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Right on track

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  • | 12:47 a.m. January 2, 2016
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Why 2016 is important: Infrastructure improvements are expected to begin this year, in addition to designs of the first building and possibly construction.

Strategic Property Partners has spent the past two years assembling land and fashioning a vision for a 42-acre Tampa development that is expected to unify the city's waterfront.

In 2016, the partners plan to embark on key infrastructure that will be the first tangible work on the $2 billion project that will add office space, hotel rooms, retail and other commercial space to downtown.

At the same time, initial building designs are slated to be completed in the coming year, paving the way for the first in a series of structures to be constructed.

Before then, however, Strategic Property Partners — a company owned by Tampa Bay Lightning owner and former hedge fund director Jeffrey N. Vinik and Cascade Investment LLC — is expected to hire a CEO in the coming weeks.

And the team may be in a position to unveil “a significant office tenant in the next few months,” Vinik told the Business Observer in mid-December.

“We have a double-digit number of initiatives going on,” Vinik says. “And in 2016, the infrastructure improvements will finally get underway, along with designs for the first buildings that will allow us, as the year goes along, to begin construction. It's ambitious, but we're right on track.”

When completed in 2020, as is anticipated, the joint venture partners' plans are expected to transform Tampa with as much as 6 million square feet of new commercial space that will enhance the city's goal of becoming a 24-hour city.

As part of the development, Strategic Property and Cascade intend to build a new hotel with as many as 500 keys; construct a Class A, 650,000-square-foot office tower; introduce 200,000 square feet of new retail to the area; and rehabilitate the existing 200,000-square-foot Channelside Bay Plaza.

In addition, the district will be home to the University of South Florida's Morsani College of Medicine, whose new building broke ground in a ceremony in mid-December; the 719-room Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina; and Amalie Arena, where Vinik's NHL Lightning play their home games.

In all, the upgraded district will link the Tampa Convention Center to the Florida Aquarium, and spur further development of residences downtown.

The pending infrastructure, which is being financed through a mix of private, city Community Redevelopment Agency and Hillsborough County funding, is expected to take roughly two years to complete.

Vinik says the new hotel will be “forward looking” — a motif that is likely to be a theme project-wide. Strategic Property officials have said the development will accentuate “wellness” and environmental sustainability in everything from air-conditioning design to landscaping.

From a personnel standpoint, Vinik says the search is “well along” for a new CEO to helm Strategic Property. The company's former chief executive left early last year for a top job with the National Football League.

“With the magnitude of the work ahead of us, we need someone who brings multiple disciplines to bear,” says Vinik, a civil engineer who went on to earn an M.B.A. from Harvard University and direct the highly successful Magellan Fund for Fidelity Investments before starting his own Vinik Asset Management in the mid-1990s. Vinik acquired the Tampa Bay Lightning for $170 million in 2010. He is also an owner of the Boston Red Sox professional baseball team and the Liverpool Football Club soccer team.

“No one on our team at present, though we have a very talented team in place, has managed such a broad or complicated process as we're embarking on. We need an executive who has overseen a large, mixed-use development.”

Vinik declined to comment specifically on potential office anchors for a skyscraper that would be among the largest in Tampa. Speculation has arisen that Strategic Property was in talks with General Electric Co. or insurance giant Aetna, both Connecticut-based conglomerates that have expressed a desire to relocate their corporate headquarters to another state.

“We're hoping to attract a large tenant, and certainly we're open to a corporate headquarters or a regional headquarters of some sort,” Vinik says. “We're not there yet, but we hope to be able to make an announcement regarding an anchor tenant in the coming months.”

Vinik also addressed the reasons behind his desire to transform Channelside rather than focus exclusively on Amalie Arena and the Lightning.

“We have here a unique opportunity to change the city and the region for generations to come,” says Vinik, 56. “As I've gotten older, it's not so much about making money any longer as it's about doing good, lasting things.

“In Tampa, we can make a real difference, because to me the city has not been appreciated nationwide as it should be,” Vinik adds. “There are some great resources in place now.”

This story was updated to reflect the makeup of Strategic Property Partners.


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