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Foodie alert: cantina, brewery opening in Safety Harbor

Residents and visitors to downtown Safety Harbor are in for a treat as two new foodie establishments open this month. The downtown area of this small Pinellas County city is known for its quaintness and charm, which is why these new businesses should fit right in.

Coastal Cantina

Aaron Stewart, long-time resident of Safety Harbor and owner of the city’s popular Southern Fresh restaurant, will be opening Coastal Cantina at the end of November. The new restaurant will go where the former Harborita Cantina used to be.

“The cantina is about 2,500-square-feet, with a bar inside and outside,” he says. “The food will be Florida coastal with Latin fusion. We will also have flagship drinks from various countries on the menu and will be doing a lot of fun things with mixology. I think people will really enjoy it.”

Stewart, a graduate of Countryside High School, says unlike other chefs he chose to learn first-hand from chefs he worked under in the restaurant business as opposed to going to culinary school.

With the huge success of Southern Fresh, an old-Florida home turned kitchen serving southern favorites to a packed house for three years now, it seems he made the right choice.

Coastal Cantina will be located at 519 2nd Street South in downtown Safety Harbor.

Crooked Thumb Brewery

Off a winding road lined with oak trees off the beaten path of Main Street in downtown Safety Harbor is a large warehouse that used to be an auto body and paint shop, but will soon be home to Crooked Thumb Brewery.

The 6,000-square-foot space will house a 15 barrel brew system, tasting room, bar and garden.

Why the name? It is because the brewery is located in Pinellas County, which has been said to hang off the west coast of Florida like a crooked thumb.

The brewery will serve only beer, wine and cider; however, patrons are encouraged to order from local restaurants.

The grand opening has yet to be announced, and for now the Crooked Thumb is open on weekends only with limited hours.  For more information visit the brewery’s website.

Crooked Thumb Brewery is located at 555 10th Avenue South in Safety Harbor.

Clearwater Beach's Pier 60 Park undergoes renovation

Visit Clearwater Beach, and chances are you will see Pier 60 Park as it greets visitors arriving off the Memorial Bridge. The city of Clearwater is expanding the popular tourist destination in an effort to improve the flow of pedestrians and visitors, as well as maintain the continuity of the completed Beach Walk.

“We wanted to improve the aesthetics of the area so the look and feel of Beach Walk continued throughout the park area,” says Anna Hancock of the City of Clearwater. “The team also seeks to open up the recreational space giving more space for visitors to enjoy the park and improve the pedestrian traffic in the area.”

Specific plans include extending Beach Walk beyond Pier 60, removing nearby retaining walls, and installing benches around the playground area. Construction is expected to be completed by February 2016.

“The total cost of the project is $500,000, with this being the last phase of the overall project,” Hancock says.

The overall project included constructing a flag plaza featuring each branch of the military in the park, as well as improved lighting and construction of a new welcome sign.

Future plans for Clearwater Beach are also in the works, including renovating and increasing the number of restroom stalls in the Barefoot Beach House, which is expected to be completed by March 2016.

Walmart Neighborhood Market, restaurants open in Oldsmar

Drive along Tampa Road in Oldsmar, the main artery through this suburb of Tampa, and you will see the signs of new construction and renovations happening. From new retail to trendy restaurants, this small but mighty city is attracting businesses of all sizes.


A Walmart Neighborhood Market is scheduled to open this fall at the intersection of East Lake Road and Tampa Road, in the location that the Sweetbay Supermarket used to occupy. The market, a smaller version of Walmart superstores, carries the same goods found in a typical grocery store.

The Walmart Neighborhood Market in Oldsmar is currently hiring in preparation for the upcoming opening. The store plans to hire 95 employees, including both full and part-time associates. Interested applicants can apply online.

Rawk Star Café

With more people ditching burgers and fries for healthier options, the owners of Rawk Star Café saw a need to expand from their 1,600-square-foot location in Palm Harbor to a larger space in Oldsmar. The café, which has been in business for five years, moved to the new digs in Oldsmar in July.

“We love this location because it’s in the middle of everything, so not only do we get to keep our customer base that we developed in Palm Harbor, but we used to live in Westchase and we know a lot of people in East Lake, and we wanted to draw people from Tampa too, so this location is great because we are centrally located for all of our customers,” says Karen DiGloria, co-owner and operator of Rawk Star Café. “Tampa Road is so easy; people come through here a lot on their way to work, so it’s great.”

The café offers organic, raw, vegan, gluten-free dishes and smoothies. Menu items include raw versions of chili, pizza, even a burger. All of the menu items are made with organic ingredients and superfoods.

“We are honestly one of the only places in the area that is 100-percent organic,” DiGloria says.

Rawk Star also features a nutritional store where you can purchase everything from vitamins to shampoo. DiGloria offers nutritional counseling to customers, as she and co-owner Adam Kantrovitz are passionate about healthy eating.

“People want to know how they can live a longer life, and the answer is through eating a plant-based diet,” Kantrovitz says. “We want to help people feel better and live healthy lives, and we do all we can here every day to make that happen.”

Craft Street Kitchen

Seriously fun food, is how operating Partner Danielle Becker of Craft Street Kitchen describes the concept of the new restaurant opening just south of Tampa Road.

“We make everything in-house from scratch using local farms and farmers whenever possible,” she says. “We are serious about our ingredients but serve them in a fun, unpretentious way.“

This will be the second location for the growing restaurant. Their first location in Trinity opened in 2013, serving items like short rib sweet potato tots, French philly and espresso rubbed ribeye, along with 64 taps including those from local breweries.

Becker says the Oldsmar location will open the first week of November, and her team is excited to be in the neighborhood.

“We chose the location because of the small town feel, close-knit community and a city that is really investing and putting great efforts into the future of keeping Oldsmar incredible,” she says. 

Courtney Campbell sports new palm trees as part of beautification project

If you drive, walk or bicycle along the Courtney Campbell Causeway, you will notice the addition of newly planted palm trees lining both sides of the causeway as the Florida Department of Transportation continues its Bold Beautification Program.

The scenic span that connects Tampa and Clearwater has had quite a year, opening a parallel pedestrian and bike path in June. The causeway, also known as State Road 60, is a well-traveled thoroughfare for commuters, visitors and residents of both Hillsborough and Pinellas. In addition to providing spectacular views of the Bay, crossing over the causeway now includes views of a variety of palm trees from bismarck palms, cabbage palms, Chinese fan palms, date palms to Washington palms.

The nearly $856,000 landscaping project will be maintained by contractor SFM Services, Inc.

“The project is complete, however, the establishment period [with SFM] began February 26, 2015 and will be running for two years,” says Kristen Carson, with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).

The Bold Beautification Program helps the FDOT meet its goal set by the Florida Legislature wherein just over one-percent of its statewide construction budget is to be spent on the FDOT's contractor SFM Services, Inc.

In addition to the palm trees planted, according to Carson, there are more beautification projects in the works for the causeway.

“There will be more landscaping added to the Pinellas County side of the Courtney Campbell Causeway,” she says. “It is currently in the planning stages, therefore no work has started yet.”

City of Clearwater seeks public comment on future of North Marina area

Tucked away just blocks north of downtown Clearwater is a neighborhood with vacant retail spaces, a former elementary school and commercial real estate waiting to be leased. Called the North Marina area, the neighborhood now seeks a promising future with help from the city and a Tampa consulting firm.
The area, 64 acres from Clearwater Bay to the Pinellas Trail between Cedar Street and Eldridge Street, is most notable for being the home to the Francis Wilson Playhouse, the Seminole boat launch and the historic now vacant North Ward Elementary School.
In order to revitalize the area and transform it into the neighborhood residents want it to be, the city of Clearwater is hosting three meetings to get feedback on their North Marina area master plan.  
One of the ideas the city is proposing is taking advantage of the waterfront, and making the area more boater-friendly.
“The access to the water that is already there is something we really need to capitalize on,” says City Planner Katie See at the city of Clearwater. “There aren’t too many public access areas for boats along the Clearwater harbor, so it would be nice to expand that area and have places for visitors and boaters to go to once they dock.”
See goes on to say that community input is a very important to the process. Therefore, participation from residents at the three meetings is essential.
The schedule for the community meetings is as follows:
  • Aug. 26 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Refreshments will be provided.
  • Sept. 16 from 5:30 to 8:30 pm. The second meeting will be a planning and design charrette/public workshop. Heavy appetizers will be provided.
  • Oct. 20 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Refreshments will be provided.
All of the meetings will be held at the North Greenwood Recreation Center, 900 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.
“All of the meetings build upon the other,” See says. “So while it’s not mandatory that people attend all three meetings, it helps to understand the process if you can attend all the meetings. We made sure to schedule them in the evening so they wouldn’t get in the way of work or school.”
The first meeting will be a town hall style community meeting, with all of the data and analysis given to the attendants. There will also be a survey where participants can provide feedback. The second meeting, will be more interactive with the Tampa consulting firm Stantec on hand to facilitate work sessions with citizens on the design and development. During the final meeting, Stantec will present all of the information and recommendations to participants to create a plan.

NorthStar Bank opens new branches in South Tampa, downtown St. Pete

Technology has changed so much of what we do, and how we do it, including banking. For those, who desire or need to have the face-to-face exchanges with another human being, NorthStar Bank is opening up two additional branches.

The bank has had a presence in Tampa since it opened its main office in the Sykes building in downtown Tampa back in 2007. Today, NorthStar employs approximately 40 people with another office in Belleair Bluffs, and two new spaces: a branch on MacDill Avenue in Tampa and a loan production office in downtown St. Petersburg.

“The south Tampa branch is set to open in August,” says David Stone, President and CEO of NorthStar Bank. “We just opened the St. Petersburg office earlier this month.”

Stone says the St. Petersburg office will be strictly a loan production office, meaning no deposits can be taken; only business involving loan activity will occur. The loans will mostly be commercial loans for business owners, although home and auto loans will be offered.

“We have been debating whether to have a presence in the St. Pete market, and we decided it would make sense to have a loan production office because it’s a smaller investment to begin with,” Stone says. “A full service branch, you are looking at 2- to 3-million dollars.”

While the bank does offer online banking, Stone says it is important that customers get human contact.

“I’m sure you have read a lot of about branches closing with the bigger banks. That doesn’t mean there is not a need for a brick-and-mortar presence. The type of customers that we target want to talk with somebody,'' Stone continues. "We target professionals, doctors, lawyers, accountants, CPAs, those who have established small businesses, so when they have a banking need, it’s a little bit more complex than something you can do over a machine. That is why a face-to-face relationship is so important.”

Newest plan to give Historic Belleview Biltmore Hotel new life

After years of sitting vacant and falling into disrepair, the historic Belleview Biltmore Hotel and surrounding properties are set for new development. JMC Communities has taken the reins on the project, which will be known as the Belleview Inn & Place.
“We will save and renovate the original 1897 hotel lobby, and surrounding rooms of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel, which will be re-opened as the Belleview Inn,” says Mike Cheezem, developer and CEO for JMC Communities. “The 35,000-square-foot Inn will host 33 well-appointed guest rooms and recreate social venues such as Maisie’s Ice Cream Parlor, St. Andrew’s Pub and an event lawn for neighborhood gatherings, weddings and other occasions.”
Cheezem goes on to say that the development plans for Belleview Place include 104 luxury condominium residences in four mid-rise buildings, and 28 carriage homes, which range from 1,900 square-feet to 3,200 square-feet.
The $125 million dollar project is projected to take three years, with construction slated to begin early 2016 on the new inn. Work on the condos and homes will follow.
While the original Belleview Biltmore Hotel will be missed, Cheezem says he is doing what he can to restore the buildings history. Many celebrities and dignitaries were guests at the historic hotel from President Gerald Ford to President Barack Obama, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, baseball greats Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio and entertainers Tony Bennett and Bob Dylan.  
“The historic hotel has been an integral part of the Belleair community and Florida since 1897, when Henry Plant first opened it to entertain his friends wishing to spend the winter season in Florida,” Cheezem says.  “Generations have enjoyed time spent there ever since, and will continue to create new memories in the spirit of its rich past.”
JMC plans to salvage materials from the carefully deconstructed hotel building, including heart pine, stained glass and other fixtures. Schiller’s Salvage in Tampa is offering salvaged items to the public. Cheezem says items saved will be incorporated into the design and decor of the restored Belleview Inn, so that its history will live on.

Trail along Courtney Campbell Causeway opens for bicycling, walking, running

Driving along the Courtney Campbell Causeway taking in the waterfront views of Tampa Bay is one of the perks to living in the region. Now bicyclists, walkers and runners can enjoy that same breathtaking view while commuting or visiting on a new separate trail that runs parallel to the Causeway.

The $23 million project connects Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. The trail is designed for non-motorized vehicles and transports, with the exception of motorized equipment for people with disabilities.

“The trail is approximately 12 miles,” says David Botello with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). “It starts in the vicinity of Rocky Point in Tampa and ends at Bayshore Boulevard in Clearwater.”

The trail was funded by a combination of state and federal funds, and was a priority project for both the city of Clearwater and the city of Tampa.

“The Courtney Campbell Causeway project was identified in the city of Tampa's greenways and trails master plan that was adopted in 2001, as a potential off-road trail connection providing a regional link in a larger trail system,” says Karla Price, Landscape Architect with the city of Tampa.

Parking is available on the Tampa side of the trail at Ben T. Davis Beach. On the Pinellas side, parking can be found at the Courtney Campbell Causeway beach, located on the south side of the causeway near Damascus Road in Clearwater.

According to Botello, the city of Clearwater will host a grand opening of the Pinellas side of the trail, on Monday, June 22nd. For more information on the event, visit the city of Clearwater's Facebook page.

Oldsmar builds professional BMX supercross facility

The new BMX Supercross Facility under construction in Oldsmar is not for the faint of heart. With its titled “Elite Ramp” nearly three stories high, this hair-raising track is sure to draw crowds when it opens.

“We expect the project to be completed by late July,” says Ahmad Erchid, President of Tampa Bay Construction and Engineering, Inc, whose team is working on the $2 million project.

The completion of the project is timed for hosting "Gator Nationals'' in October, the inaugural North American BMX Supercross series by USA BMX. Oldsmar is one of only four American cities selected to host the event October 16-17th.

Funding for the quarter-mile track and facility was obtained through a $1.2 million grant to the city of Oldsmar from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The rest of the funding for the project is coming from the city itself.

For those driving or walking by the track, located at 3120 Tampa Road, it is hard not to notice the gargantuan size of the ramps as construction moves along.

"This is completely unlike any other project we’ve done, but it’s been really exciting so far,” says Erchid.  “This is definitely one of the most engaging projects we have ever tackled, and it’s awesome to think that the national supercross tournament will be held in it in just a few months. We’re just as excited as the rest of Oldsmar to finish the track and look forward to serving our community with our best product.”

For more information on the supercross series you can visit the USA BMX website

Clearwater designs investment in U.S. 19 corridor to stimulate local economy

The City of Clearwater is adopting new zoning standards along U.S. 19  in an effort to make the Pinellas County transportation corridor more economically attractive for businesses and residents. The corridor runs seven miles from Belleair Road to the south to Curlew Road to the north, and includes a portion of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard to the east.
"The primary intent of the project is to support the transition of the U.S. 19 corridor from its historic status as an unlimited access major arterial, to something that is economically viable in the context of the limited access like a freeway environment,'' says Michael Delk, Director of Planning and Development for the City of Clearwater.
The project is being funded by federal stimulus funds in the amount of $350,000 from the Obama Administration and has been rolled out into three phases. 
"The first phase was the greenprint, which was set towards sustainability issues, one component of which, was trying to promote more transit,'' says Delk. "We followed that with the plan of the U.S. 19 corridor, and now we are in the third phase, which is the implementation phase.''
The purpose of the project is to get more people living along the corridor, increasing employment opportunities, and promoting a greater reliance on transit as an option along the corridor.
"Clearly I don't need to describe the brand that is Westshore,'' he says. "When someone hears the words 'Westshore,' they know where it is and what it is. It s a huge area and it's got its own brand, and I think in the longer term, U.S. 19 has the potential to be something of similar importance in terms of economic development.''

New salon and spa opens in Palm Harbor, Pinellas County

A new medical salon and spa is now open in Palm Harbor to serve people looking to spruce up their hair, nails or even bodies.
The Rehab Salon and Spa of Palm Harbor offers an array of services in a newly remodeled atmosphere with a European ambiance. 

“The space used to be a massage parlor, but it’s been completely transformed,’’ says Nate Warren, owner of the Rehab Salon. “We reset the floor plan to make it work for a salon, and rip up the flooring and put in brand new Spanish Marble tile that was imported from Spain. We wanted a really good look and feel in the space, so we went all out with the fixtures and the finishes.’’

The Salon and Spa offers clients an array of salts and scrubs for pedicures, everything from aromatherapy scents like lavender to help calm and relax to fun and energizing fragrances of the beach. They also provide clients an assortment of hair services from cuts, highlights, blowouts, up-dos, hair detox, straightening and perms. Unlike many salons and spas, the services do not stop there. 

“We just brought in a physician, who is our medical director, Katherine Rodriguez,’’ Warren says, Under her direction, we are going to be offering dermal fillers, medical grade peel, medically supervised weight loss and bio-identical hormone replacement therapies.’’

Rehab Salon and Spa is located at 37542 U.S. Highway 19 N. in Palm Harbor.

SPCA Tampa Bay to open St. Pete vet hospital

SPCA Tampa Bay will open a full-service veterinary hospital and spay and neuter clinic in St. Petersburg by mid-2016.

St. Pete's new vet hospital and clinic will be located at 3250 5th Ave. N, in a 12,500-square-foot former medical office building purchased by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in early 2015.

"What a way to kick off our 75th anniversary year!” says SPCA Tampa Bay president Martha Boden. 

Providing pet owners with accessible veterinary care for their pets, promoting humane care, and reducing pet overpopulation are the SPCA Tampa Bay's main goals in opening the new veterinary clinic in St. Petersburg.

According to Boden, access to care is a challenge for some pet owners, leading some animals to end up in shelters. A new location, she explains, could help to alleviate the problem of overpopulation or homeless shelter animals.

“Purchasing this property in St. Petersburg allows us to expand beyond our Largo campus to bring services to more pet owners in Pinellas County,” Boden says. “We're dedicated to caring for animals and supporting a community that cares about its pets.”

Renovations will begin in coming months. The St. Pete veterinary hospital and clinic is expected to open  mid-2016.

"We expect to add 20 – 25 jobs when we’re fully up and running," Boden says. "Up to seven of those jobs will be for veterinarians, so advanced degrees will be required. Other jobs include veterinary nurses, assistants and receptionists."

Hiring should begin in early to mid-2016. Educational requirements vary depending on the position.  

SPCA Tampa Bay board chair Marilyn Hulsey and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman announced the purchase in a news conference at the future facility.

The St. Petersburg veterinary hospital will provide medical, surgery and general care services for dogs and cats. The spay and neuter clinic will “help prevent unplanned litters, reducing the number of homeless and unwanted dogs and cats in the community,” Boden says.

Veterinary hospital visits and spay and neuter services will be available to any pet owners during extended weekday hours and weekend appointments. 

SPCA Tampa Bay will be hosting a networking social March 18th. RSVP here.

Contact SPCA Tampa Bay by visiting the website or calling 727-586-3591. To donate to the SPCA Tampa Bay online, follow this link.
SPCA Tampa Bay’s 10-acre animal sanctuary and Wellness Clinic is located at 9099 130th Avenue N in Largo. Hours are Tuesday - Friday, 1pm to 7pm; Saturday, 10am - 6pm; and Sunday, 1pm - 5pm. SPCA Tampa Bay’s Wellness Clinic is open Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, from 8am-noon.

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
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