Portion of Channelside to be demolished; make way for park, pop-up restaurants, performance space

- Change is coming, and coming quickly, to Channelside.

Tuesday morning Tampa Bay Port officials gave their unanimous consent to allow development group Strategic Property Partners to demolish the southwest corner of the struggling Channelside Bay Plaza.

In its place, SPP plans to build a temporary outdoor plaza that will allow for better views of the bay. The open space will feature outdoor dining kiosks that highlight local chefs and restaurants (think food trucks without wheels), pop-up art and a performance stage.

Two restaurants currently leasing the space, Hablo Taco and Thai Thani, will be relocated.

SPP's timeline is ambitious. Demolition on the approved portion of Channelside Bay Plaza will begin this summer.

They aim to have the new park open this fall.

"Our goal is for before the Lightning season and general Tampa event season [begins]," said Bryan Moll, EVP and Director of Development for SPP.

Eventually, all of Channelside Bay Plaza, which opened in 2001 but has declined rapidly in recent years, is scheduled to come down.

"We believe the existing plaza would only fail again if it remained a retail-only destination," said Strategic Property Partners spokeswoman Ali Glisson. "We recognize the opportunity to create a destination in the immediate term and are excited to make changes right away."

The new park will serve as an interim space as SPP works out a larger deal with Port Tampa Bay. SPP says the park will likely remain for three to five years while a permanent 1-acre park, with a stage and beer garden, is developed across the street on the existing Garrison Parking Lot.

It's all part of a much bigger $3 billion plan to reinvent the look and feel of Channelside and the area around Amalie Arena. In September Strategic Property Partners, the real estate firm owned by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, and the investment fund controlled by Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, revealed plans for the area that will include new waterfront apartments, restaurants, and public green spaces. The new USF medical school and Heart Institute will also call Channelside home.

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