Deal to redevelop Channelside in trouble

7:17 PM, May 15, 2013   |    comments
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TAMPA, Florida -- The deal that was supposed to save Channelside and revitalize downtown Tampa is running into a major speed bump and some are saying say it could even fall apart.

A letter from the owner of the property, The Tampa Port Authority, to the proposed new developer shows an impasse that could kill the deal. The letter details some of the conditions and concessions the proposed developers, the Liberty Group, wants from the port and what the port wants from the developer.

It's clear there are eight million reasons, which you can translate into 8 million dollars, why the lofty plan to redevelop Channelside appears to be in big trouble.

The liberty group is planning to do what no one has before in Channelside -- make it a viable entertainment complex that will have a positive impact in downtown.

When the group made a splash announcement of its plans a few weeks ago, Punit Shah said, "We want them to leave Tampa with a memorial experience here. We want them to go back to their homes and tell people they have to come to Tampa because of the experience they had, not only at Channelside, but an entire city."

The Liberty Group says it plans to spend $13 to $22 million in capital improvements and wants the port to grant a waiver for any past debts. The previous developer defaulted on millions.

The letter from the port to the Liberty Group shows the project is in trouble because the port says any waiver of existing lease defaults requested by Liberty would be conditions of the establishment and funding of a 10 million dollar cash escrow account.

Liberty could only withdraw the money to make improvements to the property. However, it has offered $2 million that it says it will put in escrow, and the port says the $2 million offer is a fraction of the cost Liberty has represented to the public regarding its investment in the project.

The Liberty Group hoped the Port Authority board would approve the deal next week, on Tuesday, May21 at its meeting, and then close on the deal early in June. However, the issue is not on the board's agenda and is not expected to be addressed to late June at the earliest if at all.

We contacted a representative from the Liberty Group who said they had no comment at this time.


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