Strategic Property Partners is naming its mixed-use district after the main corridor in its multi-billion-dollar development, hoping to create a signature street and sense of place in Tampa’s urban core.
The district will be known as Water Street Tampa, a nod to the rebuilt Water Street that will become the central spine of the urban neighborhood. At completion, Water Street Tampa will represent more than $3 billion in development and 9 million square feet of commercial, residential, hospitality, educational, entertainment, cultural and retail space. (See the before and after skyline below.)
A major component of the infrastructure work underway in the district is the construction of a new street grid. In the new grid, Water Street extends to the north by about three blocks.
SPP’s development plans have been without a formal name since the initial vision was unveiled in late 2014. The development firm — which is controlled by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates‘ investment fund, Cascade Investment LLC — on Tuesday revealed several key details of the development, including a timeline for vertical construction of office, hotel and residential buildings.
“The goal of Water Street is to make it a really memorable street,” SPP CEO James Nozar said, “that when you think of Tampa and downtown Tampa, you think of Water Street. There’s a lot of great examples of that, of a street becoming a place and having the character of a neighborhood.”
The first vertical construction in Water Street Tampa will be the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine, which includes a Heart Health Institute, which is slated to break ground in August. A central cooling facility, which frees up rooftops in the district for things like terraces, restaurants and dog parks, will break ground in fall 2017.
By early 2018, more than 20 cranes will dot the Tampa skyline as work begins on the majority of vertical construction in the first phase of the district. Ten architectural firms are currently designing 18 buildings, including office and residential towers with ground-floor retail space. A grocer and a fitness facility are targeted anchors, Nozar said.
The first phase of development totals 4 million square feet across 10 blocks and is slated to wrap up by 2020 — just in time for Super Bowl LV, which Tampa hosts in 2021.
SPP did not reveal the exact placement of buildings in the first phase. A spokeswoman said details on individual buildings will be rolled out in the coming months. (See site plan embedded below.)
It includes a major hospitality investment:
- Four-star, 500-key convention hotel with 75,000 square feet of meeting space on Old Water Street
- Five-star, 157-key boutique hotel with 30 condominium units along Channelside Drive
- A $40 million renovation to Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel and Marina that will modernize and freshen up guest rooms and add eight new rooms by dividing up several suites will begin in July, taking it from 719 to 727 rooms.
“It will be at the forefront of Marriott’s newest standards for Marriott hotels,” Nozar said of the refreshed Waterside hotel, which was built in 2000. Vinik bought the hotel in October 2014.
SPP declined to disclose any potential flags on the new hotels.
Nozar said the group has engaged a brokerage team to officially market the office space in the district, though those efforts won’t formally begin until the fall. SPP is in “preleasing discussions” with tenants on both the office and retail space, Nozar said.
“We have a good roster of tenants we’re talking to,” he said, “and interest has been very strong.”
A traditional developer would likely have to sign leases for at least 60 percent of a multi-tenant office building in order to secure financing. But with the backing of Vinik and Gates, SPP isn’t at the mercy of traditional financing sources.
The SPP team has said for years that a major goal of its development is landing a corporate headquarters relocation, with Vinik, who once ran the Fidelity Magellan Fund, working to promote the development and the city to his contacts throughout the U.S.
The entire project is slated for completion in 2027. Here’s how the development breaks down:
- 2 million square feet of new office space
- 1 million square feet of new retail, cultural, educational, entertainment space
- 3,500 residential units, both rental and for-sale units
- 23,000 residents, workers, students and visitors will populate the district each day
- 25 percent of the total development space (more than 50 acres) will be public space
Eventually, the facades of both the Marriott and Amalie Arena will be redeveloped to a more pedestrian-friendly scale, though there’s no timeline for when those improvements might occur. The Marriott’s outdoor bar and dining area will also be renovated to better connect to the Tampa Riverwalk.
Why Water Street?
There’s no shortage of great streets that have become synonymous with great cities, Nozar said, pointing to Newbury Street in Boston and New York’s Broadway.
“You have these great streets that really become a neighborhood,” Nozar said. “And we really hope that Water Street evolves to become a real heart of downtown Tampa. It will be very heavily amenitized with ground-floor cultural and entertainment uses.”
An engaging retail streetscape is the foundation of the district, Nozar said, and where planning began last year. In addition to shops and restaurants, Water Street will also include a linear park with double rows of canopy trees. SPP is in the process of procuring mature canopy trees for public spaces throughout the district.
“It was defining where the great retail streets were and how they fit into the greater context of our overall 50-plus acre plan,” he said. “Water Street really connects downtown to the waterfront and Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park and the Riverwalk, so it will in itself be a long, linear park.”
In September, Nozar pointed out that there is little historic context in the immediate area of SPP’s development — the vast majority of its real estate is vacant lots. But through meetings with the Tampa Bay History Center and other research, the prominence of Water Street throughout the city’s history became clear, from Fort Brooke to industrial uses.
“It became very clear to us that that wanted to be the project’s identity,” Nozar said. “It’s the main green spine, and it connects downtown to the water. Rather than make up a name for the neighborhood that doesn’t exist it, it was here in front of us.”
Ashley Gurbal Kritzer is senior reporter for the Tampa Bay Business Journal.