New hope for Tampa's Channelside complex - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

New hope for Tampa's Channelside complex

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

City leaders and real estate developers celebrated the opening of the Pierhouse complex in Tampa's Channelside district Thursday morning. The apartment complex includes a new park, with art and green space for residents.

"We want people to move to downtown. We want people to live the 24 hourcities," said Jorge Perez, chairman and founder of The Related Group, developers of the project.

The sparkling new apartments sit just around the corner from one of theneighborhood's biggest challenges. While residents are moving into apartmentsand condos, the city can't seem to attract businesses to the Channelside entertainment complex.

But Tampa mayor, Bob Buckhorn, hopes that will soon be changing.

"We are moving forward, full throttle. We do not have any breaks on this car," Buckhorn told the crowd.

Earlier this week, the Tampa Port Authority approved a plan to buy Channelside from the Irish bank that currently owns it for $5.7 million. The Port Authority already owns the land, and it would just be buying the buildings back.

"That's an opportunity for us to consolidate to get that project inside, so somebody who wants to come in and redo it will only have tonegotiate with us," Buckhorn explained.

Channelside has seen plenty of challenges in recent years. It's lost numerous tenants and gone into bankruptcy. Buckhorn sees the sale as a way forthe city to reclaim the entertainment complex and revitalize it.

"You think about the long term future-- a possible baseball stadium in downtown Tampa, the success of the forum, the success of the convention center," he said. "This is going to be a livable, walkable, retail-oriented, pedestrian friendly environment, that bars none, is going tobe the envy of any city in Florida."

There are several legal hurdles to overcome, including hearings in bankruptcy court. But Buckhorn is optimistic the sale could go through in assoon as three weeks.

"Hopefully a few weeks and not a couple of months," Buckhorn said."We're excited. We want to get this done."

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