Tampa Port officials give glimpse into its future

By Dalia Dangerfield, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, August 13, 2015, 4:12 PM EDT

The possible future downtown Tampa's Channel District became clearer today.

Port Tampa Bay unveiled its vision for the 45 acres of land it owns in the Channel District, specifically the land around the port's cruise ship terminal. The port owns the cruise ship terminals, along with the Channelside Bay Plaza land and nearby parking garage.

The vision plan maximizes the potential of 45 acres of port-owned land along Channelside Drive and the Ybor Channel and builds upon the area’s ongoing revitalization. It calls for the development of more than 9 million square feet of mixed-use space and $1.5 billion in private investment over the next decade or so.

“Our vision is to create a waterfront community that is the envy of other top cities around the country,’’ said Paul Anderson, president and CEO of Port Tampa Bay. “This is an unprecedented development that will revolutionize Tampa and benefit the entire region.’’

While still in the preliminary phase, the vision plan features a mix of private development and public amenities, from residential, retail, office and hotel space to a central park, marina and multipurpose cruise ship terminal.

A key element of the plan are two “landmark towers’’ that developers say will be among the tallest on Florida’s West Coast and an amphitheater.

“Great cities like San Diego, New Orleans and Vancouver have been built around their ports,’’ Anderson said. “We believe this will stand out as an innovative example of how to take full advantage of valuable waterfront, while balancing the needs of the maritime community and adjacent neighborhood.’’

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn spoke about the impact the redesign will have on the region at a news conference Thursday morning.

“This is another exciting step toward bringing the waterfront back to the people,’’ Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. “The time is right to take this area to the next level and create a new destination for generations to come.’’

A new cruise terminal design would enhance the $1 billion development planned for land adjacent to Amalie Arena. That project, headed by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's Strategic Property Partners, started this month with road, water and stormwater redesign on Channelside Drive between Jefferson and Old Water streets.

Vinik's master plan for the southern end of downtown Tampa includes a new medical school for the University of South Florida, a new hotel, retail space for shops and restaurants, apartments and condos and a 5,000-space parking garage.

“For me personally, I think that Tampa is moving in the right direction,” said Vince Schwellenbach.

Most of the project would be funded through private investment. $200 million would come from taxpayers through the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) fund.

If all goes as planned construction could begin by next year.