TAMPA — Construction workers have been digging up the roads in downtown Tampa for months, marking the first steps toward building Strategic Property Partners' $3 billion vision for the redevelopment of Tampa's urban core.
At its peak, nearly 100 workers are replacing old water and sewer pipes under the roads on Channelside Drive, Morgan and Jefferson streets, and installing new insulated pipes that will run water to downtown buildings as a form of air conditioning from a central chilled water distribution plant. The construction began in August and will run likely through the summer next year. But roadwork in downtown Tampa will continue over the next two years, as SPP's plans for downtown begin to take shape around Amalie Arena.
"The challenging part of all of this is trying to keep downtown Tampa pedestrian friendly. We're in an urban downtown area and an event district next to Amalie Arena, and so far we've been able to work around the Lightning games," said Courtland Corbino, vice president of development for SPP.
Construction crews have taken over some parking lots that were once used for Lightning fans. SPP created a website, www.downtowntampagrid.com, where the public can get updates about road closures and share feedback. So far SPP hasn't collected many complaints, said spokeswoman Ali Glisson.
SPP, the real estate firm owned by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Bill Gates' Cascade Investment, signed a $35 million contract with Tampa's Kimmins Contracting Corporation to redevelop new roadways, install new pipes, widen sidewalks and create bike lanes around the 50 acres SPP owns of downtown Tampa.
So far, construction crews have pulled up thousands of old bricks that once formed the downtown roadways and slabs of granite that made roadside curbs that are nearly 80 years old.
"There's always this X factor that you don't know what you'll find when you start digging," said Joseph Williams, president of Kimmins. "It's a puzzle to find room to add new pipes. We have to improvise a lot of the time."
Workers are installing more than 6,000 feet of insulated steel pipes under ground, which will transport chilled water from a centralized plant to new buildings downtown to air condition them. This new system will free up the rooftops of downtown buildings for other uses, like rooftop bars and restaurants, or even dog parks.
The central cooling plant will house water chillers and ice tanks at a distribution center that will be built at the northwest corner of E. Cumberland and S. Nebraska avenues. Cold water will run to buildings including the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute, a new hotel and Amalie Arena, through this new loop of underground pipes.
Construction crews have started to create an extension of Old Water Street north from Channelside Drive. One northbound lane on Jefferson Street between Brorein Street and Whiting Street is closed for now, but will reopen on Dec. 23.
SPP plan also calls for a new 400- to 500-room luxury hotel, a 650,000-square-foot office tower and more than 300,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. The University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute will be built in downtown Tampa, as will an adjacent office building to house health-related businesses.
Contact Justine Griffin at email@example.com. Follow @SunBizGriffin.