Photo: renderingMayor Bob Buckhorn envisions a splash pad, boat house and sports areas at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park.
Southwest Florida roundup
On the waterfront: The Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa gets renewed attention
Mayor Bob Buckhorn wants to bring the Hillsborough River out of the shadows.
On a recent Sunday afternoon near downtown Tampa, dozens of children splashed around the bright new Water Works Park on the eastern bank of the Hillsborough River. Less than a mile south, at the western fringe of Tampa’s urban core, the much larger Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park lay mostly unused.
As it grew, Tampa all but ignored its waterfront, but the city is now attempting to realize more of the waterfront’s potential as a civic asset. Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who has focused on urban renewal since being elected in 2011, wants to do for Riverfront Park what he did for Water Works, which received a $7-million makeover under his administration. He’s seeking $20 million in public and private money to increase access to the river, eliminate earthen mounds that effectively block river views, and add amenities including a splash pad, sand volleyball courts, boat house and kayak and paddleboard rentals.
The park renovation is part of a broader effort by Buckhorn to redevelop 150 acres, most of which is government-owned, on downtown’s western edge. If the Tampa Housing Authority can pull together funding, a World War II-era public housing complex will be demolished and replaced with a mixed-use neighborhood comprising middle- and low-income housing.A city truck yard overlooking the river will move elsewhere to make way for private investment.
Buckhorn, up for re-election next year, promotes the redevelopment plan as a way to attract millennials and boost the economy.
Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, partly backed by billionaire Bill Gates, promises to create “America’s next great urban waterfront district” on more than 20 acres he has bought near Amalie Arena. Together, the so-called Channel District and West River projects represent two of the most significant developments in Tampa history, Buckhorn says.
While Vinik’s privately funded plans may materialize quickly, Buckhorn’s West River plan will likely take much longer. “I need investors. I need people who can see the vision and buy into it,” he says. “It takes an ability to see 10 years down the road, as opposed to next year, to imagine what West River can become.”
The rapid growth of smartphone and tablet users means more business for St. Petersburg-based Tower Cloud, which helps wireless carriers and other customers upgrade their infrastructure to satisfy rising bandwidth requirements.
Founded in 2006 by Ron Mudry, a longtime telecommunications industry executive, Tower Cloud recently expanded its network at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta to help Verizon boost capacity during large public events. “Years ago, we were all happy if we could make a phone call.Today, we’re upset if we can’t immediately send a photo to our friends,” says George Townsend, senior vice president of business development.“Data demands are growing tremendously, and we see that with all the four big carriers.” Privately held Tower Cloud grew by 689% in the past three years and had $27.2 million in 2013 revenue. It employs about 70, up from 60 a year ago.
CITRUS COUNTY — The Public Service Commission approved a plan by Duke Energy to build a $1.5-billion natural gas plant in Citrus County.
FORT MYERS — Universal Trailer Holdings is moving its headquarters from Cincinnati to Lee County, creating 21 jobs.The company will get an incentive package worth $63,000 from the county.
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY — County commissioners passed an ordinance protecting gay and transgender people from discrimination in hiring, housing and public accommodations.
NAPLES — A federal judge in Orlando sentenced money manager Blayne Davis, formerly of Naples, to nine years in prison after he pleaded guilty to defrauding investors. Davis, who was the director of trading at Capital Blu Management, specializing in the foreign exchange market, also must pay between $11.9 million and $13.2 million in restitution to investors who lost money, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
PASCO COUNTY — Simon Property Group received government approval to build a1. 1-million-sq.-ft. outlet mall at I-75 and State Road 56.
SARASOTA — Ringling College of Art and Design plans to build a 30,000-sq.-ft. soundstage and post-production facility in the Newtown neighborhood for its filmmaking program. > The FDIC released the former directors and officers of LandMark Bank of Florida from all claims related to the bank’s closure in exchange for a $650,000 settlement agreement with their insurer. Regulators closed Sarasotabased LandMark in 2011.
ST. PETERSBURG — DDA Development of Tampa plans a 13-story condominium tower called The Salvador near the Dali Museum downtown. The 74 units will range from $315,000 to $800,000.
TAMPA — The University of South Florida received $25 million from alumni Les and Pam Muma, the largest donation in school history, and renamed its business college the USF Muma College of Business. Les Muma, a 1966 USF graduate, is the retired co-founder of Fiserv, a financial services technology company. > Edelweiss Air will add a third weekly flight to Zurich from Tampa International Airport in June. The Swiss airline began flying out of Tampa in 2012. > LabTech Software will add 100 jobs and spend about $644,000 to expand its Tampa headquarters.The IT company will receive $500,000 in state and local incentives over six years if it creates jobs at a minimum average annual wage of nearly $50,000. > Laser Spine Institute will move its headquarters to a custom building under development in Tampa’s Westshore district. Construction is expected to be completed in early 2016.
The second of two Amazon distribution centers in Florida opened in September near I-75 in Ruskin.The first Amazon warehouse opened in August in Lakeland.