Highest and Best Use

Since Tangerine Plaza was developed 20 years ago, two grocery stores have been opened on the site, and both have failed.

Dear Editor:

I read with interest a recent article in the Tampa Bay Times concerning proposals concerning purchasing Tangerine Plaza, a project I developed over 18 years ago. The city obtained title to the property after two failed attempts at operating local grocery stores.

While the article discussed the proposals for acquisition, very little was said about what either party intended to do with the property. That was unfortunate because what the parties intend to do with the site is far more important than how much they pay for the site or how they intend to pay for it.

Social impact on the community is one of the key criteria to be utilized when cities determine how to dispose of the site. By way of example, if one proposal is to buy the property and use it as a storage facility, that has substantially less impact on a community than if the other party intended to utilize the property for affordable housing, which is a far greater need within the community than a storage warehouse. 

Again, the article did not say what the parties intended to do with the site after they acquire it.

Before the city decides to sell the property to anyone, they need to commission a Highest and Best Use Study to determine the best utilization of the site. After such a study is completed, the results should be discussed with the community. After reaching a consensus on its use, then and only then should an RFP be put out.

The city did focus groups to determine what residents wanted in the community over 20 years ago. The consensus then was that a grocery store was most desired and was developed on the site. 

Since it was developed 20 years ago, two grocery stores have been opened on the site, and both failed. By their actions, the community has said loudly and clearly that they will not support a grocery store at that site.

I, quite frankly, do not think that one is really needed there either. Times have changed. People can order groceries through an app and have them delivered within a couple of hours.

That is probably only one wave of the future with respect to food delivery. I have not done a financial analysis, but I believe that subsidizing food delivery is a much cheaper and more efficient alternative than supporting a grocery store on that site.

Another issue to consider is that once the site is sold, control over its future use could be adversely impacted. For example, if the site was sold for the development of another grocery store and that store failed as well, its subsequent use may be for something that accrues very little to no benefit to the greater community.

The city just announced in their deal with the Rays that 600 units of affordable housing would be built offsite from the Tropicana property. Until land has been secured for their development, the city should be very deliberate in how it sells large parcels of land that can, otherwise, be utilized for that purpose.

There are many issues to be considered before the city commits to sell or otherwise dispose of Tangerine Plaza. Right now, the least consideration should be who wants to buy it and how much they are willing to pay for it.

Larry Newsome

One Reply to “Highest and Best Use”

  1. Chris Clement says:

    There has to be a way to make a store succeed if the model is more like convenience stores with essential, but less perishable goods. Jobs would be created and there could be some distribution of local produce.

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