Apartment complexes and condo towers with as many as 5,000 homes. A community park in place of a roundabout off Channelside Drive. A 70-year-old warehouse that could house an industrial-chic food hall.
Welcome to Gas Worx, the future of Ybor City as envisioned by Darryl Shaw.
More than 30 years after buying his first Ybor property, Shaw and his development partners on Monday said they filed with the city their long-awaited initial master plan for the historic district, offering Tampa the first wide-angle look at a project aimed at transforming 50 acres between Ybor and downtown Tampa.
“The goal is to create one of the great neighborhoods in the United States in the (Ybor City) historic district,” Shaw said. “Today, it’s still more perceived as an entertainment district. Our thought is to create a place where you have thousands of people living as the primary focus, and then these folks hopefully will have the opportunity to work in the district.”
Gas Worx — a “working name,” Shaw said, that nods to the site’s history as an old Peoples Gas storage facility — could include 500,000 square feet of office space and 150,000 square feet of retail to go with that cluster of condos and apartments.
What it doesn’t include — yet — is space for a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium, should the team again explore relocating to Ybor from St. Petersburg. A few years ago, the Gas Worx site was considered the favored spot for a Hillsborough County ballpark. But if the Rays want to play, Shaw said he’ll make room.
“We very much hope that it will happen,” Shaw said. “I’ve always maintained that this development is for Ybor, and the Rays coming is not essential for the development to go forward. So the plan you see is probably what we will build — unless the Rays come, and then we would re-evaluate.”
The Gas Worx project would encompass land running south from Fifth Avenue S to Adamo Drive; and east from the former Tampa Park Apartments to 15th Street S. Shaw and his partners hold about 30 of those acres, having spent around $70 million on the cluster of parcels that make up Gas Worx since 2014, according to Hillsborough County property records.
Shaw, the co-founder of veterinary company BluePearl, is among a group of investors who have loaned $15 million to the Times Publishing Co., which owns the Tampa Bay Times.
The first phase of the project was unveiled last month: two six-story residential and retail buildings, 662,019 square feet in all, on the site of the Tampa Park Apartments east of Nick Nuccio Parkway. That parcel and several other northern blocks of the Gas Worx site sit within the Ybor City Historic District site, and thus are subject to certain height and architectural restrictions.
In that area, Shaw’s team proposes replacing a roundabout at the intersection of Channelside Drive and Nick Nuccio Parkway with a 1.5-acre park. That park would abut a 70,000-square-foot brick warehouse at 1301 E Fourth Ave., which Shaw said could house restaurants or a food hall.
And the warehouse would open onto “3rd Avenue Paseo,” a pedestrian promenade-like extension of Third Ave. S, part of a plan to re-establish an east-west traffic grid stretching to Nick Nuccio Parkway. The park, new streets and other transit changes, including a bike trail and new TECO Line Streetcar stop, are envisioned as public-private partnerships, according to the proposal.
Moving south, Gas Worx would start looking more like downtown Tampa, with “vertical development” of residential towers, Shaw said. The 5,000 apartments and condos developers say they could build represents a high density of residents per square acre. For comparison, downtown’s 73.8-acre Water Street Tampa project will include 3,500 residences, while two plans under consideration for the redevelopment of St. Petersburg’s 86-acre Tropicana Field site propose anywhere from 2,000 to 8,000 homes.
Top to bottom, the project would feel neither exactly like Ybor City nor exactly like downtown Tampa, but would borrow elements from both, said Graham Tyrrell, a senior vice president with Shaw’s lead development partners, Washington, D.C. real estate firm Kettler. Tyrell envisions it more as a connective neighborhood linking the two areas.
“Buildings on the northern side will have more of an intentional Ybor style to them, and a lot more of those architectural cues that you would see in Ybor,” Tyrrell said. “But as we transition south, those are becoming more subtle, so by the time you leave the southern portion of the property, it doesn’t feel like you’re going from something that’s jarringly like Ybor into, say, the Channel District.”
In a statement, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor expressed high hopes for the project.
“It’s an incredibly exciting project that I hope will provide housing and services for a range of income levels and improve the connection between our neighborhoods,” she said.
Lynda Remund, president and CEO of the Tampa Downtown Partnership, also praised the plan, saying it “further showcases the city’s prominence as one of the best destinations in the country.”
“This plan will serve as a catalyst project for our urban core,” she said.
A potential Rays stadium isn’t the only what-if component to the project.
Railroad tracks slice through the land, and developers have been “peripherally involved” in conversations about extending Brightline’s planned Miami-to-Orlando commuter rail service into Tampa, Tyrrell said.
“Should Brightline or other transit come through this corridor and use some of the property down by Union Station, we think there’s going to be much more of an intentional transit-oriented development at play along the southern blocks,” Tyrrell said.
Shaw and Kettler plan to hold meetings and workshops with community groups to hear more about how the project can address historical and cultural considerations, or practical ones including affordable and workforce housing, which has become increasingly scarce near downtown, especially with the closure of the Tampa Park Apartments. Such concerns would be addressed in more detail in future zoning and planning filings, Tyrrell said.
“We’ve had those discussions with the city and various other folks about affordable housing,” Tyrrell said. “We’re definitely aware of that, and I think we’re going to come up with a proposal.”
Patrick Manteiga, publisher of Ybor City’s La Gaceta newspaper, said focusing on attainable housing is essential.
“If he’s going to make housing that fits the district and compliments the workforce here, he needs to come up with affordable housing, because if you look at some of the (renderings) it doesn’t look like anyone who’s a bartender in Ybor is going to be able to afford it,” he said. “We could end up creating an Ybor that leaves its working class roots behind, and we wouldn’t want that.”
But Manteiga also said that it’s early in the planning stages, and there are aspects of the proposal he liked, including the preservation of the historic warehouse and tapering the height of the buildings so that the highest towers would be farther from Ybor City.
“I want something that compliments Ybor, not changes it to Channelside or Westshore or downtown,” he said. “Hopefully, Shaw will not make this into Shaw City but will keep it Ybor City.”
Shaw owns several other disconnected properties throughout Ybor City, and is already in discussions about using some of those for community-oriented projects like a dog park or housing for artists.
The Tampa Park Apartments site is slated for review by the city this fall, which would enable Shaw to start that part of the project in 2022. Shaw expects the master plan to be reviewed early next year. If it’s approved, Shaw hopes to see a “very material transformation” within five years, with the project built out in as few as 10.
But after more than three decades amassing his Ybor City holdings, he’s not in a rush.
“There’s a lot of things I would love to do over the next 20-plus years, but I don’t know that anything would be as large as this Gas Worx development, which hopefully will be transformational to the district,” he said. “It’s very much a long-term project, and we’ll develop it as quickly as the interest and demand is there.”
How they compare
Here’s how four prominent Tampa developments stack up on approximate size.
Water Street Tampa
Office space: 1 million square feet
Retail space: 1 million square feet
Office space: 500,000 square feet
Retail space: 150,000 square feet
Westshore Marina District
Office space: None
Retail space: 70,000 square feet
Office space: 700,000 square feet
Retail space: 200,000 square feet