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Port Tampa Bay approves demolition of part of Channelside Bay Plaza

Strategic Property Partners unveiled plans to redevelop Channelside Bay Plaza to Port Tampa Bay in September. [Photos provided by SPP]
Strategic Property Partners unveiled plans to redevelop Channelside Bay Plaza to Port Tampa Bay in September. [Photos provided by SPP]
Published Jun. 20, 2017

TAMPA — Port Tampa Bay's board of directors unanimously approved a plan to demolish part of Channelside Bay Plaza to make room for new restaurants, retailers and waterfront views.

Port officials voted in favor of amending Strategic Property Partners' ground lease on the 230,532-square-foot retail plaza adjacent to the port at a meeting Tuesday morning.

This amendment allows SPP — the real estate firm owned by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Bill Gates' Cascade Investment — to demolish the southwest portion of the retail center to create better views of the waterfront and enhance the visibility of Bay Plaza.

The demolition of the building that houses the Hablo Taco and Thai Thani restaurants will begin this summer, said Bryan Moll, an executive with SPP who led a presentation at the port meeting. SPP is working with Hablo Taco and Thai Thani owners about relocating the restaurants to another wing of Channelside, though their long-term future there is uncertain. Restaurant owners did not return calls for comment Tuesday.

SPP wants to replace the building with a waterfront park, which will have a stage for music and outdoor film screenings. In addition, SPP wants to lease out temporary, pop up "kiosks" to local chefs and retailers to create an outdoor market-like setting. A communal dining space and pedestrian trails are also part of the plan.

"Our plan is to create a vibrant yet functional waterfront," Moll said at the meeting. "The idea is to be open as soon as possible to coincide with the Lightning and event season. This is an interim step to improve the area before our longterm vision gets underway, which will allow for complete redevelopment."

The kiosks will be available on short term leases of one-to-two years, Moll said, but those owners will have the option to move to more permanent retail and restaurant space once long-term renovations for the Channelside Bay Plaza area are completed.

In September, SPP CEO James Nozar revealed long-term renovation plans for Channelside Bay Plaza to the Port Tampa Bay's board of directors. The multi-million-dollar plans, which include new waterfront condos, restaurants and a park, would demolish the entire existing Bay Plaza structure. The project has not yet been approved by port commissioners.

The port owns the land on which Channelside Bay Plaza sits and will need to approve any renovation. The demolition is part of SPP's $3 billion plan to reinvent the 53-acre area around Amalie Arena.

Previous Coverage: Channelside Bay Plaza could be demolished to make way for a new park, restaurants and condos

Port officials said that CBP Development LLC, an entity owned and operated by SPP, has been negotiating "in good faith" with the port to sign a long-term lease agreement for the future of Channelside Bay Plaza and an adjoining surface parking lot. The current ground lease restricts SPP's ability to add new uses to the retail center, which is why this amendment is being considered before the approval of SPP's long-term renovation plans for the plaza.

When the board of directors approved the amendment, it extended SPP's lease of the facility by 18 months.

"This comes at a really good time," said Hillsborough County Commissioner, Sandra Murman. "I don't think we make enough good use of our waterfront. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens over the next 18 months."

In addition to the demolition this summer, Moll said SPP is working to renovate other wings of Channelside Bay Plaza to add more office space. He said the former movie theater space is prime for office redevelopment. SPP is trying to attract more short-term office tenants, like Tampa Bay Wave and Suffolk Construction, which opened offices there earlier this year. Similar to the pop up retail and restaurants, these leases would be available in the short term only, before long-term renovation plans begin.

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.