The Tampa Port Authority’s decision to purchase the Channelside retail complex should bring an end to a dark chapter in Channelside’s troubled history.
If the courts approve, the deal could be closed before the end of the year, and the port can begin entertaining offers on this piece of choice downtown property.
Port Authority board members appear to have struck a good deal in every respect.
The authority will pay slightly less than $6 million from its operating budget to take control of the failing complex, which is assessed by the property appraiser at $12 million. No tax dollars will be used for the purchase.
More importantly for the long haul, the purchase should clear the legal entanglements that have dogged the complex for the past several years. And that throws the doors wide open for developers.
Opened in 2001, the complex has never been the vibrant retail and entertainment venue once envisioned. Its poor design walled the complex off from the street. As the recession hit and a previous Channelside operator fell into default, tenants left and the complex fell into disrepair. It now sits more than half-vacant.
The complex is controlled by an Irish bank that holds a mortgage on the property. But the ground under the complex is owned by the port, and the two sides have disagreed on how to proceed. This deal, if approved, will remove the bank from the equation and leave the port in total control of Channelside’s future.
That’s the best possible scenario.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a member of the Port Authority board, thinks a revitalized Channelside can spur development across an area now dotted with vacant lots.
The area is certainly poised for development. The Florida Aquarium, the cruise port, the Forum, and a growing number of downtown condo and apartment dwellers make for an appealing demographic for developers. A successful Channelside might also help to bring a baseball stadium to downtown Tampa.
After so many down years, there is finally light at the end of the Channelside tunnel.