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Channelside bidders to hold public forum tonight

TBO.com staff
Published:   |   Updated: May 8, 2013 at 01:56 PM

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The public will get the opportunity to hear a Tampa-based investment group’s vision for Channelside Bay Plaza and offer feedback during a public forum tonight.

Punit R. Shah, president and chief operating officer of Liberty Group Inc. will meet with the public at The Florida Aquarium from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Liberty Group, which along with Convergent Capital Partners has formed Liberty Channelside LLC, filed formal paperwork with the Tampa Port Authority in late April in hopes of assuming control of the Channel District retail and restaurant complex.

If approved by political leaders and the financial institutions involved, the Tampa-based hotel and resort developers would together begin a dramatic reorganization of the long-struggling, government-backed complex, with renovations possibly starting this fall.

In its application to purchase the complex, Liberty Channelside is seeking to have the base rent it pays to the Tampa Port Authority cut by 50 percent, wants permission to build a 150-room hotel and seeks a contribution of $1 million from the Port toward a pedestrian "Sky Bridge."

In addition, the group seeks a parking agreement in which the bidders would pay $250,000 a year for use of the nearby garage, with customer parking fees set at $1 for the first four hours of parking (if they present a movie theater ticket stub) and a $1 discount for every $10 customers spend at the complex.

Convergent and Liberty have a long track record of investing in projects in the state. That includes $98 million in the Hyatt Clearwater Beach, $13.9 million for the Emerald Green Golf and Country Club in Carrollwood and $22.5 million for a 200-unit apartment complex in Jacksonville.

The bidders anticipate making a formal presentation to the Port board May 21.

Tribune reporter Richard Mullins contributed to this report.

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