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Port authority committee will soon choose buyer for Channelside Bay Plaza

Published Apr. 18, 2012

TAMPA — The port could choose the new owner of Channelside Bay Plaza as early as next month.

Charles Klug, counsel for the Tampa Port Authority, briefed board members Tuesday on the selection process.

The Anglo Irish Bank of Dublin, the bank that owns the Channelside complex, will soon send information on the bidders to the Port Authority, which owns the land under Channelside and must approve the new buyer.

A five-person committee, which will include staff from the Port Authority, financial advisers and real estate experts, will hear bid presentations from the potential buyers.

That committee will then rank the top offers and submit that list to the Port Authority board, which will select the winning bidder.

Klug expects the bank to send the information on the bidders this week and hopes to present the bid rankings to the board at the next meeting on May 15.

Two groups of local business titans have submitted bids to buy the waterfront property, including Jeff Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Bill Edwards, owner of St. Petersburg's BayWalk.

Chicago-based M&J Wilkow Ltd., a firm that owns and operates Centro Ybor, has also submitted a bid.

The committee will judge the bidders on their finances, their marketing plan and their overall vision for Channelside. The amount of financial support the new owner will want from the authority will also be a factor, Klug said.

The Port Authority wants to be sure the new owner will be able to commit to operating and maintaining the property for a long time, he said.

"We're not looking at a short-term fix here," Klug said. "We're looking at it so whoever operates this will be here another 30 years."

The Port Authority will also be delaying its suit against Channelside Bay Mall, the company that previously leased the property, for defaulting on rent and fee payments to the port.

The case was supposed to go to trial April 30, but it has been moved to a later date, sometime after the port authority is done reviewing bids for a new owner, Klug said.

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