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Waypoint Homes aids restoration at Tampa Heights youth development and community center

For more than four years volunteers have shown up weekend after weekend to put in sweat equity to salvage the historical Faith Temple Missionary Baptist Church for a new mission. By March the church is expected to be ready for its debut as the Tampa Heights Youth Development and Community Center.

The final push to complete the makeover is coming from Waypoint Homes and its WIN (Waypoint Invests in Neighborhoods) Program. On successive Thursdays in January a dozen or so WIN team employees work room by room to hang doors, install drywall, put up light fixtures, and finish up trim work. 

The single family rental company owns property throughout Tampa Bay including in the Tampa Heights neighborhood. As part of its WIN program, Waypoint Home sponsors a number of projects to give back to those communities. 

"We search out projects," says John Rapisarda, regional property manager. "We love to do something where we impact the neighborhood where we rent and own  homes."

Company officials are offering materials and company volunteers to finish renovations at the community center for its March opening. Some of it vendors also are contributing materials and labor including Sherwin Williams which is providing flooring.

Waypoint Homes employees will install the flooring.

"It was perfect for us because in addition to contributing financially we want our team to contribute their time," says David Diaz, Waypoint Home's regional director.

The Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association, which is spearheading the renovation project,  provides free youth programs year-round, including after-school and summer activities. The renovated church will include a computer lab, art classroom, recording studio, dining/kitchen area, 300-seat auditorium and performance stage.

"We like everything about this program," says Diaz. "They follow the kids from kindergarten to make sure they graduate from high school."

Over the years national chains, such as Sears, and local businesses, such as CGM Services: Air Conditioning and Heating, have contributed labor and materials to the project. Nonprofit Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay and Richard Gonzmart of the Columbia Restaurant Group also are contributors. 

The total in donations and volunteer labor  likely is close to $1 million, says Lena Young-Green, president of the Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association. Once Waypoint Homes completes its work, the last step is finding a vendor and materials to replace the roof, Young-Green says. 

The Beck Group is helping with this search.

Local architect John Tennison, with Atelier Architecture Engineering Construction, has supervised the volunteer work and guided restoration efforts. 

"It's been enlightening working with people who come by to help," he says. "It's surprising how many people want to give their time and effort. It's a great program and people see that."

Tampa invests $30M in water lines, cycle track

The city of Tampa will invest nearly $30 million in three infrastructure projects that aren't likely to stir up the kind of excitement that comes with news of a new residential tower or hotel in downtown.

But those projects, mostly out of sight and below ground, are part of a long-term effort to expand and upgrade the city's aging water lines to meet the demand of a growing urban population.  Among the benefits are increased water pressure and fire hydrant flows.

Construction will begin on all projects in January and last approximately 18 months. Each project costs slightly under $10 million.

"It's not something shiny and flashy but it's something equally important," says Tricia Shuler, a construction engineer for CH2M Hill, the engineering firm hired by the city to oversee the projects.

Former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio started the expansion and upgrades to the city's utility infrastructure nearly six years ago in East Tampa. Since then, various Utility Capital Improvement Projects (UCAP), also by CH2M Hill, have replaced and extended water and sewer lines into the downtown area and South Tampa.

One noticeable change will be the conversion of Cass and Tyler Streets from one-way to two-way streets and the construction of a cycle track where bicyclists will be separated from vehicular traffic by a concrete barrier.

"It's going to become a very appealing asset through downtown," Shuler says. "People will feel like they live in a big city."

The changes to Cass and Tyler are part of Invision Tampa, a blueprint that emerged from Mayor Bob Buckhorn's efforts to redevelop the downtown core and surrounding neighborhoods. The goal is to restore the downtown's street grid which for years has been dominated by one-way streets.

CH2M Hill also will bury box culverts to ease flooding along Rome Avenue and Cypress Street. This will set the stage for future storm water projects.

Work will continue on installation of a 36-inch water transmission line from David L. Tippin Water Treatment Facility to South Tampa.  In December CH2M Hill completed construction of a 500-foot tunnel across the Hillsborough River to minimize the impact of pipeline installation on the environment.

Additional work will extend the pipeline from North Jefferson and East Cass streets, then along Tyler to Fortune, west across the river and end at North Boulevard and West Cass.

Bus riders get new transit center in Pinellas Park

Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is setting ridership records and filling a need for a growing urban population in Pinellas County. Two express routes also carry riders to and from downtown Tampa.

Now the new Pinellas Park Transit Center at 3801 70th Ave. is filling a "huge hole'' in customer services for riders in the middle of the county, according to Brad Miller, PSTA's chief executive officer, who spoke at the center's grand opening on Jan. 13.

The transit center is the first Customer Service Center in 13 years. The last was opened at Grand Central Station in St. Petersburg in 2002. Riders at the new transit center can buy tickets, figure out bus schedules or get a quick question answered by a PSTA employee.

The facility replaces the former transit center behind the Shoppes at Park Place. Boulder Venture South, a commercial real estate company with offices in Clearwater, donated the land. CHTR Development, LLC, built the transit center after winning the contract with a low bid of about $360,000.

"This is the first public/private partnership in our system," says Bill Jonson, PSTA'S board chairman. "It turns out to be a welcome one."

The transit center has public restrooms, a 2-station customer service booth, security cameras, an ATM machine, a new sidewalk and a raised traffic table for safer pedestrian crossings.

In November 2014 voters rejected a "Greenlight Pinellas" proposal for a 1 percent sales tax to pay for a 30-year plan to improve transit service and potentially have light rail service connecting St. Petersburg and Clearwater. 

"PSTA is in sort of a transition phase right now, looking beyond Greenlight Pinellas, looking at ways we might be more efficient and provide the best services," says Miller. "No matter what our funding status, our size or growth, we have to maintain our (commitment) to our customers."

In fiscal year 2013-2014, riders boarded PSTA buses about 14.5 million times or about 35,000 more boardings than the previous fiscal year, according to PSTA records.

Fitlife Foods opens in Downtown Tampa, offers meals to go

Fitlife Foods is ready to offer office workers and downtown residents what they want in healthy "grab-and-go" prepared foods along with what owner David Osterweil calls "cravable" eatables.

The on-the-go concept for breakfast, lunch and dinner is located in a 500-square-foot slot on the mezzanine floor of the Bank of America building at 101 Kennedy Blvd. It is the seventh Bay area Fitlife Foods to open since the restaurant's launch in 2011 on Dale Mabry Highway in the Carrollwood neighborhood.

A second Dale Mabry location in South Tampa also is open as well as locations on South Howard Avenue and in Brandon, Clearwater and St. Petersburg.

"We want to be where our customers are and downtown Tampa is a growing, thriving part of our community," says Osterweil.

At least five new residential towers in downtown and the Channel District are expected to be under construction within the next couple of years. New hotels, restaurants and shops are on the horizon. And the Channel District is poised for an explosion of new development following the announcement from Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik of plans for a $1 billion investment into Tampa Waterfront District with new residential, dining, entertainment, office and hotel developments.

Brian Bern of Franklin Street and CBRE Group Inc. negotiated the lease. Architect Richard Hartmann of Hartmann Architecture is the store's designer.

Fitlife Foods takes a new approach to the fast-food market.

Customers can purchase one meal and go or during a busy week opt to buy multiple meals to take home. The goal is to save time and eat healthy, says Osterweil.

A top menu item is Tampa Bay BBQ Beef and Mac 'n Cheese. Other items include Feel Good Chicken Tenders and a spicy eggplant Parmesan. About 70 percent of the menu is gluten-free. There also are Paleo and vegetarian dishes.

To help in menu selection, Fitlife Foods provides information on calories, allergens, carbohydrates and sodium.

"We cater to a lot of the specialties," Osterweil says.

Operating hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday. Within a month Osterweil anticipates starting a delivery service.

Big Brothers Big Sisters moves national headquarters to Tampa

The welcome mat is out for former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio. But Iorio is the one bearing a welcome home gift for the Tampa Bay region -- the national corporate headquarters for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

In April 2014 Iorio took on the top job at the 110-year-old nonprofit headquartered in Irving, TX. She was Tampa's mayor from 2003 to 2011. As chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters, she spent her weeks in Texas and weekends at home in Tampa.

Effective March 31, the commuting ends and Big Brothers Big Sisters moves into 6,900-square-feet of office space at Corporate Center One at International Plaza in the Westshore Business District. The rent is free for five years courtesy of Parkway Properties.

The Beck Group is donating the carpets, paint and other materials to make the offices move-in ready. Bill Adams of ROF is providing furniture and design services. And an anonymous Tampa donor is paying moving expenses.

"From a civic stand point, I couldn't be more proud that Big Brothers Big Sisters is calling Tampa home," says Iorio. "I couldn't be more optimistic about the future of the organization in Tampa."

A corporate headquarters in Tampa comes as a plum prize in a city, and a region, that is awash in on-going and soon-to-happen construction for residential towers, shops and restaurants in the urban cores of Tampa and St. Petersburg.

"Wow. This is a really a big deal," says Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman. "We are getting ready to explode in this community. I'm glad, Pam, you and your organization have decided to spark the fire. They are going to bring their company here. There is such a spillover for that."

Iorio and Murman spoke at a gathering at the Tampa Convention Center to announce the relocation. About 150 people attended, including Joseph Lopano, chief executive officer of Tampa International Airport and Kanika Tomalin, deputy mayor of St. Petersburg. 

The move from Texas is expected to bring 20 jobs to the community. While a few employees from Texas might opt to re-locate, Iorio says most jobs will be filled locally.

As national headquarters, Tampa will host board members and staff from 331 affiliate organizations across the country for meetings and conferences. That translates, city leaders say, to more hotel beds filled and more money flowing into the local economy from dollars spent at area restaurants, shops and entertainment venues.

"This is how you become known as a headquarters community," says Rick Homans, CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation (THEDC).

Iorio says she had committed to two years as chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters. A request that she consider a longer commitment led to the decision to relocate.

The THEDC served as facilitator, pulling together a business plan in about two months to sell Tampa and the Bay area as a good move. Iorio says she told her organization, "Even if you take me out of the equation, Tampa Bay is a great place."

Dallas had been corporate headquarters for the organization for only about a year following a move from Philadelphia.

Pinellas and Hillsborough counties have merged their Big Brothers Big Sisters organizations into one of the largest affiliates in the country. Iorio says 3,500 children are served in the Bay area and about 1,000 are on a waiting list to have a Big Brother or Big Sister as a mentor.

IBM retiree Alan Cohen is a Big Brother to 13-year-old Sir.Giogio (last name unavailable) who is the middle child of a single mother. For the past six years, Cohen has taken Sir.Giorgio to sports venues, Busch Gardens and tutors him once a week.

"I know I am able to make a difference in one person's life," says Cohen. "I have a friend in Sir. Giorgio."

Fodder & Shine and Bourgeois Pig open in Seminole Heights

More restaurant doors are open in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa, and the eclectic dining choices just keep growing.

Fodder & Shine, at 5910 N. Florida Ave., is serving a dinner menu of delectable Florida cracker-style cuisine from grilled frog legs and fried liver and gizzards for starters to grilled smothered quail and roasted pork for the main courses. In between table mates can devour a diverse array of sides from crackling cornbread to cathead biscuits. The bar serves craft beers, cocktails and wine.

Breakfast and lunch menus are on the way.

The Bourgeois Pig, at 7701 N. Nebraska Ave., is bringing Bohemian chic with an old world flair to the neighborhood. A menu of "adult comfort food" offers starters of softened goat cheese spread and olive oil poached yellow fin tuna; entrees of beef stroganoff on the bone, lamb osso buco, and Brittany fish stew. The Oz bar is stocked with craft beers, hand-crafted cocktails and craft liquors, and a selection of "old world" wines.

Chef Chris Juers is a California transplant.

The Pig welcomes the well-behaved pooch. Morning coffee and lunch will begin in February.

"It's pretty awesome," says co-owner Lysa Bozel. "We've had a good response from the public. The neighborhood has been very supportive."

Bozel and her husband Michael Bozel restored a 1920s bungalow, putting their personal design stamp on each detail including a fireplace and 4-foot chandelier in the main dining room. The Bourgeois Pig sign outside and the Oz bar top are the work of artist Dominique Martinez of Rustic Steel Creations in Tampa Heights.

The Bozels also operate Mockingbird Vacation Rentals with several rental homes in Tampa neighborhoods.

Fodder & Shine is the second Seminole Heights' restaurant for owners Greg and Michelle Baker. Nearly four years ago, the couple opened The Refinery, at 5137 Florida Ave. The Florida-centric restaurant changes menus three or four times a week. In 2014 Southern Living magazine placed The Refinery among the top 100 restaurants in the South. Chef Greg Baker is a four-time James Beard semi-finalist. The Bakers have built a national reputation for fine dining and shone the spotlight on Seminole Heights as an emerging foodie neighborhood. 

Among restaurants and bars attracting patrons to Seminole Heights are Rooster and the Till, Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe, Independent Bar and Cafe, The Mermaid Tavern, Angry Chair Brewing, Florida Avenue Brewing Co., San Carlos Tavern & Grill, El Rincon Catracho, Reservations Gourmet to Go, The Front Porch Grill and Bar, and Cappy's Pizza.

Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik plans $1B Investment in Downtown Tampa

Game changer may be a cliche but it seems to fit Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's vision of a $1 billion investment to create a "live, work, play and stay" neighborhood in downtown Tampa's Channel District that will propel economic growth in Tampa for decades.

"We have a virtual blank canvas of 40 acres ... to develop an entire district to revitalize downtown and change this area for an entire generation," says Vinik.

In the last four years Vinik's real estate team, Strategic Property Partners, quietly amassed vacant lots surrounding the Lightning venue, Amalie Arena. Vinik compares the purchases to the under-the-radar land deals made decades ago for Disney World in Orlando.

For many, his vision for Tampa holds the promise of being a seminal moment in the city's history.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn tags Vinik as a "city builder."

"We are on the precipice of something absolutely amazing. ... This is a day they will look back on and they will say this is where it started," says the mayor.

On Wednesday Vinik and his creative team presented their vision plan for the  district and Channelside Bay Plaza to an overflow crowd at Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina. Among dignitaries were Buckhorn, University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft and Florida Commerce Secretary Gray Swoope.

Over the next five to seven years Vinik proposes to create the Tampa Waterfront District as a vibrant 18/7 retail, dining and entertainment mecca as well as a business center for corporations, entrepreneurs and innovators.

Plans are to add nearly 3 million square feet of commercial and residential development. Upon completion, estimates put annual economic output at about $900 million. About 3,700 direct jobs will be added to Hillsborough County's employment rolls with an average salary of about $78,000. Annual tax revenues will be boosted by as much as $35 million, based on projections by Oxford Economics.

Seattle-based Cascade Investment, founded by billionaire Bill Gates, is the funding partner. "We do have financing to complete the billion dollar project and hopefully go beyond when it is done," Vinik says.

On land donated by Vinik, USF plans to build new facilities for the Morsani College of Medicine and USF Heart Health Institute. Student housing also is a possibility. 

By summer of 2015 the first dirt will turn as work begins on infrastructure and a new street grid that will see Old Water Street expanded and some lesser streets vacated. 

"We hope USF follows shortly behind that," Vinik says.

The struggling Channelside Bay Plaza will see its west end torn away to open up views of the waterfront and Harbour Island. A bridge across Channelside Drive will link the dining and shopping plaza to an existing parking garage. A water taxi, ferry, wharf, a new park and boardwalk will connect residents and visitors to the district's prime asset -- the waterfront.

A new Mexican restaurant, Hablo Taco, will open in the plaza in January.

A mixed-use development on a vacant lot across from the Marriott will have a hotel, residences and a retail row that will connect Tampa Convention Center and Amalie Arena. Improvements to the Marriott, which Vinik recently acquired, also are planned.

The TECO Line Streetcar will be expanded.

Vinik emphasizes that he is working from a vision plan. A master plan is yet to come and he wants input from everyone in the community. A crowdsourcing website, TampaWaterfront20/20, invites comments and suggestions.

In 2015 Vinik says his team will concentrate on marketing Tampa and the Channel District's future.

The Lightning owner says people who've never been to Tampa often don't understand the potential of what the city can become. He recalls some questioned his decision to re-locate to Tampa when he bought the hockey team. "This is a great place to live, a great place to work, a great place to stay," he says. "The quality of life is second to none."

And Tampa is attracting millennials and young professionals, as well as empty nesters, who want to enjoy the urban lifestyle. "The millennials, they don't want to be in suburbs. They don't want cars anymore. They want to rent," Vinik says. "This trend is well documented. It's a reason we feel so confident in what we are doing." 

Channel District resident Sid Hasan moved to Tampa more than a year ago from Washington, D.C. He is a founder of CUPS (Channel District Urban Professionals Society), which is seeking to create a collective voice for Channel District business owners and residences.

Vinik's plan, says Hasan, "validates why I moved her from D.C. I thought this was a perfect place to re-invent myself. This is incredible." 

Historical figures honored on Tampa Riverwalk

A Jewish immigrant who became Tampa's first mayor and a West Tampa businessman and civil rights leader are among the latest group of trail blazers to be honored with bronze busts installed on The Tampa Riverwalk's Historical Monument Trail.

For the third year the nonprofit Friends of the Riverwalk revealed its six annual honorees. About 200 people came to see the busts unveiled in a ceremony outside the Tampa Convention Center. 

"I marvel at the courage, sacrifice and perseverance, the guts, that these people have shown," says attorney Steve Anderson, president of the Friends of the Riverwalk. "They are truly inspirational."

The busts, created by sculptor Steve Dickey, will recognize the accomplishments of Blanche Armwood, the namesake of Armwood High School, who was an educator and community activist; Herman Glogowski, a Jewish clothing store owner who became mayor of Tampa at its incorporation in 1886; Gavino Gutierrez, the "first citizen of Ybor City" who brought cigar magnates Vicente Martinez Ybor and Ignacio Haya to Tampa; Bena Wolf Maas, who founded the Children's Home and was the wife of Abe Maas of the Maas Bros. department stores; Hugh Campbell MacFarlane, the Scottish immigrant and attorney who founded West Tampa and nurtured its cigar industry; and Moses White, a prominent West Tampa businessman and civil rights leader.

They will join 12 other historical figures selected for the trail since 2012. As many as 30 people will be memorialized. Informational monuments also will be placed along the trail.

The Riverwalk is the city's waterfront promenade that is envisioned as an approximately 2.5 mile community connector as well as an entertainment and cultural mecca for residents and visitors. The last major segment of the walkway through downtown, a link under Kennedy Boulevard, is expected to be completed in early 2015.

Aloft Hotel, Ulele restaurant, the Tampa Museum of Art and the Straz Center for the Performing Arts are among the businesses and cultural centers already populating the Riverwalk. With a Riverwalk completed from MacDill Park to Water Works Park, the design is intended to attract restaurants, shops, hotels and special events to make the Hillsborough River a downtown destination.

Who else from Tampa's history deserves a bronze bust along the Tampa Riverwalk? Post your comments below. 

University Mall gets new owner, new future

University Mall is heading for a makeover.

New York-based RD Management is the new owner of most of the enclosed mall's assets. Hillsborough County records show the company paid about $29.5 million for the property, at 2200 E. Fowler Ave.

The anchor stores, Dillard's, Macy's, Sear's and Burlington Coat Factory, appear to be part of the mall's future and are not included in the purchase. New tenants are potentially a warehouse club, fitness center and a grocery store as well as medical offices or student housing. Hints of the mall's future are viewable in a conceptual plan posted on RD Management's website.

Among vacant retail space with big box potential is the nearly 159,000 square feet once occupied by J.C. Penney's. No word on what retailer might move in there, but other RD Management properties lease to BJ's Wholesale Club. One of the company's mixed use redevelopment projects of retail and housing is in Gainesville, next to the University of Florida.

The mall is in proximity to a ready customer base of nearly 47,000 students at the University of South Florida as well as 16,000 faculty and staff, according to RD Management.  But the University area also is close by four hospitals including Florida Hospital and H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, Busch Gardens, office parks and more than 265,000 residents within five miles of the mall.

University Mall has been struggling in recent years to keep up with its competitors and facing growing vacancies. But in October, the mall got a burst of newness when Studio Movie Grill opened in the defunct Regal 16 movie house.

The 14-screen movie house offers restaurant-style dining in the theater, first-run movies, a bar and full lounge. Alternative programming and special events also are offered.

Studio Movie Grill representatives also cite the USF student population and the potential growth in the University area as reason for seeking out a lease at University Mall.

2 major Tampa streets get new trees, flowers in $1 million makeover

Two gateways into Tampa will look prettier after a $1 million makeover from the city of Tampa and the Florida Department of Transportation.

The grant from the state's Landscape on State Roadways program will pay for new landscaping along Hillsborough Avenue from the Hillsborough River to Interstate 275, and along Dale Mabry Highway from Gandy Boulevard to MacDill Air Force Base. The landscaped design along Dale Mabry, which ends at the air base, will be a tribute to fallen soldiers.

“Just as we did throughout the urban core, we’re expanding our beautification efforts and working to transform our arterial roads to become the welcome signs they should be.  A community feels about itself the way it looks,” says Mayor Bob Buckhorn in a news release announcing the grant. “These roads are true gateways throughout our community.” 

The Hillsborough Avenue gateway runs through Seminole Heights, which is an emerging neighborhood that is home to a growing collection of premier dining destinations, boutiques and micro-breweries.

Nearly 10 years ago the area was spruced up with a landscaped median and a red-brick wall on Hillsborough Avenue between Central and Florida avenues.

"It's just a little tired looking," says Brad Suder, planning and design superintendent of the city's parks and recreation department.

Landscape architect Celia Nichols of Lutz-based Nichols Landscape Architecture will design new landscaping for the roadway, which Suder says will cost between $300,000 and $350,000.

Approximately $800,000 will be spent along Dale Mabry on a landscaped memorial leading to the entrance of MacDill that will honor fallen soldiers. Suder says the design, which is about 50 percent completed, is being done in-house by city employees.

These projects are part of the city's "Opportunity Corridors" efforts, which began in 2012. 

"We really want the city to look like a vibrant city that is open for business and positioned to encourage more business, and to have a better experience for visitors,"  Suder says.

Among the beautified roadways are Bayshore Boulevard, Ashley Drive, Franklin Street, Doyle Carlton Drive, Union Station and Interstate 275 ramps at Orange and Jefferson streets. More than 700 trees were planted in the downtown area along with lighting and irrigation.

Green is the color of Tampa's newest bike lanes

Tampa is adding a new color palette to its bicycle lanes.

Green-painted stripes will mark off designated bike lanes on two road projects that will re-surface portions of Cleveland and Platt streets. Both are major roads carrying heavy traffic loads into and out of downtown. Work is underway on Cleveland; crews will start on Platt on Dec. 8.

City officials say these will be the city's first green, protected bike lanes. More likely will appear as more roadways are re-surfaced.

Roads generally are striped in white and yellow. New recommendations from federal highway safety officials point to green as an attention-grabber for bike lanes when motorists and bicyclists are sharing the road.

Tampa Transportation Manager Jean Duncan says "conflict areas" on Cleveland and Platt will get the green stripes. "These are areas where we feel there is more weaving and merging going on and more chance for bicyclists to be in a precarious situation," she says.

The city also will reduce speed limits on Cleveland and Platt from 40 mph to 35 mph as part of traffic calming in the area. 

The addition of bike lanes using the latest in safety design is in keeping with the vision for the city's downtown residential and commercial growth. City officials anticipate more people pedaling along city streets. And, Coast Bike Share recently opened 30 bike-rental kiosks around the city.

Construction on Cleveland runs from the Hillsborough River west to South Armenia Avenue. The work will repair existing utilities and drainage. Energy-efficient street lighting and pedestrian ramps that meet federal disability rules will be installed.

A bike lane will be added on the north side of Cleveland with additional parking designated on the south side. Work on the approximately $2 million project will be done in phases by Ajax Paving. The project is scheduled for completion in April 2015.

“There probably isn’t a roadway as in need as Cleveland Street is, but we’re going in to fix the source, the problems you can’t see below. As the City moves forward to repair and improve our existing infrastructure on streets like Platt and Cleveland, it’s important that we make sure they are really serving all its users, including cyclists and pedestrians,” says Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “In this case, we are adding new bike infrastructure, the first of their kind in Tampa, but we’re already planning miles more.”

Platt will be resurfaced from Audubon Avenue to Bayshore Boulevard. One travel lane will be removed to make room for a bike lane and additional on-street parking on the south side. The approximately $1.4 million project also will be done in phases by Asphalt Paving Systems, Inc. Work is scheduled for completion in February 2015.

During construction, city officials recommend motorists use alternate routes to avoid potential traffic congestion. However, access to businesses and residences will be kept open.

Developer plans Warehouse Lofts in Seminole Heights, Tampa

If Seminole Heights is a destination you keep coming back to, why not make the neighborhood your home?

Local developer Wesley Burdette is betting young professionals will do just that when he opens The Warehouse Lofts in 2015. The 46-unit complex will re-purpose a vacant warehouse at the corner of Florida Avenue and Cayuga Street, just south of Osborne Avenue. There will be studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments, a zen garden, rooftop pavilion and a 3-story atrium.

"Seminole Heights is a hidden gem of what goes on in Tampa," says Burdette, a partner of Access Capital Mortgage.

The urban in-fill project is a rarity in a neighborhood known for its restored 1920s bungalows.  But that type of domicile is not always the first choice of upwardly-mobile millennials who are flocking to an expanding selection in Seminole Heights of eclectic dining spots, and cool hang-outs for wines and craft beers.

A sample list includes The Independent, the Mermaid Tavern, the Refinery, Front Porch Grille, Jet City Espresso, Ella's Americana Folk Cafe, Cappy's Pizza and the Rooster and The Till. Angry Chair Brewing is a new arrival. Fodder and Shine, the Florida-centric creation of the Refinery's owners, is under construction. The Bourgeoisie Pig and Delicious Surprise will debut soon.

"They don't have any other options," says Burdette of the neighborhood's residential stock.  "This is our destination. We go to the Independent, to the Refinery. We find this is where we hang out. Why don't we live here?"

Burdette expects construction on Warehouse Lofts to begin early next year. 

Wolf Design Group, which worked on the Victory Lofts in North Hyde Park, is handling the architectural design. Gabler Brothers is the general contractor. Sunshine State Federal Savings is providing most of the financing for the approximately $5 million project.

Depending on final design, Burdette says between 3,100 and 6,000 square feet might be available for retail or restaurant uses. He is not ready to market any specific ideas but a craft beer tasting room or a high-end bakery might be possibilities. Or even a little competition for Starbucks with a high-end roaster such as Buddy Brew, he adds.

"That would be a really nice fit."

Hidden Springs Ale Works to open in Tampa Heights

Two avid home brewers plan to turn a vacant warehouse on North Franklin Street into a Tampa Heights' micro-brewery -- Hidden Springs Ale Works.

Partners Joshua Garman and Austin Good just closed on the warehouse building, next to 8-count Studios in the renovated Rialto Theater. The historic movie palace is re-imagined as an art and event venue for art and photography exhibitions, weddings, fashion shows and dance classes.

"We kind of love Tampa Heights and the stuff that's going on here," says Garman. "They need a place like we're doing to be a meeting place for the community."

In addition to 8-count Studios, the brewery is near Cafe Hey, also on Franklin, and the recently opened Ulele Restaurant to the east by Water Works Park.

The warehouse for now is a large empty space but Garman and Good are interviewing prospective contractors and architects for what they hope will be a tasting room and brewery with an industrial vibe.

Hidden Springs is the brewery's name because "we wanted something Florida sounding," Garman says. "We grew up playing in springs, like Florida kids did. It sounds refreshing."

The immediate next step is filing a zoning application with the city of Tampa, which Garman anticipates will happen within a week.

Owners of Coppertail Brewing Co. in Ybor City are providing advice and guidance along the way.

Hidden Springs will provide 15 brews plus five guest taps from local breweries such as Coppertail and Angry Chair Brewing. Among Hidden Springs' offerings will be a milk stout, IPA, double IPA, American amber and Berliner Weisse.

The target opening is in February though Garman says that is an ambitious goal. Initially Garman anticipates hiring a staff of four or five people.

Garman and Good have been home brewers for several years and have won medals in amateur competitions. Both had been thinking about opening a brewery.

"We decided to join forces," Garman says. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

LMB Boutique moves to trendy South Tampa

LMB Boutique will add upscale chic to South Howard Avenue in a neighborhood trending with eclectic restaurants, shopping options and the culinary-themed Epicurean Hotel.

And, for the first week following the Liz Murtagh Boutique's grand opening on Nov. 15, 20 percent of the shop's proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society.

"That's a program near and dear to my heart," says Owner Liz Murtagh who lost her mother and grandmother to cancer. "I'm trying to raise as much money as possible." 

The boutique, at 815 S. Howard Ave., will be the signature store for Murtagh's collection of haute designer clothes, jewelry, hand bags, shoes and accessories. One half of the 2,100-square-foot store will be devoted to furniture, home decorations and artwork. 

"It's everything a woman could want in one store," says Murtagh.

The shop is located in a 1940s art-deco style building close by Daily Eats and within blocks of the Epicurean Hotel and Bern's Steak House. The site was formerly occupied by Santiesteban & Associates Architects.

"It's a real treat for the eye," says Murtagh, whose background is in interior design.

The grand opening is 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 15. The celebration will feature food, wine, makeovers, drawings and free gifts to the first 10 customers. Models will stroll through the shop wearing the latest in trends from New York and California. Murtagh's style is described as free-spirited, vintage, bohemian and uncomplicated.

The boutique offers one of Tampa's largest selections of stylish, eclectic jewelry. Customers also can get professional interior design services for their latest home redecorating projects. For parties of five or more people, Murtagh will have a "girls' night out" with wine, food and after-hours shopping.

Parking is available behind the boutique and across the street.

South Tampa is a prime location that Murtagh has had her eye on for awhile. By the end of the year, she will close her 3-year-old shop in West Park Village in the Westchase master-planned community in northwest Hillsborough County. 

The South Howard location will nearly double the size of her former shop. 

"I love the community. I love all the people," she says of the Westchase area. "But I've always wanted to have a shop in (South Tampa) and own my building. I have the flexibility to do what I want."

ENCORE! Tampa to raise curtain on performance theater

The musically themed ENCORE! Tampa is setting the stage for a professionally operated performance theater at its newest residential building, the Tempo.

The 203-unit apartment building is under construction at the corner of Scott and Governor streets, adjacent to the city's Perry Harvey Sr. Park. Construction on the approximately $43 million project will be completed in 2015.

"We are going to go looking for an operator (for the theater)," says Leroy Moore, COO for the Tampa Housing Authority, which is developing ENCORE! as a $425 million master-planned, mixed income community of apartments, shops, hotel, offices and a black history museum. "We always wanted to be able to incorporate music and art into the park."

The 5,000-square-foot theater will add a new element to the overall music and art themes of ENCORE!, which is located just north of downtown Tampa. Encore replaces the former public housing complex of Central Park Village, which was torn down in 2007 as part of the city's revitalization efforts.

Moore says the theater is not envisioned as a community theater but as a privately operated business. He likens ENCORE!'s theater concept to the Stageworks Theater, which is located at the Grand Central at Kennedy condominium in the Channel District. 

Once the theater's management is in place, Moore says,  "They'll plan the theater's interiors."

In addition to plays, the venue could host small concerts, debates and oratory events. THA representatives are reaching out to members of Tampa's arts community for advice.

ENCORE! is spread across nearly 40 acres between Cass Street and Nebraska Avenue in a neighborhood settled by freed slaves after the Civil War. During segregation, nearby Central Avenue - known as "Harlem South" - thrived as a black business and entertainment district drawing legendary musicians and singers including Ray Charles, Hank Ballard and Ella Fitzgerald.

ENCORE! and the city's plans to redesign Perry Harvey Sr. Park honor the neighborhood's history and musical legacy. The first apartment building opened in 2012 as The Ella, housing seniors and named for Fitzgerald. The Trio, Encore's first multi-family apartments, opened earlier this year. Streets are named for Charles, Ballard and educator Blanche Armwood. Public art installed at ENCORE! is an homage to jazz and local history.

A former church on-site will be restored as a black history museum. A contractor will be chosen in the next week to handle a partial demolition and stabilization of the historical building's facade. Bids will go out early in 2015 for the project's construction contract of about $1.5 million.

THA and the Banc of America Community Development Corporation are development partners on the ENCORE! project. Bessolo Design Group is the architectural firm for Tempo. The general contractor is Siltek Group, Inc., which also is in charge of The Reed's construction.

The Reed, a second senior housing building, is under construction but is expected to have its first tenants in early January. Leasing is under way. "It is filling up incredibly fast," says Moore.

Work on a re-design for Perry Harvey Sr. Park is pending final approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Moore expects the green light in the next month or so.
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