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Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Editorial: The right deal for Channelside

The awarding Monday of the Channelside Bay Plaza retail complex to Lightning hockey team owner Jeff Vinik means a vital area of downtown Tampa might finally get the care and attention it has long needed.

Redeveloping the struggling retail center will go a long way toward turning the Channel District into a vibrant entertainment and retail destination for tourists, conventioneers, cruise ship passengers, sports fans, concertgoers and the growing number of people living in condos and apartments in downtown.

After years of legal wrangling that involved bankruptcies, litigation and a public auction, the major players agreed to a settlement that gives Vinik control of the complex.

He’ll pay $7.1 million for the lease on the property. Port Tampa Bay, which owns the land underneath the complex, will pay $1.9 million to buy the property’s mortgage from the bank that holds the note.

The deal also settles any pending litigation issues related to an earlier offer for the complex by developers Liberty Group/Convergent Capital, clearing the way for Vinik to finally get started on revitalizing Channelside.

Vinik is known for spending more than $40 million of his own money to refurbish the Forum, where his hockey team plays. He recently announced plans to build a hotel near the venue. And in his written bid to win control of the Channelside complex, he unveiled plans for a major renovation that fits into a broader vision for the area.

The port shares that vision, bringing a unified effort to a project embraced by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and other civic leaders.

Channelside’s retail spaces are mostly vacant these days. The complex fell into disrepair as its operators went into default and the process for finding a successor was dragged through the courts.

It’s unfortunate a rejected bidder made the process more costly and difficult. But now everything has been resolved, and Vinik is poised to bring the Channelside complex to its full potential.

It wasn’t easy getting to this point. But the most difficult journeys often yield the greatest rewards.

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