Thursday, June 14, 2012

Storm's owner Vinik expands his presence in Channelside

Jeff Vinik's drive to develop the Channelside District is moving in new directions — across the street.
Vinik, the owner of the Tampa Bay Storm and Lightning, is now part of groups that have purchased at least two properties across the street from the Tampa Bay Times Forum where his teams plays, and just down the street from the Channelside shopping complex that he hopes to purchase.
One parcel is a wedge-shaped plot that previously housed a bar called The Hut, and before that Newk's Cafe. The restaurant has remained dormant for months. Facilities staff for the Lightning were cleaning out the property this week and installing new safety railings around the outside deck.
Strategically placed, that property follows Channelside Drive to the south, Nebraska Avenue to the West and Brorein Street on the northeast.
The parcel last sold for $2.4 million in December 2010 to 514 Channelside Properties LLC — just a few months after Vinik purchased the Lightning. Officials with the team confirmed that Vinik is now a "noncontrolling" participant in that group, though they declined to say what Vinik's long-term plan could be for the property.
For now, the venue will host some events during the Republican National Convention in August, which will be held in the Forum.
In a similar move, Vinik is now part of a group that owns a plot to the west, at Morgan Street and Channelside Drive, that once held a restaurant and law firm. That property sits vacant. The plot last sold in March 2011 for $2.7 million, according to the Hillsborough County property appraiser's office.
Both properties could play into Vinik's overall plan to redevelop the much wider Channelside District as he's in the lead to purchase the Channelside Bay Plaza shopping and entertainment center down the street.
Besides the Forum, Vinik controls a large parking lot to the southeast of the stadium, plus another to the east that abuts the Channelside complex.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn has praised Vinik for his investment into the city and previously said he expects whoever owns Channelside will need help with nearby development.
"It's likely we'll limit that to things like sidewalks and landscaping," the mayor said in April. "To expect a huge investment from the city would be far-fetched."
Sometime this summer, officials with Vinik expect to present his proposed redevelopment design for the shopping complex, and they've long expressed a desire to have the overall neighborhood revamped.

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