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For Tampa leaders, a tour of Brightline's Miami route

For Tampa leaders, a tour of Brightline's Miami route will showcase the possibilities of transit-oriented development

By Veronica Brezina-Smith  – Reporter, Tampa Bay Business Journal

Aug 22, 2018, 3:02pm EDT Updated Aug 22, 2018, 4:28pm

City of Tampa officials and business leaders will get a glimpse of what may become of downtown Tampa's transit scene with a visit to the Brightline stations in South Florida.

City leaders and others will tour the train on Aug. 23. The executives will first tour the Miami station and travel in the train to the Fort Lauderdale stop.

"It's been a long time coming," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

"We went through Gov. Rick Scott turning down money from the Obama Administration [when Scott rejected the federal money for high-speed rail], it was a devastating loss to us, but everything comes in its season. Tampa is different than it was years ago. The introduction of high-speed rail will create more opportunities now than it would've back then. I'm looking forward to see what it has done for West Palm Beach and Miami," Buckhorn said.

Others who will be attending include executives from Raymond James, the Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa International Airport and Strategic Property Partners, the developer of Water Street Tampa and the group behind the redevelopment of Channelside Bay Plaza as Sparkman Wharf.

Buckhorn has been speaking with Brightline for several years, and the value of the tour for Tampa leadership is to envision the magnitude of the potential for redevelopment, especially with new projects on the rise, he said.

"I know some of the principles Brightline is looking at. We've been hopeful that we would be a leg for this as it got closer; we've talked with them about potential sites, engineering for rail on their site, infrastructure and rezoning.

"It's not just about moving bodies, it's about driving real estate and redevelopment around the station," Buckhorn said.

Redevelopment opportunities are a big driver for the intercity passenger rail system to come to Tampa, Brightline President and CEO Patrick Goddard said to TBBJ.

"With developments like Water Street and others, it's an exciting time for downtown Tampa," Goddard said. "We want to replicate what we did here in Tampa. We are helping spur transit-oriented developments such as 800 apartment units and 300,000 square feet of office space being built for a live-work environment," he said, adding how the high-speed rail system will also cause a ripple effect for more transit alternatives.

"In each market where Brightline has placed a station, we've worked with DDAs [Difficult Development Areas], the airports and others in how we can improve mobility by creating additional stops and working with municipalities on shuttles, rideshare services, bike share, bus rapid transit. We consider ourselves a catalyst for that multimodal growth," Goddard said. He added, "If you come to our station in Miami, you will see how at the station, we were able to coordinate with the city, Metrorail and Tri Rail connections and a pickup area through a partnership with Lyft."

A station has not yet been identified by Brightline in its unsolicited bid to the Florida Department of Transportation to lease right of way along Interstate 4. However, the company has until Nov. 7 to submit the proposal to FDOT. It's expected that FDOT will have a decision of what rail company wins the bid by the end of November.

"We are going to do everything we can to close this deal," Buckhorn said. "We're not going to lose this opportunity again."

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