1. Florida Politics

Advice to 'Beer Can Building' tenants: Work from home during RNC

Published Jul. 18, 2012

TAMPA — Tenants of one of Tampa's tallest skyscrapers are getting new advice from the landlord for the week of the Republican National Convention:

Stay home if you can.

That's the recommendation going to businesses in the 31-story Rivergate Tower, popularly known as the Beer Can Building.

"After attending numerous meetings with the Tampa Police Department and Homeland Security, Rivergate building management strongly recommends that people with the ability to work from home during the last week of August do that," Mary E. Slatter, senior property manager for In-Rel Properties, said in an email to tenants Tuesday.

Employees who do come in should expect a few changes to the tower's routine. Rivergate's parking garage will be open to tenants only, with additional security on duty to verify credentials. Deliveries must be coordinated in advance with building management or they will be refused. Cleaning services that week will consist only of garbage removal and re-stocking restrooms.

And tenants also were told things happening nearby for the Aug. 27-30 convention will affect downtown Tampa:

• Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park will be turned over to Jamestown Entertainment of Washington, D.C., which plans to put a 30,000-square-foot pop-up nightclub in the park for receptions, policy luncheons and private parties from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day.

• The convention is expected to have not one but two sessions on Aug. 27, with the earlier session tentatively scheduled to start around noon. (Convention spokesman James Davis said the RNC doesn't have a program schedule yet. But a double session could mean more buses and daytime traffic in downtown on that Monday than on other days of the RNC, which is mainly an evening event.)

• City garbage pickup will be limited to 4 to 6 a.m.

• The 400 charter buses that will carry conventioneers to and from the Tampa Bay Times Forum will use Ashley Drive and Florida Avenue. (Tampa officials have said Ashley and Florida could be designated as transportation-only corridors. Any on-street parking on those roads would be removed, making them tow-away zones.)

In-Rel Properties executive vice president Doug Brewer said the recommendation was not difficult to make because the company had done a lot of research into what the convention will be like that week.

"Any tenants that want to be open, we are committed to providing the same level of service that they're used to," he said. "We just want our tenants to go into this with both eyes open, and we want to give them the facts so they can make informed decisions."

The tower at 400 N Ashley Drive has 45 to 50 tenants that employ 600 to 700 people, but Sykes Enterprises is by far the biggest business in Rivergate. The attached Cube is home to a coffee shop, In-Rel's management offices and the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts.

Brewer said he thinks many tenants "are considering keeping a lot of people home."

Building management met with Malio's Prime Steakhouse on Tuesday. Brewer said the restaurant, which is on the lobby level of the tower, plans to stay open.

While some regular tenants could steer clear the week of the convention, Rivergate will pick up some political groups as temporary tenants just for the RNC. Rivergate also is allowing Tampa police to use an entire floor of the building during the convention, Brewer said.

Christine Burdick, the president of the nonprofit Tampa Downtown Partnership, has her offices on the 21st floor of Rivergate Tower and "absolutely" plans to come to work the week of the convention. But the recommendation did not surprise her.

"We certainly want people to be here, but each building has concerns of their own," she said. "Building management has a responsibility to protect their building and their tenants' interests."

Burdick said she is not aware of any other private tower in downtown that has made a similar recommendation to tenants.

"Many are still thinking about it," she said, and waiting for information on how the Secret Service's security plan will affect downtown roads and traffic. With the convention now less than six weeks away, details about which roads will be closed are expected to come out soon.

At least one other tall building in downtown Tampa will go dark for the convention. Hillsborough County officials plan to close the Fred B. Karl County Center for two weeks from Aug. 20 until after Labor Day. County services will be offered at satellite offices during the convention.

Meanwhile, the Downtown Partnership is surveying restaurants and personal services businesses in the central business district about their plans for the RNC. The partnership plans to distribute information to concierges at downtown hotels about which restaurants, dry cleaners, barber shops, salons and shoe repair shops will be open.

"We're getting responses that show that a lot of businesses here really are looking forward to being able to serve that crowd," Burdick said.