Hints of a transformation in the works for Channelside - FOX 13 News

Hints of a transformation in the works for Channelside

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

It's a dismal day for Tampa's Channelside district. Channelside Cinemas shut down suddenly Tuesday night, following two other major business closures within just weeks.

Business owners say the movie theater was the pulse of the plaza.

"I was really shocked and really disappointed," Channelside's White House Gear owner Janet Griffin said Wednesday.

The shutdown is the third major closure at Channelside in just weeks, following Stump's Supper Club and Howl at the Moon Piano Bar. Griffin says existing businesses now feel orphaned in the 235,000 square foot space.

"Everybody is kind of talking to each other today to see how we can survive this loss," she said.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman sits on Tampa's Port Authority Board of Directors, which holds ultimate control over Channelside.

"The stage is getting set for the new development to happen," Murman said Wednesday.

The likely mastermind behind a transformation: Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik. Talks of Vinik's future vision for Channelside compare it to Los Angeles L.A. Live complex, a mixed-used entertainment area that's congruent with the Staples Center.

"I think it'll be an iconic area for the entire Tampa Bay community. Major sports, entertainment, more pedestrian friendly, community friendly, and I just think it'll be a big boost to the area," Murman said.

Talk of the master plan also includes linking the Tampa Bay Times Forum and the Convention Center to Channelside, while opening up access to Tampa's Riverwalk.

The timetable for the transformation is still up in the air. Still, Murman says Vinik's investment group is inching closer to finalizing a deal.

"I just wish that it would happen, that it would happen sooner rather than later, and that there would really be a meeting for those of us whose future depends on what happens next," Griffin said.

Bill Wickett, a spokesperson for Jeff Vinik and his partners, released a statement on Wednesday saying Vinik remains "patiently committed to the Channelside project."

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