Underground cooling system planned for downtown buildings

- It's not a secret: it's hot in Tampa. Really hot. In this city, we depend on our air conditioning units, which is why just about every building's rooftop in Tampa is home to them.

In the downtown Waterfront area, however, that's about to change.

"One of the things we always hear from people is we want to have a roof top restaurant or bar, we want to be able to take in views of the city, of the bay. Those are such great natural assets and that's what this will be able to do," said Strategic Property Partners vice president of marketing and communications Ali Glisson.

In order to free up those rooftop space, Strategic Property Partners, a joint venture between Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investments LLC, is taking part of their $2 billion transformation plan underground. To keep businesses in the 40-acre district cool, Strategic Property Partners is building a central water cooling system that will pump cold water to buildings through a system of underground pipes.

The company says the cooling system will redefine the look and feel of downtown Tampa and it's also a lot more environmentally friendly. The cooling system will reduce energy costs by 30 to 40 percent.

"It's a really great thing for this community. It'll help reduce CO2 emissions because the buildings themselves will be more efficient and what's also great is that it will help reduce noise throughout the district from those individual chillers that won't be there," said Glisson.

In total, a mile and a half of cooling pipelines will have to go down under roadways in the area. Strategic Property Partners says this process will coincide with already scheduled road work, designed to improve vehicle and pedestrian traffic patterns in the area.

"We'll be doing a lot of this work as we start the infrastructure work later this summer so those pipes will be laid as we reconfigure the roadways so we'll do it all at the same time so we won't be ripping them up two or three times," explained Glisson.

The cooling system will supply all new buildings in the area, but other buildings will be able to tap in as well. Strategic Property Partners says they hope Amalie Arena, which is owned by Hillsborough County, and the new USF Morisani School of Medicine will also take advantage of the energy efficient system.

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