Tampa months away from opening new Hanna Ave. City Center

A one-stop shop for the city of Tampa is months away from move-in day, a year after unveiling a design for a new city center in east Tampa for seven departments.

"The main building is up. Windows are going in. We have the roof and flooring in, stairwells up," said Adri Colina, the director of logistics and asset management for the city of Tampa. "The parking garage is completely constructed, and then the remaining two buildings are our central fleet and facilities building. So, we are right on track."

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Colina said about 500 employees will move to the Hanna Avenue City Center, which is scheduled to be completed by July 2023. City leases are expiring, leaving places the Lemon Street building with city offices.

"Those are homes to our code enforcement team, our permitting team, and they are in space that they've outgrown. It's outdated and one of them actually is slated to be demolished next year. So, we're going to be saving money and the rent," said Colina.

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The path to save rent did not come without questions, including the $101 million price tag for the project and scrutiny over the contract by some members of city council.

"We were thrown a project. We were in the dark about the project. We had asked questions about the project. The administration came to us, and we're here now," said Councilmember Orlando Gudes of District 5. "I had about 19, 20 questions that I had given to the administration a couple of months ago detailing the projects and things that I was hearing, and I want to find out some details about.

Gudes said he also met with the contractor for the project DPR Construction to make sure the neighborhood’s needs were met.

"My biggest thing is to make sure that people in East Tampa or in this community on the jobsite. You can't bring $100 million project and make sure a community is left out," said Gudes.

He said he wants to make sure the east Tampa neighborhoods he represents are represented.

"My biggest thing is making sure that that minority participation is there, making sure that when I see subcontractors, if that subcontractor is a minority or whoever a subcontractor may need, how many minorities are they hiring within that subcontract?" said Gudes.

City officials said they are following through.

"So our partners are our contractor, DPR Construction. We really challenged them. They had a 35 percent equal business opportunity goal, another area Mayor Castor has been big on and that goal was unprecedented at the time," said Colina. "Twenty percent to BBE firms, so black businesses, and 15 percent to women and small local businesses in that area. That number is derived by just kind of identifying where the gaps are. DPR really thought out of the box on this one. And we have actually two other contractors that are serving in roles that has increased their revenue and more importantly, their experience."

Colina said she expects the city to meet or exceed the 35 percent goal for minority and women-owned or small-owned businesses involved in the project. After a year of going from mound to mountain, the most important goal is delivering on value to the east Tampa community.

"I just want to make sure that my numbers are there. I want to make sure the hiring is there. I want to make sure opportunities are there. That's what I'm looking for in the project. The project is here. I think it's going to bring economic impact to East Tampa," said Gudes.

The city said it got feedback from the community on the project, and part of that included doing a transportation study in 2021. Colina said the city will add turning lanes and a traffic light for the extra cars. The Hanna Avenue city center should be ready to move in by end of July 2023, the city said.