Port’s ambitious Channel district real estate plan includes retail, residential and commercial

August 13, 2015

The expanse of pavement that lines Channelside Drive could some day be home to a glitzy mix of residential towers and retail and commercial space — a total of 9 million square feet and $1.5 billion in development costs.
Port Tampa Bay on Thursday unveiled a “vision plan” for its Channel district real estate that would redevelop 45 acres of port-owned land along Channelside Drive and the Ybor Channel, north of the Florida Aquarium. It will be divided into four districts: the cruise district, the central waterfront, marina district and park district.
Specific square footages and placement of each use is yet to be determined and will be part of the port’s real estate master plan. Miami-based Bermello Ajamil & Partners Inc. was the consultant on the vision plan.
The aquarium’s parking is included in the redevelopment plans. The port envisions the city-owned land currently used for parking as part of the redevelopment, and aquarium parking would be relocated to a garage within the new development.
The plan isn’t connected to the mixed-use district that Strategic Property Partners, the real estate company formed by Tampa Bay Lightning ownerJeff Vinik and Cascade Investment, is planning between the Channel district and Tampa’s central business district. Port and city officials say this project will complement SPP’s as well as the residential development already under way in the Channel district.
“This is a monumental project that will complement what’s already happening,” Paul Anderson, CEO of Port Tampa Bay, said.
All cruise activity would be condensed into Terminal 3, which would be expanded to allow for the berthing of two ships at a time. Cruise Terminal 6 will be demolished.
As the cruise industry trends toward larger ships that can’t fit under the Sunshine Skyway bridge, the port’s cruise business will likely diminish in the coming years, creating the opportunity for the redevelopment.
Anderson said that while cruise traffic will likely tape off in the next five to 10 years — by some estimates, from the 970,000 annual passengers to somewhere between 500,000 and 700,000.
“We’ll always maintain a fairly significant cruise business at Port Tampa,” Anderson said.
The downtown real estate market will ultimately decide whether the port’s vision ever becomes reality, as it plans to work with private developers to bring the commercial space to fruition. The vision includes two “landmark towers,” up to 75 stories, that the port says “will be among the tallest and most notable on Florida’s West Coast.”
The port, the city and Channel District Community Redevelopment Agency will fund infrastructure costs.
Anderson said that at this point, the port anticipates working with developers on a ground-lease basis, similar to its arrangement with SPP on Channelside Bay Plaza.
He said the port may be open to selling some parcels but will “never” sell anything on the waterfront.
“That will be preserved, just like over at Channelside,” he said.
The ground leases would mean more revenue for the port. The port’s operating leases tend to be 20 to 30 years; the ground leases, Anderson said, could be 40 to 99 years.
It’s an annuity, basically,” Anderson said. “When rating agencies look at it, they treat that as a long-term revenue source.”