June 28, 2022
Port of call: Urban living in Tampa's Channel District
A rendering of the Channel District in downtown Tampa shows proposed 75-story residential towers near the existing Amalie Arena, Florida Aquarium and Channelside Bay Plaza complex.

Southwest Florida Roundup

Port of call: Urban living in Tampa's Channel District

Tampa's port hopes to capitalize on surrounding developments.

Amy Martinez | 11/24/2015

Not too long ago, the idea of creating a large mixed-use community at Port Tampa Bay would have seemed far-fetched. In 2007, only several hundred people lived in the surrounding blocks downtown.

More recently, however, new mid- and high-rise residential buildings catering to empty-nesters and young, urban professionals have begun to transform the industrial area. Between 2007 and 2014, the population of Tampa’s socalled Channel District increased six-fold to 3,500 people.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik began buying land around the arena where the hockey team plays. In late 2014, he unveiled a plan to remake 40 acres with more than 3 million square feet of mixeduse development, including a new home for USF’s medical school.

Now, the port itself wants to capitalize on the growing interest in urban waterfront living. In August, port leaders introduced a $1.7-billion vision for 45 acres of portowned property near Vinik’s project.

Miamibased planning, engineering and architecture firm Bermello Ajamil & Partners developed the port’s plan, which calls for 9 million square feet of mixed-use space over the next 15 years. Asphalt lots primarily used for ship staging would be redeveloped, encompassing an enlarged cruise terminal, marina, park, hotels, offices, shops and — perhaps most notably — two 75-story residential towers.

“A lot of people are calling it ambitious, but to be honest with you, I don’t think it’s ambitious,” says Luis Ajamil, president and CEO of Bermello Ajamil & Partners. “You’ve already got thousands of people moving into an area that used to be industrial warehouses. All we’re doing is completing the neighborhood.”

To make it happen, the port is looking for development partners. Most of the project’s costs would be borne by private investors, while about $200 million would come from the port and local government.

Ajamil says some large development companies have expressed an interest in the project. “I’m really encouraged by the amount of people who are calling,” he says. “I think the port will have some good choices before them.”


GeniusCentral Systems

Founded 16 years ago, GeniusCentral Systems designs software to help with the day-to-day operations of natural foods stores. The privately held company employs 50 people and expects to double that number within three years amid growth in the natural foods sector.

To help it recruit and retain young tech workers, GeniusCentral recently moved its headquarters from Lakewood Ranch to St. Petersburg, where it transformed a 17,000-sq.-ft. building in the Warehouse Arts District into a non-traditional workspace with murals by local artists. “One of our core values is have fun and be unique,” says GeniusCentral CEO John Miles. “We figured we could take a shell of a warehouse and turn it into a fun and unique environment that expresses our brand.”


Rick Homans, previously president and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., became CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership.

Steve Simon replaced Stacey Allaster as CEO of the St. Petersburgbased Women’s Tennis Association. Simon had been tournament director of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells in California.

David Kaminsky, previously CFO for video conferencing company Vidyo, became CFO at iQor, a global provider of business outsourcing services in St. Petersburg.

Business Briefs

CAPE CORAL — Gulf Coast Village began construction of a 131,000-sq.-ft. assisted living and memory care facility.

CLEARWATER — Heritage Insurance Holdings reached a deal worth $120 million to buy Hawaii hurricane insurance provider Zephyr Insurance.

DAVENPORT — The Company of Animals, which sells pet training aids, moved its U.S. headquarters from Bridgeport, Conn., to Davenport’s CenterPoint Enterprise warehouse.

LAKE WALES — Merlin Entertainments Group, which owns Legoland, paid $1.4 million for seven acres that had been the site of a Harley Davidson dealership. Merlin will use the site for its Lego model builders and designers.

LEE COUNTY — Aerospace manufacturer Advanced Components International plans to spend $11.6 million to expand its operations and create 42 jobs in the next five years.

MANATEE/SARASOTA COUNTIES — The board of trustees of State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota voted to end tenure for faculty.

PASCO COUNTY — Evolutions Properties purchased 4.4 acres at Trinity Corporate Center for a new office building leased to Nicopure Labs, maker of Halo e-cigarettes. Also, Osypka Properties bought 7 acres at Trinity Corporate Center to develop up to 80,000 square feet for medical device company Oscor.

PINELLAS COUNTY — The Atlanta Braves have proposed building a spring-training complex on the 240-acre former Toytown landfill in mid- Pinellas County. The Braves, in partnership with former Major League Baseball player Gary Sheffield and St. Petersburg developer Darryl LeClair, would pay the county $20 million over 40 years.

PLANT CITY — The city committed $150,000 to create Plant City Economic Development Corp. as a public-private partnership chaired by retired engineer Randy Larson.

SARASOTA — All Faiths Food Bank plans to double the size of its facility in a $3.1-million expansion.

ST. PETERSBURG — Alabamabased B&M Management paid NRP Group of Cleveland $84.5 million for Beacon 430, a new 326-unit apartment complex downtown. The deal’s per-unit price of nearly $260,000 was at the high end of the market for rentals. > Ceridian, a human resources services provider, will lay off about 100 employees in St. Petersburg as part of a planned sale of its COBRA business to Californiabased Wage Works. > United Insurance Holdings of St. Petersburg is buying Interboro Insurance for $57 million to expand in New York and South Carolina.

TAMPA — Strategic Property Partners, a real estate company controlled by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, will work with New York-based Delos to incorporate health-related standards into its planned mixed-use development downtown. Discount carrier Frontier Airlines will add a daily flight to St. Louis from Tampa starting Dec. 19. > The law offices of Daniel Consuegra laid off about 150 employees and closed its title company. Highwoods Properties of Raleigh, N.C., bought the 35-story SunTrust Financial Centre downtown and an adjacent parking lot for $124 million.

Land Holder

With 5,000 acres, Port Tampa Bay has the largest footprint of Florida’s 14 deepwater ports. In 2014, it handled 36 million tons of cargo, including nearly half of the state’s petroleum imports, and about 900,000 cruise ship passengers.

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