With plant demolition, downtown Tampa’s industrial past gives way to the future

As Tampa’s urban core transformed, attracting tech companies, big-name developers, national retailers and restaurants, and an influx of new residents, the Ardent Mills plant on South Nebraska Avenue remained, a reminder of downtown’s proud industrial past and a hindrance to its future life, work and play.

Today, the factory, which dates back to 1938, is falling apart to make way for the next phase of the multi-billion dollar mixed-use development of Water Street Tampa and to connect the street network and now lively neighborhoods that surround it. Local businesses and government officials ceremonially marked the start of the demolition at a July 22 event in which Tampa Mayor Jane Castor used an excavator to demolish a small accessory building on the property.

Castor said the redevelopment of the site was another step in an urban evolution that included Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment vision to turn more than 50 acres of flat parking lots into Water Street, the growth of the Channel District and, in the future, the transformation of the area between the city center and Ybor City through projects such as the planned redevelopment of Gas Worx.

Tampa Downtown Partnership President and CEO Lynda Remund placed the demolition of the plant in the larger context of the evolving downtown Channel District.

“I’ll give you a taste of how this neighborhood has changed,” Remund said. “A few decades ago, we were surrounded by an asphalt factory, banana docks and dozens of warehouses. Today, we are just a stone’s throw from billions of dollars of investment, two cultural institutions world-class arena home to back-to-back Stanley Cup champions…and one of the best medical schools for research in America.This site has long been considered a block for our pedestrian, cycle and automobile connectivity to the city centre.This step forward creates vital connectivity between the Channel District and adjacent neighborhoods and will make walking your dog, cycling and working easier, faster and safer The future of this site will connect these neighborhoods and complete the 50-year evolution of the downtown core from warehouses and industrial sites to a 24/7 living, working and playing destination. »

Connect downtown

Over the next few months, crews will dismantle the mill piece by piece, saving some of the large silos for reuse. The demolition will make way for the extension of the Water and Whiting Street roadways through the property. As part of a related Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority project to remove the railroad tracks leading to the plant, the road extensions, which will follow a complete street design pattern to safely accommodate pedestrian traffic and bicycles, will create a grid of streets that connects the town center to the Channel District and the Water Street development.

Once the first phase of the Water Street development is complete, the downtown Ardent Mills property will also be a central site for the city’s $3.5 billion northward expansion into one city. Water Street developer Strategic Property Partners has not yet submitted or released formal development plans for Ardent Mills and the adjacent property. Overall, the first phase of Water Street included 1.1 million square feet of office space, several hundred hotel rooms, 1,300 residential units, and 300,000 square feet of entertainment space.

The development master plan calls for a total of 3,500 residential units, two million square feet of office space and one million square feet of retail and entertainment space to be built. It’s a massive growth spurt, as Hillsborough County Commissioner and former Tampa City Council member Harry Cohen noted at the event marking the start of the plant’s demolition.

“Having served on both City Council when Mayor (Bob) Buckhorn was in office and now as Hillsborough County Commissioner, watching the transformation of this neighborhood has been nothing short of miraculous,” Cohen said. “One point six million people will be living in Hillsborough County by 2026 and the fastest growing postcode is here, 33602. came here to connect. To connect to the rest of the city, to connect to the network of streets, to make it feel like part of a neighborhood. And that’s what we’re really trying to do throughout this community.

The role of Port Tampa Bay

In some ways, demolishing the downtown Ardent Mills is a win-win situation. Property opens for redevelopment and street grid connection. Ardent Mills has moved into a modern $100 million facility on the Port Redwing property in Port Tampa Bay, near Gibsonton. Port Tampa Bay has a new long-term tenant in place at a waterfront property it has developed over the past 12 years from empty to leased, said Port Tampa Bay Vice President of Engineering Patrick Blair.

“Redwing, 12 years ago there was nothing there and now it’s practically rented out,” Blair said in an interview. “We have 150 acres across (US) 41 from Redwing that we have purchased and will develop.”

With its massive real estate assets, Port Tampa Bay is no stranger to playing a role in downtown redevelopment. The port owns the Sparkman Wharf property and leases the land to Strategic Property Partners. Earlier this year, Port Tampa Bay sold land in the Channelside area to the City of Tampa for $3.8 million for future use as a park.

“It was a plot that was next to our parking lot,” Blair said. “It wasn’t by the water. It’s something that we were able to help the city and be good partners.