Wednesday, September 21, 2022

About That $23 BILLION Rail Tax: Follow The Money

Transformed Tampa Streetcar rendering
Courtesy of City of Tampa's InVision Tampa Plan

Wealthy special interests continue to dole out their dollars in support of the 30 year, ONE PERCENT $23 BILLION Rail Tax on the November ballot in Hillsborough County. 

Developers do not make such huge handouts for massive tax hikes without believing they will greatly benefit from the tax. 

According to latest campaign filings, a Billionaire developer from South Florida has dumped $100K into the Pro Rail Tax campaign coffers. 

Source: Hillsborough County SOE website

According to Sunbiz, PRH is associated with South Florida Billionaire Jorge M. Perez. Perez is an urbanist with a Masters degree in "Urban Planning". He is a wealthy real estate developer of luxury apartments and condos, many are high rises in the dense urban core. 

In 2016 Perez stated "People need to move to the urban core to make great cities."

In 1979 Perez founded The Related Group and began his real estate development in Miami and South Florida. He has since built high rise apartments and condos in other areas of Florida, including downtown Tampa, and other parts of the country.

In July The Tampa Bay Business Journal (TBBJ) reported:

[Related Group] paid $55.5 million for 6 acres on the west bank of the Hillsborough River, mostly at the intersection of South Parker Street and West Kennedy Boulevard

Plans for the site — including a mix of luxury market-rate apartments, for-sale condominiums and student housing

Related entered the Tampa Bay market in the early 2010s with the development of PierHouse in downtown Tampa's Channel district.

Buckhorn compared Related's investment in the city to Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, who bought the hockey team in 2010 and went on to invest billions in commercial real estate.

Vinik and his associated are the largest donors to pro Rail Tax All for Transportation. 

The Related Group plans to build 4 high rise towers on those 6 acres in the West Riverwalk district, a 48 story, 36 story and two 26 story high rises. The two 30 story luxury Ritz Carlton Residences at Bay to Bay and Bayshore, starting at $1.6 Million, and the luxury 1-2 bedroom apartments Manor Riverwalk on the western bank of the Hillsborough River, ranging from $2600 to $4600 per month, are other Related developments in Tampa. 

Expanding the Tampa Streetcar and transforming it into a light rail system (see picture above) is the highest transportation priority of Mayor Castor and the city of Tampa. It is also a high priority of the current HART Board who governs the HART transit agency.  

Costly rail is about development not mobility. Therefore, it is not surprising that another billionaire developer is funding the campaign for the massive $23 BILLION Rail Tax.

Rail requires dense land development, especially along the rail line and around rail stations. That dense development is often also subsidized by the taxpayers. 

The taxpayers not only pay for costly Rail, they are also paying to densify their neighborhoods and gentrify their neighborhoods. Gentrification forces neighborhood residents and businesses to move as they can no longer afford to live in their own neighborhood. 

The wealthy developers get wealthier as the residents and businesses of the gentrified neighborhoods get displaced. 

How equitable is that?

And the supporters of the $23 BILLION Rail Tax apparently don't care.

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