National retailers, restaurant operators and entertainment concepts are mostly receptive to early redevelopment plans for Channelside Bay Plaza, though some are more confident than others that the plans will come to fruition.
Franklin Street — tapped by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik to oversee the leasing and management of the property — had 16 meetings concerning the property in two days at the International Council of Shopping Centers’ national convention in Las Vegas last week.
The feedback was largely positive, said Brian Bern, senior director of retail brokerage with Franklin Street in Tampa. Many of the potential tenants were familiar with Vinik’s plans for downtown Tampa and were impressed by the financial wherewithal of both Vinik and his financial partner on the development, Cascade Investment LLC.
In a couple of the meetings, some operators questioned the timeline of the project.
“It was a good starting point,” Bern said.
It’s too soon to sign any deals, Bern said, as Port Tampa Bay hasn’t yet signed off on the redevelopment plans. Vinik has a ground lease for the plaza with the port, which owns the land underneath it.
The group won’t be able to finalize deals until the port signs off on its plans, which haven’t been made public and were shown to operators at the convention after they signed confidentiality agreements.
Once the port signs off on the redevelopment plan, the group can finish bids with contractors and finalize construction costs, which will determine rental rates.
The 4 million visitors a year who pass through downtown Tampa and the Channel district — from cruise passengers to conventioneers to those attending events at Amalie Arena — caught the interest of several retailers and restaurants, Bern said.
The potential for more foot traffic — from the University of South Florida medical school and Vinik’s plans to build a corporate headquarters campus — was also a big selling point.
“They said, ‘The drivers are there to make this district real,” Bern said.
Plans for that district — a mixed-use development of nearly 3 million square feet— continue to evolve, said Jim Shimberg, chief operating officer of Strategic Property Partners, Vinik’s real estate company.
In mid-March, SPP brought on two nationally renowned urban planning consultants: Jeff Speck, author of “Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time,” and Dave Dixon, Stantec’s Urban Places Group.
“They’ll be coming back with final recommendations by the end of June,” Shimberg said, “I think we’re making a lot of progress.”
Infrastructure work on the district is slated to begin in August, and SPP plans to begin the formal process of shutting down the streets in the coming weeks. The infrastructure improvements total nearly $30 million, including close to $2.7 million in road construction and $4.9 million in stormwater work. Tampa City Council has already signed off on reimbursing Vinik for half the cost of the infrastructure work.
“We still hope to have multiple buildings under construction in 2016,” Shimberg said.
That would include the USF Morsani College of Medicine downtown campus — for which the state legislature still has to approve funding — as well as a 400-room hotel and the renovations to Channelside Bay Plaza and “hopefully a new corporate office building,” Shimberg said.
Vinik and SPP are working to lure a corporate headquarters to the district. That process is “going well,” he said.
Slightly behind schedule are the $25 million improvements to Amalie Arena, which will upgrade concession areas, add new seats and rebuild the club level. Those were delayed by the NHL playoffs, Shimberg said.
“It’s been really crazy, but really exciting and fun for everybody,” he said of working on the development plans during the playoffs.”