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Join Hillsborough MPO in Vision Zero Community Workshop on January 31

Tampa Bay area bicycle and pedestrian safety advocates will hit the streets for a field review of Hillsborough Avenue during the second of four Vision Zero Workshops, taking place on Jan. 31 from 9 a.m. - 11 a.m. at the Town 'N Country Regional Library, 7606 Paula Drive.

Workshop attendees will have the opportunity to join the MPO, Hillsborough County Sheriff's office staff, and students and seniors from the neighboring middle school and senior center on a walking audit of Hillsborough Avenue and Hanley Road, where they will observe traveler behavior and road design to determine whether pedestrian access and safety are taken into account at nearby destinations, and what improvements might be made.  

Following the field review, the Vision Zero committee will break into four Action Track teams to begin developing each group's action plans for 2017. The Vision Zero Action tracks are as follows: 
  • Paint Saves Lives: low-cost, high-impact engineering strategies for safer streets
  • One Message, Many Voices: public education and awareness strategies
  • Consistent and Fair: community-oriented law enforcement
  • The Future Will Not Be Like the Past: context-sensitive design for walkable communities
Currently, the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater region ranks seventh in the nation for pedestrian fatalities, with 821 pedestrians killed over a 10-year period through 2014, according to the biennial Dangerous by Design report released by Smart Growth America on Jan. 10. Though still listed in the top ten most dangerous places, the Tampa region did make a shift away from its 2nd place position, which was reflected in the previous report in 2014. 

By the end of 2017, the Vision Zero Action Plan aims to outline steps that will move Hillsborough County to its goal of zero traffic deaths. 

The public is welcome and encouraged to attend all Vision Zero workshops, and to join Vision Zero Action Tracks to brainstorm solutions for safer streets. 

Can't make it to the Jan. 31 workshop? Get involved any time by adding your voice to the Vision Zero Interactive Map of Hillsborough County and sharing site-specific traffic concerns with the MPO. Scroll down the Vision Zero Action Plan page to find the map, select "Pinpoint Safety Concerns" and click "Points" to place your comments and safety concerns on the map. 

Want to learn more about the Hillsborough MPO's revolutionary Vision Zero initiative and to get connected for future upcoming workshops and events? Follow the new Vision Zero Hillsborough Facebook page.

Florida DOT, Tampa celebrate new streetscape through Ybor City

Twenty-four years ago on Dec. 9, Richard Gonzmart was mourning the loss of his father. This year, though, that memory was likely softened with a happier one.

State and city officials came together in Ybor City that day to celebrate the completion of the 21st and 22nd Streets Urban Corridor Modification Project, as well as the banning of truck traffic on both streets.
 
"This is a dream that my father had back in the 80s," said Gonzmart, President of the Columbia Restaurant Group, at the celebration. "He envisioned the day there would be no trucks, and this would be the gateway, the entrance, to this historic, beautiful area."
 
When Interstate-4 was built in the early 1960s, 21st and 22nd streets became the main routes to the Port of Tampa. As the port grew, truck traffic in Ybor City increased. So, the Florida Department of Transportation and the City of Tampa collaborated to find solutions to the problem.
 
The first step was to build the Interstate-4/Lee Roy Selmon Expressway Connector to provide a safer, more-efficient route for truck traffic between the Port of Tampa and I-4. The $426 million connector has exclusive truck lanes for direct access to the port. 
 
The second part, which took nearly two years to complete and was celebrated Dec. 9, was the reconstruction of 21st and 22nd streets. It provides pedestrian and bike connectivity on 21st and 22nd streets between Adamo Drive and Hillsborough Avenue. Other major features include wider and scored sidewalks, on-street parking, granite curbs, brick crosswalks, outdoor street furniture, landscaping, iconic five-globe lampposts, a new water main, and repairs to the stormwater and sewer system. The city paid $2.5 million toward the total cost of $9.5 million.
 
During the Dec. 9 ceremony, an official sign honoring the partnership between FDOT and the City of Tampa, and announcing "no through truck traffic," was unveiled.
 
"With the completion of this project, trucks are now restricted from traveling through this section, which will allow this area to grow again," Paul Steinman, secretary of FDOT's District 7, said during the ceremony. "This project is an outstanding example of when the federal government, state and local governments work together with our community to find a balance between the growth of the state of Florida and our economy, and how we make our communities a better place to work, live and play."
 
Gonzmart said the day was a milestone because it represented a rebirth of Ybor City, and the beginning of the realization of his father's vision.
 
"You're going to see expansion to the east, to the south, to the north, creating job opportunities; for those that live and those that visit here, a place to call home once again like it was back in the early 1900s," he said during the celebration. "Our family has been so excited that we have five projects that will be announced over the next three months, all within 200 yards of what is the Columbia Restaurant because we know, we realize, the commitment the state of Florida, the City of Tampa have made, is going to make Ybor City and make Tampa a better place because of it."

Ava plans second restaurant location at The Heights Public Market

Joshua Hernandez, executive chef at Ava, is about to get a lot busier.
 
In early 2017, Ava will open its second location at The Heights Public Market, which is being developed by Tampa-based SoHo Capital. The market will be located inside the redeveloped Armature Works building, a 70,000-square-foot structure that once served as a storage and maintenance facility for Tampa’s streetcars.
 
Among the group of Ava investors behind the expansion are Michael Stewart, who runs the successful restaurants 717 in Tampa and The Lure in St. Petersburg, and Joe Maddon, manager of the world champion Chicago Cubs.
 
"We're super excited," Hernandez says. "When I found out that Chas (Bruck, a principle of the development company) and the folks at Soho Capital were interested in being a part, I was really pumped. I think it's a great opportunity to expand our business."
 
The menu at the new 440-square-foot Ava location will be a bit different from the original restaurant, which has been open for two years in South Tampa.
 
"The focus is going to be on pizza," Hernandez explains. "So, we'll have some of the favorites from Ava, and then there's going to be some pizzas that are only going to be available at The Heights location."
 
There will also be paninis that are exclusive to The Heights Public Market, as well as salads.
 
Hernandez says customers trying out the new restaurant for the first time should definitely order one of the new pizzas, although he's still working out the details of the pies that will be available and jokes that he's keeping people "in suspense for now."
 
"There might be pesto involved," he quips, "I'm not sure."
 
The ovens at both locations are made by Acunto, which Hernandez says is the most respected oven producer in Naples, Italy. But the oven at The Heights will have a 140-centimeter floor, which is 10 centimeters larger than the oven floor at the original location and can accommodate more pizzas.
 
"I'm excited to make an offering to people who might not have been to Ava before," Hernandez says. "And I'm also hoping that having some exclusivity at The Heights will bring some of our loyal customers out to the market."
 
Hernandez says the new Ava location and The Heights Public Market are important for the Tampa Bay community.
 
"I think the whole, sort of, rejuvenation with the Riverwalk is really exciting just kind of watching that part of town liven up," he explains. "Between Ulele and the new coffee shop is over there -- The Foundation -- and the brewery (Hidden Springs Ale Works), it's kind of cool watching the neighborhood and community get going."

"I think it's very important not to rest on your laurels," he adds. "Ava's doing very well in SoHo. From our perspective, that's all the more reason to test the waters in another area."
 
And if Ava's second location proves to be a success, there could be future locations in the works.
 
"We are going to take it one step at a time," Hernandez says. "The talk is there if it goes well, if it's a model that's feasible, we definitely have our heads in that game."
 
"From my end, I'm kind of using it as a pilot to see how the pizzeria concept goes."
 
Other partners that have been announced at The Heights Public Market include: Ichicoro Ramen, a mod casual authentic Ramen restaurant, serving soulful, delicious food and beverages; Union by Commune + Co, a local coffee company that has a fleet of trikes sharing the company’s flagship iced coffee product, Pressure Brew, at area events; Tailored Twig, a floral boutique that specializes in one-of-a-kind pieces for distinctive events; Chocolate Pi, a bakery focusing on pastries and cakes made in the European tradition with American creativity; Fine and Dandy, a cocktail emporium focusing on package sales, craft cocktail kits and classes; and Steelbach Ranch, a boutique butcher with charcuterie and artisan cheeses.
 
Two other restaurants will be located at The Heights Public Market, including Steelbach, a modern eatery that uses the best meats from the in-house butcher in the market, and Atlantic Beer & Oyster, an outdoor eatery that will showcase a rotation of East Coast, West Coast and Gulf Coast oysters, as well as fresh shrimp, smoked fish dip, its signature grouper sandwich, and local breweries.

The market will also feature an interactive kitchen, called Show + Tell, that will host educational cooking classes, corporate team-building activities and pop-up dinners in collaboration with market tenants. 

The market has space for three more tenants and plans to announce them soon.

Bryan Glazer Family Jewish Community Center now open in Tampa

On Dec. 8, 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Fort Homer W. Hesterly Armory was inaugurated at 522 N. Howard Ave. in Tampa.
 
Exactly 75 years later, the building was re-opened as the Bryan Glazer Family Jewish Community Center with more than 100,000 square feet of community space.
 
"My heart is racing," says Jack Ross, Executive Director, on Wednesday, Dec. 7, the eve of the ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony.
 
For him, the state-of-the-art facility represents "five years of intense collaboration with some of the best creative, intellectual and professional people," he's ever worked with. It's named for Bryan Glazer, co-chairman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who pledged $4 million to the project. The Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott put in more than $7 million. Hillsborough County contributed $1.3 million. The entire project cost a total of $30 million.
 
Over the last three-quarters of a century, the property has served as a camp site of the Rough Riders (the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment raised in 1898 for the Spanish-American War); the site of an Elvis Presley performance; speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy; and one of the original venues for professional wrestling, Ross says.
 
"But even more than that, you also have the Tampa history," he adds. "You have thousands of people who attended graduations, weddings, cotillions, convention meetings. So, we as an organization have the privilege of not only restoring a landmark property, but we had the opportunity to repurpose the facility and relaunch it into a new bright future."
 
The building is divided into a member section on the west side and a non-member section on the east side.
 
The member side houses a more than 50,000-square-foot fitness and aquatic center, known as the Diane and Leon Mezrah Family Aquatic Center. There's a multisport gymnasium and indoor track, yoga, spin, Pilates, and Group Ex classes. Anyone can become a member, and fees range from $49-$159, Ross says.
 
The non-member section houses the Roberta M. Golding Center for the Visual Arts, a premier fine arts center operated by the City of Tampa in conjunction with the Tampa Museum of Art in partnership with the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners. There's also a large event space, a social service center operated by Tampa Jewish Family Services, and the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator.
 
The accelerator is a landing pad for Israeli high-tech companies who want to launch in the United States, Ross explains. It assists these companies by aligning them with corporate strategic partners and getting their products ready for the U.S. market.
 
Anyone can use the event space for meetings, weddings, banquets and other occasions.
 
"Flexibility and versatility was the mantra in developing the whole building," Ross says.
 
Furthermore, a pre-school will be added to the property, although details of this second phase of the project are still in the works.
 
Ross says the importance of the center is three-fold. It revived and repurposed a historic landmark; it will have injected $30 million into the local community and hundreds of jobs by the time both phases are complete; and it’s a gathering spot for all faiths, creeds and religions.
 
"We are building community at a time when our country seems divided," he explains. "This is the great communal gathering spot. This is a place to come to gather and grow."

Port Tampa Bay busy with cold storage facility construction, new berth, gantry cranes

There's a lot going on at Port Tampa Bay.
 
In October, the Port announced that Port Logistics Refrigerated Services had begun site work for construction of a new 134,000-square-foot cold storage warehouse. The facility will handle refrigerated import and export cargoes, and it's scheduled to open in the summer of 2017.
 
Port Logistics will operate the facility, which will be able to accommodate both chilled and frozen products. It's being built on a 13.7-acre site at the Port, which serves a growing consumer market and distribution center hub along the I-4 Corridor across Central Florida.
 
"It’s important because it’s bringing economic development to the Tampa Bay area, as well as bringing a unique cargo opportunity and building a very impressive, state-of-the-art cold storage facility," says Andy Fobes, Port Tampa Bay spokesman. 
 
In addition to the cold storage facility and the infrastructure surrounding it, Port Tampa Bay is planning to open a new multi-use berth at East Port on Dec. 8. The East Port berth will be able to accommodate a variety of cargoes, Fobes says.
 
Also on Dec. 8, the Port plans to unveil its updated master plan called Vision 2030. The plan will serve as a road map to building the port toward 2030 and beyond, Fobes says.
 
In July, the Port commissioned two gantry cranes that weigh 1,600 tons each and can lift 65 tons. They're used for loading and unloading cargo containers from container ships.
 
"The two new post-Panamax gantry cranes have elevated our stature as a container port, and we are able to accommodate for ships twice as large as ever before," Fobes says.
 
The increased accommodation has allowed the Port to expand and diversify its cargo business by serving wider ships that travel through the expanded Panama Canal.
 
"Our improved facilities and continued capital program ensure that our Port will continue to serve the region well in all our diverse lines of business," Fobes says.

Could parklets be coming to Tampa in 2017?

If you happened to be in the Channel District earlier this month, you might have seen something unusual on the street that could soon become more popular.
 
Seven parklets, or extensions of the sidewalk built on street parking spaces, were displayed on 12th Street for four hours on Nov. 5 during a pop-up festival for the annual Tampa Bay Design Week.
 
"We had a really great turnout," says Rachel Radawec, executive administrative assistant with the Tampa Downtown Partnership and parklet enthusiast. "People came down, they loved it, they sat down and talked and ate and everything you're supposed to do in a parklet."
 
Parklets are a trend gaining popularity across the country. San Francisco, Seattle and Charlotte, NC, are a few cities that have them.
 
During the third year of Tampa Bay Design Week, an event meant to expose the public to the design world, "we decided it was time for Tampa to have one," Radawec explains.
 
Parklets aren't art installations. They provide space for people to sit, relax and enjoy the city on streets that would otherwise be used simply for traffic, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials. They often combine seating, trees, flowers or shrubs, but they don't necessarily have to be green spaces.
 
"You essentially take an on-street parking spot and take it away from the car and give it back to the people," Radawec says.
 
As a Tampa resident, Radawec says she's a fan of anything that enhances the downtown area, which she considers her backyard.
 
"I'm really just interested in anything that makes Tampa an interesting place," she says.
 
So, she helped facilitate the Nov. 5 showcase, and she's helping to facilitate discussions about the future of parklets in Tampa.
 
Gensler, a Tampa design firm who created one of the seven parklets during the showcase, was so taken with concept that they set up their parklet for an extra week in front of Regions Bank at 100 N. Tampa St.
 
Now, they're one of the entities talking with Radawec about launching a parklet program in Tampa next year. TECO has provided $12,000 to cover the cost of two commercial-grade steel bases that parklets sit on. But details, including who will host the program, where the parklets will be located and for how long, and what they'll look like, are still up in the air.
 
"My hope right now is to launch a program next fall," Radawec says, adding that October is the time when the weather cools and people want to sit outside.
 
Radawec invites anyone interested in knowing more about parklets or joining the effort to email her by following this link.
 
"We're really excited about it," she says.

Atlantic Beer & Oyster to open at The Heights in Tampa in 2017

Visitors to The Heights, a 43-acre mixed-use development in Tampa opening next year, will have a place to experience fresh seafood.
 
Atlantic Beer & Oyster, an outdoor eatery, will open with The Heights in early spring.
 
The restaurant will sit along the Tampa Riverwalk under a 165-foot water tower, a tribute to a tower that once sat on the property. The new, similar tower came from a field in Bartow and has been renovated.
 
Atlantic Beer & Oyster will feature a rotation of East coast, West coast and Gulf coast oysters, as well as fresh shrimp, smoked fish dip and its signature grouper sandwich. It will also showcase local breweries, like Cigar City Brewing and Big Storm Brewing.
 
The Heights is located between North Boulevard and North Tampa Street, parallel to the Hillsborough River and just north of Water Works Park. The centerpiece of the project is the Armature Works building, a 73,444-square-foot former storage and maintenance facility for Tampa's streetcars.
 
The first phase of The Heights project is scheduled to open in the spring of 2017. This includes the Heights Public Market; The Gathering and The Theater, which are two event spaces; Atlantic Beer & Oyster; Steelbach restaurant; a shared work space; and a rooftop social area. SoHo Capital, the developer of the project, is now taking reservations for the event spaces.
 
Future expansion plans for the project include a mix of residential units for sale and for rent, an office village, additional eateries, ground floor retail, a hotel, on-street and structured parking, and an expansion of the Tampa Riverwalk.
 
The Atlantic Beer & Oyster concept is part of the BE-1 Concepts restaurant group, which is headquartered in Tampa and also owns Boca Kitchen, Bar & MarketCiro's Speakeasy & Supper Club, and Park Social. Kevin Enderle, the company's president, says he's looking forward to serving as one of The Heights' first restaurants.
 
"The Heights project provided us an exciting opportunity to showcase our Atlantic Beer & Oyster concept alongside the Tampa Riverwalk and the Hillsborough River," Enderle says. "This unique location will allow visitors to enjoy the freshest seafood at one of the most beautiful settings in downtown Tampa."
 
Atlantic Beer & Oyster also has a location in Winter Park and will open another in Sarasota in early 2017.

New stores, pop-up shops open at Hyde Park Village in Tampa

Hyde Park Village is hoppin'.
 
With construction taking shape and new stores moving in, the last few months have been busy for the area, and it doesn't look like things are slowing down for the WS Development property.
 
On Oct. 25, Scout & Molly's, a national women's clothing, jewelry and accessories boutique, opened at 1603 W. Snow Circle. The 1,239-square-foot shop carries something for every woman, from young professionals to savvy seniors. Stylists are also available to help each customer find what's right for them.
 
Owner Linda Crawford says she wanted to open Tampa's first Scout & Molly's franchise because she was attracted to the brand's fashions and accessories, which allow every woman to create a look that suits her individual tastes.
 
In August, three new businesses opened in the Village: Suitsupply, vineyard vines and Goody Goody.
 
Suitsupply, a European men's brand known for their stylish suits in tailored fits, set up shop at 1525 W. Swann Ave. on Aug. 26.
 
Also on Aug. 26, vineyard vines, a preppy lifestyle clothing and accessory brand for men, women and children, opened at 1623 W. Snow Ave.
 
And Goody Goody, the iconic Tampa hamburger restaurant reinvented by Richard Gonzmart of the Columbia Restaurant Group, began welcoming diners on Aug. 23 at 1601 W. Swann Ave.
 
Permanent stores and restaurants aren't the only ones setting up shop. WS Development, a national retail development firm that began revitalizing the area in 2013, says temporary retailers are also part of its vision.

"Hyde Park Village is always looking for the unique specialty shop that offers a gift or snack or a pop of color to brighten our shoppers' experience," says Susan Martin, GM of the property. "That is why we started The Fling POP Up shop. This space allows the small business person to try out retail and bring their product to new customers."
 
Toffee to Go was the area's first pop-up shop last year, and it's returning for this year's holiday season. The treat shop, which is based in South Tampa, is scheduled to be open Nov. 18-Dec. 26. Martin says more details about this year's Toffee to Go pop-up shop will be released this week.
 
Florist Fire, based in Seminole Heights, first had a pop-up shop at 716 E. Village Circle in February. And Dark Cycle Clothing, an alternative T-shirt company, opened Sept. 23 at 1607 W. Snow Ave. Both have extended their terms at Hyde Park Village. Florist Fire will be open through June 2017, and Dark Cycle will have its shop through Dec. 31.
 
HICO is another pop-up shop at the Village. The Colombian swimwear and lingerie company opened at 1619 W. Snow Circle on Oct. 1 and will be open through Dec. 31.
 
"This is an exciting way to offer our shoppers fun and different items all the time," Martin says. 
 
And to get shoppers ready for the holiday season, Hyde Park Village is having its annual Enchanted Tree Lighting on Nov. 19, 5-9 p.m. The free, family-friendly event will include the annual tree lighting at 8 p.m., photos with Santa, live music by Late Night Brass, food and beer trucks, a kids' zone, face painting, balloon animals and more.

Park Tower in downtown Tampa sells for nearly $80 million

A downtown Tampa high rise has changed ownership.
 
City Office REIT, Feldman Equities and Tower Realty Partners have joined to buy the 36-story Park Tower at 400 N. Tampa St. from Sterling Equities and joint owner PT Associates for $79.95 million. Colliers International Tampa Bay brokered the sale.
 
The 475,000-square-foot building is 86 percent leased, and anchor tenants include BB&T, United States Department of Justice – US Attorney’s Office, Level 3 Communications and Lykes Insurance.
 
The building was Tampa's first high rise, according to Sterling Equities. It was built in 1973 and overlooks the Hillsborough River, the Tampa Riverwalk and Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.
 
Sterling Equities bought the property in 2006 from Colonial Properties Trust. Since then, Sterling Equities has invested $5.8 million in capital improvements into Park Tower to modernize common areas, upgrade electrical and lighting systems, and add improved finishes. The new owners plan to continue modernizing the building.
 
"Park Tower is at the intersection of 'Main and Main' in downtown Tampa," says Larry Feldman, CEO of Feldman Equities. "The opportunity to bring this building from the 1970s to the 2020s was too good to pass up."
 
The three new owners also manage other local properties. City Center in downtown St. Petersburg is a joint venture with City Office REIT and Tower Realty Partners. Feldman Equities and Tower Realty Partners are JV partners on Wells Fargo Center in downtown Tampa, as well as the Morgan Stanley Tower and First Central Tower in downtown St Pete.
 
Park Tower also offers views of the downtown Tampa skyline, which could be changing in the next few years. Last month, Tampa's Hillsborough River Realty Company applied for a mixed-use development rezoning from the City of Tampa for Lafayette Place, three high rises totaling 1.7 million gross square feet on the west side of Hillsborough River just a block east of the University of Tampa.

3-building high-rise project seeks approval in downtown Tampa

Downtown Tampa's landscape could soon be changing.
 
Hillsborough River Realty Company, based in Tampa, has applied for a mixed-use development rezoning from the City of Tampa so it can build three high rises totaling 1.7 million gross square feet on the west side of Hillsborough River just a block east of the University of Tampa.
 
The development is called Lafayette Place in honor of the Lafayette Street Bridge, which is now the Kennedy Boulevard Bridge.
 
The plan calls for a blend of residential, hotel, office and retail space built on three parcels totaling six acres and owned by HRRC.
 
Two of the parcels are located on Kennedy Boulevard. Lafayette Tower, which includes office, hotel and retail space, would have 355 linear feet of Hillsborough River frontage. Behind it, Lafayette Parkview would include high-end residential homes, retail and parking. Parker Street would separate these two buildings, and a sky bridge would connect them.
 
The third parcel is located in the nearby Grand Central District and would be the site of Lafayette Central, which would include high-end residences, retail and parking.
 
Lafayette Place could also expand the Tampa Riverwalk to the west bank of the Hillsborough River.
 
According to HRRC, Lafayette Place would attract new companies, residents and visitors to downtown Tampa's waterfront.
 
“Lafayette Place extends downtown Tampa to the west side of the Hillsborough River and adds a new and vibrant energy to one of Tampa's most historic neighborhoods," says John N. LaRocca, HRRC's senior VP. "Lafayette Place offers the tools necessary to advance downtown Tampa’s economic prosperity and create a true live, work, play environment.”
 
The project is designed in a way that allows for development phasing. HRRC says it expects to get approval from the Tampa City Council in March 2017, and then begin more detailed design work, pricing and assessment of the marketplace for timing of certain phases of the development.
 
Then, thorough plans would be submitted for review and permitting through the City of Tampa. The company says it's considering Lafayette Central as the first phase of the project, but construction would not begin before the end of 2018.
 
According to the company, cost estimates will be calculated once the city's zoning board approves the development. 

How you can participate in Tampa's award-winning free tree program

If your home could use some protection from the sun or your neighborhood could use more character, the City of Tampa's Tree-mendous Tampa Free Tree Program is available to help.
 
The program was established nearly 20 years ago by the city's Parks and Recreation Department with the goal of improving neighborhoods and Tampa's environment. Over the last three years, the program has planted about 3,000 trees in the rights-of-way in front of or on the side yard of residential properties.
 
Earlier this month, the Tree-mendous program was recognized along with the department's Stay & Play Program by the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies for excellence in innovative programming. In a press release, Mayor Bob Buckhorn credited the tree program with transforming Tampa's "once bland urban landscape to a lush and vibrant green canvass that's revitalized (the) city."
 
So, how can a Tampa resident participate in the program? Brad A. Suder, superintendent of Planning, Design and Natural Resources for Tampa's Parks and Recreation Department, explains the first step is to contact the city through an online request. You can also call 813-274-7733, but the city prefers online requests because they are easier to track. The city will then meet with you to assess the planting site and discuss which variety of tree would work best.
 
"There are 12 trees currently available," Suder says. "Six species are appropriate under power lines and in open areas: Crepe Myrtle Natchez, Bottle Brush, Japanese Blueberry, Silver Buttonwood, Loquat, Geiger White. There are six additional species with no overhead height restrictions: Live Oak, Tabebuia Yellow, Tabebuia Purple, Loblolly Pine, Florida Maple, Bald Cypress. They are in 30-gallon containers and are 8-10 feet overall height."
 
You're responsible for watering the new tree the first year after it's planted, and you have to commit to a 90-day watering schedule that entails watering the tree every other day for the first 30 days, watering every other day for the next 30 days, and watering every three days or twice a week for the last 30 days. After the 90-day watering schedule, you'll be expected to water the tree at least once a week.
 
"Once the water commitment is obtained, the request is placed into a future planting schedule," Suder explains. "Currently, the program plants approximately 20 trees per week and is scheduled through the end of February."
 
In the future, Suder says the city hopes to expand the tree species that it offers, as well as the scope of the program. That means businesses and other open spaces could also participate, and watering responsibilities would fall to the department in some cases.
 
For more information, visit the Tree-mendous Tampa Free Tree Program online.

Seminole Heights bike shop reopens in new location on North Florida Avenue

Velo Champ Cycle Sport, which enjoyed six profitable years at 6112 N. Central Ave. in Tampa, has moved into a new location on busy North Florida Avenue in Seminole Heights.

Jordan Miller, who owns the business with his mom and dad, Doug and Sue Miller, says he was looking for more space and the chance to further enhance the concept of a specialty bike shop. 

“We do a lot of things other bike shops don’t do, like custom wheel building,” says Jordan at the new location, 4415 N. Florida Ave. “We use a more consultive approach with customers when it comes to customizing a bike or building a bike from scratch.”
 
Though Velo Champ is open for business, the family is still in the midst of interior renovations, with Jordan handling much of the labor and Doug, an architect, helping with design. The bike service area is complete, but Jordan, 34, is still working on the other half of the 2,700-square-foot shop where bicycles for sale will be displayed.
 
Doug collaborated with his son on designing customized light fixtures which still lay on the floor waiting to be mounted. Doug, a disabled Air Force veteran, says the family wants the modern work and sales space to advance the business’ ultimate goal of being a “destination” cycling center.

“When someone leaves here, they can say, ‘This is my bike and it’s special’,” Doug says.
 
The brick building, which the family is leasing, dates back to the late 1930s or early 1940s and is an example of an architectural style called federal modern, Doug says.
 
“There are some interesting details on the front that are masked by paint,” Doug says. “We’re going to fix it at some point to bring back some of the original details.”

Jordan Miller, who worked in motion pictures and imaging before opening a bicycle business, says he always thought Seminole Heights needed a shop like his. The residents who frequent the neighborhood’s hip restaurants, coffee shops and craft breweries share similar concerns with devotees to the culture of cycling. 

They both care about the environment and tend to support improvements in mass transit, along with walkable, bike-able streets.

“We share similar interests and a passion for the neighborhood,” Jordan says. “I definitely see there is an environmental concern here and a transportation concern that seems more prevalent with bicyclists.”
 
As part of that cultural crossover and support, Jordan says he intends to soon restart the Pub Bike Ride that was a monthly event and started at his bike shop on Central Avenue. The event regularly drew more than 100 cyclists.

“It’s a great way to show what the neighborhood is about,” he says.

New townhome development Westbay planned for South Tampa

What is now a vacant lot will become the location of affordable townhomes by next summer.
 
Urban Edge Development plans to build a six-unit townhouse development on West Bay Avenue, just east of Dale Mabry Highway. It will be called WestBay Townhomes and will consist of 1,400-square-foot town houses with three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, garages and designer kitchens with stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and 42-inch upper cabinets. Prices will be in the mid-$200,000s.
 
Russ Versaggi, president of Urban Edge, says the company hopes to break ground on the project in November and complete it by early summer 2017.
 
"South Tampa continues to be one of the strongest markets in the Bay area and therefore provides strong demand for well-designed housing," Versaggi says. "South Tampa has much going for it: proximity to employment centers, restaurants, specialty retailers, recreational venues, Bayshore, etc."
 
Versaggi is an experienced infill developer who says he is focusing on bringing quality affordable housing to top infill locations in the Tampa Bay Area where most people want to live, work and play. The company looks for job centers, entertainment, shopping and highway access.
 
"Infill development is the process of developing vacant or under-utilized parcels within existing urban areas that are already developed for the most part," he says. "It is like 'filling in' the gaps of a neighborhood."
 
The townhouses are designed with first-time homebuyers in mind. The company is offering a builder credit of up to $5,000 to help buyers with closing costs.
 
"The current focus is really on delivering a quality home at a value price," says John Bielefeldt, Versaggi's marketing consultant. "The financing crunch, affordability gap and high rental rates makes affordable infill projects like WestBay very attractive to today's buyers. The younger buyers have been affected by school debt and the slowing economy, making homeownership very difficult for many."

How you can vote for best local architectural design in AIA Tampa Bay competition

Are you into local architecture? 

Maybe you really like the craftsman style of the Gulf Gate Library, the unique canopies of the Tampa Riverwalk or the futuristic aspects of the USF Health Pharmacy.
 
Whatever your architectural preferences, AIA Tampa Bay is inviting you to be the judge of its annual Design Awards competition. Through Nov. 2, you can vote for the 2016 People's Choice winner.
 
"This year, we have 51 outstanding projects vying for the honor of being recognized by the community," says Phil Trezza, president of AIA Tampa Bay. "This competition during Tampa Bay Design Week is important to our community because it gives a voice to the people who live, work and play in the buildings our members have designed."
 
AIA Tampa Bay is the regional chapter of AIA or the American Institute of Architects, the professional association for architects and those in the architecture field. The organization has been holding a People’s Choice Design Award program consistently since 2012. Last year's winner was Rashid Medical Complex by Gresham, Smith & Partners, which received more than 170 votes.
 
This year's entries have been submitted by local architecture firms, design-build teams, architectural interns and students. Voters can see a gallery of the projects online and vote for their favorite.
 
"When voting, people should consider more than building aesthetics," says Dawn Mages, Executive Director of AIA Tampa Bay, "they should consider how the building functions for its users and if it is sustainable."
 
The winner of the People's Choice Award will be recognized during Tampa Bay Design Week at the Celebrate Design awards reception on Nov. 3 at The Italian Club, 1731 E. Seventh Ave. in Ybor City. The event is open to the public and tickets are $55 for AIA members and $75 for non-members.
 
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit AIA Tampa Bay online or call 813-229-3411.

Owner of Ybor City Wine Bar wants to bring wine culture to Seminole Heights

Jayme Kosar initially decided to retire after working 27 years in her family’s restaurant, Guido’s Italian Restaurant in Miami Beach.

But Kosar, 51, discovered she wasn’t quite ready to spend sultry South Florida afternoons playing shuffle board and canasta. A master sommelier, or wine expert, she decided to bring her passion to Tampa, opening the Ybor City Wine Bar in December 2012 with partner Michael Boehme.

Her mid-life career correction worked out so well that Kosar is expanding her Tampa-based business to the Seminole Heights neighborhood with a second wine bar in the Graham Building at 6703 N. Florida Ave. The grand opening, with a complimentary tasting table, is this week on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“We’re looking to extend the culture of wine to Seminole Heights,” Kosar says. “Seminole Heights is up and coming; they’re certainly a food destination. I think a wine bar would be an excellent fit.”

Kosar dislikes terms like expert and connoisseur because they ring of snootiness. She wants the Seminole Heights Wine Bar to be a place where the novice can learn about wine and the wine culture.

“The only thing we’re pretentious about is we’re not pretentious,” she says.

The bar will have 200 different wines available by the glass or bottle, ranging in price from $5 to $50 a glass.

“We have every price point and every pallet covered,” she says.

For those relatively reasonable prices, the customer will get an education about the wine he or she is drinking. All the bar’s serving staff are sommeliers, Kosar says. They can tell stories about the heritage of the grape and histories of the families who have owned vineyards for many generations.

“They tell you about the winemaker and his family, how the grapes are grown,” she says. “We’re the whole thing. We don’t just pour you a glass of wine; we are the glass of wine.”

The wine bar will also stock 100 different types of bottled craft beers from around the world. Small plate food offerings can be ordered that complement the wine, including hummus, a cheese board, spinach and artichoke dip served with organic pita chips.

The Seminole Heights Wine Bar will be open from 4 p.m. until midnight this weekend. The complimentary tasting table will be from 6-9 p.m.
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