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Residents urged to submit ideas for Tampa Waterfront development

by Bryan Burns / Tampa Bay Lightning

Calling it “a potential game-changer for the city of Tampa and the area,” Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and his firm Strategic Property Partners, LLC announced its Vision Plan to develop and connect more than 40 acres of contiguous land for the southern portion of downtown Tampa around Amalie Arena on Wednesday.

Standing inside a second-floor ballroom at the Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, Vinik outlined the Plan, which calls for over $1 billion and nearly 3 million square feet in new development and focuses on creating a vibrant 18-7 (18 hours, 7 days a week) urban neighborhood along Tampa’s waterfront with residential, retail, educational, corporate, hospitality and recreational components.

“Our arena is in an incredible area,” Vinik said. “…We have a virtual blank canvas of 40 acres…to develop an entire district to help revitalize downtown and change this area for generations to come.”

SPP projects the completed project will result in more than $900 million of annual economic development and 3,700 direct jobs for Hillsborough County at an average wage of $78,000 with $35 million in annual taxes as the fiscal impact for the county.

Vinik, who purchased the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010, expects the entire project to take anywhere from five to 10 years to complete.

“It will evolve over time as opportunities present themselves,” Vinik said. “…We have to be flexible and open-minded.”

To that end, Tampa Bay residents and visitors are urged to offer their suggestions for the project through the crowdsourcing website Visitors to the website can recommend their favorite elements of vibrant urban neighborhoods from elsewhere while also pressing “like” or “favorite” on recommendations others have made.

“This is our town, and this is our turn and you are on our team,” Lightning Chief Executive Officer and Alternate Governor Tod Leiweke said during the Plan’s unveiling. “We need your help because we know to create the next great urban waterfront, we can’t do it alone. To all of our friends here today and throughout the community, we pledge to listen and we will take your ideas and passions as a bolt from heaven as we create the next great urban waterfront.”

“Achieving our vision will require the efforts of all people in our region,” Vinik added. “We want to hear from legislators, business leaders and citizens to help turn our plan into reality. Our land, already anchored by Amalie Arena, the Florida Aquarium, the Tampa Convention Center and the Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, affords us unprecedented opportunity to create one of America’s great live, work and play urban neighborhoods right here in our hometown.”

Highlighting the changes SSP will make include: the elimination of the Southwest wing of Channelside Bay Plaza to open up views to the water and downtown Tampa; building an elevated walkway connecting Channelside Bay Plaza to an existing parking garage; the construction of a 12-story tower to house the new Morsani College of Medicine and the USF Heart Health Institute at the corner of Channelside Drive and S Meridian Avenue; a new hotel and meeting space opposite a newly-renovated Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina; a Tampa Bay Live-like retail corridor between the new hotel and a parking garage next to Amalie Arena; a boardwalk stretching from the Tampa Convention Center to the Florida Aquarium, enough office space to attract major corporations’ headquarters or regional offices; and roadway realignment to allow for the centerpiece of the neighborhood to become a vibrant avenue of shopping, dining and living along an extension of Old Water Street.

“It’s a great time to be (in Tampa), but, we’re just on the cusp,” said Gary Swoope, Secretary of Commerce for the State of Florida and President/CEO of Enterprise Florida, a public-private partnership between Florida’s business and government leaders and the principal economic development organization for the state. “You have so many things that make this region a popular destination for business…What makes this unique is it is a space where you can have talent, you can have learning, you can have resources for living, all in one location…I’m excited about the opportunity this gives us. It gives us another product that we can talk to another headquarters and say, ‘Let me tell you about what’s going on in Tampa.’

“This is a game changer not only for Tampa but for the state of Florida.”

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