Port Tampa Bay has struck a six-figure deal to buy a plot of land miles from the water that officials say will help it ride out flooding or a hurricane.
The port’s governing commissioners approved the deal during their monthly board meeting on Tuesday, clearing the way for a sale by June and bids to build out the property to be in by late summer.
The port plans to purchase about 7.5 acres of land near the intersection of Interstate 4 and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard for $862,000 from Corporex Properties of Tampa, part of a real estate investment company with $1 billion in assets nationwide.
Once the land is purchased, the port expects to spend about another $800,000 on site work and $1.5 million on the building itself, said Lane Ramsfield, the port’s vice president of real estate.
The port will pay for the land and site work. Much of the funding for the building will come from a 2019 Federal Emergency Management Agency grant aimed at helping ports store and protect vehicles used in emergency situations. The agency will reimburse 75 percent of building construction, up to $750,000, with the port covering the rest.
Port officials spent about 14 months researching two dozen properties valued between $500,000 and $1.75 million before settling on the site.
“We think this is a great opportunity,” Ramsfield said. “We spent a lot of time finding the property, evaluating it, and we think it meets the criteria and will provide even expansion opportunity in the future to build onto the property for an extended-use and heavy-weather facility.”
Mark Dubina, the port’s vice president of security, said the land could be used to store vehicles “that probably add up into the multi-millions when you add up the replacement value.”
“Even though we may have insurance on those items, getting vehicles after a tragic storm, a significant storm, is a real problem,” Dubina said. “I went to Katrina in Mississippi after that event, and those agencies up there were actually using equipment borrowed or given to them from Florida agencies because all of their equipment had been wiped out, and they had no access to fleet vehicles for months after that.”
At Port Tampa Bay, having vehicles ready to go would help keep fuel and other materials flowing throughout the state.
“I do not want to be that person that, after a storm, if we’re unable to open the port because of our vehicles ... they’re looking for somebody to blame,” said port CEO Paul Anderson. “We want to do everything we can to make sure they’re not looking for that, that we’ve done everything you can reasonably do to protect this asset and get it back open for business.”