The first phase of Strategic Property Partners' $2 billion mixed-use district in downtown Tampa is starting to take shape, with plans of breaking ground by late 2017.

The first phase will build a neighborhood on what's now a desolate series of dirt and gravel parking lots bordered by Meridian Avenue to the east, South Morgan Street to the west, Channelside Drive to the south and East Brorein Street to the north.

The first phase also includes a 500-room convention hotel west of Amalie Arena and updates to Channelside Bay Plaza as well as the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel and Marina. SPP, which is controlled by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investment LLC, has engaged a team of more than 17 architects and consultants to design the buildings within those blocks.

The architects and designers are charged with creating a neighborhood that feels "authentic," SPP CEO James Nozar said, within the boundaries of a "unified fabric for the project."

"Candidly, Tampa doesn’t have anything of this scale with great historic precedence to look to," he said. "Certainly you have a unique climate, history and some precedent to pull upon — but how does that translate into our buildings, and how do we build an identity, architecturally, for Tampa?"

To do that, SPP has added David Manfredi of Boston-based Elkus Manfredi Architects to its stable of urban planning and design gurus. David Dixon of Stantec and Jeff Speck, author of "Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time," who were brought on as consultants in March 2015, are still part of the team, Nozar said.

Nozar on Monday shared with reporters an update on SPP's plans, including the placement of specific buildings and the design approach. (See a more detailed graphic below.) While SPP has been discussing a mixed-use urban development for several years, Monday's update is the most specific information the group has provided on the project to date. On Tuesday, Nozar will present plans for Channelside Bay Plaza to the Port Tampa Bay board.

Here are the specifics of Phase 1 of vertical construction that Nozar shared on Monday:

    • A full-service grocer, on the ground floor of a residential building, is planned at the corner of Meridian and Cumberland Avenue. Nozar said the square footage of the grocer is still in flux.
    • A 150-room lifestyle hotel will be built along Channelside Drive, between Water Street and Nebraska Avenue. It will have a ground-floor restaurant and 30 condominium units on the top stories.
    • Corporate office space will be developed between Jefferson and South Morgan streets on the site once targeted by Syniverse. That block will also be home to a large parking structure that will serve not only the office space but also events at Amalie Arena, as much of the arena's surface parking will go away as the district develops.
    • Two to three residential buildings, of varying sizes and price points, will be built between South Nebraska Avenue and Water Street.
    • Ferg's Channelside, which currently fronts Channelside Drive opposite Amalie Arena, will be demolished to make way for a boutique office building — space geared toward more creative tenants, with a coworking atmosphere
At full buildout, the entire district will include 9 million square feet — up to 5,000 residential units, 2.6 million square feet of office space, approximately 500,000 square feet of retail and up to 650 new hotel rooms with dedicated meeting space.

Nozar said SPP hopes to announce both an office tenant and hotel flags by the end of this year.

The first phase of the district's horizontal construction — infrastructure and roadwork — began Aug. 29.

Every building in the district, Nozar said, will have ground-floor retail space that could be occupied by restaurants, cultural centers or more traditional retail tenants.

It's too soon to say whether the residential units would be condominiums or apartments, outside of the 30 units on top of the boutique hotel. Those will be luxury units, geared toward affluent empty nesters, second home buyers or even Lightning players, Nozar said.

The other units will be designed to appeal to a variety of demographics, from studio units to larger, family-sized spaces. All units are being built to condominium-level standards and could eventually be for-sale products.

While SPP is planning to launch a property management arm to manage its building, it would outsource the sales and marketing efforts of any condo units, Nozar said.