Mr. Vinik's Vision for Downtown Tampa

Published on 14 July 2017 in Business
  Lightning Owner, Jeffrey Vinik

Lightning Owner, Jeffrey Vinik

Born on March 22, 1959, everyone knew Jeffrey Vinik was going to be special, but I doubt they really knew just how incredible this New Jersey native would turn out to be.

Mr. Vinik took the financial industry by storm by becoming the most prominent mutual fund manager when he led Fidelity Magellan in the 1990s. He made millions of dollars by taking chances on depreciated assets and after turning 50, he decided he wanted to make a change. 

Jeffrey told his wife Penny he had made the decision to buy a hockey team. Although shocked, Penny supported her husband’s decision, then Mr. Vinik did what made him a wealthy man: He did research.

He read books on sports management, spoke to team owners around the country, met with N.H.L. Commissioner Mr. Bettman and even used Google to search “How to buy a hockey team.” When Jeff was ready in March 2010, he turned off the lights in his Boston office and became the owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that had won a Stanley Cup but sadly also had a parade of owners. This time was going to be different. 

Shortly after Mr. Vinik’s purchase of the Lightning, he began acquiring property surrounding Amalie Arena, where his hockey team plays. The area, once industrial, is now mostly parking lots and downtown waterfront property, and Mr. Vinik has big plans for the 30-acre block. 

Lightning Fans Get Together at Channelside Bay Plaza to watch their team

Lightning Fans Get Together at Channelside Bay Plaza to watch their team

Channelside Bay Plaza, which Mr. Vinik owns, is a place where lots of lightning fans come together to get drinks and food before the games, but sadly the plaza has struggled financially for years. Many businesses on the plaza have closed their doors in the past 5 years, but restaurants such as Hooters, Thai Tani, Hablo Taco and Coldstone Creamery are still surviving. Vinik’s plans call for Channelside Bay Plaza to be demolished, with a park, office, retail and residential units to go in its place. Vinik’s proposal has more shops, restaurants, and businesses to be constructed across from Amalie Arena, where Ferg’s Live Bar and parking lots are located.

Discussions are still in the early stages, say officials and executives with Strategic Property Partners, the Tampa real estate company set up by Vinik and Cascade, a private capital fund launched by Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates. 

The development plan has quickly grown from $1 billion to $3 billion in just a short amount of time.  “Our vision embraces the Channelside waterfront. We want to create a mixed-use destination, designed to better connect the surrounding neighborhoods and create view corridors to the channel,” commented James Nozar, CEO of Strategic Property Partners. “It provides for a vibrant, yet functional waterfront, respecting the unique needs of the port that will maximize value for both the port and the community.”

About $34 million dollars worth of work is currently under way and Strategic Property Partners has assembled a world-class design team for the project. Tampa-based Alfonso Architects, Inc. and David Conner + Associates will be leading the master-planning and vision for this exciting project. SPP originally envisioned a project with an ambitious 3 million square feet of development and now those numbers are looking closer to a 9 million square feet of expansion over the next decade with plans including:

• 3,500 apartments and condos. (To give you an idea of comparison, downtown Tampa now has about 5,800 residences total.) 

• 2.4 million square feet of offices

• 1 million plus square feet of retail 

Strategic Property Partners also plans to demolish and rebuild the 230,000-square-foot Channelside Bay Plaza and plans are in the works to build two new hotels plus renovate the 700-room Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina.

The proposal is planned for implementation over four phases, allowing Port Tampa Bay to continue ongoing operations and maintain required security along the working wharf.

In Phase 1, SPP will partially transition the Garrison surface parking lot into a waterfront park with an adjacent events pavilion and beer garden. The Tampa Riverwalk extension would be constructed connecting with the park. Phase 1 would deliver in late 2018 pending approval of the proposed project by the Port Tampa Bay Board of Commissioners in early 2017.  

In Phase 2, two additional buildings would be constructed. Each would be one to three stories. The design envisions the ground floor will be lined with active retail and restaurants with outdoor dining oriented towards the waterfront. The wharf is also planned to be open to the public when not in use by the port. In the proposed timeline, Phase 2 is planned for delivery to market between Spring 2019 and Spring 2020. 

In Phases 3 and 4, residential buildings would be constructed along Channelside Drive, which will preserve view corridors and create a more comfortable pedestrian-oriented scale along the waterfront.

The city of Tampa and Hillsborough County have already committed a total of $100 million in downtown property tax revenues for realigning streets, putting in new water and sewer systems as well as making other public improvements on the land surrounding Amalie Arena. 

“This is another exciting step toward bringing the waterfront back to the people, the time is right to take this area to the next level and create a new destination for generations to come.” Says Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

The vision for the Tampa Bay Area and property is to transform the land within the Channelside area – currently industrial waterfront and make it into a dynamic, community centerpiece where people will come to live, work and play all in the same neighborhood for years to come. 

This is a much needed renovation and development that will boost our local economy and attract new residents from all over the state and even the country. With thousands of UT students, young adults, retirees and entrepreneurs looking for affordable downtown housing options, we can only hope that Mr. Vinik’s vision will be a dream come true for many current and potential South Tampa residents. 


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  •   Lightning Owner, Jeffrey Vinik
  • Channelside Bay Plaza
  • Lightning Fans Get Together at Channelside Bay Plaza to watch their team
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