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Authority seeks Tampa parcel

Port officials want to acquire the site to control possible development near the Channelside complex.

By STEVE HUETTEL, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 20, 2002


TAMPA -- The public agency that runs Tampa's port is trying to buy a key parcel across from The Channelside Shops for possible commercial or residential development.

The 2.5-acre site at Channelside Drive and S Meridian Avenue, now occupied by Fogarty Van Lines, has been on the market since last summer.

The Tampa Port Authority has heard from developers interested in projects that could include office, entertainment or residential uses, port director George Williamson said Tuesday. Even without a development deal in hand, the agency might want the property to control what is built so close to its cruise terminal and the Channelside entertainment-retail complex, he said.

"There's been a couple development opportunities, some serious sniffing going on," Williamson said. "But we also want to protect the front of Channelside."

Port officials and the owners, the moving company and trustee Jerry E. Fogarty Jr., are negotiating terms. Williamson wouldn't discuss a price. The owners are asking $85 per square foot, said Ted DeLaVergne, their real estate agent. That would put the price at more than $9-million. "It's a trophy property," he said.

The port is still awaiting a final environmental survey of the site. Williamson said he hopes to bring a sale contract to the port authority board at its next meeting April 16.

Meanwhile, the port board approved the outline of a deal for a Maine company to start running a cruise ferry between Tampa and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula in November.

Scotia Prince Cruises Ltd. would make twice-weekly trips to the port of Progreso with its M/V Scotia Prince, which now sails between Portland, Maine, and Nova Scotia from April through October. The ship has berths for 1,054 passengers and room for 220 cars.

The company wants to begin a six-month trial run of the Tampa-Progreso service in November, said Matthew Hudson, whose family owns Scotia Prince Cruises. If there's a market for the route, he said, the company will get another vessel and offer trips year-round.

Port officials are waiting for federal agencies to approve construction of temporary inspection facilities for the trial run. The port agreed to contribute up to $50,000 to market the service if Scotia Prince put up at least $100,000.

The company also must conclude negotiations with the port of Progreso before commiting to the route, Hudson said. He and Williamson said they hoped to wrap up the deal within the month.

In other business Tuesday, the port board granted a developer another year to round up financing for a $239-million high-tech conference center next to port authority headquarters.

Tampa International Technology Center LLC was awarded a four-year option on the property last year. But because of the economic downturn and fallout from the Sept. 11 attacks, the company said it couldn't meet a March 31 deadline to obtain financing.

The board agreed to give Tampa International Technology Center two six-month option extensions at $25,000 each. The company is owned by Murray Klauber, founder of the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort in Longboat Key.

-- Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

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