By Jim Bleyer
Passersby could easily mistake the boxy ivory-hued edifice for an art museum annex or upscale assisted living center.
But this is St. Armands Key where tony residences and several palatial estates abound. Still, there is nothing quite like Tampa Bay Times investor and hockey franchise owner Jeff Vinik’s humongous rectilinear edifice.
Almost four years in the making and lagging behind the original schedule, the 15,900 square foot Sarasota house is “99 percent complete,” according to a representative of Jones Architecture in Tampa.
A lonely Port-o-let in the side yard is the only evidence to any lurking looky-loo that the imposing structure is not quite habitable.
The two-story house is being built on two lots (0.95 acre) with 255 feet of seawall. It will have a total area of 23,672 square feet.
Actually the complex consists of two buildings separated by an an atrium: the north wing and a larger, southern section. Two garages can accommodate a five-vehicle fleet.
With views of the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay, it is to be envied in that respect. But the property is extremely susceptible to storms and flooding.
The structure pays homage to wealth, not beauty….but remember, this project belongs to Vinik who dubbed his downtown Tampa project—that aroused wet dreams among the Tampa establishment—“Water Street Tampa.” Lackluster. Uninspiring. More than a yawner.
But most of all, that moniker underscores the city of Tampa’s biggest liability. Everyone knows the drainage infrastructure begs for substantial improvement if not an exhaustive overhaul.
The Washington Post, in a pre-hurricane Irma analysis, deemed Tampa Bay one of the most vulnerable areas in the world to rising sea levels and hurricanes. Vinik’s $3 billion 50-acre Water Street Tampa development lies in Southern downtown, an area in the crosshairs of flooding.
The jokes about “Water Street Tampa” write themselves.
Vinik is many things but we have no evidence that he is stupid. The 50-acre project will be rebranded. Unlike this article, the Tampa Bay Times will be the first media entity to announce news about a member of the cabal that bailed it out with a $12-15 million “investment.”
Vinik and his minions refer to his Sarasota home as the “S.S. Magellan” after the hedge fund that he founded. The Magellan Fund made millions for its investors and more millions for Vinik who withstood an SEC investigation and other ethical questions.
Adept at adapting, Vinik rebranded himself after his move from Boston to Tampa. His part ownership in the Times cemented his new image.