How Will Hillsborough County’s One-Penny Transportation Referendum Affect Commercial Real Estate?

Attendees: Eric Odum and Brian Willis, Esq. Becker & Poliakoff

Date: September 27, 2010

Subject: Hillsborough County Transit Referendum: Additional One Cent Tax. What’s its Purpose? What does it mean to YOU!

EO: Good afternoon and welcome to the Market Minute. This is Eric Odum, I’m the broker for Net Lease Commercial Advisory. Today we have with us Brian Willis who is the attorney with Becker and Poliakoff, and also a member of the Citizens Advisory Board for TBARTA. Welcome Brian.

BW: Thanks for having me, Eric.

EO: Absolutely. This video is going to be the first of two parts. The first part of our discussion is going to be based primarily on the initiative…..what it entails, where the routes are and what-not. The second part, there’s obviously a penny sales tax that’s involved and some controversy behind the penny tax,…..So what we’re going to try to do in the second part, is talk about some of those issues with the penny tax and also the transportation initiative to help explore how much this makes sense for our area. The penny tax is a sales tax, correct?

BW: Yes, it’s a sales tax. It would be one cent additional, right now we’re paying 7%, it would bring it up to 8%, but it’s really an investment that goes to fund improvements and rail is what everybody really associates this with. But a large portion of the funds are also going to go to fund improvements to the bus system through out the county, as well as road improvements and places that aren’t necessarily in middle of the city, but also the outside regions of the county.

EO: Now, when is this vote coming up?

BW: Vote is going to take place on the ballot in November. I think it’s November 2nd or November 3rd, right around there. Of course now there is early voting, so vote on it a couple weeks before hand.

EO: Ok, so let’s talk a little bit about light rail versus high speed rail. Light rail is part of this initiative, is high speed also? How does the high speed rail…

BW: Yes, it’s a frequent question that I get. High speed rail is NOT part of this initiative. It’s not part of what the one cent would go to. High speed rail is a done deal. It’s being funded by stimulus dollars. The Federal Government is coming in (to help fund it) and that’s going to connect Tampa to Orlando at speeds over 160 mph. Light rail which is what a portion of the one cent investment would go to is going to be local. It’s going to connect…..the initial stages at least, will connect the airport, West Shore to downtown, and downtown North up to USF, beyond to the Cross Creek area, and eventually be part of this regional system that is going to be operated by TBARTA in the long run.

EO: So the high speed rail is coming, it has nothing to do with the penny tax, its coming regardless of the outcome of the penny tax vote in November. The penny tax vote in November is going to include rubber on road transportation initiatives as well as the light rail. Is that a good description?

BW: Yeah, yeah, that is absolutely correct.

EO: Ok.

BW: And it’s important to clarify how they work together. The one cent will not go to the high speed rail. They all work together because the high speed rail is going to come in and we’re going to have a transit center in downtown Tampa…..so the idea is that the downtown station for light rail will be part of this multi-modal transit station. There’s high speed rail, there’s light rail, and it’s going to be right across the street from where the Marion bus station is, so you’re going to have an integrated transit platform in North downtown. It’s going to let people come in from Orlando, from across the region, and connect.

EO: SO its going to be in-between the Marion, so its right around the old jail site, correct?….. The Northeast part downtown.

BW: Yeah, the Northeast part of downtown.

EO: By the ENCORE! Project.

BW: Just a little bit ways from the ENCORE! Project, so they’re taking advantage of that and they’re doing a mixed use walk able neighborhood that buys into these transit oriented development principles. So, that’s going to be a big part of this.

EO: Now, you’ve talked about TBARTA, you’ve talked about Hart, and I hear this name tossed around “Moving Hillsborough Forward,” what is that?

BW: ‘Moving Hillsborough Forward’ is a group that was formed by the Tampa Bay Partnership, and they are essentially, a political group that’s helping run the campaign for this one cent investment tax and I think the Tampa Bay Partnership is really important to the initiative because it shows that business recognizes the importance of this one cent investment. What we’ve seen is that we’re losing our competitive edge to people around the country when their looking at where to locate their businesses. People at the Tampa Bay Partnership are putting the dollars to invest in this campaign so that we have this modern transit system.

EO: So, I’m hoping that there are a number of people involved in the process here that there’s some sort of greater initiatives, that there’s cooperation. Frequently when you see a government agency, sometimes they don’t always play nice in the sandbox together, so hopefully there’s some sort of greater plan here, right?

BW: Yeah, there is. You’ve got TBARTA’s master plan that you can find on the TBARTA website, which is TBARTA.com, and that involves both this regional system which is made up of HART’s alternatives analysis study that’s going to take place and be funded by the one cent. You’ve also got a Sarasota/Bradenton rail link that’s part of the TBARTA system. Pinellas County is undergoing their own alternatives analysis study to look at how they could connect Clearwater to the Gateway area, to downtown St. Pete, as well as going over the bridge to link up and create an integrated system with Hillsborough County. And there are similar projects underway in Pasco with the rail line around the State Road 54/56 corridor and going North up to Citrus/Hernando counties. What we see is that there’s a lot of demand for getting people in and out of Hillsborough County, and we’re here, talking about this Hillsborough project, we’re focused on it because we’re in Hillsborough, it is a part of a greater regional system, and not just TBARTA. It’s going to tie in the high speed rail, and then you have Sun rail in Orlando.

EO: How’s Pinellas doing?

BW: Pinellas is a couple years behind us. Hillsborough is ahead. They’ve got the funding in place to start what’s called their alternative analysis study, which is a process that Hillsborough started two years ago and is just about to complete, and that looks at the different possible rail alignments. They set the corridor; the corridor is Clearwater, Gateway and St. Pete. Then they look at what specific roads and what pathways within that corridor would be the most economically efficient pathways to go through. And that’s the process that’s being wrapped up in Hillsborough right now.

EO: Now, let’s talk a little bit about the real estate side of it, because most of the people watching this are going to be real estate folks or real estate investors, and they’re going to want to know ‘what’s in it for me’ and how can they take advantage of some of the opportunities that might be coming down the pipeline. You talked a little bit with me before we had this interview about a quarter of a mile ring, and half a mile ring, what is all that about?

BW: At TBARTA we’re spending a lot of our time on land use issues, because what we’ve shown time and time again, is that transit initiatives like what we’ve got going on in Hillsborough County don’t succeed without land use changes to support the transit. And those land use changes help preserve single family(residences), the existing structure of the community, but you have changes within a quarter mile of the station, which is your core area. Then you have a ring that’s a quarter to a half mile out from the stop. The core area within a quarter mile is your core walking distance to the station. It’s designed to be high density mixed use development, so, shops, Starbucks, CVS, restaurants…

EO: Condos

BW: Condos… absolutely…. in a dense development….. So places you can stay 24 hours and live, work and play.

EO: Typically, what does this do to property values that’s in around this inner dense core?

BW: There have been numerous studies on this and most of them find that you’re finding anywhere between four upwards of 15% increase in property values around the core. There’s a lot of demand for this type of living. It saves people money on their overall transit bill because they don’t necessarily have to have a two car household, and so people are willing to pay more to get into these areas, and businesses are willing to pay more to be there because of the presence of people and the ability to get workers to your shops.

EO: Ok. These rail lines – there’s been some discussion about the first line running up to USF and then there was some outcry that we need to be out to the airport first. Where are we now? What is the general consensus about where the first line is going to be laid?

BW: With the initial plans everybody was thinking it was just going to go from West Shore to Downtown. There was some great public feedback, and it did a great thing because it got HART to reconsider, and now the first line includes Tampa Airport, West Shore. In fact, the airport has devoted land over that is going to allow them to accelerate their build up process. So, high speed rail we talked about earlier is going to be complete in around 2015, and they’re now looking at a time frame in 2015 to complete the Tampa Airport to Downtown leg of the transit project if the one cent passes.

EO: If the one cent passes…So, it sounds like its pretty much set then, that seems to be the most logical route and then later we’re going to continue up to USF.

BW: The idea is that you build them pretty consistently, it wouldn’t be that much later, but the idea is you do one phase at a time, first phase being the airport, second phase connecting Downtown, USF on to the Bruce B. Downs area.

EO: Terrific. Thank you again, Brian, I really appreciate your time in coming down and explaining some of this to us, it’s important that not just the folks that area associated with Net Lease Advisory know what’s going on, but also the general citizenry knows what’s happening so that we make the right decisions.

BW: Thanks for having me here.

EO: Appreciate it!