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Developers ask for public input at Channelside in Tampa

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Possible future Channelside Possible future Channelside
Channelside store fronts Channelside store fronts
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

New restaurants, retail, and a hotel on top of Channelside? That's what developers are proposing for the struggling complex near downtown Tampa. The public is invited to a Town Hall meeting to talk about it Wednesday night.

At Surf Down Under, owner Kendrix Jones says he's ready for a new wave at Channelside, but he's not getting his hopes up just yet.

"It's exciting, but we're cautious because we've had this situation come about and nothing happened," explained Jones. "So we're kind of on our guard until it actually happens."

A few doors down, past a few empty store fronts, the owner of Precinct Pizza feels more optimistic after meeting with the developers last week.

"We're certainly optimistic now because they definitely told us what we wanted to hear, so we're hoping some of it will come to fruition," said Rick Drury.

Liberty Channelside, LLC wants to transform the complex to a mixed-use entertainment hub full of retail space, restaurants, and a whole lot more.

"We want to have an office, about 45-thousand square feet of office users who can come here, bring traffic during lunchtime. We want to put a hotel on top of this center and that will add traffic 24/7," explained developer Santosh Govindaraju.

Govindaraju said it's important to market Channelside to downtown residents, and not just tourists.

"We want to believe today that this should be an entertainment hub," he said. "An extension of the living room, not very different than a country club for the residents that live in this area."

Shannon Bassett, a professor of architecture and urban design at the University of South Florida agrees that would be a key to Channelside's success.

"You want to cater programs to the local community," Bassett said. "Maybe it's cafes, coffee shops and restaurants."

But, she said it could be infrastructure, as well, noting it is important to link Channelside to the rest of downtown.

"You've got Ybor City, you've got Channelside, you've got what's trying to happen in the rest of downtown," she said. "You've got the Riverwalk that's trying to connect those spaces, but it's almost like you need to stitch the connections."

The partners at Liberty Channelside, LLC discussed their plans with Channelside tenants last week. They hope to get input from the public at a meeting Wednesday night at 5:30 PM at the Florida Aquarium.

"We actually want to engage with the community here and listen to what they have to say," explained Govindaraju. "We're going to hear things from the left to the right, but probably there's going to be some gems of truth that we can pick out."

Govindaraju says they have cash on hand to makeover Channelside and are under contract to purchase the lease. They still need approval from the Tampa Port Authority, because it owns the land on which Channelside sits. They hope to seal the deal at a meeting on May 21st. If the Port approves of the deal at that meeting, Liberty Channelside, LLC could close on the deal in early June, and start construction soon after that.

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