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'A positive direction'

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  • | 11:00 a.m. August 5, 2016
  • Commercial Real Estate
  • Tampa Bay–Lakeland
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As the $2 billion remake of the Channelside district in downtown Tampa begins to take shape — tens of millions of dollars of infrastructure work on roads and sewers is slated to begin later this month — a few intangible themes are emerging under developer Strategic Property Partners' new CEO, as well.

SPP CEO James Nozar says diversity will thread together the nearly 60-acre project, which will include the University of South Florida's Morsani College of Medicine; the 719-room Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina; and Amalie Arena, home ice for SPP owner Jeff Vinik's Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team.

The revamped district, when completed, also is expected to link cultural amenities like the Tampa Convention Center and the Florida Aquarium, spurring further downtown redevelopment.

“At the core of this entire project will be diversity,” says Nozar, 37, who joined SPP in March after more than a decade at JBG Cos., a Washington, D.C.-based development firm known for ambitious, mixed-use projects.

“We envision that will apply to both place and function,” Nozar told the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance at a luncheon late last month.

SPP's plan to develop up to 5,500 residences, for instance, is expected to range from student to senior housing, with a mix of rentals and housing for sale at various price points.

In addition to residences, SPP — a partnership between Vinik and the Bill Gates-led Cascade Investment LLC — intends to build up to 6 million square feet of commercial space, roughly equivalent to the total office space now in downtown Tampa.

Of that amount, SPP plans a 500-key hotel with 70,000 square feet of meeting space on Old Water Street to compliment the Tampa Waterside, a Class A, 650,000-square-foot office tower and roughly 500,000 square feet of retail space.

And while the exact mix of uses isn't finalized, retail will likely dominate.

“Retail will be a huge focus for us. If we put ground-floor retail everywhere it would fit, we'd have over 1 million square feet,” Nozar says, an amount by comparison that would be larger than the Mall at University Town Center straddling Sarasota and Manatee counties.

“But that's probably more than we'll want to build, so we're looking at different uses, more civic uses,” Nozar adds.

The actual amount of retail space, a SPP spokeswoman says, will likely be closer to 500,000 square feet.

Retailers will be attracted to the area, in part, because SPP plans to bring as many as 17,000 new office workers to the district, a hike of nearly 30% compared with the number of office workers currently in downtown Tampa.

That number could be met in short order, too, if SPP should land Citibank. The New York-based banking giant has been in the market for roughly 1 million square feet, which would
equate to at least 5,000 workers based on industry standards for space allotment.

Nozar declined to say whether talks with Citibank have progressed of late.

“They're one of many potential tenants we're talking to,” he says.

Speed is also emerging as a theme within the district.

Nozar says the new hotel and office tower will likely be developed concurrently. The same will be true of some $30 million in renovations to the Tampa Waterside, planned to begin this fall, which will occur simultaneously along with the infrastructure work that is anticipated to take as much as 18 months to complete.

“A lot of things will happen concurrently, and at a very rapid speed,” Nozar told the business group. “There will be a layering of components. Our intention is to build at a fast pace, to
have a fairly maximum amount of pain for a minimal amount of time.”

Vinik told the Business Observer in December that he expects the majority of the new development to be completed by 2020.

But one other facet Nozar stressed is that the district will accentuate “wellness” and environmental sustainability, through state-of-the-art air filtration to landscape architecture aimed at promoting greenspace.

Nozar says the development hopes to earn a first-ever district certification from the International Well Building Institute.

“We hope to set the groundwork for what that means worldwide,” he says.

But for now, Nozar and SPP are focused on the roughly $35 million in infrastructure that will be installed, paid for through a mix of private and public funding.

Over the next two years, roads will be cut down to two-lane thoroughfares, one-way streets will be altered to go in two directions, and pedestrian access and ability to maneuver urban streets will be enhanced.

“It's a huge project,” Nozar says. “But with the things we're doing now and will be doing in the months ahead, we think we're starting to move in a positive direction.”


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