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Friday, Dec 14, 2018
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Tampa International Airport awards $66 million contract for new SkyCenter development project

TAMPA - With the first phase of its $2 billion expansion complete, Tampa International Airport is turning its attention to the second phase, starting with a project designed to attract private development to a spot next to the airport's massive new rental car center.

Construction is expected to begin in January on the project, known as the SkyCenter.

To start, contractor Hensel Phelps Construction will prepare the 35-acre site, then build the heart of the $66 million project: a large, multi-story atrium that someday will connect to an office building planned on the site. There also will be an enclosed elevated walkway connecting the SkyCenter to the rental car center and a reconfiguration of the cell phone waiting lot that includes new restrooms.

The site development and construction of the atrium and walkway are expected to be complete in 2020. Future plans for the SkyCenter include a hotel, stores and restaurants, and one or more office buildings. The airport is scheduled to select a developer for a nine-story office building at SkyCenter next to the atrium in February.

The airport's administration will occupy three stories in the new building, allowing it to demolish its offices next to the main terminal and make more room for passengers. The three-phase expansion is designed to allow the airport to handle 34 million passengers a year in its existing footprint, up from about 21 million passengers a year now.

THE TRANSFORMATION: Tampa International's billion-dollar update creates a new airport experience

The first phase began in November 2014 and included the new rental car center and a 1.4-mile-long SkyConnect train, plus an expansion of the main terminal and its concessions. That phase was completed in the last couple of months at a cost of about $981.5 million, making it one of the largest construction projects in the history of the Tampa Bay area.

"The passenger growth we're experiencing at the airport underscores the importance of the entire master plan," airport vice president of planning and development Jeff Siddle said in an announcement after a unanimous vote of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board. "SkyCenter is a key part of it. It will help us accommodate growth for years to come by allowing us to move our existing offices away from the terminal and repurpose that space for our passengers and guests."

THE VISION: Tampa International Airport morphing into a mini-city unto itself

Along with the SkyCenter, Phase 2 includes adding express lanes to the airport's main terminal pick-up and drop-off areas. The third phase will add a 16-gate airside to the airport.

Airport board approves height for Channel District condo tower

In an unrelated matter, the aviation authority board unanimously agreed to allow the construction of the Elevé 61 condominiums near the Florida Aquarium, which at 36 stories would one of the Tampa Bay area's tallest residential buildings.

Tampa-based Mercury Advisors plans to start construction on the 393-foot-tall tower in the second quarter of 2019 at the southwest corner of E Whiting Street and Channelside Drive. That puts it just 1.6 miles from one of the runways at Peter O. Knight Airport on Davis Islands. The aviation authority has to approve any building over 200 feet tall within 3 miles of the airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration does not have a problem with the high-rise, as long as the building is topped with a red warning light and takes steps to minimize sunlight glinting off its windows. Plans call for just two three-bedroom, three-bathroom condos per floor and prices from $800,000 to $1.8 million.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: New condo tower to rise in Tampa's Channel District

By comparison, the Element apartments in downtown Tampa are 460 feet, and the Signature Place condos in downtown St. Petersburg are 381 feet.

But other similarly tall buildings are either going up or in the works just blocks from Elevé 61's address at 858 Channelside Drive. At Water Street Tampa, the 53-acre project by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Microsoft founder Bill Gates' Cascade Investment, construction is under way on a new JW Marriott hotel (309 feet) next to Amalie Arena and two apartment towers (314 feet) at 815 Water Street. On the old Trump Tower site next to the Hillsborough River, Larry Feldman and Two Rivers Development plan to build a condo tower called Riverwalk Place more than 50 stories tall.

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Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

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