Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Turanchik proposes old armory site as possible Raymond James satellite campus

26

January

 

TAMPA – With Raymond James Financial looking for room to grow, Tampa mayoral candidate Ed Turanchik is thinking of a spot that over the years has welcomed everyone from JFK to MLK to Dusty Rhodes to the Ramones.
 
How about, he says, the National Guard’s former Fort Homer Hesterly Armory?
 
Raymond James said this week it is considering building a new satellite campus half the size of its sprawling St. Petersburg headquarters at a location somewhere outside of Pinellas County. The list of potential sites includes properties from southern Pasco to southeast Hillsborough.
 
The new site would be expected to accommodate growth and provide a more hurricane-resistant location for some of the company’s operations, including maybe its information technology group.
 
Turanchik, one of five candidates for mayor in the March 1 city elections, said Wednesday he would work to bring the satellite operation to Tampa. Other sites are possible, he said, but the old armory is a top choice.
 
“If I was the mayor, it’s what I would be working on,” he said.
 
The land, on N Howard Avenue, just south of Interstate 275, is high and dry, he said. He added that it also lies mid-way between Westshore and downtown, would be close to the homes of many Raymond James employees and would be easily served in the future by light or commuter rail.
 
As an urban location, the site fits into Turanchik’s proposal to create a 5-mile-long transit, urban development and high-tech innovation corridor – something he calls "TBnet" – between Tampa International Airport ant downtown Tampa. The corridor could feature express bus service, higher density urban housing and widespread use of technologies such as energy-efficient smart energy grids, solar energy and recharging stations for electric cars.
 
The urban location could even help Raymond James attract talent more than a suburban location would, he said.
 
“This is how you build a city,” Turanchik said in announcing the proposal.
 
“My campaign’s trying to frame a vision for building a city and how you put the pieces together with urban infill and transit and connecting our major employment centers,” he said. The armory is “obviously a great location, and I’m interested in there being a public discussion about that.”
 
Such a use would add a new chapter to a site with a rich history. Dedicated the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the armory hosted one event with President John F. Kennedy just four days before his assassination and another with Martin Luther King Jr. It also has been home to professional wrestling and a variety of noteworthy concerts: James Brown, Buddy Holly, the Doors, Pink Floyd, Johnny Cash and the Ramones.
 
The National Guard called the armory home until 2004, when the unit moved to Pinellas County, leaving behind a small maintenance group. The city holds long-standing rights to acquire the building if the Guard leaves altogether, and Tampa has agreed to release those rights if both parties agree on a redeveloper. Several possibilities have been discussed, but so far none has panned out.
 
In October, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, proposed converting the armory property to a Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic.
 
Turanchik said he likes Castor’s idea and inventiveness, but he would prefer to bring a tax-paying business to the site.

[Last modified: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 3:59pm]

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