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St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport undergoes $9.8M renovation

Airports in the Tampa Bay area are getting bigger and better, including St. Pete-Clearwater International, which just announced its renovation plans for its terminals. This follows the recent announcement made by Tampa International Airport of the opening of the first few new restaurants and retail as part of a $953 million renovation master plan.

At St. Pete-Clearwater International in North St. Petersburg close to Largo and Clearwater, a $9.8 million project will add 12,000-square-feet to gates seven through 10 as well as an additional 350 new seats to the waiting area by those gates.

“The terminal renovation project is needed to meet our passenger growth,” says Michele Routh of St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE).

The passenger screening checkpoint area will go from two lanes to three in an effort to expedite wait times. Other improvements taking place in gates seven through 10 include renovations to retail and food and beverage concessions, a new children’s play area and renovated restrooms.

“The airport will be fully functioning during the renovations,” Routh says.

Restrooms will be renovated and expanded in baggage claim, the restaurant on the second floor and in the operations wing. All of these renovations will include upgrades to meet ADA requirements. A new mechanical control room will be added as well.   

“For over three years we have been growing by double digits,” St. Pete-Clearwater Airport Director Tom Jewsbury stated in a news release. “Although the construction phase will present challenges, the end result will be worth it for our passengers' comfort and convenience.”

Construction is expected to start next month. The Artec Group will be handling all of the renovations, and the project is expected to be completed in summer 2017.

Brand new, renovated Bay Area hotels ready for spring break visitors

With Spring Break just around the corner, hotels in the Tampa Bay area are getting ready to host an influx of tourists, including four hotels now under construction and/or undergoing renovation projects designed to meet increasing demand from tourists and other visitors.

Loews Don CeSar

Located near St. Petersburg Beach, Loews Don CeSar is the historic pink palace built in 1928. In addition to two pools, an 11,000-square-foot spa and an award-winning seafood restaurant, the hotel is adding a new bar to the list of amenities.

The Rowe Bar, which opened earlier this month at the Don CeSar, represents a $1.8 million investment by Loews.

“This is a brand new space that seats 200,” says Jeff Abbaticchio, Director of Public Relations for the hotel. “The new bar includes an interior space as well as an outdoor area featuring three fire pits and an outdoor fireplace.”

In addition to the Rowe Bar, Loews has been working on another project within the Don CeSar family of hotels.

Beach House Suites by Loews Don CeSar

A few blocks north of the Don CeSar, Loews 30-year-old Beach House Suites recently completed an $8 million renovation to its 70 suites, which offer guests one-bedroom lodging complete with kitchen space and a washer and dryer.

”All 70 suites were renovated to offer more spacious and contemporary space for our guests,” Abbaticchio says. “Beach House Suites is the perfect lodging solution for guests coming to the area from overseas or staying for an extended vacation because it has all the amenities you need, like a kitchen and washer and dryer. Plus we offer a complimentary shuttle service between Beach House Suites and the Don CeSar so guests can enjoy all that the Don CeSar has to offer.”

Opal Sands Resort

Drive down Gulfview Boulevard in Clearwater Beach to find the crescent-shaped building that is Opal Sands Resort, the latest hotel to open on the world-famous beach.

The shape of the building guarantees every visitor a view of the Gulf, according to Opal Sands General Manager Jeff Castner.

This luxury resort, which had a soft opening in early March, is 15-stories, features 230 rooms and cost $50 million to build.
 
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tampa

Situated at 5223 Orient Road in Tampa, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is visible from Interstate 4 and adjacent to the MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre. The hotel features a spa, salon, restaurants, stores and of course a casino.

As large as the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino already is there are plans in the works for it to get even bigger. Last week, the Seminole Tribe of Florida met with Florida Gov. Rick Scott and unveiled its plans for a $1.8 billion expansion for its Hollywood and Tampa hotel locations.

For the Tampa hotel, plans include a second tower with 500 new rooms, a helipad, five retail stores, a new lobby bar as well as new dinning and meeting spaces.
 
A construction start date for this project has not been set. 

New bicycle/pedestrian path connects Clearwater to Safety Harbor in Pinellas County

Good news for local and visiting pedestrians and bicyclists as the city of Clearwater announces the completion of an extended path running along Bayshore Boulevard on the eastern edge of the city along Cooper Bayou and Old Tampa Bay.

The trail, which connects the Courtney Campbell Causeway to Ream Wilson Trail at Del Oro Park is expected to be completed by today, March 1st.
 
“Providing bicycle and pedestrian accommodation is important for multimodal transportation alternatives, economic development and recreation for the city,” says Felicia Donnelly with the parks and recreation department for the City of Clearwater.
 
Donnelly says this connection will be among several other pedestrian and bicycle trail unions throughout the city, including Duke Energy, CSX, Druid Connection, Landmark Drive and Belleair trails. The city’s master plan for proposed bicycle and pedestrian paths proposes adding over 25 miles dedicated to trails throughout Clearwater.
 
The Druid Trail, which is expected to be completed later this year, will be a four-mile multiple use section along Druid Road. It will connect to the Pinellas Trail and residential areas, as well as Clearwater High School and Glen Oaks Park.
 
The city hopes that the connection between the Courtney Campbell Causeway and Ream Wilson Trail will open up a traffic-free path for pedestrians and bicyclists from Cypress Point Park to downtown Clearwater and north to Safety Harbor. With the master plan, the expectation is the network of trails will link the beaches to the Pinellas Trail, which runs North to South through Pinellas County.  
 
The trail will be complete with two bike fix-it stations where bicyclists can fix minor problems to their bikes without having to leave the trail. The city plans to install six more stations along the trails by the beginning of the summer.

Memorial for veterans to open in Clearwater park

Driving down Gulf-to-Bay in Clearwater, you may have noticed fencing around Crest Lake Park. Wondering what is going on?
 
Well, the city of Clearwater, along with the Tampa Bay Veterans Alliance has decided to add a veteran’s memorial area to the park. Crest Lake Park was chosen given its visibility and access to Gulf-to-Bay.
 
Even though the memorial will be new, it already has historic significance.
 
“The Tampa Bay Veterans Alliance, established as Clearwater Veterans Alliance, developed the Florida Veterans’ Memorial concept to establish the first cross-generational veteran’s memorial in the State of Florida,” says Jason Beisel with the city of Clearwater.  “There exists no other memorial park or plaza that honors the commitments of veterans from so many eras, spanning World War II through present day.”
 
The estimated $1 million project will feature a brick circular plaza with a gold design in the middle along a paved pathway. An American flag displayed along with POW flags, as well as flags representing each branch of the United States military will be represented. Bronze sculptures representing periods of conflict from World War II to the present will be included. The plaza will be surrounded by walls on which those wanting to honor a veteran can have the veteran's name engraved for a small donation.  

“There is a longstanding tradition of honoring veterans in the United States of America,” Beisel says. “The Florida Veterans Memorial serves this tradition by continuing the city of Clearwater’s history of incorporating veteran’s memorials, started at the base of the Clearwater Memorial Causeway in the 1920s with the placement of E.M. Viquesney’s Spirit of the American Navy and Spirit of the American Doughboy into city infrastructure.”
 
There will be no fee to visit the memorial once it opens.  A portion of the memorial will open Memorial Day with a ribbon cutting.

Downtown Clearwater: development brings residential, restaurants, retail

Walk the streets of downtown Clearwater and you will see cranes in the air, traffic cones lining the streets and the feeling that a lot of change is coming to the neighborhood.
 
“The city and the community redevelopment agency’s (CRA) redevelopment strategy emphasizes the creation of a significant residential concentration in and around the downtown core to create and support a retail and recreation destination environment,” says Geraldine Lopez, Director of Economic Development and Housing for the city of Clearwater.
 
According to Lopez, there are currently two residential projects in the works. The Nolen, a $34 million mixed-use building that includes 257 apartments and approximately 10,000-square-feet of retail space, with construction expected to be completed this fall.
 
The other project is the Skyview. Like the Nolen, it is a mixed-use space, with 40 condos and 10,000-square-feet for shops. Construction on Skyview is expected by the end of the year.
 
In addition to the residential properties, downtown Clearwater is also experiencing a development boom in the way of restaurants.
 
“The downtown area is seeing a cluster of ethnic restaurants that is adding diversity to the food scene,” Lopez says. The restaurants include:
 
La Fondita de Leo
 
This establishment opened in the summer of 2015, and serves authentic Puerto Rican cuisine. Staples like mashed plantains, shredded chicken and corn fritters are offered, along with more savory options like stuffed chicken breast filled with cream cheese and bacon, the traditional mofongo dish and skirt steak. La Fondita de Leo is open for lunch and dinner.
 
Basil Fusion Bistro
 
With its opening at the end of 2015, Basil Fusion Bistro serves popular Vietnamese dishes. Open for breakfast and lunch only. Items on the menu include pho, spring rolls and smoothies.
 
Fuku Japanese Café
 
With its grand opening just before the New Year, Fuku looks forward to delighting customers with its sushi, ramen and yakisoba. The café is the brainchild of sushi chef Pla Sriwaree and his wife Aja Sriwaree, Fuku is a longtime dream of theirs that has come true. Fuku Japanese Café is open for lunch and dinner.
 
Lopez says that the combination of residential and commercial development is part of the overall vision the city has for the downtown area’s future.

“The city is striving for a vibrant, waterfront downtown destination with a mix of retail, restaurants, residential, office and recreational opportunities that attracts residents and visitors alike.”

Historic Clearwater neighborhood petitions city for brick streets

A historic neighborhood in Clearwater may soon take drivers down memory lane as brick streets replace the paved roads. Harbor Oaks neighborhood, located just north of Morton Plant Hospital, is a 110-home community dating back to the early 1900s.

“Harbor Oaks is a very historic neighborhood, however, there is a myth that it once had brick streets,” says Mike Quillen, director of engineering for the city of Clearwater. “The truth is there have never been brick streets there, if the petition passes then the neighborhood will get brick streets for the first time.”

The petition Quillen refers to has been made by residents of the Harbor Oaks neighborhood, which is comprised of multi-million dollar homes, some residents have been waiting years for the brick streets to become a reality for the future.

“Over the last few years, we have been looking into different solutions for traffic calming in that neighborhood and brick is one solution,” Quillen says. “It also looks very nice, which would likely raise the property value on the homes.”

He goes on to say that the timing for this project is advantageous for those who support the cause because there is already an underground infrastructure project underway, so the pavement has to be removed regardless.

“To do the brick streets would be a $1.8 million project as it is, so if the residents want this now would be the time to do it.”

The city will not be footing the bill on the project. The city will be polling the residents affected by the project, and if at least 65-percent are in favor, the brick will be installed with a special assessment put on the homes to cover the cost.  

“We will know what the decision is in the next few weeks,” Quillen says. “If it is approved, work on the brick streets will start a year from now.”

In addition to being an innovative, yet expensive answer to traffic calming, it is also a unique solution.

“We have researched a lot of cities throughout the states and it is very unusual to find a neighborhood that desires brick roads, Quillen says. “These days it is more common to find cities replacing their brick roads with asphalt.”

Roads that could potentially become brick streets include parts of Druid Road West, and Druid Road South, Jasmine Way, Magnolia Drive, Lotus Path, Bay Avenue, and small areas of Orange and Oak Avenues.

Golfers tee up at newly renovated courses around Tampa Bay

As the weather cools, and snowbirds and year-long residents alike get ready to hit the tees, Tampa Bay area golf courses are sprucing up their greens for tee time.
 
Rocky Point Golf Course
 
Golfers are now able to enjoy the newly renovated Rocky Point golf course in Tampa, as it reopened last week, after a seven-month renovation to the course.
 
“The major renovation includes all new TiFEagle greens, new tee boxes, Celebration Bermuda grass that surrounds the new greenside and fairway bunkers,” says Bobby Silvest of the Tampa Sports Authority (TSA), which operates the course for the city. “The renovation also includes enhanced features, such as new retaining walls and landscaping.”
 
Silvest says these renovation plans have been years in the making. The $700,000 investment to the course is expected to bring in more traffic.
 
“All of these changes combine to make Rocky Point a course that is challenging and enjoyable, as well as very aesthetically pleasing.”
 
Copperhead at Innisbrook

The PGA golf course in Palm Harbor, best known for hosting the annual Valspar Championship, is scrambling to complete its $4.5-million restoration project before the big event in March 2016.

Renovations to Copperhead golf course include replacing all 18 greens and fairways with new grass, as well as a new drainage system, and improvements to sand traps. Wadsworth Golf Construction Company was brought in to do the mammoth project and is also installing a state-of-the-art sprinkler system that will conserve water usage.

Twin Brooks Golf Course

Located in St. Petersburg, south of downtown, Twin Brooks reopened recently after its $1.5 million-renovation. The course, which has been under city ownership for more than 40 years, had its grand opening celebration in November.

Through its renovations, the design went from an 18-hole course, to a 9-hole, par three course, which offers golfers more yardage and larger putting space. A new drainage system was installed, as well as a 7,000-square-foot platinum Paspalum putting green and a covered driving range.  

“The goal was to create a more open course that is playable and enjoyable for golfers of all levels, with quality putting surfaces, for a great value,” stated Jeff Hollis, St. Petersburg Golf Courses director in a news release from the city. “An improved practice area, along with a covered driving range tee will make for one of the finest practice facilities in Pinellas County.”

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.

Walmart 

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.
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