Razing of Tampa International Airport building now delayed

At one point during last week's Hillsborough County Aviation Authority's monthly meeting, airport executive director Louis Miller said he would halt the planned demolition of a $4 million property owned by the county.

He made that remark after he was challenged by board member Steve Burton, who said the move by Miller to do so  had not been properly vetted with other board members.

But Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, a fellow board member, intervened and said there was no motion on the floor to stop the demolition.  After asking Miller to explain his decision making on the matter, the mayor backed Miller publicly, and the board went ahead and voted 3-1 to go ahead with the demolition.

I'm wondering what the mayor is thinking today.  That's after the St. Petersburg Times reports that it turns out that the Moffitt Cancer Center told the Aviation Authority last October that they were interested in renting the building, and is considering paying more than $600,000 in annual rent.

This news comes after after Miller downplayed any company being interested in renting the former Continental Airlines reservation center last week, but now admits he spoke with fellow board member Al Austin about the matter previously.

From Michael Van Sickler's story:

But Miller and Austin acknowledged Tuesday that they had been told about Moffitt's inquiries into the two-story building at 4101 Jim Walter Blvd. in October, when a broker was turned away after contacting airport officials. Asked why he didn't mention Moffitt until the e-mail detailing its interest became public Tuesday, Miller said he didn't because "it didn't come up."

Austin at first denied he had a discussion with the broker about Moffitt in October.

"That's a lie," he said. Minutes later Austin called the Times back and said he had been mistaken. He had been contacted about Moffitt's interest back then, he said, but not by the broker he was asked about. He said Miller told him he couldn't get involved because he sits on the aviation authority board and Moffitt's board, and that posed a conflict.

"I stand corrected," Austin said. "Off the top of my head, I couldn't recall it."

Austin and Miller quoted a vacancy rate of 22% in the Westshore area last week as being a logical reason to believe there would be little demand to rent out the facility.

With this new revelation, the demolition has now been delayed.  This is something that board member Steve Burton had requested last week.  Not that the demolition not take place, but that there be an analysis about the board's options regarding the nearly 40,000 square foot building.

That vote was 3-1, with Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan absent.

As Burton and Miller began arguing with each other last week about the planned demolition, Mayor Iorio intervened.  After asking Miller to explain his decision making, she backed him on going ahead with the demolition, but said that in the future, Miller should discuss the matter with the full board.

Burton had argued,"what's the harm?" in asking for the delay, but to no avail.  The Times reports that Moffett is prepared to pay $600,000 a month in rent, considerably more than Continental's $464,000 was paying. It should be emphasized that Miller says there was a dispute about the length of agreement, and it remains to be seen how serious negotiations will proceed to.

Iorio said last week that she was backing Louis Miller because, "I trust his judgement.  I think it tends to be very sound."

Does she still feel that way today?

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