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Vinik to announce his downtown vision plan Dec. 17

TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik said Thursday he will unveil Dec. 17 a “vision plan” for his sweeping downtown holdings.

The plan to remake 30 acres around the newly renamed Amalie Arena could amount to a billion dollars in investment and is expected to include new residential projects, new office buildings, probably a grocery store, a major parking garage, more entertainment venues and a host of renovations to better connect the district.

“I don’t like the word ‘master plan,’” Vinik told University of South Florida trustees Thursday during the meeting at which the board approved a relocation of the Morsani School of Medicine to Vinik-donated property downtown. “A master plan says, ‘That’s going there, that’s going there.’ ... We need to be flexible to opportunities that come along, and we’re convinced there will be a lot of them.”

Vinik and his team have been relatively quiet about specifics of their plans. On Thursday, he declined to discuss non-USF issues.

“One of the important things we’re going to ask for on that date is community involvement and community feedback,” Vinik told reporters outside the trustees’ meeting. “Everything we do here, we want to hear what people in our community — and I’m not just talking about the mayor, I’m talking about anybody that lives in this Tampa Bay region — we’d love to hear what they think, because we don’t have all the good ideas.”

Chunks of the plan already are moving forward, in part with the backing of Seattle-based Cascade Investment, controlled by Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates.

Next door to the medical school, Vinik’s Strategic Property Partners will build a 10-story medical office building. Alongside those two structures will be a parking garage for 1,800 cars.

The medical school will be “a key anchor tenant,” Vinik said. “We have a great partnership with the school and they are going to add youth and experience and vibrancy, and it is a very critical piece of what we’re trying to do with our real estate.”

Meanwhile, Vinik said another anchor, a major corporate headquarters, is being pursued for the western portion of his property near Franklin Street. That structure could contain 400,000 square feet, making it even larger than the proposed 12-story medical school on the eastern edge of Vinik’s holdings.

“That’s going to be a major focus going forward in 2015,” he said. “I’m happy to say, the phone has already been ringing.”

In August, a Vinik company filed a rezoning request for 406 S. Morgan St., which was to become global headquarters for Syniverse, a major player in wireless networks. The company was expected to relocate from New Tampa, but the deal fell through and the rezoning request was pulled.

In October, Vinik bought the Marriott Waterside Hotel for $150 million, and he has the city’s approval to build another major hotel across Old Water Street from the Marriott.

This summer, Vinik gained control of financially troubled Channelside Bay Plaza at Port Tampa.

It is believed the vision plan, being produced by Urban Design Associates of Pittsburgh, will include street realignments. The Syniverse plan called for the city to vacate a portion of Euclid Avenue, and plans for the medical school, medical tower and parking garage reflect the closings of parts of Caesar, Eunice, Ball and Brorein streets.

Vinik said Thursday he has enjoyed his transformation from Wall Street fund manager to team owner to land developer.

“We think we’ve made great progress on the hockey side — we’re getting to world class, but we’re not there yet — and now we want to do the same thing on the real estate side,” he said. “It’s a whole lot of fun to do this.” [email protected]

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