* First, the good news. The developers of Riverwalk Place have formally opened a sales center for their 50-plus-story, residential tower, which will be the tallest building on Florida’s west coast. Prospective buyers have already put down deposits on condos valued at nearly $70 million. The even-better-news part: The vacant lot and erstwhile construction-staging site at Ashley Drive and Whiting Street was once designated for the Trump Tower Tampa. Talk about dodged-bullet real estate scenarios. The only possible downside: The sleek, sail-shaped tower looks more Dubai than downtown Tampa.
* So, the Tampa-Orlando rail line received exactly one proposal, the one from Brightline, the company that had proposed the intercity route in the first place. But it has Gov. Rick Scott’s blessing–in the context of I-4 Corridor votes and a non-Obama presidency. Recall that back in 2011 Scott turned down more than $2 billion in federal funding for Orlando-to-Tampa high speed rail. It was Barack Obama-tainted money and could put the state “on the hook” for cost overruns and less-than-expected ridership numbers. Easily forgotten in Tallahassee: There was a queue of international developers who wanted in on what was to be, in effect, America’s jump start to a national high speed rail line. Miami to Atlanta would be the first leg. And all the companies would have to sign off on liability for overruns and under-performance in their bids. But the bids never came, because the process was summarily derailed by Florida’s new Tea Partying governor.
* Speaking of the Brightline proposal: If it gets green-lighted by the Florida DOT, look for a rail terminal to play a catalytic role in the viability of a Rays stadium on the southern edge of Ybor City.
* Regardless of the details, and they matter, it still seems weirdly ironic that Ed Turanchik is making news over his “flip” on the pragmatic transportation-tax referendum that passed. He did not support it before the vote, which arched some pro-transit brows. But everybody moves on. Most politicians, regardless of past position, would back a fait accompli and make the best of it with expected, inclusive spin. But Turanchik is no ordinary pol. He’s long been a transportation visionary–from trains to ferries–in a region that has long ignored reality and venerated MESS transit. Now the avatar of mass transit is being called out for a political pivot that looks to many like a classic candidate two-step. Call it a weird, ironic, unforced error.
* It’s not like she won a Nobel Prize. But it’s not as if she’s appearing on “Dancing With The Stars.” Former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, 59, was recently in the national media limelight for being named by People magazine as one of the “25 Women Changing the World.” That’s a big deal, and it recognizes her big, impactful role as CEO/president of Tampa-headquartered Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. More than 2 million kids have been served by BBBSA across the country in the last decade. “It’s very emotional for me to hear them talk about their relationships,” says Iorio. “The ‘littles’ are always very open and share with me the positive impact of their mentor. They do better in school, have higher aspirations and greater self-esteem.”
Such national media attention also, inevitably, reminds political junkies of what else she could do–and has done–with that personable, quick-study, people-first priority. Congratulations, Pam. And we’re still awaiting the next chapter.
* Political signs: Yes, there are laws, mercifully, that don’t allow political signage to remain on front lawns in perpetuity. But here are the best reasons to take them down IMMEDIATELY. If your candidates (seemingly) won–and, yes, that includes certain DeSantis/Scott/Toledo supporters who are neighbors–don’t look like you want to rub it in. Your high-visibility, political allegiance is off-putting enough. And if your candidates (apparently) lost, don’t add to the frustration, depression and embarrassment with an ongoing reminder of what should have been.