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USF takes shine off its new Water Street Tampa med school building after glare hits pilots

SCOTT KEELER | Times A small airplane takes off at Peter O Knight Airport in Tampa, Friday, March 1, 2019. After pilots who use Peter O. Knight Airport on Davis Islands complained in early January, a non-reflective film has been added to the windows at the new University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute building at Water Street Tampa.
Published Mar. 4

Click here to read this story in Spanish

TAMPA — The new University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute at Water Street Tampa was meant to be eye-catching, but not like this.

In early January, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority got word that glass on the unfinished 13-story building was reflecting glare at planes using Peter O. Knight Airport on Davis Islands.

Since then, USF Health has worked with its design-build team on the project, Skanska USA and HOK. Skanska said in a statement that it applied a temporary film to reduce reflection during construction and will "continue to work closely with USF and Peter O. Knight Airport to monitor for any reflection issues." Skanska also plans to install sun shades on the building that are expected to reduce reflected sunlight.

Adding the non-reflective film is not expected to increase the $172 million cost for the medical school, which is expected to be an anchor project at the $3 billion Water Street Tampa development when USF's showpiece opens late this year.

"We are confident our contractors are using appropriate measures to address the issue," USF spokeswoman Althea Paul said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. "The airport has informed us that they're no longer receiving any complaints."

Before construction began in 2017, USF Health got a waiver for the building's 293-foot height (305 feet when you measure from sea level), because the medical school was about 1.7 miles north of the airport. The Aviation Authority has to approve height waivers for tall buildings that are near enough to the airport to cause potential problems for pilots.

When the authority approves such waivers — as it has for the new 309-foot-tall JW Marriott hotel at Water Street, a 314-foot-tall apartment tower at Water Street and the planned 393-foot-tall Elevé 61 condo tower in the Channel District — it typically requires red aircraft warning lights on top of the buildings and requires developers to agree to address any glare or glint problems to its satisfaction during construction.

"We're aware that there were glare issues," airport spokeswoman Janet Scherberger said. "We've worked with the developer, and they were mitigated."

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Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

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