Channelside bidders seek concessions from Port
TAMPA - Among other qualifications for redeveloping Channelside, one executive making a bid on the property lists his experience as a Ph.D. in real estate, and in the military with “7 years as a paratrooper, jungle expert and spy.” Such is one of the details deep within an inch-thick application submitted to the Tampa Port Authority by Tampa-based Convergent Capital Partners and Liberty Group to take over the long-struggling Channelside retail and restaurant complex. If accepted, the bidders would like the base rent they pay to the Port cut by 50 percent, permission to build a 150-room hotel, and a contribution of $1 million from the Port toward a pedestrian “Sky Bridge” that’s part of their vision for renovations. Those requests are also among the details that Port board members and staff are sifting through this week as they consider this new bid for transforming Channelside.“This is the only idea we’ve seen so far, but we’re going to be patient about doing what’s right for the taxpayer and the community,” said board member William “Hoe” Brown, adding that he’s only recently started reading their bid package. “It sure would be nice to see some other ideas for Channelside.” The Port is under no obligation to accept this one bid, he said, because the Port owns the land under the complex and retains authority to reject or approve a new operator. The Port currently is pursing an eviction proceeding to remove the bank that holds the mortgage on the complex, which would give the Port even more leeway to pick an operator. Convergent and Liberty submitted their bid at the Port last Friday, which included biographies of the executives involved, brochures of properties built by their contractors and several renderings of their general plan. The two companies are joining with 50 percent interest each in “Liberty Channelside LLC” for the project. Two people who own a 20 percent interest in Convergent are Kenneth and Linda McGurn of Gainesville. Kenneth McGurn’s biography in the application document lists several degrees from the University of Florida, several awards in real estate and his ownership of 540,000 watts of “solar voltaic power.” It also has this paragraph: “Ken is an Army Viet Nam veteran who served on active duty for 7 years as a paratrooper, jungle expert and spy. He was probably the youngest Captain in the military at age 22.” The bid package also includes a March 1 letter from the Gunster law firm partner L. David Shear to the Port that requests several changes to the lease on behalf of the bidders:
A rental agreement that removes any “minimum base rent” paid to the Port, and new terms where the bidders would pay rent based on the rent they collect from stores, restaurants and other tenants of Channelside.
A parking agreement where the bidders would pay $250,000 a year for use of the nearby garage, with customer parking fees set at $1 for the first four hours of parking (if they present a movie theater ticket stub) and a $1 discount for every $10 customers spend at the complex
If the bidder constructs a “Sky Bridge” from the parking deck to the Channelside complex, the Port would contribute $1 million toward the cost.
A subsequent April 17 letter references discussions between the bidders and the Port and has other requests “in a desire to seek continued alignment of the interest of the Port Authority” and the bidders:
A modification of the lease to permit up to 45,000 square feet of office space and 150 rooms of hotel space.
A reduction in the base rent of 50 percent for the initial two years of the lease.
Investment from the Port to “landscape and beautify” a vacant parcel that’s just outside the Channelside property.
Convergent and Liberty have a long track record of backing projects in the region that they say totals several hundred million dollars. That includes a $98 million investment in the Hyatt Clearwater Beach, $13.9 million for the Emerald Green Golf and Country Club in Carrollwood and $22.5 million for a 200-unit apartment complex in Jacksonville.
The bid package envisions making a formal, in-person presentation to the Port board May 21.