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Moccasin Lake Nature Park Gets Renovations, Extends Hours

Moccasin Lake Nature Park is an unexpected oasis in the midst of Clearwater's densely packed urban landscape.

But, since its opening in 1982, the 51-acre park has been an often overlooked "hidden gem" in need of funds and a little polishing. It is located at 2750 Park Trail Lane, just east U.S. 19 and north of Drew Street. 

The park is currently in the midst of a $700,000 renovation, which is part of a 10-year master plan. And for the first time in many years the park now has extended Sunday hours from noon to 4 p.m. through December. Regular hours for the nature preserve are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Admission is free.

"It has not had any improvements since its inception," says Anna Gurney, spokeswoman for Clearwater's Neighborhood Liaison office.

To date about $100,000 has been spent on a new pier as well as improvements to nature trails, a meadow and boardwalks. In 2015 the remaining $600,000 will pay for an updated interpretive center, new restrooms, renovated picnic facilities, and parking and landscaping improvements.

"The park is a work-in-progress," Gurney says. "We're going to see a lot of changes there. Next year will be a big year for us."

The nature trails, boardwalks and camps are nestled among six eco-systems inhabited by Mother Nature's flora and fauna. Its most recent tenants are Wish and Penelope, two injured bald eagles whose care is supervised by state and local wildlife organizations including the Clearwater Audubon Society.

Moccasin Lake Nature Park also is home to reptiles, insects, amphibians, and Elvis, the oldest living vulture on exhibit. Visitors can rent meeting and classroom space, stop by an interpretive center or sit in on educational programs.

Moccasin Lake previously was managed by the City of Clearwater's recreation department but Gurney says a parks' manager is now in charge. Two city employees work on-site during operating hours.  "Right now we are actively trying to get more volunteers so that the park can be open more often," she says.

To volunteer at the park, contact Krystie Epperson at (727) 793-2976.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Anna Gurney, City of Clearwater

Tech Data Expands Clearwater Headquarters

A new 45,000-square-foot office building at the campus headquarters of Tech Data Corp. signals a renewed faith in keeping the Fortune 500 company's roots planted in Clearwater.

Founded 40 years ago, the Clearwater-based company is one of the  world's leading distributors of technology products made by companies such as Apple and Microsoft.  It operates in 100 countries and had about $26.8 billion in sales for fiscal year 2014, which ended on Jan. 31.

It wasn't a certainty that Tech Data would decide to stay when the topic of expansion came up.

Company officials did explore relocating but CEO Robert Dutkowsky says,"We decided to double down on Tampa Bay. I would think the community would take a deep breath and say Tech Data is committed to being here."

Tech Data employs about 9,000 people worldwide, with about 1,700 in Clearwater. The new facility "will accommodate additional office and meeting space, allowing us to operate more efficiently into the foreseeable future," according to an email from company spokeswoman Amanda Lee.

The new wing is adjacent to the approximately 240,000-square-foot headquarters building on Tech Data's campus, located north of the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport at 16202 Bay Vista Drive.

St. Petersburg-based Hennessy Construction Services is the contractor for the facility.

As a major force in the technology industry and the largest public company in Tampa Bay, Tech Data can attract talent from Tampa Bay as well as worldwide, Dutkowsky says.

 Clearwater also is a factor in recruiting candidates, he adds. "This is a beautiful place to raise a family and to work and live."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Robert Dutkowsky and Amanda Lee, Tech Data

Construction Progresses On Pinellas Side Of Courtney Campbell Trail

The Courtney Campbell Causeway is known more for the vehicular traffic that zooms overland between Tampa and Clearwater's beaches. But pedestrians and bicylists can expect in the near future to make that entire trek on a parallel Courtney Campbell Trail, and along the way enjoy breathtaking views of Old Tampa Bay.

The trail on the Hillsborough County side of the bay is complete along with Tampa's new Cypress Point Park playground and a 45-foot high bridge at the county line between Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. The next phase involves the trail's tie-in to Pinellas and Clearwater.

Completion of the project by Pepper Contracting is more than a year away, according to Florida Department of Transportation officials. Trail and road widening are under way. In addition the causeway will be repaved and a small pedestrian bridge built. Test piles for the bridge are installed.

When finished, the trail will allow pedestrian and bicycle access from Veteran's Expressway in Tampa to Bayshore Boulevard on the eastern edge of Clearwater. Bayshore leads to Safety Harbor and more trails. It also will connect with additional recreational trails on both sides of the Bay. 

The approximately 9.5 mile causeway trail is a project championed by the Westshore Alliance, which last year unveiled a Public Realm Master Plan to make the Westshore neighborhoods of Tampa more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. Trails, wider sidewalks and narrower traffic lanes are among the recommendations.

"We're excited about the trail. It will be one of the premier trails in the entire United States," says Ron Rotella, executive director of the Westshore Alliance, which represents the interests of the Westshore Business District.

The district is Florida's largest office community with more than 4,000 businesses and 93,000 employees.

The Westshore area is booming with new shops, restaurants and offices. But residents of established neighborhoods, such as Carver City and Lincoln Gardens, soon will have new neighbors moving into more than 1,700 apartments either under construction or ready for leasing. "We're turning into a neighborhood as well," Rotella says.

Many of the new apartments front Boy Scout Boulevard which is slated for resurfacing later this year. Plans also are to widen sidewalks and enhance existing cross walks.

The alliance is contributing about $113,000 to help with pedestrian improvements and make it easier to walk to International Plaza as well as shops and restaurants on Westshore Boulevard. In the 2014-2015 Hillsborough County budget, Rotella anticipates about $1.3 million for a Westshore Boulevard redesign.

And he also is looking ahead to another trail segment from Dale Mabry Highway at Interstate 275 to Hesperides Street with a tie-in to Cypress Point Park and then onto Clearwater via the Courtney Campbell Trail.

 "Being able to access a beautiful waterway, that is a great advantage for the business district," Rotella says.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Ron Rotella, Westshore Alliance

Cristino's Coal-Oven Pizza Opens In Ybor City

After four years in Clearwater, the Cristino brothers -- Lenny, Marco and Joe -- found the perfect spot in Ybor City for their second Cristino's Coal-Oven Pizza and Italian restaurant.
 
"It brings the Old World back to Ybor," says Lenny Cristino.
 
The brothers had been searching for a long while for the right location, he says, and opted to renovate a vacant site at 1701 Eighth Avenue. Previously the building was operated as Spurs, a country bar with line dancing, and Play, a bar and live music venue.
 
The restaurant has an approximately 12-member staff.
 
The Cristinos hired award-winning architect Elliott Wheeler, owner of Elliott Wheeler Architect to give the restaurant a warm, Old World feel, and oversee installation of the brick coal-fired oven. Owner Lenny Cristino says the oven is one-of-a-kind cooking feature in Florida.
 
"That was a big challenge," says Wheeler who is based in Ybor City. "It's not a typical architectural feature."
 
It had to meet the design requirements of the Cristinos as well as city code, he says.
 
Wheeler primarily does design work for the hospitality industry and hotels including the Radisson Aquatic Barbados and Courtyard Marriott Savannah.
 
In addition to its use as bars, Wheeler says the building's history goes back decades, and also has seen used as offices and probably a convenience store
 
 In addition to indoor seating, Cristino's has an outdoor patio and bar. 
 
Cristino's menu features homemade pastas including Italian traditional dishes of ravioli and lasagna as well as a homemade vodka sauce for their penne vodka dish. Cold and hot paninis, chicken wings and salads also are available. Coal-oven pizzas are a specialty again made from scratch with homemade ingredients including tomato sauce and mozzarella. For dessert, there are homemade cheesecakes, cannoli and gelato slowed churn at the restaurant.
 
Cristino's also provides catering services.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Lenny Cristino, Cristino's; Architect Elliott Wheeler

City Of Tarpon Springs Seeks Bids To Improve Sponge Docks

The City of Tarpon Springs is moving ahead with plans to seek bids to refurbish the historical sponge docks in this Greek-style seaside village along the Anclote River.
 
Bids are expected to be reviewed before the end of March. If the city's Board of Commissioners agree on the scope and cost of the project, construction likely will begin by summer. About $1.3 million is projected for  a budget that will pay for a small oval-shaped amphitheater, a floating dock for visitors including kayakers, an 8-foot wide wooden riverwalk, benches along the seawall, Florida native landscaping, wooden directional and historical markers and brick elements along Dodocanese Boulevard and around the docks.
 
Wood and brick are historically accurate features for the sponge docks, according to Ed Hoffman, Jr., president of Tarpon Springs-based Hoffman Architects. "We're putting the docks back in the sponge docks," Hoffman says. "Right now, it's just a concrete wharf, a concrete platform."
 
The goal is to make the sponge docks more pedestrian-friendly and create a shaded, landscaped area where people want to gather for Greek dances, special events or just sit and enjoy the docks, Hoffman says.
 
Hoffman gave commissioners and the public an update on the project at a December city commission meeting. The project has been under design for about two years with public input gathered during several workshops.
 
Funds for the project are from the Penny for Pinellas sales tax revenues. Changes are slated for publicly owned land; no private property is involved. Construction bids will be a guide on how much of the project is affordable.
 
"What we want to do is try to enhance what we have there," says Tarpon Springs Mayor David Archie.
 
Still, some residents and business owners are skeptical and worry that the authenticity and quaintness of the docks will be lost. "It's too modern for what we have down there," says former Tarpon Springs Mayor Anita Protos.
 
The project is unanimously supported by city commissioners.
 
"I can't wait to see the finished product," says Tarpon Springs Vice-Mayor Susan Slattery. She anticipates the amphitheater, in particular,  as a field trip destination for young children who will learn about the city's history and the legacy of the Greek sponge divers who came to Tarpon Springs in the 1890s. "I think that's a great opportunity for children," Slattery says.
 
Commissioner Townsend Tarapani says the project "looks toward the future. Without a doubt, at the end of the day, this is something everyone is going to be proud of."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Susan Slattery, Anita Protos, David Archie, City of Tarpon Springs
 

Construction Begins On New Transit Center In Pinellas Park

Bus riders will have an easier time of figuring out schedules and making connections when the new Pinellas Park Transit
Center opens in the summer of 2014.

CHTR Development, LLC, is in charge of construction after winning the contract with a low bid of $359,000. The new facility will replace the current transit center at 70th Avenue North behind the Shoppes at Park Place.

It will be manned with transit employees who can sell tickets and provide information at a customer service window. There also will be restrooms and water fountains for the hundreds of riders who get on and off the buses. It will be the first time central Pinellas has had such a fully equipped center, says Bob Lasher, spokesman for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.

The new transit center is an effort to modernize bus service and increase ridership.

In November 2014 voters will have a chance to vote on a referendum for a 1 percent sales tax to pay for a 30-year plan to improve transit service and potentially have light rail service connecting St. Petersburg and Clearwater.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Bob Lasher, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority

New Clearwater Apartments Target Homeless Veterans

Providing a place of healing and sanctuary for military veterans experiencing the aftereffects of war, Tampa Bay's Homeless Emergency Project recently celebrated the opening of a new housing development, HEP West Apartment Community.

As one of the largest providers of housing services for veterans in the area, HEP opened its new 3-acre, 32-apartment community with a focus on getting both male and female veterans "all the way home.'' HEP's target population includes 20- and 30-somethings returning back to the states from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Our mission is to provide homeless and very low income individuals and families with housing, food, clothing and the support services necessary to obtain self-sufficiency and improved quality of life,'' says HEP Director of Marketing Ashley Chango. "Our goal is to help people help themselves.''

Klar & Klar of Clearwater acted as architect on the project and Bradley Construction of Clearwater as general contractor. Funding for HEP West was made possible through a combination of government and private foundation grants, as well as private and corporate donors.

Rated four stars by Charity Navigator, the organization is located on an 8-acre campus in Clearwater's North Greenwood neighborhood and currently serves about 400 men, women and children on a daily basis.

In 2012, the local organization served 1,689 people, including 660 veterans, 63 families and 143 children, according to Chango.

"Our vision is to be the last shelter any individual, family or veteran ever has to enter,'' she says. "With an 87 percent success rate of HEP residents obtaining independent housing the community upon discharge of our program, we're well on our way.''

And the new West Community will aid HEP in making strides towards its goal.

Located in the heart of Clearwater, the community features 32 brand new 500-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment homes. Fully furnished, each unit includes a private bedroom, bath, central HVAC, storage and kitchen with new appliances.

The landscaped grounds encourage residents to relax, socialize and exercise in a tranquil, park-like setting featuring a 2,300-square-foot club house. A 24-hour security team will be featured on-site, as well as case managers and five full-time addiction and mental health counselors funded by a federal grant.

HEP also provides round-trip transportation to St. Pete's Bay Pines VA Medical Center.

"We're the only service agency of its kind,'' Chango says. "Our program is truly one-of-a-kind, and HEP West is just a part of the homeless population that we serve. We won't consider out work to be done until we can end homelessness for good.''

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Ashley Chango, Homeless Emergency Project

Love Your City? Participate In Local Tactical Urbanism Workshop

Urbanists from all over the Tampa Bay region are invited to participate in a Tactical Urbanism Movement workshop on Wednesday, October 23, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at The Beck Group, 220 West 7th Avenue, in Tampa.

Tactical Urbanism is a rapidly growing international movement of small-scale, temporary, low-cost, high-reward actions that lead to an immediate improvement in a community's public life, often followed by long-term urban interventions. Guerilla Gardening, Pavement-to-Parks or Reclaiming a Parking Space are some of the examples of Tactical Urbanism that are currently being applied by citizens in many U.S. cities.
 
The local Tactical Urbanism Workshop is coordinated by the Sun Coast Section of the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association, in collaboration with the Congress for New Urbanism-Tampa Bay. Mike Lydon, an internationally recognized planner, writer and an advocate for livable cities, will lead the workshop.

"It will be exciting to be a part of this urban place-making movement that is currently sweeping our country's major cities,'' says Lauren Matzke, a Clearwater City Planner and the workshop's main coordinator.

As a part of the workshop, participants will get hands-on experience in planning and intervening on an actual site in Downtown Tampa. Apart from promising a fun planning experience, the workshop also intends to train the participants on how to plan, fund and carry out these projects throughout the Tampa Bay region.

The event is expected to draw a variety of participants such as engaged citizens, stakeholders, designers, engineers, urban planners, students, local leaders, government officials and other advocates who are passionate about their city and urban experiences. You can RSVP here.

Tactical Urbanism was named as one of the top trends in 2012 by the urban planning website Planetizen. Implementation of this movement in the Tampa Bay region is expected to inspire innovative planning ideas, urban interventions and collaborations.

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Source: Lauren Matzke, City of Clearwater

BIG Boost To Waterfront In Gulfport, Madeira Beach

The cities of Gulfport and Madeira Beach in Pinellas County will soon realize significant improvements for recreational boating and their waterfronts following the award of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG).
 
Both cities, on a project cost basis, received BIG Tier-1 fund totaling $380,750 and $822,066 respectively. The total amount awarded includes the BIG grant and a proportionate amount as non-federal funding.

Gavin Shire, a Public Affairs Specialist with USFWS in Arlington, VA, says the "Tier-1 is a smaller and a noncompetitive program awarded to each applying State, while, Tier-2 is a nationally competitive funding program meant for large-scale projects.''

Funded by the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, the BIG grant gets its revenue from excise taxes collected on fishing equipment, yachts and gasoline.

Gulfport is using the Grant to construct an ADA compliant (Americans With Disabilities Act) floating dock made from composite decking and designed for eight boats.

"Construction is expected to start by January 2014,'' says Denis Frain, Gulfport's Director of Marina Operations. Any unspent funds from the grant will be returned to USFWS after July 2015. According to Frain, "The funded dock will be free of charge and open to the public for use.''

Madeira Beach plans to upgrade its waterfront facilities for vessels, with an increase in 14 slips and four moorings, and other amenities such as pump-out stations and a fuel dock.

Apart from investing in boating infrastructure facilities, both cities may use the funds for production and distribution of educational materials about the program and recreational boating.
 
By creating diverse recreational opportunities, new jobs and a multitude of small businesses, BIG grants can have a significant impact on the local economy.

The BIG grant is crucial to Gulfport, as "it will not only improve boating facilities, but also help the City in its Downtown revitalization efforts,'' says Frain.

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Sources: Gavin Shire, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service; Denis Frain, City of Gulfport

New Trail Along Courtney Campbell Will Be For Bicycling, Walking

The Courtney Campbell Causeway connecting Tampa and Clearwater is undergoing resurfacing improvements and enhancements, including the addition of new pedestrian and bicycle trails physically separated from the road.

The overall $23 million project along State Road 60 is being built by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), FDOT received $14.6 million in federal funding, which is dedicated for walking and biking infrastructure, to build the nine-mile trail.

A 12-foot-wide, multiuse pedestrian trail on the south side of the Causeway is expected to be completed in October 2013.  The north side of the Causeway will host a five-foot sidewalk, which is scheduled to open in 2014. 

"The idea for the trail was generated by the Courtney Campbell Scenic Highway Corridor Advisory Committee," says Michelle Ogilvie of the Hillsborough Planning Commission.  "The committee worked with the local Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties and FDOT toward producing a feasibility study for the trail concept in 2008."

The sea level Courtney Campbell Causeway received the Scenic Highway Corridor Designation in 2005. It provides a picturesque and vital link across the body of water called Old Tampa Bay. 

"It’s our brand, our identity and the trail will provide a safe place to enjoy this link," says Ogilvie. "The trail will strengthen the relationship between the counties, ecotourism will expand, and the trail will help forge a regional identity and economy."

The Courtney Campbell Trail will connect existing trail developments on both sides of the Bay, serving as a resource to the region.

Writer: Taryn Sabia
Source: Michelle Ogilvie. Hillsborough Planning Commission

Lutz Coffeehouse Expands, Opens New Shop In Palm Harbor

A successful Christian-based coffeehouse in Lutz, a commuter town in Hillsborough County north of Tampa, is making plans for expansion and has opened a second store in Palm Harbor, north of Clearwater in Pinellas County.

With the motto "More Than Just a Coffeehouse,'' Organic Life Coffeehouse offers fresh homemade baked goods, salads and wraps made with organic and locally purchased vegetables, all natural smoothies, and organic fair trade coffee. By day, you'll find a myriad of customers, including business folks conducting one-on-one meetings, people in corners on laptops and moms with their toddlers enjoying a treat. Some evenings live entertainment is added to the mix.

The coffeehouse off of State Road 54 in Lutz has a strong community focus, making it a favored location for group meetings. It was these meetings that sparked the expansion that will include offices and meeting space.

"We have a lot of groups of 10 or 12 people come in, and we don't get a lot of walk-in traffic during that time,'' says Glenn Deller, co-partner and co-owner.

He says he expansion is the result of community partnerships. A storefront a few doors down became vacant, and Deller convinced the children's consignment store next door to move there, making the adjacent space available. A local School of Ministry is financing some of the build out and placing an office in the new space. Local church members are donating time and services.

"We're very happy to be taking care of youth groups, doing community fundraisers, and assisting the community,'' says Deller.

Groups of 10 or more will be able to reserve space for meetings, provided they place a minimum food order while there. The meeting space is scheduled to open in mid-September or early October.

Organic Life's second location is at 35263 U.S. Hwy. 19 N. in Palm Harbor. This was made possible by a financial investment by Deller’s mother and father-in law, Joanne and Larry Davidson, who will be running the second location. Joanne Davidson does a majority of the baking for the current store, and the second location will provide economies of scale for both places. Most of the menu is the same, but the space is smaller with not as much live entertainment.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Glenn Deller, Organic Life Coffeehouse

Clearwater Improves Water At Prospect Lake Park

Construction recently began on an improvement project on Clearwater's Prospect Lake Park.

Located in downtown Clearwater at Prospect Avenue and Franklin Street, the approximately $800,000 project is designed to  improve the water quality of Prospect Lake, which serves as a regional stormwater pond for an area of the downtown district; the pond ultimately discharges into Clearwater Harbor.

According to City of Clearwater Engineering Department Environmental Specialist Sarah Josuns, sediment has built up in Prospect Lake. Using a dredge to remove the sediment, the lake will also be expanded to the south; various wetland plants will also be added to the south end of the pond.

“With the expansion of the lake, stormwater will have additional detention time while the new littoral shelf with wetland plants will have an opportunity to absorb nutrients,” Josuns says. “Stormwater is directed to this lake so many properties in the area do not need to have their own pond.”

Funded by stormwater utility fees, the sediment removal phase is already underway and is expected to be complete by early December 2012. The second phase including pond expansion and wetland plantings will begin in early 2013. Phase two is slated to take about six months, with completion planned for July 2013.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Sarah Josuns, City of Clearwater

City of Clearwater Makes Plans To Improve U.S. 19

The U.S. 19 corridor in Clearwater is about to become more attractive, successful and sustainable.

Preliminary plans are in the works to improve the Clearwater stretch of U.S. 19 because conditions along the main north-south road have changed dramatically over the past several years.

According to Cate Lee, planner at the City's Planning and Development Department, recent construction has begun hurting some businesses dependent on impulse customers relying on direct access from U.S. 19. The City's new plans will allow and incentivize investment in properties located along the corridor that may be prohibited or discouraged now under current plans or codes.

“The City of Clearwater is undertaking this planning process to set the framework for development post-Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) roadway improvements,” Lee says. “The plan that will be the end result of the current study will guide growth along the corridor for the next few decades.”

Offering recommendations on a wide range of topics from land use to urban design and mobility to sustainability, the final report will promote more sustainable forms and patterns of development by improving vehicle, pedestrian and bike connections throughout Clearwater.

Currently, the study area includes the segments of the U.S. 19 corridor from Belleair Road north to Curlew Road while considering the future of Gulf to Bay Boulevard, Drew Street and North McMullen Booth Road.

“This planning effort takes a long range view of the corridor: What is the future? What types of land use and development do people who, work, play and shop along the corridor want to see?,” Lee says. “The roadway improvements allow for greater regional connectivity to Tampa and south Pinellas and north Pasco counties.”

Lee stresses the importance of taking advantage of the corridor plans and improvements to create more jobs and quality places for residents to live, work and play. The City expects final planning and approval of the plan by the end of Summer 2012 with the final adoption by City Council by Fall 2012.

Want to have a say in the changes made along the corridor? The City is encouraging feedback from those who regularly use the Clearwater portion of U.S. 19 to help identify problems, offer ideas and suggest possible solutions via an online discussion board.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Cate Lee, City of Clearwater

Design Styles Architecture Moving To Ybor City, Tampa

A boarded-up 72-year-old Ybor City grocery that helped feed cigar workers and their families will reopen as the headquarters for a Clearwater architecture firm.

Choosing 1708 E. Columbus Dr. to develop its new headquarters, Design Styles Architecture plans to do a $300,000 renovation of an old 1930s Ybor V.M. grocery store before moving its operations and employees to Tampa. The East Tampa Community Redevelopment Agency awarded the firm a $50,000 Façade Grant which will help provide funding to rehabilitate the exterior of the new office.

“Working in an office park in Clearwater just didn't seem to show off our firm's character,” says Jason Dickens, Design Styles' director of operations. “With an office full of creative people and clients with a desire to create something unique, 1708 E. Columbus Dr. seemed like the perfect building to help in fostering that creativity.”

According to Dickens, through more than eight years of vacancy, the building sustained extensive termite damage and a fire, destroying a good portion of the roof. Design Styles plans to secure all of the structural elements to ensure the building's safety before taking advantage of the history both inside and outside of the building.

“Our intentions are to restore the building to look very closely to the way it did in the 1930s,” Dickens says. “Over the past few years, Columbus Drive has experienced a dramatic turnaround as businesses buy and renovate buildings to open their businesses. Design Styles is just another piece to bringing the area back to the place it was in the early 1900s.”

Currently, Design Styles works out of a 1,700-square-foot building located at 2907 S.R. 590 in Suite 7 in Clearwater. The firm's move to Ybor City will nearly triple its operations size: The 1930s Columbus Drive building is approximately 5,000 square feet. The renovation project is expected to take less than one year.

“We are very excited about taking ownership of this building and becoming a part of the Ybor City and East Tampa community,” Dickens says. “We look forward to the opportunities ahead of us.”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Jason Dickens, Design Styles Architecture

Tarpon Springs Plans Sponge Dock Improvements

Residents of Tarpon Springs, the future of the beloved Sponge Docks is in your hands.

Dedicating approximately $1 million toward a community outreach improvement project, the City of Tarpon Springs has hired locally based Hoffman Architects to work with the community to develop a conceptual design for the docks.

Currently, the two-phase project is in its beginning stages -- the “Public Involvement and Preliminary Design” phase -- as Hoffman Architects holds interviews and workshops with various stakeholders, boaters, shrimpers, spongers and merchants throughout the area.

“Our goal is to get their input on what they think is needed -- their vision, concerns and what they'd like to see,” says Todd Willsie, senior architect at Hoffman Architects. “Taking all the information we've received, we've started doing some master planning.”

While Willsie and the rest of the Hoffman Architects crew works on a design for the docks, a community workshop will be held on Thursday, Feb. 9, at the Tarpon Springs Heritage Museum at Craig Park. The second workshop dedicated to this project, design concepts will be presented to the public before moving onto Phase II.

“Our goal is to bring more outsiders into the area,” Willsie says. “We want people to hang out down there longer, ultimately spending more money. A big goal in Tarpon is obviously to keep it on the map. It's always been a big tourist destination.”

Phase II of the project will focus on the actual improvement design, working drawings and specifications.

“We're trying to determine whether or not we should concentrate the city's money into one area or spread it out, master planning the whole thing and just improving the important parts now,” Willsie says. “One thing we'll focus on at the meeting is assigning dollar values and then we'll let the public decide what's important.”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Todd Willsie, Hoffman Architects
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