The long-proposed New Tampa Cultural Center (NTCC), which will be built across the street from Hunter’s Green on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd., could receive a financial boost from the state under a new idea that could see it transition into being built to serve not only as a home for the arts, but as a hurricane shelter for special needs evacuees, too.
“We made the decision, we’re going to a hardened hurricane shelter for special needs evacuees,’’ said District 2 Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist, who has spearheaded the project for years. “There is a regional need for that kind of facility.”
According to Comm. Crist, the shelter would serve as an evacuation spot for Tampa General Hospital and other hospitals in Pasco and Manatee counties as well. He cited hospital evacuation issues in Manatee County when Hurricane Irma came through in September
“It’s on high ground, it’s close to a medical hub and it’s on a major roadway,’’ Crist says. “It will be built at a very high wind standard.”
Crist says the county is contributing $5.8 million to the building of what is expected to be a 30,000-sq.-ft. NTCC, and the developers of the adjacent public-private (P3) Hunter’s Lake project are contributing $2.5 million.
The county will ask the state for matching funds of $7.5 million, getting the NTCC to the $15-million figure Crist has said would be required to build a state-of-the-art facility that can serve the entire Tampa Bay arts community from the beginning.
“The state has made it clear they will be focusing on hurricane and natural disaster preparedness,” Comm. Crist says.
Developers of the site are proceeding with permitting, so the pad on which everything will be built can be finished, although it has recently asked for a 90-day extension as it waits for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approval.
“They still plan to deliver the pad by October of 2018,” says Josh Bellotti, the county’s real estate & facilities services director. Ground would be broken on the NTCC project shortly after that.
Branchton Park Project Another P3 Possibility?
Hillsborough County also cleared the way for another possible P3 project down the road, completing the acquisition of 10 acres of land in the Branchton Park area off Morris Bridge Rd. and Cross Creek Blvd.
The county paid Jimmy Gardner $1,175,000 to acquire the four parcels, totalling 10 acres. The land was appraised at $800,000, and Gardner was asking for $2 million. The closing on the purchase helps the county complete a long-sought-after deal to complete its holdings in the Branchton Park area.
The county had purchased three parcels of land totaling 13.18 acres for roughly $3.1 million in 2005 to expand Branchton Park. Attempts then to acquire the 10 acres owned by Gardner were unsuccessful. The property, which fronts Morris Bridge Rd. and is surrounded on three sides by the park, became available again and the county re-engaged and was able to close the deal.
“It completes the assemblage with the adjacent property and looking ahead, we are now able to do some kind of P3 (public-private partnership),” Bellotti said.
Bellotti said the county has no specific plans for the property, but will play a role in how it is developed. Hillsborough will send out a request for proposal (RFP) to see if there are any interested developers.
Bellotti said the project could be something similar to Hunter’s Lake which, in addition to the NTCC, is also adding apartments, a green grocer, a restaurant, a shopping plaza and a dog park.
District 5 County Commissioner Ken Hagan said that in addition to Branchton Park, the county also is working on a park project in K-Bar Ranch.
“We’re excited about both,’’ he said. “We’ve made significant strides in bringing both in for a landing.”
The 55-or-so acre K-Bar park project has been in the system for years, but a deal is getting closer for what would be the first-ever co-located county-city park, Hagan says.
The specific amenities haven’t been determined, but Hagan says he is confident the partnership between the city and the county will finally yield positive results, soon.
“There’s a little more work we need to do there,” Comm. Hagan says.
Hagan and Dist. 7 Tampa City Council member Luis Viera will host a New Tampa Town Hall on Thursday, November 16, 7 p.m.-8 p.m. at The Venetian on the grounds of St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church at 9724 Cross Creek Blvd.