Troubled Channelside Bay Plaza being courted by two suitors on Valentine's Day

Rejected developer in court seeking damages

TAMPA, Fla. - Channelside Bay Plaza, a property so troubled it gives real estate a bad name, is in court again.  

A local group is trying to buy the bankrupt and now nearly vacant entertainment venue for a reported $7 million dollars. But the Tampa Port Authority that owns the land is trying to stop them.  

Early last year, Punit Shah and Santosh Govindaraju of  Liberty Channelside LLC made a bid to buy the  Channelside Bay Plaza that included promises of a major remodel. For a while, it looked like these local investors might breathe new life into the project.
But when the local investors met to get approval from the Tampa Port Authority, the two sides clashed and the deal collapsed with lots of hard feelings. Since then the Port Authority decided they would buy the complex to give themselves the option of approving a developer more to their liking. Some speculated that might be Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.

The Liberty group didn't just go away. Friday, they appealed to a federal bankruptcy judge in Delaware to accept their purchase offer of $7 million, considerably more than what the Port Authority was prepared to pay.

"It's frustrating that it's taking so long," said Jason Carroll, a resident of the emerging Channelside District that will soon have more than 2,000 residents. Carroll said nearby development has flourished despite the troubles of Channelside Plaza, but he hopes somebody rescues the project and takes advantage of the prime location.

"We want somebody to come here and open the place to the water. We have a great facility, a great waterfront and you can't enjoy it because you've got this big building blocking it," said Carroll.

The Liberty Group isn't just trying to knock the Tampa Port Authority out of the running, they're also asking for  damages for what they call unfair treatment when they last tried to make the purchase.

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