Business group reportedly makes offer for Channelside plaza

TAMPA - After years of legal wrangling and high hopes, there is a cash buyer reportedly ready to move on the revitalization of the Channelside District shopping plaza.

Space after space sits empty at Channelside, not the future city officials imagined when the more than 234,000-square-foot facility opened in 2001. 
Those affiliated with Channelside said they hear the same complaints, like one from cruise passenger Terre Varner from Indiana.  "It's disappointing, because I have seven hours to kill and nowhere to go."
But that could change within months.  The same team renovating the old Mercantile Bank downtown and transforming it into a boutique hotel, Liberty Channelside, reportedly wants to take over the lease at Channelside. 
Liberty Channelside, LLC is a joint venture between two local businesses, Liberty Group and Convergent Capital Partners.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn is hopeful.  "I am cautiously optimistic.  You know, we have been down this road before. I don't want to say we have had our hearts broken, but we certainly have had fits and starts.  But I think the folks that have bid on this have the wherewithal to get it done."
"The last remaining step is for the board to approve that," said Buckhorn.  The Tampa Port Authority owns the land and needs to approve the deal.  All parties are scheduled to meet May 21, and if the port signs off, renovations could begin as early as June.  
The approval can't some soon enough for Kendrix Jones, owner of Surf Down Under.  He's been here for seven years and owns one of the few businesses that has survived the dismal climate.
"It is the perfect location.  It's close to downtown, all the excitement.  There is a lot going on here and all we need is an owner to make it what it should be," said Jones.
Varner hopes so too. It would give her reason to come back to Tampa.  "That would be great, someone to breathe in some new life," she said.
The price for the property has not been disclosed.
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