Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik will receive control of Channelside Bay Plaza after a judge approved a settlement Monday resolving a drawn-out fight over the beleaguered outdoor mall.
Many had favored Vinik and his team, CBP Development. But some, like candy store owner Candy Qachbal, aren’t getting their hopes up.
She can't help but be pessimistic. In the past few years, revenues at her candy store, she said, have fallen by more than 50 percent.
Her staff went from 13 to four. Those four are family members, which allows them to stay afloat.
But Qachbal said her hope was renewed when she met Vinik.
"They wanted us to be part of what was going to happen," Qachbal said.
Now things could be happening quickly. A judge signed off on a deal in which Vinik agreed to pay $7.1 million for the lease on the property.
Vinik will incur other costs as the plans unfold. He is not elaborating on the plan or speaking publicly about the deal. A company spokesperson released a statement on Vinik's behalf:
"It now creates a path for the turnaround of a very important community asset," it read.
Economic developers, like Rick Homans, president and CEO of the Tampa-Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation cannot agree more. Homans said the new leadership will change the climate of downtown.
"They are clearly visionary. They are ambitious. They are aggressive, and they seem to have the wherewithal to make all of these things happen," Homans said.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Chairman Mark Sharpe, who also sits on the tourism board, said city leaders have been preparing for this day and can now move forward.
“I think between what Mr. Vinik is doing and the mayor is doing, you will see a lot of fast action, which is going to make our downtown a vibrant place to visit and that could be only great for tourism," Sharpe said.
But quickly, according to leaders, could still mean a couple of years before a complete facelift. For Qachbal, even small steps will make her life a little sweeter.
"Just keeping my fingers crossed!" she said.
Vinik still has to close on the property and an insider said that could happen within days.
His only public plans so far don't directly relate to this purchase.
But he has bought several parcels of land around the forum in hopes of building a major hotel and has always said he had hoped to make Channelside part of his bigger picture.