TAMPA — The tallest building yet at the $3 billion Water Street Tampa development on Thursday won a key approval from the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority.
Authority board members unanimously voted to approve a 314-foot height for the building's two towers — one rising 26 stories with 196 condominiums and the second 21 stories with 222 apartments. Both will rise from a base building that includes a grocery store and parking on the 800 block of Old Water Street.
Because the project is about 1.6 miles north of Peter O. Knight Airport on Davis Islands, the aviation authority had to waive the normal height restriction of about 200 feet for downtown buildings. The Federal Aviation Administration said the waiver would not be a problem as long as developers installed red warning lights on the towers.
Last month, the aviation authority similarly approved the 309-foot-tall JW Marriott hotel at Water Street Tampa, but not before board chairman Robert Watkins, a private pilot with a multi-engine rating, pressed the airport's staff about the potential for glare from the hotel's windows to distract pilots taking off from or landing at Peter O. Knight Airport. This time, the board approved the waiver without discussion.
Strategic Property Partners, the development company formed by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Bill Gates through his private wealth fund Cascade Investment, did some work on the site this spring and plans further site preparations and demolition in July.
Construction is expected to be complete in late 2020. SPP has not said what grocery store it expects to go in the base of the building.
In other business, the aviation authority board:
• Voted 4-1 to expand the airport's employee incentive award policy. The policy, which has been in place since 2002, had allowed employees to receive awards of up to $2,000 per year for meeting "quantifiable organizational benchmarks."
With the change, the maximum award would rise to 15 percent of an employee's base salary for each year. The board would have to approve any award to TIA's chief executive officer.
Airport CEO Joe Lopano told the board the airport is on an impressive run, having opened its SkyConnect train and new rental car center, plus 63 new concessions, doing all of that construction within 1 percent of the budget, bringing on new routes, posting record-breaking revenues and achieving the distinction of being the only U.S. airport with four AA ratings from Wall Street credit rating agencies.
Updating the awards policy would "give us the flexibility to attract and retain the top talent that will take this airport into our great future," Lopano said.
"We're in a very competitive environment right now," he said. "We're competing against $13 billion in construction projects and a 3.6 percent unemployment rate."
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But Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist said after the meeting he cast the lone vote against the new policy because he considered 15 percent to "far exceed" what would be acceptable at other public agencies. He said he might have supported 5 percent, but "even in the private sector, (15 percent) would be considered aggressive."
• Approved a $25 million contract with Hensel Phelps Construction, based in Colorado, to design a new energy plant and expansion of curbside facilities at the main terminal as a major part of the second phase of the airport's $2 billion master-planned expansion. A second part of the contract, with a guaranteed maximum price and a schedule for construction, is expected to come back to the board for approval in the fall of 2019. Work is expected to take until early 2023 to complete.
Contact >Richard Danielson