5 biggest things that happened at Water St in 2018

Real Estate

The last 12 months were momentous for Water Street Tampa.

From groundbreakings to more land acquisitions, the massive mixed-use project in downtown Tampa hit several key milestones this year.

"Since beginning vertical construction in April, we've seen an unprecedented level of activity on-site," James Nozar, the CEO of Water Street developer Strategic Property Partners, said in a statement. "We look forward to what 2019 has in store, with groundbreakings planned on six additional buildings, celebrating the topping out of the Tampa JW Marriott hotel, and the continued renovation of Sparkman Wharf, ultimately bringing us closer to the comprehensive and forward-thinking urban neighborhood that we're creating here."

Below are the five biggest things that happened at Water Street this year. Just catching up? Read the full primer on all things Water Street here.

— The acquisition of the Ardent Mills flour mill in downtown Tampa: As I've written before, buying this real estate was one of the most significant deals yet for SPP. As SPP acquired the real estate, the city at the same time secured the rights to connect Cumberland Avenue from Meridian Avenue to Brorein Avenue.

As of November 2020, the flour mill will terminate its leasing rights to the rail spur south of Cumberland Avenue. The implications for Water Street and all of downtown Tampa are huge, because that road connection removes a physical and mental barrier between the Channel district and central business district.

— The big contractor switch-up: In January, SPP parted ways with the majority of general contractors it had signed on for the first phase of Water Street. Miami-based Coastal Construction, initially hired to build apartments, condominiums and retail, was awarded the majority of the work.

— The opening of Sparkman Wharf: Sparkman Wharf, previously known as Channelside Bay Plaza, is the public's first taste of Water Street. The first phase of the wharf — a craft biergarten, dining garden housed in shipping containers and a recreational lawn — opened Dec. 1. Splitsville reopened after a renovation in late November, and two longtime Channelside tenants, Precinct Pizza and Hooters, announced their departures from the property.

Sparkman Wharf's first phase is a small space, especially in comparison to Water Street's overall 50-plus acres, but it's an important one. It opens up the Channel district waterfront to the public for the first time and gives the public a preview of the type of experience Water Street wants to offer at street level.

By late 2019, SPP expects to locate its own offices within the wharf, where space that was previously home to entertainment concepts will be redeveloped into modern, loft-style offices. SPP will begin construction on the wharf's facades in early 2019.

— Two buildings go vertical: The most visible signs of progress were two major groundbreakings. Vertical construction on the 26-story JW Marriott began on Amalie Arena's Silver Lot in April, the first within Water Street. Residential tower 815 Water Street broke ground within the next few months.

— The Garrison connection: In March 2018,SPP struck land-lease and sales deals with Port Tampa Bay for the Garrison lot, a surface parking lot directly west of Sparkman Wharf. The Garrison lot is small, but it's crucial to solving a long-standing problem in the narrative of Tampa's urban revitalization: connecting the currently disjointed central business district, Channel district and downtown waterfront with each other as well as the Water Street neighborhood.