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Developer, shipyard near deal

Maybe industrial businesses and real estate developers at Tampa's port can coexist after all.

A deal is in the works that would let the port's smallest shipyard keep operating at full steam while developer Trammell Crow Co. expands its Port Ybor project across Ybor Channel from the Florida Aquarium.

Gulf Marine Repair Corp. sits on the northeast corner of the 52-acre site, which Trammell Crow contracted with the Tampa Port Authority to develop with warehouses and offices. The shipyard must move when its lease with the port authority expires in April 2006.

But last spring, the public agency told Gulf Marine to stop using land off its leased property _ land Trammell Crow can demand with six months notice _ for constructing parts of vessels and moving cranes to reach its dry dock. That could cost Gulf Marine business and jobs and perhaps sink the shipyard, the company said.

On Tuesday, Trammell Crow and Gulf Marine told Tampa port commissioners they were close to an agreement to let the shipyard keep using the disputed land at least through the end of 2006.

"It's in the best interest of the port to do this," said Bob Abberger, head of Florida development for Trammell Crow. "If it's in the best interest of the port, it's in our best interest as well."

The developer expects to complete a 285,000-square-foot warehouse at year's end for customers requiring large spaces for manufacturing, Abberger said. Trammell Crow hasn't signed any tenants yet.

But other potential clients are interested in smaller facilities at Port Ybor, he said. So, the developer wants to start building a 150,000-square-foot warehouse on a piece of land near Gulf Marine.

Trammell Crow has rights to an 11-acre site, Abberger said, but would forgo building on 2 acres the shipyard needs until January 2007. Gulf Marine is in talks with Tampa Electric to buy the shuttered Hooker's Point power plant at the port for a new home.

Abberger and Gulf Marine's attorney said one final dispute is holding up signing their agreement, but they hoped to resolve it shortly.

Also on Tuesday, port commissioners voted unanimously to increase a variety of port fees.

Some local maritime businesses objected that the higher charges could drive ships to use competing ports. The Port of Tampa Maritime Industries Association asked whether increased fees to certain business would pay for port security enhancements that benefit everyone.

"We're still questioning where some of these increase costs come from and if they're being passed to people appropriately . . . or passed back to the overall community," said Joe Hartley, the group's president and chief executive of Tampa Bay Shipbuilding & Repair Co.

The increases will help recoup higher costs for water, electricity and insurance since the port last increased fees, port staffers said. Surveys show Tampa's port fees will remain competitive with those of other Florida and gulf ports, they said.

"We feel confident and comfortable with where we sit as far as the port's competitive situation is concerned," said Wade Elliott, senior director of marketing.

In other business, interim port director Zelko Kirincich said the agency is negotiating to buy out the lease of Intermodal Shipping Services on Hooker's Point, owned by Arthur Savage. The deal will give the agency about 20,000 square feet of warehouse space, a rail yard and office space.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettelsptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

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