Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investment LLC have formed Strategic Property Partners to lead a billion-dollar, mixed-use development on the land Vinik owns between the Channel district and the central business district. The port’s vision is not connected to those plans, but port and city officials say it would be complementary — and that the buzz created by those plans would bolster the port’s plans.
“As we continue developing our master plan, we look forward to continued discussions with port leadership to see where the projects might meld together into the best possible solution for Tampa’s downtown waterfront,” a Lightning spokesman wrote in an email Thursday.
SPP has a ground lease with the port for Channelside Bay Plaza.
“Tampa is already at the forefront for a lot of these likely investors and real estate development companies,” Paul Anderson, port CEO, said. “They are aware of what’s going on in Tampa — that’s what makes this so exciting.”
The port’s vision will keep those conversations going, Conn said, combined with other ambitious developments that are in the works: Related Group’s plans to demolish The Tampa Tribune and build a residential building in its place and Feldman Equities CEO Larry Feldman’s proposal to build a 52-story tower on the downtown riverfront.
“It continues to say good things about our downtown that we are even talking about projects of that size and scope,” Conn said.
At this point, Anderson said, the port is planning to work with private developers on a ground lease basis. He said the port may be open to selling some parcels but will “never” sell anything on the waterfront.
The ground lease structure may make it difficult to lure in developers, Conn said, because it can complicate the financing. To secure a loan for a new development on leased land, a lender typically requires the land owner — in this case, the port — to subordinate its position in the deal. If the developer were to default, the lender’s claims in a foreclosure lawsuit would take priority over the land owner’s.
“It makes it a little more challenging,” Conn said. “It’s not anyone’s first choice.”
The vision unveiled Thursday is a very ambitious one that includes two “landmark towers,” each up to 75 stories tall. Anderson said the port’s research shows the market is ready.
“Frankly, I think we went into some public meetings with people ready to be the doubting Thomas in the room and they said, ‘You won me over. This is an impressive plan,’” Anderson said. “The market will bear it based on our market analysis, and we’re really excited this can happen.”
Ashley Gurbal Kritzer
Tampa Bay Business Journal