay (from the Water Street site) giving an overview of what is getting built now:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

Second, URBN Tampa Bay took some screen shots from a Water Street promotional video, including this one, which is very cool and once again indicates how poorly Aurora fits in with a real downtown (and why you should not accept settling):

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

You can see more screen shots here.

And another rendering from the Water Street website:

From Water Street – click on picture for website

Next up is a very nice panorama of Water Street from Rough Rider at SkyscraperCity:

From Rough Rider at SkyscraperCity – click on picture for post.

And finally, an update video:

It is very cool that they have managed to keep moving forward at a nice pace through the last few months.


Economy/Economic Development


— Advisory Committee

Even when things appear to be going well, there are always economic issues that need to be addressed.  In that context we found this interesting:

City Council member Bill Carlson wants to widen the net on how to reduce inequality and diversify the city’s economy.

The first-term council member who represents South Tampa proposed creating an economic advisory committee composed of 23 members. The committee would provide quarterly updates to City Council on how the city can tackle a diverse array of economic issues. Those include reducing poverty, gender and racial disparities in income and economic diversification.

“The idea here is to have a diverse representation of the community to give advice on where the community is going,” Carlson said at the council’s May 7 meeting.

Carlson’s plan was approved by council members. City staff will report back with guidelines on rules and reporting procedures at the council’s June 4 meeting.

Each of the city’s seven council members would appoint two committee members. Mayor Jane Castor would appoint three members. Hillsborough County, the Tampa Bay Economic Development Corporation, the Tampa Bay Chamber, the University of South Florida Muma College of Business, Tampa International Airport and Port Tampa Bay would each appoint one member. The nearly two-dozen members would elect a chairperson each year, and all members would serve one-year terms, according to Carlson’s plan.

The Mayor had an interesting response:

She said she wanted to make sure such a body wasn’t “redundant” before committing city staff and resources to the effort.

“That’s something we’ve been focusing on since I took office,” Castor said. ” I just have to find out what he envisioned and just ensure that it’s not already being done.”

We are not sure exactly what that means, but we are sure that even if she has some people looking at the issues, the efforts can be coordinated and consolidated.  No one has a monopoly on good ideas.


— Manufacturing I

Speaking of diversifying, while it is not large, this kind of thing pleases us:

Advanced Airfoil Components, a joint venture between Siemens and Chromalloy, opened its 210,000-square-foot factory near U.S. 41 and Big Bend Road in 2018. There it builds blades and other parts for Siemens gas turbines used in electric power generation plants.

It has about 170 employees now with plans to expand to 300 by 2023, said Nickole Watson, the company’s senior human resources business partner.

About 25 of those positions are entry-level manufacturing jobs that would be suitable for someone looking to make a career change, Watson said.

* * *

Those entry-level jobs pay $10 to $11 an hour. Advanced Airfoil also is hiring for other, more skilled positions that pay more. Those include jobs in non-destructive testing, as well as engineering technicians, quality technicians, document control specialists, maintenance technicians and waste water operators.

Admittedly, the entry level jobs do not pay that much, but, setting that aside, generally developing more manufacturing and expanding manufacturing employment in this area is a good thing.


— Manufacturing II

The Business Journal had another story about manufacturing, which is even smaller:

A manufacturer with a local presence wants to expand in Tampa — but with a financial award attached.

The project, codenamed Project 20-683, will seek approval during a virtual Tampa City Council meeting on Thursday for the city to financially provide its share of $11,500 in incentive dollars.

The unnamed manufacturer makes products for beverages, food and household good industries and also serves the aerospace, technology, commercial and government sectors.

If approved, the project would create 23 new jobs paying $62,420, at least 115 percent of the average Hillsborough County wage. Most significantly, the company would invest $34 million in renovations and equipment.

City documents say that Tampa is competing with the company’s facility in Texas.

The city’s financial commitment includes a QTI base award of $6,900 and a high impact sector bonus award of $4,600 subject to annual appropriations

We do not know what the company is and we do not know what they want from the State and the County, but the incentive money requested seems quite low (though the number of jobs is also low).  That being said, it is often difficult to judge these requests because so much information is not released.


Airport – Less

Everyone knows airline traffic is down.

The pandemic’s damage to Tampa International Airport’s bottom line is big, but not bigger than the airport’s ability to respond, officials said Thursday.

As travelers vanished in March, the airport lost $5.9 million in revenues, and that’s just the start.

Damage to air travel is projected to cost the airport another $41 million in revenue from April through September. After factoring in cost reductions, the airport is likely to be $31 million off its budget for the second half of its fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

For the year, the airport projects it will see 13.2 million passengers — 40 percent fewer than last year’s record number of 23.3 million.

“We’ve seen a complete decimation of demand,” said Chris Minner, the airport’s executive vice president of marketing and communications. “Most airlines were down somewhere between 40 and 60 percent for the month of March. … By the end of the month, passenger activities had ground almost completely to a halt.”

For April, the airport has been running 97 percent lower than normal. That includes a complete stop of all international flights.

We are not going to get into the budget numbers (you can find them in the article here).  Obviously, it is bad.  And, in all honesty, no one knows when it will come back. (Just like with the City budget.)  Just like the initial drop, the recovery is really contingent on external factors.


Port – Less

As we discussed previously, the Port’s revenue is going to be off:

For the last seven months ending in April, the port’s operating revenues were about $2.2 million, or about 5 percent, below budgeted levels. The loss of cruise ship sailings, suspended since March 14, accounted for $1.75 million of that.

Some falloff in cruise revenue was anticipated because of the previously scheduled redeployment of one cruise ship away from the port this year, but officials said the loss of 32 cruises (and counting) could not have been predicted.

“Obviously, this will impact us for the rest of the fiscal year, and it’s not entirely clear when the cruise industry will resume,” port vice president for business development Wade Elliott said.

The pandemic is expected to affect the port in other ways, too. With demand for gasoline and air travel down, shipments of petroleum and jet fuel — a major import through the port — will be off, too.

Though, at least:

Meanwhile, the port’s container traffic for the year is still up 27 percent over the same time last year.

Nevertheless, with less money:

The port had planned to spend up to $5 million this year on improvements to Cruise Terminal 3: adding two escalators, installing a new canopy and repairing the roof for the second-floor balcony.

But with the pandemic shutting down cruises, port commissioners voted to pare the job down to $500,000. Reno Building of Tampa will fix the roof, which is leaking badly enough to damage the terminal’s floors and put water in the first-floor baggage claim area.

The other work will wait, officials said.

We have no problem with being cautious in these circumstances, though there is an argument, as with roads, to get the work done when no one is there (especially if you know it will be used later, which we do for roads).  But, it is true, cruises they may not come back for a while.  In any event:

“Now, more than ever, Port Tampa Bay’s diversification with our multiple lines of business is proving to be very important,” Elliott said.

Diversification is important.  We are glad it is a goal, though there is a way to go yet.


History


— Movies

A few weeks ago, the Times had an article about a very cool effort.

Kelly Hickman has the facts.

Now, she needs your memories.

For a decade, Hickman has been researching the stories of Tampa’s historic single-screen movie theaters.

Today, downtown’s Tampa Theatre is the last of its kind.

But Hickman has determined that at least 61 operated in Tampa over the years.

She has documented opening dates, size, capacity and what types of movies were screened.

That information will be part of a book and documentary one day.

But first, the 47-year-old Tampa filmmaker needs help from the public.

“We need personal stories,” Hickman said. “I know there are still people in the community who visited these theaters or had parents or grandparents who did and have stories.”

She wants those people to email her at HistoricTheatresInTampa@gmail.com.  

You can read the whole article here. You can find here whole list of theaters here.

We are all for recording the history of the area, especially since so many of the buildings have been demolished.


— Seminoles

Going back a little further, there is this interesting article about a (possibly) historical location from the Seminole Wars:

Since building their home on Pemberton Creek Drive in 2014, Jean and Robert Dorazio have jokingly referred to an odd mound in their backyard as “the grave.”

“It’s always been there,” Jean Dorazio said of the 10-foot-long, ankle-high mound. “We don’t know what it is.”

So neither was shocked when informed that there is a chance — though just a slight one, according to one archaeologist — that the remains of two soldiers killed during the Seminole Wars are somewhere on their Seffner property.

You can read the whole Times article here.


Meanwhile, In the Rest of North America

A while back we discussed a proposal for a large Google development in waterfront land near downtown Toronto.  The proposal caused excitement early on, but then ran into concerns about Google data collection in its smart development.  Last week:

Citing the economic turmoil from the coronavirus pandemic, a corporate sibling of Google said on Thursday that it had abandoned ambitious plans to create a sensor-laden, data driven “city of tomorrow” out of a shabby district along Toronto’s Lake Ontario shoreline.

“It has become too difficult to make the 12-acre project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan we had developed together with Waterfront Toronto to build a truly inclusive, sustainable community,” Dan Doctoroff, the chief executive of the corporate sibling, Sidewalk Labs, wrote in a blog post.

You can read the whole article here.

In early discussions about it, we wondered if the Tampa Bay area would have raised the privacy concerns or just accepted anything Google proposed.  It is still a valid question.


Finally

Remember, regardless of openings being allowed, the virus is still here and the real issue is whether people will follow the proper advice because it is really up to people to care for themselves, their families, and their neighbors, even during the opening. So be responsible, stay safe, and take care of your community.

Wash your hands, wear a mask when appropriate/necessary, and practice social distancing.

While there are many places online you can buy them, you can find a number of videos on how to make a simple mask, including this from the CDC, this from the Times and this from the County.

Here are some links to government resources:

CDC

Florida Department of Health

Florida Department of Health Updated Statistics/Map Dashboard

Florida Health, Hillsborough

Hillsborough County

City of Tampa

This week we return to Eagle 8 WFLA’s Twitter feed:

From Eagle 8 WFLA – click on picture for tweet

From Eagle 8 WFLA – click on picture for tweet

 

Roundup 5-15-2020

May 14, 2020

Contents

The Great Reopening, Cont.

— One More Thing

— And Another Thing

Transportation

— Roads to Nowhere

— Flix

— Faster

West Tampa/Hyde Park/Downtown – TGH

Downtown/Channel District/Ybor – Sold

Channel District – Almost

Westshore – About the Plaza

Tampa Heights – Well, Not Yet

The New Area Code

Finally

_____________________________________


The Great Reopening, Cont.

As we noted last week, the great reopening is underway.  We appreciate the Governor’s baby step approach (and being more careful with areas hit harder).  We also appreciate the desire to be data based. With, as best as is known, a 2-14 day incubation period, we will only really start to see if there are any spikes from the reopening around when we post this.  Given that, we are not going to do a long discussion about it. (Going by data on the illness, one cannot know if we are ready for phase two yet.)

One thing we did find interesting, especially with the protests in other states, were a couple of articles about how Americans for Prosperity are taking a more cautious approach than many other politicians, with comments like this:

“The question is — what is the best way to get people back to work? We don’t see protests as the best way to do that,” Emily Seidel, CEO of Americans for Prosperity, said in a statement. “Instead, we are working directly with policymakers to bring business leaders and public health officials together to help develop standards to safely reopen the economy without jeopardizing public health. The choice between full shutdown and immediately opening everything is a false choice.”

(for more background, see here) We agree.  It is a false choice.  Of course, the question is what level of risk is society willing to endure, but the economy and the dealing with the virus are two sides of the same coin.

Which brings us to the measures that should be put in place. Simply acting like there is enough testing and contact tracing capacity to go back to normal behavior is problematic, as is focusing on reopening rather than the precautions people should take as we reopen.  The precautions are what would allow more opening. They need to be the focus. (We would love it if everything was back to normal, but it isn’t.  Just Google some stories from New York or Italy from way back in April if you need a reminder of what can happen if people are not attentive to this illness.) And, while most people seem to favor the precautions (see here  and here), but, of course, there are a decent number of people who act otherwise.  If people ignore them, it will take much longer for the economy to recover.

As we have said for a while, the basic point is quite simple.  When you have an infectious disease with not cure or vaccine, to stop the spread, you either isolate the people with the virus or you have to isolate everyone.  To do the former, you need high levels of accurate testing and extensive, fast contact tracing (as well as a plan to isolate infected people).  Maybe it is all there somewhere, but we do not see the contract tracing capacity and even the testing is a bit odd, like this .  (It is worth reading this for some context as to why this is not time to be complacent.)

And we thought it might be useful to go way back to March 15 to review:

“If you just leave the virus to its own devices, it will go way up like we’ve seen in Italy. That’s not going to happen if we do what we’re attempting to do and are doing,” Fauci told CBS’s Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation.”

“The way you get ahead of it is that, as I try to explain to people, that I want people to assume that … we are overreacting because if it looks like you’re overreacting, you’re probably doing the right thing,” he added.

Fauci reiterated that public health officials are currently focused on a two-pronged strategy for the coronavirus.

“One is preventing new infections from coming in, and the other is containment and mitigation within the country, and it is correct that infections are going to go up. Our job is to make sure it doesn’t do the maximum peak and actually blunts,” he said.

“Within that blunt, there will be new infections, and we need to make sure it doesn’t get to that really bad peak,” Fauci said.

That was done.  The question is: was the time gained by that effort used to prepare for the next stage so it can be contained and outbreaks can be suppressed in the future?  Hopefully it was.  It would be a shame if all that effort will just be wiped away by a few irresponsible decisions, a few irresponsible people, and a lack of preparation.


— One More Thing

Kudos to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s office for their beach activity dashboard.

The Sheriff’s Office is launching the “Beach Capacity Dashboard” at 1 p.m. Friday. The online tool will provide real-time updates for beaches, parking lots and bridges. The weekend is expected to attract tens of thousands of visitors to the county’s 35 miles of pristine sand.

“We’re going to do everything we can to help you,” Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Thursday. “We’re going to be constantly updating it. I really encourage everybody to use these tools that are going to be available.”

You can find it here. (And hopefully we will not have people act like they did in Naples.)


— And Another Thing

The City is extending the Lift Up Local program that closes some streets and allows shops and restaurants to use the space. We thought it was a good idea to start with, and we think it should be extended for now.


Transportation


— Roads to Nowhere

Some bad ideas seem to not only just never die, but never even take a real break:

Pandemic or not, Florida officials are moving ahead with their plans to build more than 300 miles of toll roads across the state.

This week, the Department of Transportation task force panels assigned to come up with recommendations for the roads are set to meet this week over teleconference.

To speak during the public comment period, you have to sign up in advance. The deadline to speak during Tuesday’s meeting, about the road that would extend the Suncoast Parkway to the Georgia border, is Monday by 5 p.m.

The task forces for the other roads meet at different times (you can get information at the website). And the logo with the leaf is a nice touch for a massive highway project through undeveloped areas:

From M-CORES website – click on picture for website

In any event, you can check for future meetings and register to speak here.  And here is the extensive online agenda of the May meeting. Good to know that decisions on billions of dollars in questionable road construction have such comprehensive planning.

In all honesty, this is about what we expected from the process. The M-CORES project is clearly not driven by need, and it is not properly vetted.  Maybe the money involved should go to things we really need, like public health infrastructure and helping to plug the big hole in the budget from the pandemic.


— Flix

While we are not surprised by the Roads to Nowhere process, we were surprised by this:

Low-cost bus service to Orlando and Jacksonville could be coming to the Tampa Bay area.

St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday approved a bus stop for FlixBus, a German low-cost bus brand that carries passengers between city centers aboard coach buses. The bus company already operates in 23 U.S. states, plus Washington D.C., servicing 55 routes, city officials said. It also operates in Europe.

The St. Petersburg bus stop, located on Central Avenue between Eighth and Ninth streets along the Social Security Administration building, would be the terminus of a line that goes to Tampa and Orlando and ends in Jacksonville. A ticket to Orlando could cost as little as $10, while a ticket to Jacksonville could be $20.

FlixBus passengers purchase tickets in advance and board the bus right at the curb. Since there are no transactions, the loading process is quick.

It is not that we are against low-cost bus service, especially if standards can be maintained.  We are all for transportation alternatives and know people who have used such services in other states.  But,

It’s unclear when service could begin. FlixBus suspended all its U.S. operations in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

And there is the issue of being in a small, enclosed space for a number of hours right now. We shall see.


— Faster

FDOT is accelerating more road work.

On Monday, the Florida Department of Transportation announced a second phase of accelerating infrastructure projects throughout the state under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ direction. The governor made a recent order to take advantage of lower traffic volumes due to Covid-19, and expedited more than 40 critical transportation projects.

* * *

In the first phase, DeSantis ordered to expedite the construction process for the $864 million Howard Frankland Bridge project. Now the state has identified these additional Tampa Bay area projects to be accelerated:

Hillsborough County

We have no problem with doing the work faster when it can be done.  We just wish that they were actually fixing the Howard Frankland bottleneck.


West Tampa/Hyde Park/Downtown – TGH

Tampa General had an interesting announcement last week.

Tampa General Hospital is partnering with Kindred Healthcare to build a freestanding inpatient rehabilitation center in Tampa.

The joint venture, announced Thursday, will construct and operate the 59-bed facility located on Kennedy Boulevard between Oregon and Willow avenues to meet the growing needs of the region. Construction on the $35 million, 80,000-square-foot building is expected to begin this summer, with an opening planned in the fall of 2021.

The center will care for adults recovering from conditions like stroke, neurological disease, injury to the brain or spinal cord and other illnesses. It will include a brain injury unity with private dining and a therapy gym.

We have no problem with that idea, in principle.  This is a rendering from the Times article:

From the Times – click on picture for article

And this from the Business Journal:

From the Times – click on picture for article

And here is a site plan from Accela:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

It seems like a classic design from the Institutional Bland school.

This is an old rendering of plans for the property in question:

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

This is the old site plan:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

The site plan for the new proposal sits on the lot differently than old site plan. The old plan was not the best layout, but at least is was a little more urban with an attempt to be somewhat attractive. The new proposal looks like they are moving backwards (including in height, interesting design features, and façade), and too much land seem designated for parking.  A rehab hospital is a fine idea.  We would hope that it was nicer and more fitting for its environment (though neither proposal does much for the street).

And there is a something else.

Multiple buildings filled with innovative medical students from the University of South Florida to clinicians working with rehab patients — this is the scene Tampa General CEO John Couris envisions on a 9-acre property on Kennedy Boulevard.

It’s a long-term vision, but on Thursday TGH took another step toward that vision.

TGH announced it had entered into a joint venture partnership with Kindred Healthcare LLC to construct and operate a freestanding 59-bed inpatient rehabilitation facility on Kennedy Boulevard between Oregon and Willow avenues. The $35 million facility, which TGH considers an acute hospital that would be built by 2021, will provide care for adults recovering from conditions such as stroke, neurological disease, injury to the brain or spinal cord and other debilitating illnesses/injuries. It has the ability to expand up to 80 beds.

It would also allow TGH to transfer its acute rehab workers to the facility, freeing up space in its current 72,194-square-foot rehab center.

However, this is just one project on the 9-acre site. Couris told the Tampa Bay Business Journal that this partnership is only the first phase of what the site will be converted into.

“We have the medical school on one end in Water Street and now Kennedy is at other end with a 1,100-bed academic medical center in between. The idea is to create an environment, a district to practice clinically, attract private equity, venture capital, biosciences — it’s going to be a natural progression,” TGH CEO and President John Couris said.

He described the Kennedy site as a future medical campus destination, including a hotel.

This is not a new idea and we have no problem with a medical district. (and we are for getting as much of TGH off the island as possible). But speaking geographically, the institutions in the area discussed are so fragmented at this point it all is a bit vague.  The main hospital is one place.  The med school in another place.  And these facilities in another.  They are not huge distances, but there are substantial things between them. (Not to mention Moffitt being quite far away.)  As we have discussed before, in other cities, the facilities in medical districts are much more contiguous.

Once again, we are not opposed to the concept and having lofty aspirations is a good thing, but we would like to see at least an idea of how this is supposed to play out so it will seem more substantial and less like a branding exercise.


Downtown/Channel District/Ybor – Sold

There was news about the long-discussed sale of (most of) the Tampa Park Apartments:

BluePearl Specialty & Emergency Pet Hospital co-founder Darryl Shaw has confirmed he is the buyer of Tampa Park Apartments, a low-cost housing complex considered a vital real estate asset to link Ybor City to downtown Tampa and Channelside.

Shaw has a contract to close on 12 of the property’s roughly 18 acres for an undisclosed price and plans to redevelop it. The remainder of the property will continue to be owned by a non-profit group headed by Florida Sentinel Bulletin newspaper publisher S. Kay Andrews.

Regardless of where they live on the property, all Tampa Park tenants have until Nov. 1 to move out. Roughly 270 of the complex’s 370 apartments are still occupied. It is is one of the last places where low-income families, seniors and people on disability benefits can afford to live close to downtown.

The loss of affordable housing will be an issue, though there have been problems at the complex.

In a recent article in her newspaper, Andrews said it became increasingly difficult to maintain the property after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development decided in 2018 to stop subsidizing rents in 170 apartments after four failed inspections.

The housing has reached the end of its lifespan, Shaw said. Along with Robles Park, the complex is one of the last military barracks-style housing left in Tampa. Inspectors found cockroaches, broken or cracked windows, damaged stoves and refrigerators, and exposed wiring in the 1960s-era homes.

While:

With that in mind, Shaw plans to provide about $800,000 in relocation assistance. That includes paying $1,500 to each household to cover application fees and security deposits required by new landlords.

Shaw also is paying for a professional mover and has hired a property management firm to help residents find a new home. He is partnering with Andrews to provide the same relocation benefits to tenants who live on the portion of the property she is keeping. He would not comment on the level of her contribution.

“It was the right thing to do,” Shaw said. “If you’re earning $2,000 a month here in the U.S., it’s hard to make that transition.”

That a decent thing to do.  But, as we said, affordable housing is an issue.  On the other hand, the complex is old and does not use the land efficiently.  So, what might go there?

Shaw is buying sections of the property that abut the Nick Nuccio Parkway and said he plans new residential buildings that could include affordable and workforce housing. He is part of FBN Partners, a group of local investors who have loaned $15 million to Times Publishing Co., which owns the Tampa Bay Times.

The six parcels that make up the complex are valued at $12.1 million by the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s Office.

It’s unclear what Andrews plans to do with the remainder of the property. She did not return a call and a text message seeking comment.

Including affordable housing would definitely be a positive. And then there was this from the Business Journal later in the week:

Shaw is still early in the planning stages of the 30-plus acre development, but he knows for sure that a large portion will be devoted to residential units. More residential development, he says, is key to revitalizing Ybor City. He also says he’ll look into including a baseball stadium in his plans. About a month before the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the U.S., the Rays said they would pursue their split-city concept with Tampa and Hillsborough County.

* * *

. . . I’d like to begin a master planning process this year, but it’s a long-term vision so the pandemic doesn’t factor in at all. Clearly it’s something that will be developed over time.

So, really, aside there being some housing, we will just have to wait and see.


Channel District – Almost

URBN Tampa Bay reported another proposal for the Channel District:

Daniel Corp., based in Birmingham, Alabama, is laying the groundwork to build a 19-story, 332-unit apartment tower on the vacant corner of North 12th and Twiggs streets. The developer filed plans with the city in late April; this week, Daniel filed plans with the Southwest Florida Water Management District and sought a commercial utility permit from the city.

Construction costs are pegged at $80 million in city building records. An executive with Daniel was not immediately available Wednesday.

 

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

The building does not look bad at all (in fact, in our opinion, it appears nicer than many of the recent project in downtown/Channel District), and we like the fact they screen the parking garage from the street. However, there is too much parking and no retail.  We understand that not every building needs a ton of retail, but we are not saying they need a ton of retail/commercial.  However, we think they need some. Twiggs through that area should have retail/commercial of some sort, especially on a major corner.

It is a straight-forward point that, hopefully, the City will do something about.


Westshore – About the Plaza

While there are a number of large projects already underway in the area that have continued through the pandemic, there are plans for even more.  One of those is the redevelopment of the Westshore Plaza parking lot, which the Business Journal wrote about recently:

“While we maintain our commitment to complete our redevelopment projects, we have deferred some of the capital spend to 2021 as some of our retailers plan to open later than originally planned,” Washington Prime said in its earnings report. “We now anticipate our share of development costs to be approximately $80 million for the remainder of fiscal year 2020.”

It’s not known what exactly that means to the Tampa project in terms of timing, but a spokeswoman for the company told the Business Journal that Washington Prime is still moving forward with the redevelopment plans.

“With the focus on serving the needs of its retailers and community partners across the country during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Washington Prime Group, the parent company of WestShore Plaza, is not providing detailed updates on ongoing redevelopment activities at this time,” Kim Green, vice president of investor relations, wrote in an email. “That said, planning is continuing for the mixed-use redevelopment replacing the Sears space at WestShore Plaza, and details will be announced as circumstances stabilize and return to normal.”

In other words, they would like to do it but money is a bit tight now, so they will have to see in the future.  We hope they move forward in the not too distant future.


Tampa Heights – Well, Not Yet

Something that should come as no surprise:

Coworking company WeWork has pushed back its opening in The Heights from mid-2020 to February 2021.

Heights Union, the office building under construction in The Heights, signed a deal with WeWork for a 50,000-square-foot location in early 2019, shortly before the office building broke ground.

A WeWork spokeswoman declined comment on the delay. The developer of The Heights, SoHo Capital, did not respond to a request for comment.

Despite all the hype it received in the last few years, it is not surprising that WeWork is scaling back:

Long before the coronavirus pandemic halted the global economy, WeWork was in a financial crisis. Its initial public filing was yanked in September 2019 when the filing revealed that the company was losing billions of dollars. As a result, the company’s real estate was under scrutiny before the pandemic.

That is an understatement. As for locally, because we are usually late to most trends, it is not surprising that the scaling back involves not opening some of the space here when planned, if ever.  Regardless of WeWork, the Heights location is a good one and will get better, though it may take a little longer than previously thought. (And WeWork has competitors.) We shall see what happens.


The New Area Code

We were finally told what Hillsborough’s new area code overlay will be:

Florida kept growing, as Florida tends to do, and so a new area code was needed: 813.

It was the state’s second area code when it was created in 1953, covering Tampa Bay and all of west-central Florida. New area codes came online, but for 67 years the Tampa-Hillsborough area has been synonymous with 813.

But we’re running out of 813 numbers. That’s why it’s time for Tampa Bay to memorize three new digits: 656.

That is the new area code that will be issued across Hillsborough County in the coming years, the Public Service Commission announced on Thursday, replacing the nearly depleted supply of 813 phone numbers.

Those who already have an 813 area code can keep theirs. But 813 numbers are projected to run out by 2022. When that happens, new residents, businesses and extra phone lines will receive 656 phone numbers.

It could have been worse, but we doubt there will be any 656 swag available for purchase.


Finally

Remember, regardless of openings being allowed, the virus is still here and the real issue is whether people will follow the proper advice because it is really up to people to care for themselves, their families, and their neighbors, even during the opening. So be responsible, stay safe, and take care of your community.

Wash your hands, wear a mask when appropriate/necessary, and practice social distancing.

While there are many places online you can buy them, you can find a number of videos on how to make a simple mask, including this from the CDC, this from the Times and this from the County.

Here are some links to government resources:

CDC

Florida Department of Health

Florida Department of Health Updated Statistics/Map Dashboard

Florida Health, Hillsborough

Hillsborough County

City of Tampa

This week we return to Eagle 8 WFLA’s Twitter feed (here):

From Eagle 8 WFLA – click on picture for Tweet

From Eagle 8 WFLA – click on picture for Tweet

 

Roundup 5-8-2020

May 7, 2020

Contents

The Great Reopening

Bayshore – Let’s Try It

Governance – Impact Fees

South Tampa – Finally

Downtown/Channel District – Water Street

Westshore(-ish) – Midtown, Again

Economy

— Construction

— An Interesting Idea

— Useful

Environment – Something

— And One More Thing

Governance – Changes

Airport – Change and More Money

Port – Not As Much

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

Finally

_________________________________


The Great Reopening

We originally had a very long piece about the steps to reopen most of Florida, but given the overwhelming amount of coverage and the general uncertainty of reopening, we decided to just say this:

Last Roundup we wrote a bit about reopening the economy.  We noted that the dean of the USF Med School had a nice list of four criteria needed for a reopening and that he made clear we were not there yet (in fact we were number of weeks away).  We also noted that while the stay-at-home orders were damaging to the economy, it would be even worse to reopen and have the virus come roaring back requiring everything to close again.  Neither of those things has changed.

That being said, as everyone knows, the Governor lifted the stay-at-home order for most of Florida, with caveats:

DeSantis . . . said it would be “methodical, slow and data driven.” Elective surgeries could be one of the first areas to see restrictions eased.

* * *

“This phase one is a baby step,” DeSantis said.

We are all for cautious and data-driven.  And it is worth noting that, while the situation in Florida is getting better (yes, deaths are still high, but, as has been pointed out by Dr. Fauci among others, they lag infections by a few weeks), there are still hundreds of new cases reported each day in the state (with a few exceptions, though we shall see how things go).

These were the Governor’s baby steps:

Still, starting Monday, the rest of Florida will be allowed to lift some restrictions while keeping others in place, including:

Relative to many other states, it is a cautious and prudent opening plan, provided then next steps are actually data driven and that testing and tracing capacity are at proper levels.

Which brings us back to the Dean of USF Med School.  In his list of things that needed to be done there was widespread testing and contact tracing.

Flanking DeSantis was Tampa General Vice President Dr. Charles Lockwood. From here, he said the state’s COVID-19 response will move from mitigation to containment to shutting the epidemic down.

“There’ll be outbreaks and there’ll be flares, but it’ll allow us to return to a much more normal state,” Lockwood said.

Let’s assume testing capacity is where it should be (it’s not, but we can assume).  What about contact tracing? (As far as we can tell, no one is sure about contact tracing.) We hope it is because with the opening, there will be more spread, and it will need to be caught early. And the fact is that we will not know how this the very initial small opening steps are going for at least another week and probably more.

Finally, here are some national poll numbers that are relatively consistent in what we have seen:

From PBS – click on picture for article

Do with that what you will.

Given the incubation period for infections, we will not know how this is working out for at least another week, maybe two.  That may be slow for some, but if the process truly is data driven, then it will take time.


Bayshore – Let’s Try It

The City is moving forward with some changes to Bayshore.

The city of Tampa is taking action to prevent more fatalities on the accident-prone Bayshore Boulevard.

Temporary traffic signals will be installed this month as part of Vision Zero, a strategy to reduce traffic fatalities, according to a statement from the city. The action takes place after a series of recent deaths occurred on Bayshore, the most recent taking place in April when a bicyclist and a motorcyclist were killed when they collided.

* * *

Signals will be installed at the following intersections.

Signal installation started at the end of April and they are expected to be in operation by May 29, according to the city. The signals will also have video detection.

The intersections were identified in a previous safety study and met the warrants for traffic signals. 

As regular readers will know, we are all for additional traffic signals on Bayshore, though we are not sure what “temporary” signals are and why they are not permanent, especially since the intersections meet the traffic light criteria.

As we have also said before, in addition to the signals, there should be a plan to have truly protected bike lanes (and we would not oppose some reasonably raised intersections).

We understand why some advocate for bigger changes, but, on this issue, right now we tend to lean more in this direction, from a Times editorial (this point, not necessarily the whole editorial):

. . .The challenge is to limit the risk of a mixed-use boulevard – not to change its use entirely. And any discussion about safety must also recognize Bayshore’s central value as a corridor to Tampa General Hospital, police headquarters, major downtown venues and some of Tampa’s densest neighborhoods. The risk here for unintended consequence is significant.

Let’s see how the planned changes go.


Governance – Impact Fees

A hallmark of the last few County Commissions was a policy that favored having developers subsidized by the residents and businesses of the county. It was couched as being business friendly (subsidies usually are, unless you are the one paying), but, really, it just burdened the local taxpayers.  The policy was a failure (unless you were a developer or a developer was your client) that left the County even deeper in the hole for its needs in transportation, schools, and safety services.  All of that has been documented over and over.  The bottom line is that if you want something, someone has to pay for it.  In the past, that somebody was the existing residents (or they just did not get what they needed).

Recently,

A majority of the Hillsborough County Commission said Tuesday that higher fees on new home construction for water and sewer service are an urgent need that cannot be delayed.

“That is a necessity. We can’t ignore that. That has to happen,’’ said Commission Chairman Les Miller.

Raising impact fees on new single-family homes, re-instituting a dormant development fee and phasing in a rate increase for current customers are intended to help finance a utility expansion. That will include a wastewater treatment plant for the south county and a $200 million water main running south from Lithia to stem low pressure problems . . .

There were some objections:

“The parks impact fee — I think that’s ridiculous,’’ said Jennifer Motsinger, executive vice president of the Tampa Bay Builders Association.

She said the proposed fee increases are coming a time of economic vulnerability for the entire community and would make entry-level housing unaffordable for many. She also wondered about the timing of the proposal, given the just-approved school fee increase that yet to take effect.

“We’re having a hard time why there is such a big change in such a short period of time,’’ Motsinger said.

The simple answer for that is that for years the impact fee system was a farce and did not keep pace with any of the costs.

We get that developers do not want to pay these costs (and they won’t, because they will pass them on).  We also get that it will make new houses more expensive, but the reality is this:

“To suggest the suffering taxpayers should subsidize this one industry, the home-building industry, is not where I’m at.’’ said Commissioner Mariella Smith.

By undercharging impact fees “we will put the deficit on the current homeowners and businesses of Hillsborough County,’’ said Commissioner Kimberly Overman.

That being said, we have no opinion of the numbers specifically.  Generally speaking, they should cover real costs and real needs.

Will it have a short-term effect on real estate?  Maybe.  We doubt over the long run the difference will be that great.  And maybe it will help the urban service area to mean something.


South Tampa – Finally

Speaking of real estate, in very oddly timed news, the Aquatica condo, which was approved by the City Council 12 years ago and has been under construction for years (late 2015).

The condominiums in Aquatica Bayshore, an ultra-modern glass tower that broke ground half a decade ago, will finally be sold to buyers in the coming weeks.

Luxury real estate veteran Toni Everett, the listing agent on the condos since the project’s inception, told the Tampa Bay Business Journal that closings on the units will begin Monday. The 15-story tower, developed by Citivest Construction Co., is home to 32 units, all of which will sell for at least $1 million.

The tower is in a prime location: It sits on Bayshore Boulevard, with sweeping water views, and is also walking distance to Palma Ceia’s shops and restaurants. Eighteen of the units feature larger floor plans that span the entire length of the building with eastern and western views.

The majority of closings will be with the buyers who reserved units before construction began in 2015, Everett said. All units were presold before the tower broke ground. Most of the final walk-throughs have already been conducted; move-ins will be staggered, Everett said, to allow space for social distancing due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

As we have noted before, this building is too squat for its location (of course, an earlier City Council made sure it was squat.)  but at least it has a really obvious HVAC equipment off center on the roof.  As far as we know, it lacks any retail.

Aquatica was the first post-recession condo tower to break ground on Bayshore Boulevard, and it will also be the first in which buyers will close on units. But many of the towers that began construction well after Aquatica broke ground — with far more units — are also nearing completion. The 71-unit Virage, for example, is a quarter-mile from Aquatica on Bayshore. It broke ground in October 2017 and topped out in 2019; developer Jay Tallman said Thursday that closings on those units will begin in mid-May.

Well, at least is it almost done.


Downtown/Channel District – Water Street

As we have noted a number of times, usually through pictures, Water Street and other construction projects continue. In the last couple of weeks, we have run across a few things that we thought were worth noting regarding Water Street.

First, as pointed out by URBN Tampa Bay:

Without much fanfare, Water Street Tampa has been chugging along on 1077 Water Street. The project features 388 residential units with 14,000 square feet of retail space in a 23-story tower. The residential amenity deck is on the roof of the tower. The project provides 368 parking spaces, the amount required by code, in the parking garage currently under construction to the east, behind the USF Med school.

We don’t have much to comment on the design. While the tower is perhaps a bit plainer than a few of the other Water Street projects, we like all of the retail space on the ground floor. It’s clear that SPP intends the newly constructed Water Street to be as significant of a corridor as Tampa’s most popular pedestrian thoroughfares, like 7th, Howard, and Franklin.

As you’ll notice in the site plan, between the residential tower and the garage being built on the same block next door, all 4 sides of this block will have at least some retail activation. That is what we like to see and what should be required in Downtown – retail activation on all 4 sides. Contrast that with other projects we talk about like X Tampa.

Indeed, and it is further along than one might think.  They include some photos from Rough Rider at SkyscraperCity (full post here) such as this:

From Rough Rider at SkyscraperCity – click on picture for post

From Rough Rider at SkyscraperCity – click on picture for post

The extent of construction at Water Street is quite impressive. And we completely agree with the comment about street retail, and that brings us to this interesting map:

From Loopnet – click on map for website and bigger version of map

There is a lot of information in it, including just how much retail space there is, including in parking garages.  (More information here)

Finally, here is a video update

It is something to look forward to.


Westshore(-ish) – Midtown, Again

There is some interesting Midtown news.  From URBN Tampa Bay:

Midtown Tampa’s social media team has made some interesting posts regarding their urban planning process for their project. Here’s another one: improving a neighborhood by widening the road. No mention of sidewalks or bike lanes or any Cypress improvements that don’t have to do with putting more cars on the road:

“Midtown Tampa is committed to improving the neighborhood beyond the buildings. The Cypress Street Improvement project is a widening of the street and the addition of a new signal…”

Here is the screenshot:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

As URBN Tampa Bay points out:

One of our main complaints with this project is that it does not integrate well with the surrounding neighborhood. The project has a surface lot along Dale Mabry . . . The project’s retail is oriented inwards on the site plan instead of lining Cypress and Dale Mabry and pedestrian access into the project is not prioritized.

For one of their past posts that we commented on, check out this one from last year which talked about the “car dependent” area they are building in, and that therefore they are going to use substantial amount of their land on car storage: https://tinyurl.com/y8y56re3

(In that post from the past, they changed their caption once we pointed out their post, but we posted a screenshot of their original post in the comment of that post).

These posts demonstrate what the developer is prioritizing in their design process: cars. These marketing posts are also reinforcing the idea to the general public that you should drive to Midtown Tampa – that that is how they are designing you to arrive. Not other transport methods. At a location like this, that sort of state of mind is not appropriate.

Those are all problems with Midtown we have also noted from the beginning.  While the developer has not shown real interest in changing anything, the truth is that, as the Facebook post makes clear, this is on the City.  The City could have pushed the changes, but it just approved bad plan and moved along.  Of course, that was the last administration and council.  Hopefully this administration and council will pay more attention to details that have long term effects on the City.


Economy


— Construction

That brings us to construction, which, generally, has not stopped.  The Times once again had an article running down seven “major” projects that want to be open before the Super Bowl, if and when that happens.  The list is a bit odd as it includes Midtown but only one building in the Water Street and also includes the not-that-major and quite bad Hyatt Place in downtown Tampa (which is major only in the sense it is a major disappointment).

Setting that aside, the present administration has done something we think is quite wise:

Construction is a $2 billion-a-year industry in Tampa, so City Hall is sending nurse-inspectors to the 52 largest construction sites in town to help keep workers healthy and employed.

The use of nurses to do spot checks appears to be unique among the largest local governments in the Tampa Bay area. In Pinellas County, for example, sheriff’s deputies follow up on tips about construction sites that don’t follow the county’s health and safety guidelines.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has designated construction and infrastructure projects as essential businesses during the pandemic. On any given day, those 52 construction sites collectively have 10,000 to 12,000 workers on the job.

“That’s a great thing, because that’s an enormous engine that’s still still running, but also that’s an enormous amount of people that we really need to be mindful of relative to the spread of this disease,” said Carole Post, the city’s administrator for development and economic opportunity. “We wanted to give clear guidance to large construction sites in ways that could help their workers and those they might interact with after their work was over.”

So the city issued the industry about a dozen guidelines consistent with U.S. Centers for Disease Control advice to keep job sites safe. They include: Limit visitors and screen everyone coming onto a job site. Provide plenty of portable hand-washing facilities around the project. Keep workers more than six feet apart where possible. Limit the number of people inside construction trailers. Don’t allow food trucks onto job sites. Post signs about safe distancing on the job in both English and Spanish.

“Some of these we got from some of our large contractors who were already doing this or beginning to do it,” Post said. For example, Skanska, which is providing construction services on a $42 million innovation center at the University of South Florida, has projects in Asia, she said, “so they were months ahead of us in trying to tackle these things.”

But even then, city officials wondered how they would know that contractors consistently were using best practices to prevent the spread of the virus.

“That brought us to, ‘Why don’t we do spot checks?’ ” Post said.

So the city contracted with Dr. James McCluskey, a Tampa occupational medicine physician who works as a medical director advising large organizations, and about 20 nurses, most from the faculty at Rasmussen College, to visit each of the 52 sites two to three times a week.

Think of it as preventive maintenance.  What is the County doing?


— An Interesting Idea

The City has come out with an interesting pilot plan to try to get businesses, mainly restaurants, the ability to have more business while they are limited to how many people can go inside.  From URBN Tampa Bay:

BREAKING: Here’s a rather significant move by the City of Tampa to cut back on some regulations to give businesses a better chance to thrive during COVID. The plan does 3 main things:

  1. Road closures for pedestrian/retail/restaurant use along 8 stretches of road in the urban core2. Approve restaurants/retail to set up outdoor dining/shopping in public on-street parking spots and other public right of ways (“parklets”)3. Waiving of permit requirements for restaurants/retail to set up seating/shopping on private sidewalks.

All the new seating must be properly spaced. You can see the whole proposal here. Here is the original chart of closures:

From the City of Tampa – click on chart for pdf

After a day, the City tweaked the program a little, per URBN Tampa Bay:

After further community input, the mayor’s office has modified Tampa’s ‘Lift Up’ plan a bit, including the elimination of a couple of the road segment closures intended to allow local businesses to expand their operations. N Franklin in Tampa Heights and Grand Central near UT with both remain open to vehicular traffic. It is our understanding that the city is continually reviewing conditions and community input to include or remove additional roads from the closure program.

Given the circumstances, aside from general concerns about the opening, we have no real objections to the plan.  And we like that the City is willing to make adjustments on the fly.

While we are all for creating walkable urban areas, we are not quite as enthusiastic as some for closing down streets permanently (our experience in other areas is that very often pedestrian only streets – especially without proper transit – are not as successful as one would think), but, at this time, it is an interesting experiment.  Outside of creating more seating in pandemic times, we have seen parklets and other features in other areas, and they can be useful.  It is another example of the City thinking and trying to help get through this mess.  What is the County doing?


— Useful

The Tampa Bay Partnership is collecting data on the economic issues arising from the pandemic and lockdown.

The Tampa Bay Partnership estimates the Tampa Bay region is faring slightly better than other regions and the state as a whole in terms of unemployment stemming from the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The group released an analysis Wednesday outlining five weeks of unemployment claims totaling more than 100,000 as of April 4, the most recent date for which Florida Department of Economic Opportunity was available at the time of the study.

The analysis found the Tampa Bay region is faring better than Orlando, South Florida and the state as a whole with a smaller percentage of residents who filed claims, 4.39%.

Unemployment related to the pandemic is felt the most among women and younger, less educated residents. Women have filed nearly 61% of the region’s claims while people younger than 34 have filed nearly 42% and people with a high school diploma or less have filed nearly 40% of claims in the region.

None of that is surprising. You can read more here.

Additionally, in keeping with the emerging fashion, the Partnership has created a map of unemployment by zip code.  You can see it here. It is very interesting and thanks to them for more data to consider (though we are not sure why they require cookies to see it).


Environment – Something

Hillsborough County recently agreed to buy some land for preservation.

Hillsborough commissioners recently moved to save a little bit more of the rural flavor of the northwest portion of the county by making a little bit less of the open land in the Keystone and Odessa area available for potential development.

With no public comment, county commissioners on April 15 approved contracts to acquire two sites totaling 543 acres for $11.6 million under the Jan K. Platt Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program, known by the acronym ELAPP.

The land is located between Boy Scout and Patterson roads, east of the Booker Creek Buffer Preserve in an area designated in 2019 as a top priority for acquisition under the land-buying program. The two parcels are part of a desired 928-acre addition to the Brooker Creek Buffer Preserve that, if completed, would link 10,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land.

Most of the uplands areas have been cleared for agricultural use, and one of the approved acquisitions involves 293 acres owned by Cee Bee Groves Inc. The family-owned farm operated the last commercial orange grove in Hillsborough County until it announced its closing two years ago. The grove’s owners were the subject of a 2018 Tampa Bay Times story on the declining citrus industry.

That sale includes a $5 million purchase price and the county budgeted $950,000 to restore 159 acres of disturbed uplands and to take down buildings on the site. The citrus grove had featured a 6,000-square-foot packing house and a retail store, according to the property’s for-sale listing.

Moreover,

It abuts the site of the second purchase, 250 acres of pasture and wetlands fronting on Patterson Road. It is owned by a limited liability partnership, Double Screen Associates. The $6.6 million sale price is above the average of two appraisals, which valued the land at at $6.2 million and $6.785 million. Both county staff and commissioners said the property’s environmental importance was worth the expense.

“I have every confidence this is a fair deal for county taxpayers,” Commissioner Mariella Smith said in an interview prior to the commission’s unanimous vote.

The county also set aside $1.3 million for restoring 194 upland acres and demolishing buildings, a price that could drop if the county is able to use the land for environmental mitigation tied to public construction projects.

We are all for buying up land for nature preservation, as long as care is taken to make sure 1) it is actually preserved and 2) the money is not used for sweetheart deals or for political favoritism.  There is no clear indication that this case is untoward, but care needs to be taken.


— And One More Thing

If pandemics and economic issues were not enough,

Using a combination of climate change projections, elevation mapping, tidal gauge readings and property data, a new report concludes what many in the Tampa Bay region likely already suspected: that properties in this area are at growing risk of losing value because of sea level rise.

The case study report, done by consulting firm McKinsey, points to Pinellas, Citrus and Manatee counties as three of the nine Florida counties facing the greatest threat of property devaluation because of sea level rise by 2050. That’s because flooding, especially when it’s a frequent event rather than the byproduct of hurricanes, makes properties less attractive to buyers.

The other six counties were St. Johns, Lee, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe.

The report is here. The finding is not surprising.  We did find this chart on pg 11 of the pdf a good summary of relevant points:

Box 1.What makes Florida so vulnerable to flooding risk?

Florida has a number of physical, economic, and demographic characteristics that make it vulnerable to flooding.

Physical vulnerabilities include:

—Multiple hazards drive risk: storm surge, wind speed, precipitation, and sea level rise.

—A porous limestone foundation makes it hard to protect with sea walls.

—Sea level rise pushes more saltwater inland and into the porous limestone foundation.

—Climate change increases the abundance of toxic algae blooms and seaweed piles on beaches, reducing the attractiveness of living near coastal waters.

Economic vulnerabilities include:

—22 percent of GDP is from real estate (Florida’s GDP is $1 trillion, comparable to the Netherlands’).

—30 percent of local government tax revenue comes from property taxes.

—42 percent of median wealth in the United States is from real estate.

Demographic vulnerabilities include:

—Two-thirds of the population lives near the coastline (defined as counties that border coastal water or territorial seas).

—10 percent of the population is located less than 1.5 meters above sea level.

—27 percent of housing units are on a 100-year floodplain, an area that has a 1 percent chance of a flood in any given year.

—From 2010 to 2018, the population of Miami-Dade, a low-lying and populous part of the state, increased by 11 percent while building permits increased by over 200 percent.

—6.5 percent of the US population lives in Florida, but accounted for 11 percent of all building permits issued in 2018.

In any event, something to keep in mind in planning.


Governance – Changes

With slightly odd timing, Hillsborough County is going to change its administrator:

Hillsborough County commissioners decided Wednesday their next administrator will be a familiar face.

The commission named Bonnie Wise, assistant county administrator and chief financial administrator, as county administrator to succeed Mike Merrill, who is retiring June 30. She will receive a two-year contract.

We have no opinion about the specific hire.  The timing is challenging and the administrator has much influence, but, in the end, the buck stops with the Commissioners.


Airport – Changes and More Money

As most people know, airline traffic is way down (understatement) due to the coronavirus and all travel has changed. Part of that includes losing service (at least temporarily), including JetBlue.

Nevertheless, at the airport, they are making a number of changes to try to get to a new normal.

In the meantime, in addition to previous grants, the Federal government is giving out some more money (which seems to be in addition to previously announced money), including $6,727,068 to Tampa International for apron construction.

When air travel comes back is contingent on a lot of things beyond the control of the airport, but, hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later.


Port – Not As Much

In what will surprise no one, Port revenues are down.

Leisure travelers are no longer cruising in and out of Tampa Bay, creating financial losses within the port’s lines of business.

Port Tampa Bay reports a $633,000 loss for the month of March, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a no-sail order to decrease the spread of Covid-19.

This was “due to the loss of 12 cruise sailings in March,” the port’s CFO David Delac said during an April 21 telephone meeting.

Port usage fees are down by 4.9 percent, primarily due to the effects of Covid-19, Delac said. Cruises, leases and bulk cargo make up 71 percent of the port’s fiscal year 2020 operating revenue.

Operating revenue from fiscal 2020 and fiscal year 2019 declined $1.25 million, mainly due to the loss of cruise revenue, according to the port. However, these reductions are expected to be offset in fiscal year 2021 with the return of Holland America, Celebrity and MSC cruise lines, according to a port spokeswoman.

In terms of cargo, general cargo dockage and wharfage is down $805,000; bulk cargo dockage and wharfage is down $135,000 but so far has not been affected by Covid-19.

Bulk cargoes moving through the port includes steel, forest products, bagged cement and fertilizers. Cargo coming into the port is an indicator of economic conditions — when commercial and residential construction is on the rise, the port usually moves more lumber and steel.

We would expect revenue to be down, especially given that about a quarter of Port revenue is from cruises.  We also think it is a bit optimistic to think that 2021 will be a strong cruise year (we do not even know which cruise companies will survive).  The truth is that no one really knows right now.


Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

Last Roundup, we noted that Publix was buying up excess food and giving it to food banks to help the needy while helping farmers.  We wondered why the government was not doing it.

Turns out, the Federal government was trying to do it, but:

Late last week, the Trump administration stepped in, announcing a $19 billion program to help the struggling agriculture sector and distribute food to families in need. The aid package includes the government purchase of $3 billion in dairy, produce and meat products that will go to food banks and those in need. (About $16 billion is going to direct payments to farmers and ranchers.)

But the effort must overcome the challenges that led to the disconnect in the first place: Fresh produce and dairy must be transported from farms to food banks in refrigerated trucks. Refrigerator and freezer storage space must be available on the receiving end to accommodate a surge of frozen meat. Food that originally was slated for restaurant supply must be repackaged for home use. And all of this must occur while maintaining social distancing and without increasing the demand for labor because food banks, while running low on supplies, are running even lower on volunteers.

We are not sure why anyone would wait for the Federal government to do it.  The states can do things, too. For instance, while we cannot speak to all the states, we did see this:

Cuomo said the state was going to commit $25 million to help food banks that have been overwhelmed by demand as the pandemic continues. He asked philanthropies to also help. Food banks had seen a 40-60% surge in demand upstate, 40% increase on Long Island, 100% increase in New York City and 200% increase in Westchester. Philanthropies willing to help should contact Fran Barrett, Director of Nonprofits by emailing COVIDPhilantrhopies@exec.ny.gov.

“This is, I would say, the number one thing they can do to help,” Cuomo said.

The governor launched an initiative to prevent dairies from dumping excess milk. Cuomo said the state was partnering with various dairy-related production companies to purchase the excess milk and have it turned into products that can be brought to food banks.

While we think the Federal government should be involved, it seems to us that whatever can be done locally (or close to locally) would be more efficient.

Government is paying a lot of money to help people.  It makes sense to do it in a way that helps the most people possible.  This is one of those ways.  Florida (or even counties, if they can) should get in the game.  We should not be wasting food, anyway, but especially when there is such need.


Finally

Remember, regardless of openings being allowed, the virus is still here and the real issue is whether people will follow the proper advice because it is really up to people to care for themselves, their families, and their neighbors, even during the opening. So be responsible, stay safe, and take care of your community.

Wash your hands, wear a mask when appropriate/necessary, and practice social distancing.

While there are many places online you can buy them, you can find a number of videos on how to make a simple mask, including this from the CDC, this from the Times and this from the County.

Here are some links to government resources:

CDC

Florida Department of Health

Florida Department of Health Updated Statistics/Map Dashboard

Florida Health, Hillsborough

Hillsborough County

City of Tampa

This week we have a picture from Rough Rider at SkycraperCity.  Much as we think the Hyatt House project is poor for a variety of reasons, the overall picture is quite cool:

From Rough Rider at SkycraperCity – click on picture for post

 

April 30, 2020

Due to unforeseen circumstances, there will not be a Roundup this week.

Please remember that, regardless of openings being allowed, the virus is still here.  The real issue remains whether people will follow the proper advice because it is really up to people to care for themselves, their families, and their neighbors, even during the opening. So be responsible, stay safe, and take care of your community.

Wash your hands, wear a mask when appropriate/necessary, and practice social distancing.

You can find a number of videos on how to make a simple mask, including this from the CDC, this from the Times and this from the County.

Here are some links to government resources:

CDC

Florida Department of Health

Florida Department of Health Updated Statistics/Map Dashboard

Florida Health, Hillsborough

Hillsborough County

City of Tampa

This week we have a picture from Bueller at SkycraperCity

from Bueller at SkycraperCity – click on picture for post

From more of Bueller’s fine photographs see here

Roundup 4-24-2020

April 23, 2020

Contents

Transportation

— Autonomous Shuttle

— Bayshore

Downtown – X Factor

Downtown – Independent

Economy/Governance – No Surprise

Economy – About Reopening

Another Thing

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

Finally

____________________________


Transportation


— Autonomous Shuttle

HART, somewhat oddly, has decided to move forward with an autonomous vehicle trial:

During a virtual meeting on Monday, HART’s operations and safety committee board unanimously approved moving forward with a one-year contract between the authority and vendor Beep Inc. The contract for one year, with an option for a second year, would not exceed roughly $915,000. The HART board is expected to give it final approval on May 4 during a board meeting.

* * *

If implemented, Orlando-based Beep would have a person in the vehicle to operate it manually if needed; it can hold up to eight people, according to Cochran.

Beep currently has a fleet of vehicles in Orlando, and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority recently partnered with the company to use autonomous vehicles to transport Covid-19 tests collected at a drive-thru location at the Mayo Clinic there.

HART obtained the funding for the autonomous vehicle service in 2017.

“We’ve run into a couple of roadblocks,” Cochran said, explaining the delay in rolling out the vehicles was due to previous vendors’ lack of experience and other concerns.

HART Interim CEO Carolyn House Stewart said this is the agency’s third attempt to come to an agreement with a vendor for the service. She said she had conversations with FDOT in December about moving the project forward.

We have nothing against the idea of a trial, but there is a fairly obvious concern.

Although the contract is fully funded by the Florida Department of Transportation, there was some hesitancy to move forward with the item as the coronavirus has depleted foot traffic and the number of passengers using public transportation, which would cause the results of ridership for the autonomous vehicle service to be low.

“We understand we are in different times right now and we would certainly make adjustments to this schedule,” HART Director of Service Development Chris Cochran said, responding to Hillsborough Commissioner Kimberly Overman’s concerns.

Cochran said he is confident that the service, which could launch in early July, would still be successful and that there’s a collection of data from ridership demands and how people are migrating to downtown.

We are not that confident that this is the best time to do a trial and collect information (we do not know what he means by “successful” so we cannot judge that).  If HART could wait for 3 years, surely it could wait a little longer (even if there was a time limit, there is a good argument to get it extended).  It is a very odd decision.


— Bayshore

As we have noted before about Bayshore, we favor more real traffic lights (not flashing-yellow signals), protected bike lanes, and possibly some mildly raise intersections. The biggest problem we see on Bayshore is the long, unbroken stretches that encourages reckless driving.

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

Have your say.


Downtown – X Factor

X Tampa was approved this week.  From URBN Tampa Bay:

X Tampa, a 29-story “millennial dorm” project received zoning approval today.

The project at 412 East Zack Street will replace most of the structures on the block, but the Presbyterian Church sanctuary building will remain as an event venue. The project features 306 residential units (but bedrooms will be rented individually), 13,126 square feet of retail space in the form of a single large restaurant, and 17,138 square feet of office co-working space. The code required 342 parking spaces and the developer has elected to provide 409.

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

URBN Tampa Bay are not huge fans:

Although we like the density and mix of uses there are a couple of flaws in the design. The parking garage is not sufficiently decorated (“screened”). We believe that will end up a bit of an eyesore.

We also don’t like that Marion will be a dead zone with no uses opening up on that side of the project along what is supposedly the “Marion Street Transit Corridor,” and the city put money into making it as such. Polk is also a complete dead side at the ground level. We prefer when all 4 sides have at least some activation with storefronts or pedestrian ingress/egress as opposed to solid wall running the length of the block.

We also think the project just isn’t all that appealing architecturally. It lacks color and detail. You can compare some of the other “X” projects being built in other cities here: https://xliving.co/communities/ . While you will notice our design is very similar to their Houston project, the Orlando project is much more architecturally appealing than ours. . .

(Houston project here and Orlando here.) We agree with URBN Tampa Bay.  As we have said before, it looks like a hospital or other anonymous, John Doe-like institutional use from the 1970’s.  There is no appeal.  And there is no street activation.  As the autonomous shuttle’s (see above) zoom by, the plan is for the street to look like this:

 

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

And this goes to another point that we and others often say: everything is connected.  As pointed out by URBN Tampa Bay:

If you remember, we posted about X Tampa earlier this week and how it was going to front Marion with a dead wall the whole length of the block. This is why not walling off Marion is important: the city is now going to spend $915,000 on this pilot project on a street which is now being walled off by poor development design decisions.

This is one example of how everything we talk about on here ties together. Money on transit projects like this go to waste when development along the transit line is not up to par. X Tampa could have had the residential lobby or restaurant space open up to this transit line, to take better advantage of the transit line. Instead, X Tampa has been designed in a way that arguably encourages people to avoid Marion altogether.

Pretty much.  The City government should be thinking that way and stop giving wild gifts to developers of poorly designed projects.

We do not mind the height of X Tampa at all, but, pandemic or not, there is no reason to settle for such a poor design.  Our nickname might not be the city beautiful (like Orlando) but that does not mean we should not care.


Downtown – Independent

In other news, the Independent at Encore seems to have broken ground.

From The Tampa Housing Authority – click on picture for Facebook page

From The Tampa Housing Authority – click on picture for Facebook page

Unfortunately, it is one of the underwhelming designs for Encore.  While it has a small retail space on the northwest corner, it has more street frontage for a parking than retail.  Moreover, in the original Encore plans, the lot on which it is being built was designated for far denser development.  What happened?  Why did the Housing Authority just sell the land for a much smaller building?  Frankly, we do not know.

And, as we keep noting, this is about more than Encore.  West River is being done by the same process (or lack thereof).  Encore is a trial run.  These projects will be with us for a long time.


Economy/Governance – No Surprise

The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council has produced a report that should not surprise anyone.

The Tampa Bay area and Florida are likely to feel more economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic than most parts of the country, a local analysis published Tuesday concludes.

The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Commission’s study said Florida has fewer diagnosed COVID-19 cases per capita than many states, but its economy is vulnerable because of the outsized role of tourism and hospitality, as well as the state government’s reliance on sales taxes.

For example, spending by foreign visitors, a big part of Pinellas County’s beach economy, is expected to drop by at least 20 percent.

First, the study is here. There are some assumptions built into it that, if they do not completely verify, could change things a bit, but overall, one can assume there will be a big hit to the economy. Moreover, when you have a low wage, service economy (not knowledge-based services, just services), a shock like the one we have been dealing with is going to hit hard, even more so because we rely on tourism for a good amount of spending.

As a result, if the pandemic causes a 10 percent economic contraction for the economy as a whole, the regional planning council says the bay area could see losses of:

These losses will be driven by three main drivers, according to the planning council: economic losses resulting from COVID-19 deaths, a statewide drop in consumer spending and a national recession.

That hurts, though it will hurt much more if we start opening prematurely, have a surge of cases, and need a wide-ranging shut down again.

Which brings us to the discussion about reopening at state and local levels. We understand that the shutdown is doing great damage to many people and businesses, but, particularly because we do not want another wide-ranging shutdown, we also think that the process should be driven by the science, not the emotions.  As the Dean of USF Med School wrote in the Times:

Fortunately, there is a growing public health consensus that four preconditions must be met to commence a return to some semblance of normality. Equally fortuitous, Hillsborough County is well positioned to meet all four in the next three-to-four weeks. Here are the four preconditions:

  1. We need to implement syndromic surveillance networks.

* * *

  1. We need to increase testing volume, and assemble large public health teams to perform contact tracing.

* * *

  1. There must be abundant serological testing for COVID-19.

* * *

  1. We must be able to care for all affected patients without overwhelming health care resources.

Once these four preconditions are fully met, we can begin to safely scale back social distancing.

(You can read the details in his piece here.) That is all pretty straight-forward and unsurprising. Needless to say (and he basically says it), we are not there (unless the County has a stash of tests and a contact tracing corps we don’t know about – and so do the counties around us).  And, in fact, while some area counties have seen what appear to be big drops in new cases, some have not.

And even when we do start to reopen,

. . . we must have realistic expectations of the “new normal.”

This virus will not go away entirely until we have achieved herd immunity (more than 60 percent of population immune) either by wide-spread, low-level infections, hopefully among low risk individuals, or a vaccine. In the meantime, we will need to adapt to a world where we are frequently screened for fevers, symptoms, exposures and the presence of viral proteins (salivary antigen testing).

A world where non-immune individuals wear face coverings in public places and frequently touched public surfaces are constantly disinfected since aerosolized virus remains in the air for up to 12 hours, and contaminated surfaces retain viruses for up to 3 days.

A world where no one shakes hands and people with hay fever become seasonal pariahs. And a world where schools, stores, churches, and occasionally whole counties close for two weeks following local recurrences.

Which brings us to this – another instance of Tampa leading:

Wednesday morning the mayor’s office unveiled a program with Publix, Walgreens, Home Depot and other major retailers to equip store employees with face coverings and encourage customers to don masks when shopping.

“The widespread use of face coverings in our community is a proven and critical step to not only flattening the curve but staying ahead of it.” said Castor in a statement. “The sooner we move to widespread testing and the use of face coverings, the sooner we will be able to reopen our businesses and get back to our daily lives.”

Other participants include Winn Dixie, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Target, Tampa Electric and TECO People’s Gas, CVS Pharmacy, Moffitt Cancer Center and AdventHealth. The companies have agreed to equip their workers who deal with the public with face masks as soon as possible.

Said another way:

The city of Tampa has formed a partnership with essential businesses and health care providers to provide essential workers with protective face coverings and to advise customers in an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19. 

Partner companies will provide face coverings to all employees and post advisories that customers should wear face coverings when visiting their businesses. 

Throughout this process the Mayor has been seizing on pretty obvious items (that public health officials are discussing quite openly) and acting.  In contrast, the County sure does seem to be quite passive.


Economy – About Reopening

How our tourist economy might do before there is better treatment/vaccine for Covid-19 is an open question.  The Florida Politics had an interesting article on sports fans that may shed some light:

Whatever sports do to restart competitions at some point in the coronavirus crisis future, fans aren’t eager to attend in person until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, according to a new poll by Seton Hall University.

The Seton Hall Sports Poll finds 71% of American adults said that they would not feel safe attending games without such a vaccine, though the opposition to attendance drops to 61% among those respondents who identified themselves as sports fans.

The poll, conducted by phone April 6-8 of 762 American adults, offered overwhelming support for the suspension of professional sports seasons, and for the rescheduling of the Tokyo Summer Olympics to 2021, from 2020. Most respondents believe the NFL should not start its season on time this year, and two out of five believe sports should not be played at all for the rest of the year.

Still, three quarters of the respondents said they would be willing to watch TV broadcasts of games played in empty stadiums.

Then there was this from the Times:

Three out of four Florida voters don’t want to reopen the state’s economy unless public health experts say it’s safe to do so, according to a new poll.

A vast majority of those surveyed also think everyone should be wearing face masks inside stores as protection from coronavirus, schools should remain closed and that governors, not President Donald Trump, should decide when to lift stay-at-home orders.

The findings from Quinnipiac University offer another data point for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to consider as he weighs whether to reopen the state’s economy and ease restrictions on businesses and residents starting May 1. Most people aren’t ready for that, the survey suggests, with 72 percent of registered voters — including a majority of Republicans — indicating that stay-at-home orders should not be lifted at the end of the month.

And, even if

It is possible that sentiment in the poll is driven by people who have remain employed and therefore feel relatively secure despite the hardships this shut down has caused for many people. Of the voters surveyed, 72 percent said they remain employed and most, 68 percent, do not feel financially strapped.

It is still quite a big number (including Republicans 55% to 35% with 10% undecided). You can see the poll here (The question about opening is questions 27).

Much as we would love some old-fashioned recreation, we are in no hurry to get into a big crowd (including at a stadium/arena or theme park) right now.  We are sure some people will rush to bargains (if there are bargains) until there is another outbreak.  But there is nothing in history or science that we have seen that makes us think anything other than it is going to take a while.


Another Thing

You have probably seen reports of food being destroyed by farmers (like this) and of really long lines of people waiting for food handouts.  We were thinking that food should not go to waste, especially when there is such need.

This week, we saw this:

Publix has started a new initiative to help out farmers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The grocery store chain will be buying fresh produce and milk from farmers and donating it directly to Feeding America food banks. 

And the article about it in the Times, here.

There has been all sorts of news of people needing food and of farmers having to destroy their products for various reasons.  Publix’s plan goes to both.  It is a good idea, and they should be commended.  It will keep people employed, keep people fed, and stop having food wasted.

If they are not doing it already, government agencies could/should be doing the same basic thing, too.


Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

While the Covic-19 thing has absorbed most attention, a few other things have been happening.  In Atlanta, they have adopted a Vision Zero plan. See here and here. We will see how that plays out.


Finally

Remember, while orders are being issued to tell people to stay at home, the real issue is whether people will follow them, because it is really up to people to care for themselves, their families, and their neighbors, even during the opening. So be responsible, stay safe, and take care of your community.

Wash your hands, wear a mask when appropriate/necessary, and practice social distancing.

You can find a number of videos on how to make a simple mask, including this from the CDC, this from the Times and this from the County.

Here are some links to government resources:

CDC

Florida Department of Health

Florida Department of Health Updated Statistics/Map Dashboard

Florida Health, Hillsborough

Hillsborough County

City of Tampa

And remember to check out Eagle 8 WFLA’s Twitter for stuff like this:

From Eagle 8 WFLA – click on picture for Tweet

 

Roundup 4-17-2020

April 16, 2020

Contents

Transportation

— Stay Home

— Transit Taxes

— Bayshore

Midtown – Still Going

Downtown/Channel District – Still Going

Economy – Some Help

Airport – Cash

Tourism – Cuts

Finally

______________________________


Transportation


— Stay Home

Still.


— Transit Taxes

When last we left AFT, we were awaiting a decision from the Florida Supreme Court.  In the meantime, there was a proposal from the County Commission for a new referendum if the Supreme Court ruled against AFT.  That was supposed to be discussed already but was put off due to Covid-19 and the related disruptions.

On April 1, the Hillsborough County Commission voted to defer any public hearing on a back-up transportation sales tax until 2021, citing the increased financial strain many families are facing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The vote shocked Smith, one of four Democrats on the commission who has advocated for increased funding for transit, safety and road projects.

Perhaps most surprising, she said, is that the move to delay the tax came from chairman Les Miller, a supporter of the 2018 transportation sales tax and the commissioner who first proposed the back-up plan. Miller argued it may be necessary if the Florida Supreme Court strikes down the 2018 tax as unconstitutional.

What was his reasoning for delaying his own proposal?

Miller, a Democrat, had initially called the April 1 meeting to schedule a public hearing so the commission could put the back-up tax on the November ballot.

But when the meeting came to order, Miller switched tactics. Instead, he told fellow board members that now is not the time to talk about taxes. Too many people have lost jobs and are hurting, he said. Any further discussion of a transportation sales tax should be punted to 2021.

In the event, the attempt to raise the issue again failed.

As we have said previously, we would like this to move forward as quickly as possible.  And we understand the arguments for having a backup referendum this year.   However, we also get there is a unique circumstance that is causing much pain to many people that needs to be dealt with.  Given that, we are understand a delay.  (This is not like past instances where a Commissioner would propose a referendum then campaign against it during an election.)

And we shall see what the Supreme Court says.


— Bayshore

While not the most dangerous street in Tampa, Bayshore is the best covered.  Everyone knows about the accident that recently happened there.  It brought a number of ideas back to the fore. We are not going to get into most of them right now.

We have previously advocated for adding actual traffic lights, not flashing yellow crosswalks,  in strategic places to make crossing the street easier and more intuitive and to break up the long, unbroken stretches of road that make it easier to drive recklessly on Bayshore (of course, that may not do anything if the driver is stoned/drunk).

Mayor Castor announced on WMNF that the City will be installing traffic lights at Euclid and Rome Avenues (Rome is where a bicyclist and a motorcyclist were killed  onApril 4, when they collided on Bayshore.) Also, the city will work with the Tampa Hillsborough County Expressway Authority to eliminate tolls from downtown to MacDill Air Force Base to encourage greater use of that artery for service people.

We will be interested to see what effect that has on traffic.

We may have added another light (and we are open to some sort of very mildly raised intersection in a few places).  We would also like to see the curb moved and a protected bike lane or proper pedestrian/bike trail created.


Midtown – Still Going

As some may have noticed, construction work in town has not stopped (we just hope everyone is doing it safely).  This week, Midtown provided an update:

Midtown Tampa is quickly coming together at the intersection of Interstate 275 and Dale Mabry Highway — and the developer behind the $500 million project says coronavirus shouldn’t affect its opening in early 2021.

Construction sites in Tampa Bay remain active, as state and city leaders have declared construction an essential industry. Large-scale jobs sites like Midtown are subject to specific guidelines from the city of Tampa, but Bromley Cos. CEO Nicholas Haines told the Tampa Bay Business Journal that the 22-acre district remains on track.

. . . Vertical construction on the project began in May 2019, and Midtown is aiming to be open for Super Bowl LV, which will be held at nearby Raymond James Stadium.

* * *

“Midtown was not built for the next two years. It’s built for the next 50,” Haines said. “All the restaurants that we signed leases for and a number we’re finalizing — we’re really heartened by the fact that everyone is thinking beyond the recent month and has a much larger term perspective.”

* * *

The office building, Midtown One, topped out in early March at eight stories; the dual-flag hotel topped out on March 26, and the apartments will top off in the coming weeks.

We shall see.


Downtown/Channel District – Still Going

Similarly, Water Street is still going up.  In fact, one piece of construction equipment seems to have come down.

A large piece of debris on Wednesday flew off one of the two luxury residential towers under construction as part of the $3 billion Water Street Tampa project, officials said.

* * *

Doug Belden Jr., 28, was out jogging in downtown when he said he came upon the aftermath: a large slab of what looked like metal and rebar that stretched almost from the median to the sidewalk of Meridian Avenue. Workers peered over the top of the building as their bosses urged them to get down as fast as possible, he said.

* * *

The base of 815 Water Street will be the site of the new GreenWise Market grocery store that Publix plans to open. The project itself will have two towers, 26 and 21 stories, and will have a total of 420 units across from Amalie Arena. It was not known which tower the debris fell from. A Strategic Property Partners spokesman did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

 

From the Times – click on picture for article

We do not know for sure, but, the east tower is adjacent to and essentially parallel to Meridian, so . . . (see here also)

In any event, here’s a picture for the larger project from Bueller at SkyscraperCity:

From Bueller at SkyscraperCity – click on picture for post

You can see more views by clicking on the picture.


Economy – Some Help

There was news about local help:

The city of Tampa is joining forces with the private sector to launch a relief fund for residents and small businesses most affected by coronavirus.

The One Tampa: Relief Now, Rise Together fund will offer rent and utility assistance, said Carole Post, the city’s economic development chief. Post said Mayor Jane Castor has had the relief fund in the works since she began advocating for social distancing measures that forced nonessential businesses to close and lay off thousands of employees.

“She was obviously an advocate for the stay at home concept early on,” Post said. “The byproduct of that is negative implications for our businesses.”

The fund will grant up to $1,000 in rent relief and $250 in utilities for individuals; for small businesses, it’s up to $4,000 in rent and $1,000 in utilities. Payments will be made directly to Tampa Electric Co. and landlords or mortgagors.

All information — for those wanting to donate or to apply for assistance — is at OneTampa.org.

Good for the Mayor in acknowledging that the policy she promoted might have some side effects and trying to help mitigate them.  There are some requirements, including:

The city listed 38 types of “critically impacted businesses” ranging from restaurants and food trucks to tailors, funeral homes, caterers, child care centers, cleaning services and sole proprietor consultants.

Qualified businesses must have been operating for at least five years, have fewer than five employees, have annual revenue of less than $250,000, experience a 50 percent drop in business because of the coronavirus and be physically located in the city’s approximately 30 low-income census zones or community redevelopment areas.

As for the money for the program:

Several big names in Tampa Bay business have already stepped up to donate to the fund. The ownership of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Tampa Bay Rays and Rowdies will each give $100,000. Amgen is giving $50,000, and Nicholas Haines, CEO of New York-based Bromley Cos., has contributed $25,000. Bromley is the developer of Midtown Tampa.

On the public side, the fund will draw on Community Development Block Grant money, which could add up to $200,000 to $300,000. If approved, it will also draw on more than $1 million in interest funds from the city’s community redevelopment areas. CRAs are state-designated geographic areas that are allowed to keep tax revenue generated within their specific area to fund projects within the CRA. Tampa has eight CRAs: downtown, Channel district, Ybor City, West Tampa, Tampa Heights riverfront, East Tampa and Drew Park.

Post stressed that the CRA funding is not approved; city council, acting as the CRA board, will be presented with the request on April 23.

Good for the donors (and for the donations of many of them to a similar effort in St. Pete and many others to various local efforts).

The question all this raises is what is Hillsborough County doing for people not in Tampa?  (And couldn’t such a program have been coordinated between the City and County to make it more efficient?)


Airport – Cash

While everyone knows that the airlines are getting crushed by the present situation (and getting government assistance), little is really being said about the airports and the workers there.  As we noted last week, air cargo is very important but it does not make up for not having a fully functioning airport, so it was good to read this:

Tampa International Airport will receive $81 million and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport $8.7 million in federal relief grants announced Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Both airports saw passenger traffic evaporate during spring break, typically the busiest time of the year, because of the coronavirus.

Business at Tampa International is down across the board 90 to 95 percent, airport spokeswoman Emily Nipps said. Typically, the airport would see 550 arriving flights and up to 80,000 passengers per day during spring break.

* * *

Airports can use the grants for capital improvement projects, operating expenses, payroll, utilities and debt payments. The relief legislation, known as the CARES Act, also allows airports to use the grants to fully fund certain airport improvement projects that normally require a local match.

The article is not clear about what the money will go towards.  Obviously operational safety comes first.  That being said, we hope they take care of the people at the airport. (Click here for an interactive map of all the distributions)

(We are also curious if the Port will get some Federal support, given that about a quarter of its revenue stream has disappeared.)


Tourism – Cuts

There was also news from the tourism agency.

Tampa’s marketing arm, which works to attract tourists, has cut employees as hotels, restaurants and theme parks remain closed around the area.

Visit Tampa Bay, which markets Tampa and relies on private partnerships and hotel bed taxes, has seen a large financial downturn due to the partnerships being limited financially and the lack of hotel operations, causing roughly 40 layoffs and furloughs at the agency.

“We are in a financial and health crisis and we are responding to that crisis,” Visit Tampa Bay CEO and President Santiago Corrada told the Tampa Bay Business Journal. “We started with the reduction of non-essentials, suspended expenses and benefits like our 401(k) contributions, then went through the layoff/furlough process with part-timers, interns, contracted employees and even subcontractors.”

The reduction in expenses and furloughs started in early March and continued in phases. He said the situation then escalated to needing to scale back full-time employees reduce salaries by a minimum of 20 percent.

* * *

The team now is made up of 21 core employees, whereas before it was made up of about 60.

Setting aside that the oddly names Visit Tampa Bay covers all of Hillsborough County, in the present environment, money issues were likely.  We suppose all the increased tax revenue that has been reported has been spent on something or the other.  We do wonder about having 2/3 of the staff be part-timers, interns, contracted employees, and subcontractors.


Finally

Remember, while orders are being issued to tell people to stay at home, the real issue is whether people will follow them, because it is really up to people to care for themselves, their families, and their neighbors. So be responsible, stay safe, and take care of your community.

Wash your hands, wear a mask when appropriate/necessary, and practice social distancing.

You can find a number of videos on how to make a simple mask, including this from the CDC, this from the Times and this from the County.

Here are some links to government resources:

CDC

Florida Department of Health

Florida Department of Health Updated Statistics/Map Dashboard

Florida Health, Hillsborough

Hillsborough County

City of Tampa

And remember to check out Eagle 8 WFLA’s Twitter for stuff like this:

From Eagle 8 WFLA – click on picture for Tweet

 

 

Roundup 4-10-2020

April 9, 2020

While not extensive, there actually was some non-Covid-19 news.

Contents

Transportation

Census – Estimates

Westshore-ish – Not Now

South Tampa – Hyde Park House

Airport/Port – Not Just Passengers

Lakeland – NOAA

Bucs – As They Should Be

Finally

__________________________________

 

Transportation

Stay home.


Census – Estimates

The Census Bureau released it latest population estimates. From Florida Politics:

While the official 2020 census is underway, the U.S. Census Bureau has released its most recent estimates for counties and metropolitan areas, finding The Villages to be the nation’s fastest-growing metropolitan area.

According to new estimates released by the bureau, the sprawling retirement community in Sumter, Lake, and Marion counties grew by 42% between 2010 and 2019, reaching 132,000 population. No other metro area in America came close to such growth, as Myrtle Beach, sprawling across northern South Carolina and southern North Carolina, was next with 32% growth, followed by Austin, Texas, with 30% growth.

The Cape Coral-Fort Myers metropolitan area made the top ten list with the nation’s eighth-fastest growth rate, 25%, reaching an estimated 770,000 population in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In terms of raw-numbers for population growth, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach metropolitan area had the nation’s sixth-greatest increase in the first nine years of the 2010s, adding 600,000 people to reach a total metropolitan population of 6.2 million last year. As a result, the Miami metro area now appears to be the nation’s seventh-largest, passing Philadelphia in the 2010s.

The Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford metropolitan area had the nation’s ninth-greatest growth, adding 477,000 people to reach a population of 2.6 million by 2019. That’s a 22% growth rate for Orlando.

Summarized nicely here:

From Illinoispolicy.org – click on picture for article

The Census Bureau press release is here.

More interestingly, the excel spreadsheet for metropolitan areas is here.  It tells us that the Tampa-St. Pete-Clearwater metropolitan area’s population estimate for July 2019 is 3,194,831 (around 15% growth and an increase of 411,000 or so).  Sarasota-Bradenton (listed under North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton) is 836,995 (around 19% growth).  Lakeland-Winter Haven is 724,777 (around 20% growth).


Westshore-ish – Not Now

You may remember a proposal for the old CompUSA property on Dale Mabry just south of Cypress (see here)  It seems that it has been withdrawn.  Per URBN Tampa Bay:

Wood Partners has withdrawn their rezoning application for Alta Westshore, a multi-family apartment building which was proposed for 701 North Dale Mabry. Alta was a 7-story building with 285 apartment units. The project is now on hold or cancelled.

This project had stalled out since mid-December, so the shelving of the project might not be Virus-related.

We opposed the project due to lack of commercial space along Dale Mabry.

We had the same issue with the proposal. And we cannot quite figure why they would waste Dale Mabry frontage.

We hope the project (or something like it) will come back at some point with some improvements.


South Tampa – Hyde Park House

There was also news about Hyde Park House.  Per URBN Tampa Bay:

Hyde Park House has announced it has broken ground and is now under construction. The project is 21 stories with 70 condo units at the intersection of Bayshore and DeSoto.

Here is the rendering:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

We have made no secret that, while we do not mind the size of the building, the style(s) of this project does not really appeal to our taste (but that is subjective).  Now, we just hope for the best.


Airport/Port – Not Just Passengers

We are all thankful to the health professionals, first responders, long-distance trucker drivers, delivery drivers, and grocery store/pharmacy/big box employees, and others for providing needed services.  Remember to include the people at the airports and cargo carriers (as well as passenger airlines carrying cargo).  From the airport:

The skies around Tampa International Airport may be a bit quieter as of late due to the adverse impact of the coronavirus on the travel industry.

But for the Airport’s cargo operations, it’s a different story.

Every week, TPA’s primary cargo operators are flying some 88 trips – more than a dozen a day – ensuring that goods, products and documents can get in and out of the Tampa Bay region.

You can read more here.

From Tampa International Airport – click on picture for article

And the same goes for people at the Port.

From Eagle 8 WFLA – click on picture for Tweet

Thanks.


Lakeland – NOAA

Speaking of airports, NOAA is also looking to expand its footprint in Lakeland, where Amazon is planning to move its air operations.

A long-term tenant of Lakeland Linder International Airport is gearing up to massively expand by adding aircrafts and employees.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hurricane Hunters, a scientific agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce that focuses on the conditions of the atmosphere, is set to embark on a $12.3 million expansion on the airport property and lock into a longer term lease. 

The project would expand the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Aircraft Operations Center by adding drones and two more aircraft — a Gulfstream G550 and a Beechcraft King Air 350.

NOAA will be financially responsible for $7.8 million for the tenant improvement costs while the airport would be responsible for nearly $4.5 million for the shell and infrastructure improvements required to ready the facility, city documents state. The expansion and longer term lease that accompanies it will help the revenue stream for the airport.

The Lakeland City Commission discussed the item during a virtual city workshop meeting on Friday prior to the item receiving expected final approval during the city’s April 6 virtual meeting.

* * *

The expansion also follows terms for a newly proposed lease for a term of 20 years, with a firm 15-year initial term, that will start once the expansion is complete. The expected date for completion of the expansion project by the first quarter of 2021, according to city documents.

We are good with pretty much anything that reinforces weather forecasting and hurricane hunting, even more so if it is locally based.


Bucs – As They Should Be

We do not know what will happen with the NFL season this year, but at least the newly announced (old) Bucs uniforms are an improvement.  We are not much for color-rush uniforms generally (and that includes the new ones – though we get that it is subjective), but the regular uniforms are going back to basically the Super Bowl era uniforms.  As we noted in December (here), we have no idea why they ever changed.

From the Bucs – click on picture for website

You can see the full set of promo pictures of the new uniforms here.


Finally

Remember, while orders are being issued to tell people to stay at home, the real issue is whether people will follow them, because it is really up to people to care for themselves, their families, and their neighbors. So be responsible, stay safe, and take care of your community.

Wash your hands, wear a mask when appropriate/necessary, and practice social distancing.

Here are some links to government resources:

CDC

Florida Department of Health

Florida Department of Health Updated Statistics/Map Dashboard

Florida Health, Hillsborough

Hillsborough County

City of Tampa

And remember to check out Eagle 8 WFLA’s Twitter for stuff like this:

From Eagle 8 WFLA – click on picture for Tweet

 

Roundup 4-3-2020

April 2, 2020

As the COVID-19 situation drags on, there is not much to report.  Obviously, the economic news will not be good for a while.  And while the new Howard Frankland may get started a little earlier, Hillsborough County (plus a bit of Pasco) is getting an new area code, the State’s negotiation with Brightline is on hold (due to the virus), and a downtown hotel project got a construction permit, we are not going to discuss them at length.

The biggest non-COVID-19 political news is that the County Commission is going to wait until next year to discuss a new referendum should the AFT referendum be struck down (Pinellas is postponing their idea, too.).

The plan had been to put another referendum on the ballot this year, but with the COVID-19 pandemic taking precedence, four commissioners agreed that now is not the time to take on that effort.

Commissioners Pat Kemp, Kimberly Overman and Mariella Smith all voted against postponing a public hearing, instead favoring moving forward with plans for a 2020 referendum.

Under the approved postponement, a new referendum would not go before voters until 2022.

All for Transportation organizers are undeterred.

“Until this pandemic, Hillsborough County’s failing transportation system was also its most urgent public health crisis. We understand it’s imperative that Hillsborough County marshal all of its resources and energy in service of saving lives and in mitigating the effects of COVID-19,” founders Christina Barker and Tyler Hudson wrote in a statement following Wednesday’s vote.

“Hillsborough County will return from these uncertain times to face a familiar challenge: unsafe roads and inadequate public transit. The new reality of economic hardship many will face as a result of COVID-19 only strengthens our commitment to protecting the transportation solutions voters overwhelmingly approved in 2018. These solutions will be part of how we all recover and All for Transportation stands ready to continue the fight.”

While we would have liked to see a referendum move forward, given the circumstances, it is entirely reasonable to wait.  Right now, the goal is to get through the COVID-19 issue.

And speaking of that, we truly hope that people will refrain from politicizing (especially making it partisan) the issue.  As the Mayor said when asked about the statewide stay-at-home order:

. . . she didn’t dwell on whether the governor dawdled, saying an “after-action” analysis would determine who was right and who was wrong in their response to the outbreak.

We like her keeping her eye on the prize: getting through this. That does not mean that people cannot say if they think there should be a change in how something is handled (we definitely have some ideas).  But it does mean that we do not need to overly politicize every issue while we are in the middle of dealing with the problem.

Everything can be debated afterwards.

In the meantime, remember, while orders are being issued to tell people to stay at home, the real issue is whether people will follow them, because it is really up to people to care for themselves, their families, and their neighbors. So be responsible, stay safe, and take care of your community.

Wash your hands and practice social distancing.

Here are some links to government resources:

CDC

Florida Department of Health

Florida Health, Hillsborough

Hillsborough County

City of Tampa

And you can always check out Eagle 8 WFLA’s Twitter for stuff like this:

From Eagle 8 WFLA – click on picture for Twitter