As far back as 2014, Vinik, the Tampa Bay Lightning owner, has had his eye on redeveloping a swath of the city’s downtown surrounding his hockey team’s arena. In mid-2017, Strategic Property Partners, a joint venture between Vinik and Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment, announced a $3 billion redevelopment plan for the area. The project, Water Street Tampa, is slated to include luxury apartments, hotels, stores and restaurants catering to Tampa’s growing millennial population.
In early 2018, documents show that Vinik’s firm, along with the city of Tampa, requested that the area for the investment be made an opportunity zone. Vinik has given hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Scott in recent years. Scott picked the tract that contains most of the development for the tax break.
The tract has a median family income almost twice as high as the Tampa metro area, placing it among the top 0.5% of opportunity zones nationwide in terms of income.
In a statement, Strategic Property Partners defended the area’s designation, saying: “Downtown Tampa has long been a candidate for development and the establishment of Opportunity Zones has helped increase and accelerate investment. Water Street Tampa is transforming a vacant area of land in downtown Tampa into a new community within the city.”
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