Port Redwing, wide-open land helping spur region’s rise

February 8, 2016

Yvette Hammett | Tampa Tribune/TBO.com
Double-digit population growth is expected south of State Road 60 by 2020, so government and private industry in Hillsborough County are moving to answer the challenge.
Developers have secured entitlements for 35,000 new residential units in addition to the 133,889 homes already located in the county’s fastest-growing area.
And already, groundwork is in place for 26 million square feet of business development — 5.9 million for commercial, 4.5 million for office and 16.3 million for light industrial use.
There are also plans to improve traffic flow, including a flyover on Apollo Beach Boulevard that would allow east-west access between U.S. 41 and U.S. 301 and the widening of a 7-mile stretch of U.S. 41.
Hillsborough County’s overall population — now 1.3 million — is expected to increase 7 percent by 2020, but four county ZIP codes are expected to see about 12 percent growth. Three are in south Hillsborough, widely known as the South Shore area, which accounts for more than one in four Hillsborough County residents. The fourth is in New Tampa. Accommodating all that growth requires laying all the groundwork ahead of time — zoning, roads, water and sewer and other services, said Doug Dieck, president of the southeast region for Ryan Companies, which developed the Amazon distribution center in Ruskin.
When businesses come south in search of large parcels for light industrial, commercial or office space, all arrows point to South Shore. And once those companies come knocking, they are typically ready to start construction and pack their bags in short order, said Lindsey Kimball, Hillsborough County Economic Development director.
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In addition to ready access to an available workforce, there are three major reasons employers want to move to South Shore, Kimball said — large expanses of available real estate, “world class infrastructure,” and Port Redwing, part of Port Tampa Bay and a way manufacturers can connect with rail and ships for exporting goods.
“For probably at least 10 years, the growth spurt has been going on” in southern Hillsborough County, Kimball said. Driving through the area recently, she said she was amazed at all the signs of growth — residential, commercial and industrial.
“We have tremendous benefits there because we have Interstate 75, U.S. 301 and U.S. 41 that connect us to both Manatee and Pasco counties and a quick jog up to I-4 to reach the Polk County workforce,” she said.
Industry is driving most of the growth, and access to port, rail and possible truck transportation helps in attracting companies, said Randy Smith, director of research for the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.
“One of the great benefits is the railroad infrastructure going down U.S. 41,” Smith said. “Many of the sites we have that we are proposing for development have rail access … .”
Others have direct interstate access, like South Shore Corporate Park, where Ryan built the Amazon distribution center just west of I-75.
“South Shore Corporate Park has been a big leap forward for the entire South Shore area,” Smith said.
And there is still plenty of space for more light industrial development there. The property is approved for 2.6 million square feet of development, and Amazon is using just 1.1 million, Dieck said.
“We are ready to go because the infrastructure is in place,” Dieck said. “It’s very attractive to users.”
One 45,000-square-foot building is ready for lease, and there are a dozen or so others on site, he said.
In addition, Madison Industrial Park has quick access to Port Redwing. Four buildings developed there by EastGroup Properties are ready to go for distribution, light industrial, office and warehousing.
“The majority of our competitive sites are located in South Shore, because that’s where the land is,” Kimball said. “It’s a critical part of our economic development strategy in terms of where we will locate future higher-wage job opportunities.”
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The business growth is providing new opportunities for people who live in the region.
“It’s more office parks and people may have light manufacturing and an employment center where they design and make products and distribute them,” said Alex McLeod, vice president of operations for Newland Communities, which is developing the Waterset residential community off Big Bend Road.
“There are entrepreneurial opportunities. Small business owners are growing into mid-size businesses,” McLeod said. “The port is doing things not from the old days.”
There also are plans for a kind of downtown area so people won’t have far to travel for good restaurants and entertainment.
“Besides the South Shore Corporate Park there are commercial office retail entitlements and opportunities in Waterset,” McLeod said. One is a town center at U.S. 41 and Apollo Beach Boulevard. This won’t be your big-box retail, but quality services and even some employment opportunities for the greater area. Restaurants, shops, medical offices, a wellness center to support the nearby hospital and “definitely some mixed-use opportunities there which the area desperately needs. We’ll be delivering that in the next year or two and looking for commercial office retail partners.”
The vision is to create a concentrated area for residential and lifestyle along with a job base, McLeod said.
The Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. is working to attract an even greater variety of development to the region, Kimball said — advanced light industrial, tech medicine, bio science, logistics and distribution centers among them.
“Those businesses are in our target industries,” said J.P. DuBuque, interim president and CEO of the development corporation.
They will bring high-wage jobs that will add to the tax base and provide for the greatest kind of economic impact on the community, he said.
The economic group made up of private business partners has landed two events to bring jobs to the area.
One is the Site Selectors Guild Advisory Forum in April, which will bring five companies that find locations for expanding businesses for a whirlwind tour of available sites in eastern and southern Hillsborough County.
“The last time we did this we got a great project,” one still in the works, which would bring 400 new jobs to the area if all goes as planned, said Michelle Bauer, spokeswoman for the economic development corporation.
The other big catch is the Industrial Asset Management Council, coming in April 2017, an event the county’s tourism agency, Visit Tampa Bay, helped coordinate.
“We will have 500 people who look particularly at these kinds of sites for manufacturing and logistics and distribution,” Bauer said.
Kimball called the events “a big coup” for Hillsborough County.
“We are talking 500 in our market for about a week, time to show them all the assets in our community.”
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The population south of State Road 60 grew 74 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to county statistics. It grew another 12 percent between 2010 and 2015 and is expected to go up another 10.3 percent by 2020, putting the South Shore population at 386,000.
Bringing all those jobs and all those new residents to South Shore also means more traffic on the roads. Already, there is a daily jam on I-75 at Big Bend Road.
One way to accommodate all that growth is having businesses and retail in place so people can work closer to home, said McLeod with Newland Communities.
Still, there are several big road projects in the works to smooth the commute for those who don’t work nearby.
One is the Florida Department of Transportation’s plan to widen U.S. 41 from four lanes to six lanes between Causeway Boulevard and Kracker Avenue in Riverview.
“The intent is to reduce traffic stacking up at intersections,” said Rick Adair, project manager for the department of transportation. The project is not yet funded, but it is expected to cost about $164 million. Adair said it is on the department’s five-year work plan.
Another major road project on the books would extend Apollo Beach Boulevard east, with a flyover crossing I-75.
Newland, in renegotiating its obligations for the Waterset development of regional impact, agreed to pay the county $12 million toward the $25 million project.
“They are doing design right now and that comes out of Newland’s $12 million,” said Mike Williams, the county’s director of transportation planning and development.
Once the design is completed and permits obtained, they will be turned over to Hillsborough County with the remainder of the $12 million plus interest, and the county will pursue construction.
The county also received a $5 million grant from the state Department of Transportation for the project.
Newland will build toward the east and the county will build the approaches and the flyover, then continue the road east to U.S. 301, Williams said.
The project is scheduled for 2020, but County Commissioner Sandy Murman said she is working to speed up that time frame.
Newland also kicked in to ease traffic by paying to synchronize all the lights on Big Bend Road from U.S. 41 to U.S. 301, McLeod said.
“What took 10 to 15 minutes has been cut down to under four minutes,” he said.
“Everyone recognizes there are transportation infrastructure needs,” he added.
“It doesn’t solve everything, but Newland is providing some relief.”
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