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Hillsborough lawmakers back proposed improvement district for Water Street Tampa

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County legislative delegation has voted to support the idea of creating a commercial improvement district for the $3 billion Water Street Tampa project being launched by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Microsoft founder Bill Gates' capital fund, Cascade Investment.

The proposed Water Street Tampa Improvement District would collect assessments from commercial property owners to help pay for, manage and maintain the project's infrastructure and public improvements.

The idea of the district is "to provide long-term solution for sustainability — without relying on Tampa's taxpayers for financial support," according to Ali Glisson, spokeswoman for the Vinik-Cascade partnership.

Glisson said the district would "solely assess the commercial owners only, meaning those assessments will be borne by commercial property owners — not Tampa's existing residents nor future residents of the neighborhood."

A 93-page local bill to create the independent special district has been drafted, and on Friday the legislative delegation supported it by a 9-0 vote.

Plans for Water Street Tampa include more than 2 million square feet of new office space, including Tampa's first new office towers in nearly 25 years, 1 million square feet of new retail, cultural, educational, and entertainment space, two new hotels, about 3,500 apartments or condominiums and a new building for the University of South Florida's Morsani College of Medicine and Health Heart Institute.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Water Street Tampa outlines plans for downtown's transformation (with video)

The project's 50-acre footprint around Amalie Arena also will include 13 acres of new or enhanced parks and public spaces. Once built, it is expected to be peopled with more than 23,000 residents, workers, students and visitors a day.

Strategic Property Partners, the company Vinik and Cascade formed to develop Water Street Tampa, said Monday the district:

• Could help build new parks and public spaces or make improvements to existing ones; pay for landscaping, public art and street furniture; support transportation like the streetcar, buses or facilities for autonomous vehicles and ride services like Uber and Lyft; provide district-wide WiFi and support some of the district's healthy design initiatives.

• Would provide for enhanced maintenance of the project and allow Strategic Property Partners to play an active role in sustaining publicly owned spaces such as Cotanchobee Park, the Tampa Bay History Center and Amalie Arena.

The district's borders would be Florida Avenue on the west, Whiting Street on the north, Meridian Avenue on the east and the Garrison Channel on the south. It would include only properties owned by Strategic Property Partners, plus publicly owned sites like Amalie Arena, the Tampa Bay History Center and Cotanchobee Park.

That puts the proposed district inside the downtown Community Redevelopment Area and the special services district administered by the nonprofit Tampa Downtown Partnership. Developers say it would not affect the CRA, which diverts the property taxes generated by new development to pay for roads and other public improvements. The downtown partnership's district staffs downtown with guides for visitors and a "clean team" that picks up litter and focuses on marketing, business development and issues like transportation.

The district would not have authority over zoning or permitting, would be governed by a five member board elected by commercial landowners within the district and would be subject to Florida's open-meetings and public records laws.

During this spring's session, the Legislature approved a similar district for the planned massive Sunbridge development in Osceola County.

Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

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