Monday, April 23, 2018
Business

Public may get preview of bidders in next week's Channelside auction

TAMPA — The public may get an early glimpse at just who's bidding for Channelside Bay Plaza before it goes up for auction next week.

The Tampa Port Authority announced Monday that it will hold a special board meeting on June 30 at 3 p.m. that "may include presentations from prospective bidders" for Channelside.

That meeting would take place just two days before the July 2 auction for Channelside, which will be held in New York.

The public will be able to address the port's commissioners at that special meeting.

Channelside was ordered to be put up for auction by the bankruptcy judge overseeing the liquidation of its owner, the Irish Bank Resolution Corp. Potential bidders have been required to sign confidentiality agreements.

So far, just two bidders have emerged in recent weeks:

The Tampa Port Authority, which tried and failed to buy Channelside earlier this year, will enter the auction. Last week the board voted to put in a bid for $5.75 million, and members committed to consider increasing that bid if it becomes necessary.

Liberty Channelside LLC, a group of real estate investors who tried and failed to buy Channelside for $7 million last year, has also indicated in court records that they'll take part in the auction.

Liberty has also challenged the port's attempts to buy Channelside in court, and has indicated that it also intends to challenge the validity of the entire auction process as well.

It is unknown if other local players, like Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, will take part in the auction as well. Vinik intends to develop 23 acres of empty land he and his partners have bought near Channelside and the home of his hockey team, the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Vinik tried to buy Channelside in 2012 and incorporate it into those plans, but he walked away from the deal because of legal complications that have since been resolved.

Vinik's plans to develop an entertainment and retail complex to complement his hockey team are still popular with the port's governing board. The port owns the land beneath Channelside, and has long asserted veto power over who can buy the complex.

However, it will take more than just the highest bid to win Channelside. The winning bidder must also prove that they also have the financial wherewithal that will be needed to redevelop and remake the nearly empty outdoor mall.

The winning bidder must also win approval of the bankruptcy judge during a July 14 court hearing.

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