The master plan devised by Jeff Vinik’s Strategic Property Partners and Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment to revitalize the Channelside region of Tampa was originally designed as a 40-acre, billion-dollar plan when it was first unveiled in December of 2014.
Then it went up to $2 billion.
Speaking to the board of Port Tampa on Tuesday, SPP CEO James Nozar revealed that the investment has now grown to $3 billion and 53 acres, and its footprint has now expanded to between six to nine million square feet.
The new plans call for the demolishing of Channelside Bay Plaza within the next two years. Channelside Bay Plaza is the retail complex opened to great fanfare in 2001, but has been reduced dramatically in recent years. Nozar said that the company had been studying the feasibility of a renovation of the facility, but after reviewing that information over the last six months, concluded that it would be better to kill it off.
“We believe it would fail again. We could renovate, but we’d be back in the same situation.”
Nozar said that the complex will remain open for approximately two more years, and SSP hopes to bring in more tenants who are okay with making a short-term commitment. He said currently there are 35 tenants in the facility, with more than 60 percent of the space empty.
“It was built at a different time,” Nozar said charitably about the problems the shopping complex has suffered in recent years.”It’s been challenging,” he confessed. “We’ve been putting quite a lot of investment into the facility, and we inherited quite a bit of deferred maintenance, which we’ve been trying to resolve.”
Channelside Bay Plaza was built right around the same time that Centro Ybor was built in Ybor City and BayWalk was developed in downtown St. Petersburg – all three facilities have struggled in the ensuring decade and a half.
As to what will replace it, the public got a sense of that on Tuesday. Officials with SPP have traveled around the country over the past half year, visiting waterfront areas in Boston, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Seattle and other locales to observe what could work in Tampa. Nozar said the goal was to activate, integrate and connect all areas of downtown through the Port, respecting the working waterfront and optimizing public spaces.
Nozar listed four phases of the plan. Phase I would start in late 2018. It would partially transition the Garrison surface parking lot into a waterfront park. The new park is planned to be approximately 1.1 acres in size, with an adjacent events pavilion and beer garden. The Tampa Riverwalk extension would be constructed, connecting with the park. In addition, approximately 30,000 square feet of retail and office space is planned, which will front on the new park and waterfront.
In Phase 2, planned for the spring of 2019, two additional buildings would be constructed. Each would be one to three stories, together totaling approximately 70,000 square feet with retail and office uses. The design envisions the ground floor will be lined with active retail and restaurant uses with outdoor dining oriented towards the waterfront. It would also include the decommissioning and demolition of Channelside Bay Plaza.
In Phases 3 and 4, residential buildings would be constructed along Channelside Drive, which will preserve view corridors and create a more comfortable pedestrian-oriented scale along the waterfront.
The plans now call for over 5,000 residential units – that includes a 500-room hotel, a 150-room “lifestyle hotel” and the current 719-room Marriott Waterside Hotel and new condominiums.
Nozar said the timetable is still on pace. That included the road improvements which began on August 29.
The Port board offered little comment after Nozar’s presentation. Afterwards, Port Tampa Bay CEO Paul Anderson said he was “delighted” with what Channelside Bay Plaza could look like in the near future.