They've already poached the USF Medical school to relocate substantial operations at higher costs to downtown as an anchor tenant of Vinikville, rather than grow in place at USF. As we've discussed before (here and here), this is at best a net zero economic benefit for Hillsborough County to relocate from one part of the county to another. I recently talked to a very senior Tampa medical leader, and he and most medical professionals continue to see this move as big boondoggle.
Vinik tried to recruit Syniverse to relocate is HQ from New Tampa to Vinikville. But Syniverse refused, citing quality of life concerns from its highly paid staff. Sources told us employees reacted quite negatively, started a petition drive, and management quickly backed off.
Now Vinik is going after MOSI?
The billion-dollar neighborhood Jeff Vinik is building downtown may well end up having a notable new addition: MOSI.
Hillsborough County officials confirm they are in advanced talks with Vinik about how to move the now-struggling Museum of Science and Industry from its present site on Fowler Avenue to somewhere in the 40-plus-acre area Vinik is redeveloping on the waterfront downtown.
If successful, the plan would add yet another major attraction to a downtown area that’s already flourishing with new hotel and residential development.
|MOSI IMAX Theater|
We are wasting our time and monies for nothing, other than to sooth the egos of the downtown proponents.
“I think it’s a tremendous opportunity obviously,” County Administrator Michael Merrill said in an interview. “Obviously there are a lot of details to be worked out ... . But I think the opportunity to be part of the transformation of what’s happening downtown would seem to be the opportunity of a lifetime.”They don't get it. Merrill has fiduciary responsibility for the entire county, not just downtown. It's not Hillsborough County's job to continue to subsidize and pick winners and losers across the county.
MOSI has issues -- outdated facilities, wasted space, red ink, annual subsidies of $585,915 from the county, etc. But there is no reason to assume that moving to downtown will magically fix what ails MOSI, nor that the problems cannot be fixed in the current location.
It's not as if the Florida Aquarium in downtown Tampa has been an overwhelming success over the years. While it's recently doing better, it always receives annual operating subsidies from the city of Tampa, currently nearly $500,000. The city still pays $6.7 million annually on the $84 million construction debt, payments that will continue until 2027. The county chips in another $307,135 per year.
Has anyone asked the questions around moving yet another tax exempt organization to downtown Tampa and the impact on the tax revenues? Taxable property values downtown are increasing, but how does relocating MOSI downtown from its perfectly suitable current location benefit the county?
Vinik has received a ton of favorable and uncritical press. Many of our local political leaders seem to blindly support whatever he wants. But his vision is still just a vision. Beyond buying some downtown land and adjoining properties such as the Marriott, his major success to date is poaching the USF Medical School. We do give him credit for improving the Lightning and Amalie Arena.
Now he's trying to replicate that poaching strategy again.
Recruiting a corporate HQ is high on Viniks priorities.
I suggest Vinik work harder to recruit corporate candidates for downtown Tampa outside of Hillsborough County. That way, everyone in the county benefits, not just him.