Port Tampa Bay okays lease deal for $160 million cardboard recycling plant

The developer will get tax breaks and potentially port aid for the project, which is expected to create nearly 100 jobs.
The view towards the channel from Port Tampa Bay's cruise terminal area and Sparkman Wharf on Oct. 19, 2020.
The view towards the channel from Port Tampa Bay's cruise terminal area and Sparkman Wharf on Oct. 19, 2020. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published March 23, 2021|Updated March 23, 2021

Port Tampa Bay officials have signed off on a land lease with a company that wants to build a new $160 million cardboard recycling plant in Tampa.

Celadon Development Corp. will lease about 37.7 acres of port land on Hooker’s Point for 20 years, followed by two potential 10-year extensions. The port would receive $507,500 per year during a pre-development period of up to 18 months, then at least $1.3 million annually thereafter.

Based on those terms alone, the 20-year lease would be worth at least $24 million. The port, however, will offer rent credits of up to 50 percent depending on the plant’s output. Celadon officials expect to export as many as 20,000 containers of recycled paper products per year.

Last fall, Hillsborough County commissioners approved a tax exemption worth $2.4 million over seven years in an attempt to lure Celadon, which is partnering on the plant with New Jersey’s Kamine Development Corporation. Other cities in contention included Houston; Norfolk, Va.; Mobile, Ala.; Savannah, Ga.; and Charleston, S.C.

“The bottom line is, we liked Tampa, and Tampa liked us,” said Celadon partner Marit Zosel.

Related: Hillsborough okays tax incentives for cardboard recycler

The 300,000-square-foot plant will use heat and municipal wastewater to treat cardboard and ship it back out for reuse. While Celadon has committed to at least the $160 million facility, partner Tim Zosel said that’s just a start.

“Aggregate, through the whole program, it’ll be around $400 million of site improvements that we’ll be putting in there,” he said. “It could be slightly more.”

The land tabbed for the plant is a former scrap dump that has been labeled a brownfield site. If significant environmental remediation is required, the port would be on the hook. Bruce Laurion, the port’s vice president of engineering, pegged the odds of that at about 10 percent to 15 percent.

“We’re not anticipating anything that would interfere with our schedule to be operational by 2022,” Tim Zosel said.

The plant is projected to create nearly 100 new jobs. Mayor Jane Castor, a port commissioner, touted it as an example of an investment “that adds to the sustainability and resiliency not only of our community, but of our world.”

“The fact that this is a green project warms my heart,” she said.

Harry Cohen, a port and county commissioner, echoed Castor’s praise.

“This is exactly the type of project I think all of us really look for to carry our economy into the future,” he said. “It’s tremendously gratifying to see things like this happening.”