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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Oct. 29, 2004 15 years ago

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

This week's items: The Downtown Partnerhsip of Saraosta has issued a 10-step program for affordable housingHow to appeal to venture capitalistsBradentonis redevelopment edge

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

Itis the density, stupid

Jumping on the affordable housing bandwagon, the Downtown Partnership of Sarasota released a 10-step program. Not surprisingly, it favors greater density.

Echoing several consultants and experts, the Partnership recommends creating density bonuses, which give developers additional units in exchange for paying into a housing and/or transit-improvement fund or committing to providing units in a specific price point.

The solution further suggests iconcentrating higher density housing in and around the urban core to build activity, excitement and diversity downtown, to support downtown retailing, and to provide passengers for transit. O Higher density housing (up to 80 units per acre) should be confined to areas in, or close to, urbanized mixed-use areas.i

The program calls for linking the higher density housing to downtown with transit services, including walking and biking paths, and the increased use of creative incentives for developer such as CRAs and land banking. The program supports the use of land trusts. In addition, it proposes developing incentives for property owners to upgrade substandard housing and develop igranny flats.i

The plan also spells out the obvious: the city needs to research the market, visit successful jurisdictions (including GCBRis own suggestion of Monterey County, Calif.) and build neighborhood support.

Finally, the partnership says the city has to move now or risk losing its opportunity to provide the housing.

Whatis hot?

The letters iPh.D.i followed many names at this yearis entrepreneurial boot camp, sponsored by the Tampa Bay Technology Forum.

The nametags of participants at the two-day seminar hosted by the University of Tampa suggest some have been working out of local research labs rather than their garages. Eggheads wanting to move from the campus to the boardroom o thatis a good sign for the area economy.

Coffee Talk dropped in on an Oct. 26 panel discussion among investment bankers and an intellectual-property attorney who were telling the bootstrapping boot campers which startup ideas are getting seed capital these days.

No longer do venture capitalists think, as the attorney Brent C. J. Britton put it, iitis got to be wild and crazy and something your grandmother canit understand.i

The VC firms, gun-shy after their rout following the Internet bust, are looking for entrepreneurs whose plans are infused with reality.

Tate A. Garrett, a senior vice president at Advantage Capital Partners in Tampa, says what he calls ireal homeland security companiesi are in favor. A stream of federal dollars is almost guaranteed for any innovator who comes up with a better way to inspect cargo coming into U.S. ports with little hassle, says Garrett.

Barry Alpert, managing director for business development at Raymond James Financial, says his St. Petersburg firm is big into getting new regional airlines off the ground.

The panelists say they would take a look at a business plan for a life sciences venture. But they strongly hinted they would drop a project predicated on Web advertising like it was covered with anthrax.

One final piece of advice from Britton, of counsel at Akerman, Senterfitt & Eidson PA, Tampa, who once worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technologyis Media Lab. Avoid buzzwords in your business plan and get to the point of how you intend to make money.

Anybody who writes, ithey leverage synergies,i is bound for the reject pile, says Britton.

Bradentonis redevelopment edge

Central Avenue advocate and Realtor Ian Black thinks Sarasota could learn a thing or two about revitalizing depressed neighborhoods from its sister city to the north.

iJust look at the Central Avenue or the Village of the Arts (in Sarasota) and then look at the Antiques District (in Bradenton),i says Black, iand tell us which community is responding to the market and moving ahead. ... Which community is revitalizing these areas and which arenit? This comes down to leadership. We need an elected mayor ... instead of 22-hour meetings that go nowhere.i

Black is not the only one who sees a difference in the redevelopment process, planners from WilsonMiller pointed to a few significant areas of distinction:

i In general, Bradentonis Comprehensive Plan is broad in scope and general in its objectives and policies. This allows special zoning districts or CRA provisions to be enacted without the need for attendant Comprehensive Plan Amendments.

iIf a plan amendment is necessary, Bradenton can process an amendment to its plan at any time.

i Sarasotais plan is much more specific in its iAction Strategiesi (policies) and therefore special zoning or CRA mechanisms that may foster desired redevelopment often require a Comprehensive Plan Amendment before they can be established.

i Further, Sarasota limits amendments to its Comprehensive Plan to one cycle per year (unless a ispecial cyclei is authorized by the commission).

As for the Development Review Committee process, Bradentonis is much less formal, not nearly as rigorous or as time consuming.

Sarasotais review process is more exacting and typically requires several months to complete, even for small projects or simple proposals.

Bar opposed to Amendment 3

The Florida Bar Board of Governors voted to oppose Amendment 3, a proposed constitutional amendment on the Nov. 2 general election ballot that would limit lawyersi contingency fees in medical malpractice cases.

In a press release, bar President Kelly Overstreet Johnson says ithe amendment strikes at fundamental legal rights, and will limit citizen access to our court system o which is of immense concern to the bar. The baris role is to regulate lawyers and protect access to the courts, both of which are affected by Amendment 3.i

The proposed amendment o backed by the Florida Medical Association o would limit contingency fees to 30% of the first $250,000 awarded and to 10% above that.

Johnson contends the amendment would further damage a citizenis freedom to contract.

iAmendment 3 would place unreasonable limits on the ability of private parties to contract in the normal course of legit imate business, setting a dangerous precedent not only for lawyers but for other professionals,i says Johnson.

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