Missed Armory Opportunity

It’s now official. The Heritage Square at the Armory group has signed a deal with the National Guard to buy Fort Homer Hesterly Armory on North Howard Avenue near Interstate 275. The $98-million project includes an anchor 300-room hotel, a day spa, restaurants, boutiques, a cultural arts center and a farmers market.

Anyone who knows anything about government bureaucracy, knows why this process has been painstakingly slow. And anyone who knows anything about vacant, prominent real estate proximate to key traffic corridors knows how welcome it is to be this much closer to a revitalized Fort Homer Hesterly property.

But anyone who knows anything about this working-class, West Tampa neighborhood and Tampa’s need to diversify its economy — especially when it comes to the creative sector — knows that the Heritage Square scenario is probably not the best way to redevelop the Armory property.

The runner-up developer was Armory Partners Group of Tampa, which had plans to build a video, film and sound studio and develop creative arts businesses. APG’s scenario also included apartments, retail and a grocery store, pragmatic neighborhood complements.

Those in the know already know that this decision has and will continue to cost Tampa creative business, precisely what this city covets and recruits. It’s certainly put a governor on the prospects for being more attractive to the movie/video production industry – beyond the usual “location shoots.”

But West Tampa will get a luxury hotel and a spa.

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