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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."

Sarasota Architectural Salvage opens second location in Sarasota Design District

A little bit of rust and the occasional speck of dust are just part of the charm at Sarasota Architectural Salvage (SAS), where antique hardware and salvage from historic structures get a second lease on life in the form of quirky, upcycled home decor. 

Established in 2003, the SAS warehouse has been a favorite haunt for urbanites and design junkies for over a decade. Though no one has complained about the dust and rust to date, SAS is cleaning up its act as it carves out a home in its second location.

“I’m basically splitting my business into two divisions. The original warehouse space is where we have all of our parts and pieces -- the real architecutral elements, lumber, and raw materials. We’ve moved our home decor, our upcycled furniture, our collectibles, and our ‘wow’ pieces into the new location at SAS Mercantile,” says SAS owner, Jesse White.

In October, SAS began its move beyond the warehouse with the addition of the sleek, new SAS Mercantile gallery in the historic Old Ice House building, also located in the industrial outskirts of downtown Sarasota. Built in 1946, the Old Ice House has a colorful past as a ice and beer distributor, a motorcycle chop shop, and most recently, a contemporary art gallery owned by Sarasota resident and Businessman Ross Mercier.

White says that when he learned the art gallery closed, he seized the opportunity to rent the Ice House space for an undisclosed sum over the summer. 

“One of the things that most attracted us to this spot is that there are two air-conditioning spaces in the building--for products we might want to display in a more finished environment than the warehouse. We were able to basically step into a finished, workable space. The roof was done and the walls were all prepared, so we had a clear canvas to work with,” White says.

The fully stocked SAS Mercantile space opened its doors on Oct. 10, 2014. 

“In the warehouse location, someone might come in looking for a door they could take home and work on themselves to ‘D.I.Y.’ into a new existence. The new location is geared toward a customer who thinks, ‘OK, I want a headboard that’s got a cool history with a story and craftsmanship to it. I’m going to go to SAS Mercantile for a piece that’s ready to go,’” White says.

“Our aim is to really become a part of the Sarasota Design District,” he adds. “Through SAS Mercantile, we’re connecting ourselves with Home Resource, Sarasota Collection, Cabinet Scapes and the other businesses in this neighborhood that are helping to define this design-centric district.” 

SAS Mercantile will celebrate is grand opening in December, to coincide with the yearly holiday charity event hosted by Sarasota Architectural Salvage.

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.

Developers plan hotel/residences at Tampa's historic Kress building

The historical Kress Building may have found the right buyers for a makeover that will bring the iconic landmark back to life and propel a rebirth on North Franklin Street in the heart of Tampa's downtown core.

The Atlanta-based HRV Hotel Partners and a team of Tampa developers including EWI Construction Executives Sam and Casey Ellison, and partner Anthony Italiano; and Tampa developer Alex Walter of Walson Ventures are joining forces to re-develop the Kress building as a 22-story tower with a 190-room hotel and 58 residences. About 15,000 square feet is planned for "restaurant uses."

The former F.W. Woolworth and J.J. Newberry department stores, which sandwich the Kress building, are incorporated into the re-design.

A sales contract is pending the city's approval of the project, says real estate broker Jeannette Jason of DjG Tampa Inc. Realty Services. She and her father, Miami-based real estate broker and developer Doran Jason, are management partners in Kress Square LLC, which owns the property in the 800 block of Franklin, across from the Element apartment complex. An entry into Kress also is located on Florida Avenue.

"We still have due diligence. We have a ways to go,"  she says. "I'm optimistic that these guys can get the deal done. I think the community will like the new plan and design."

Jason declined to provide details, saying she would leave that to the prospective development team.

But the project will have about half the density of another project initially approved in 2005 that never got off the ground, she says. That project included two residential towers with about 400 units, a parking garage and nearly 85,000 square feet for retail, office and other uses.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says the redevelopment of the Kress building is the last major structure that his administration had set its sights on. "This is a building we have tried for three-and-a-half years to get done. It was a grand old structure that needed to be restored," Buckhorn says. "We have pushed. We have prodded. ... I couldn't be happier. It's nice to hopefully bring this one in for a landing."

Buckhorn also is hoping developers will honor the Blake and Middleton High School students who held the lunch counter sit-in at Woolworth in 1960. Their efforts pushed the city to integrate its businesses. "People need to know what took place there," he says, adding that public art could be included in the project.

City planners will review plans submitted by Walson Ventures and determine administratively whether to approve the project.

Preliminary plans submitted by Alfonso Architects show nine floors each for hotel rooms and residences, a 2-story garage and an amenities deck. Four restaurants and a coffee/tea lounge for "grab and go" items also are shown. 

"We're ready to go," says Buckhorn. "I'm hoping we see a groundbreaking in the not too distant future."

He sees the demand for more downtown residences growing especially among young professionals. "They are flocking here and bringing their friends with them," he says.

Angry Chair Brewing ready to pour in Seminole Heights

Angry Chair Brewing is the latest micro-brewery to tap into the craft beer market in Tampa. It also adds to Seminole Heights' reputation as a destination place for eclectic dining and drinking choices.

Watch the brewery's Facebook page for the announcement on Angry Chairs opening, one day this week.

The only hold-up after two years of hard work and waiting on bureaucratic red tape is a taste test of the German Chocolate Cupcake libation. It is a brew tried out at Independent beer house with success.

"It had a lot of traction," says co-owner Ryan Dowdle, a former consultant for Cigar City Brewing Co.

He and co-owner Shane Mozur and brewing partner Ben Romano are eager to share this brew and four or five others that will be on tap in the tasting room along with "quest" taps from other Florida-only breweries.

Among the beer choices will be Round About IPA, Hoppy Ale and Gose, a tart German-style beer. German Chocolate Cupcake is a seasonal brew that will be offered two or three times a year along with a German-style seasonal of sour wheat with added tropical fruits.

Seminole Heights is the owners' location of choice, aided by an opportunity to remodel a 1941 block building at 6401 N. Florida Ave., across from San Carlos Tavern. Most of the interior was gutted but as much as possible of the building's old heart pine was salvaged for reuse.

Hartley + Purdy Architecture and LIVEWORK STUDIOS worked on the building design and interiors. 

"I like the synergy (of Seminole Heights)," says Dowdle. "I like its sense of community which is not present in other areas. I like the way everybody works together and supports one another. Creativity and imagination of  people around us makes complete sense. It's a thrilling time."

The Angry Chair is a place for people to get away from whatever is negative, whether it's being stuck in traffic or a bad day at work. "This is my celebration of it," Dowdle says.

He expects a very interactive relationship with customers whose opinions and tastes will determine which beers will be brewed.

Growlers will be available for take-home sale, and Angry Chair's brews will be offered at other locations including Independent and possibly Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe. There is limited parking at Angry Chair but nearby businesses, including San Carlos, will open up parking spaces. And for those who walk or cycle to Angry Chair, discounts will be given.

Seminole Heights is seeing a lot of good business growth along Florida, including the under-construction Fodder & Shine restaurant and the expansion of Rooster & the Till.

And competition isn't a bad thing, Dowdle says.

"This is all good. We actually feed off each other," he says. "As long as we have people coming to Seminole Heights, we all benefit."

Urbanism on Tap invites you to discuss role of universities in urban design

Tampa's Urban Charrette and the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) Tampa Bay will host Urbanism on Tap at PJ Dolan's Irish Pub & Grille, North of USF on Nov. 18, 2014, starting at 5:45 p.m. 

Starting this fall, Urbanism on Tap organizers have moved north of Downtown Tampa to host a new Urbanism on Tap Series highlighting the “Role of Universities in Urban Design and Innovation’’ and engage the University of South Florida (USF) community in the conversation.  

Led by Urban Charrette and CNU Tampa Bay, Urbanism on Tap is a recurring open mic event, focused on generating constructive conversations within the community about current ideas and trends that are shaping our city.

Every event is open to the public, and moderators and attendees are invited to share their views and stories related to the topic of the day. The intention of the event is to generate a lively exchange of ideas, which will enhance our ability to make Tampa a more livable city.

The upcoming event, entitled “Town & Gown: Getting Along and Prospering,” is the second discussion of a three-part series focused on the relationship between universities and their host cities. 

In particular, the Nov. 18 event will look at how these traditional adversaries have become partners to spur development and model successful placemaking. Participants will have the opportunity to discuss various case studies of universities and cities from around the country that have collaborated to create prosperous and vibrant urban environments. They will also have the opportunity to share their experiences from their favorite university towns.

The discussion will then focus on how ideas from these case studies and experiences can be applied in Tampa to improve USF and its surrounding neighborhoods. Students, residents and neighborhood groups residing around the university area are encouraged to attend. 
 
The event organizers encourage people to share their opinions on this topic by visiting Urbanism on Tap’s Facebook page. People can also use the Facebook page and the UOT website to continue the conversation online, following the event. 

Venue: PJ Dolan's Irish Pub & Grille, North of USF (2836 E Bearss Ave Tampa, FL 33613); 
Date and Time: Nov. 18, 2014 from 5:45 p.m – 7:15 p.m
For any questions, email Ashly Anderson.

Goody Goody restaurant gets a new life

Goody Goody things come to those who wait.

After a nine-year (on-and-off) quest, Richard Gonzmart is holder of the secret sauce recipe spread on hamburgers grilled at one of Tampa's most iconic dining spots - the Goody Goody restaurant.

He purchased rights to the Goody Goody name, the secret sauce and a few pieces of furniture, including the Goody Goody sign, from former owner Michael Wheeler.

Plans are to "restore the luster of its storied past," says Gonzmart, who is owner of the Ulele restaurant on Tampa's Riverwalk and a fourth-generation co-owner of the Columbia Restaurant Group which includes the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City.

A wrecking ball knocked down the Goody Goody restaurant on Florida Avenue one year after its closing in 2005, demolishing an 85-year-old landmark.

The restaurant opened in 1925 on Grand Central Avenue (now Kennedy Boulevard) and also later had a location in Seminole Heights next to a neighborhood movie house. In 1930 Goody Goody opened downtown at 1119 Florida Avenue.  It was Tampa's first drive-in restaurant, with male car hops hustling delivery orders to customers who waited in their cars. As World War II began, female car hops, known as the "Goody Goody" girls, took over.

Inside, customers sat side by side in metal chairs and schoolroom desks. The Goody Goody brand got its start selling barbecue at "pig stands" in the Midwest. 

Gonzmart is a long-time fan of Goody Goody hamburgers and its house made butterscotch pies. Leaving his office on Saturdays, he frequently phoned his pick-up orders for a bag of hamburgers with pickles, onions and secret sauce. 

"They didn't know who I was or my connection to the Columbia," he says in a press release announcing the sale agreement. "But they knew my voice and my order."

Once a new location can be found, Gonzmart hopes to re-open Goody Goody sometime in 2015. If all goes well, he might consider additional Goody Goody locations.

"He's actively looking for a site," says Michael Kilgore, chief marketing officer for the Columbia Group. "It's premature to give much detail."

YMCA plans 3-pool aquatics center in South Tampa

South Tampa swimmers of all ages can get ready for a new aquatic experience with a choice of three swimming pools for fun and wellness.

The Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA will begin construction in November on the Carol Kennedy Aquatic Center at the South Tampa Family YMCA at 4411 S. Himes Ave. The center is named in memory of the daughter of David and Liz Kennedy who died in 1984. The Kennedys are long-time supporters of the YMCA and its mission.

The center's current pool, which is old and out-dated, will stay open during construction. Pending a capital fund-raising campaign, plans are to fill in the existing pool and expand the YMCA building.

The Carol Kennedy Aquatic Center will have a therapy pool, an activity pool with a focus on children, and a lap pool for families and training purposes. Construction costs are about $3.5 million. The center is expected to open in May 2015.

The YMCA offers a variety of aquatic fitness programs as well as swimming classes for adults and infants as young as six months. A 6-week IRS Self-Rescue course on survival swimming skills also is available for children age six months to four years.

One of the agency's priorities is drowning prevention. Florida annually has the highest number of drownings of children under the age of five.

The therapy pool will feature aquatic fitness classes and swim opportunities for seniors or people with disabilities, says Lalita Llerena, YMCA spokeswoman.

"(Aquatic exercise) is one of the softer opportunities for fitness," she says. "We're hoping to reach more active seniors with that."

For the YMCA 2014 has been an expansion year. Earlier this year a new, 11,500 square-foot gymnastics center opened on Ragg Road in Carrollwood as part of the Bob Sierra YMCA Youth & Family Center. Construction is under way on the first of three phases for the South Shore YMCA at Interstate 75 and Big Bend Road. The second phase is expected to include an aquatics center.

CSX terminal key to thousands of new jobs in Central Florida

Polk County and the city of Winter Haven are beneficiaries of a transportation, logistics and distribution hub that could bring thousands of jobs to the area over the next five to 10 years.

The terminal for the CSX Central Florida Logistics Center in Winter Haven, which opened in April, is the first step in developing about 7.9 million square feet of warehouse, distribution and manufacturing facilities, all located on about 930 acres surrounding the CSX rail line. About 300,000 containers of goods will be processed annually from rail to truck or truck to rail with state-of-the-art technology. 

Winter Haven Industrial Developers paid about $8.5 million for about 500 acres of the site, according to Polk County records. The remaining acreage will be part of a second phase of development.

About 30 employees oversee daily operations at the terminal which is a regional link to Tampa, Orlando and Miami, all within one-day truck trips from Winter Haven. CSX officials say they expect about 1,800 direct jobs and as many as 8,500 indirect jobs to be realized in the next decade.

The exact number of jobs will be tied to the kinds of businesses that locate around the terminal, says Bruce Lyon, executive director of the Winter Haven Economic Development Council.  He places job estimates in the range of 4,000 to 8,000.

"We are as a city and county well prepared to embrace any new development that occurs on the site," says Lyon. "The labor force is ready."

He points to the educational opportunities for a trained work force including Polk State College, a few miles from the CSX terminal. There also is the University of Central Florida in Orlando, and according to Lyon, a sometimes overlooked fact that Winter Haven has an immense amount of broad-band capacity coveted by the logistics industry.

"The logistics industry is very advanced in terms of technology," Lyon says.

And overall the industry offers higher than average paying jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, logisticians' median annual salary in May 2012 was about $72,000 with the highest paid earning about $112,000 and and the lowest paid about $45,000.

Construction of the terminal took about two years and created about 200 jobs with the aid of Polk Works, the county's workforce development board.

The intermodal terminal is located on about 318 acres off State Road 60 at Logistics Boulevard. It has five 3,000-foot loading tracks and two 10,000-foot arrival and departure tracks. Three electric cranes load and unload containers.

"They are designed for noise reduction and are environmentally friendly," says CSX spokeswoman Kristin Seay. "It's huge. It's very efficient and uses the most advanced technology."

The containers carry goods from tee shirts to televisions, Seay says.

The terminal project is part of a legislatively-approved agreement in which the state of Florida  paid about $432 million for about 60 miles of CSX tracks. The deal morphed through several years of negotiations and controversy over cost and the potential impact of increased freight traffic through cities such as Lakeland.

Proponents see the deal as an economic boost to the region and a crucial link in plans for a SunRail commuter line through Orlando along CSX tracks. The agreement required CSX to "reinvest every dime in infrastructure in Florida," says Seay.

Holiday Inn brings its brand to Westshore neighborhood in Tampa

Holiday Inn Tampa Westshore Airport is the newest hotel brand to cater to business travelers, families and local residents who want an upscale getaway in the heart of the city's largest business district.

West Shore is at the center of new residential and retail growth with new apartments, restaurants and shops along Boy Scout Road and Westshore Boulevard. It also is located near International Mall, Tampa International Airport and Interstate 275.

An $8 million renovation at the hotel, at 700 N. Westshore Blvd., features two new restaurants, Market Place Coffee Bar & Cafe and Bar 700 Grille & Lounge. Marketplace will sell grab-and-go snacks, sandwiches and specialty coffee. Bar 700 will offer dinners, specialty cocktails and craft beers.

The hotel is placing special emphasis on giving "foodies" a different and local flair in their dining and drinking options, says Holly Clifford, president of press marketing for Holiday Inn.

Craft beers from Ybor-based Coppertail Brewing Co., and pastries from Pane Rustica Bakery & Cafe in Palma Ceia will be included in menus at the bar and cafe.

"(The bar) is a much more high end look and feel," says Clifford. "It looks very today and modern."

The renovations also improve on other amenities such as arrival and welcome services, guest room comfort and a redesigned logo. The hotel has about 15,000 square feet of meeting space with a newly added ballroom.

General manager Pam Avery is chairwoman of the board for Visit Tampa Bay. "This has been a phenomenal year for tourism," she says.

That translates to a high occupancy rate for hotels including the Holiday Inn Tampa Westshore, which has 262 guest rooms.

The hotel initially began operation as an independent hotel under the name of Quorum. It also operated as the Wyndham. Quorum still owns and manages the hotel but is now a franchisee of Holiday Inn.

Avery says Holiday Inn is a well-known brand that many people grew up with but it has become much more modern and edgy. "We think it's a perfect fit for us," she says.

But there are some Quorum traditions that won't change. 

Guests can still quench their thirst with fruit-infused water and grab a handful of M&Ms, peanut and plain, from dispensers.

Tampa General Hospital opens new food court; Prepares to build new hospital

Tampa General Hospital is in the midst of expanding and renovating in major and minor ways from building a medical campus on Kennedy Boulevard to redesigning the hospital's main entrance and food court.

Hospital officials are nearing a construction start for a rehabilitation hospital on the site of the former Ferman Chevrolet automobile dealership at 1307 Kennedy Blvd. Tampa City Council is expected to give is final approval to the project on Nov. 6.

Chief Executive Officer Jim Burkhart says some design tweaking is under way but he anticipates announcing the project within the next month.

City records show the project will have a 150-bed professional and residential treatment center, a 100-room hotel or motel, 53,000 square feet of administrative offices, 100,000 square feet for medical uses and 15,000 square feet for an employee day care. There also is a free-standing garage. The campus is planned in phases.

Residents in North Hyde Park are eager to see the project completed and expect an influx of "new young people" who want to live in new condominiums or houses in the neighborhood, says Wesley Weissenburger of the North Hyde Park Civic Association. He spoke in favor of the hospital's proposal at a public hearing before city council on Oct. 9.

"People will come to North Hyde Park because of this facility," says Weissenburger. "This will bring people who will be working there. They will bring upgrades to our community and the value of our community will rise."

TGH also is celebrating the opening on Davis Islands of a new main entrance to the hospital's West Pavilion and improvements to an expanded food court.

"The entrance was not benefiting a world class organization like Tampa General Hospital," says John Brabson Jr., chairman of the hospital's board of directors, who spoke at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. "It's going to get great use. It's very, very practical the way it's designed."

The redesign by Healy & Partners Architects is the first since the former main entrance was built in 1986. Construction by Barton Marlow includes a new covered patient discharge and pickup area, a new patient discharge lounge in the main lobby and an enclosed valet station. About 250 vehicles a day drive up the main entrance.

The new food court, designed by Alfonso Architects, includes electronic and interactive menu screens that provide nutritional tips and calorie counts. The hospital serves up to four million meals a year to visitors, employees and patients. 

Menus include healthy options such as vegetarian and gluten-free dishes. Food venues include The Rotisserie which features chicken, ribs and sides; The Italian Grill with pizzas and regional dishes; and The Bayshore Grill with fried cod sandwiches and shrimp baskets.

Cost of the new main entrance is about $3.4 million. The food court cost about $2.3 million.

Recently TGH opened Tampa General Medical Group (TGMG) Family Care Center Trinity. This is the hospital's first primary care location in Pasco County. Another family care center is expected to open in Wesley Chapel early in 2015.

TGH also is in the midst of a $22 million, multiyear project to upgrade all of its operating rooms, says Burkhart.

"We have to operate and renovate and keep expanding space because it has to be refurbished about every five to seven years," he says. "You're just constantly doing it."

Tampa General Hospital opens first primary care center in Pasco County

Tampa General Hospital is opening its first primary care center in Pasco County in the Trinity area of New Port Richey.

Tampa General Medical Group (TGMG) Family Care Center Trinity is the 12th primary care location for TGH. Another Pasco County primary care center is scheduled to open in Wesley Chapel in January.

The Trinity facility, which opened Oct. 13, is located in a remodeled medical building at 2433 Country Place Blvd, near West Pasco Industrial Park.

In recent years TGH has been expanding its reach into Hillsborough County neighborhoods such as Carrollwood, Brandon, Sun City Center and Tampa Palms. Hospital officials took a look at the demographics and health care needs of Pasco as well.

"It did show there was not a lot of access for patients," says Jana Gardner, VP of Physician Practice Operations.

The review also revealed something unexpected about the age of the area's population.

"We were surprised at the older age group up there," Gardner says.

Initially TGH officials planned on a family practice clinic but instead opted to offer services to patients age 18 or older. Wesley Chapel trends younger and has more families with children so Gardner says that facility will serve children and adults when it opens in January.

TGMG Family Care Center Trinity will have two doctors and a support staff of about five people.

Joyce Thomas, a board certified doctor of internal medicine, is moving from TGH's care center on Kennedy Boulevard to Pasco. TGH has not yet recruited a second doctor, Gardner says.

The Trinity office is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Monday through Friday. Available services include immunizations, physicals, and management of chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. The office also is the first TGMG Family Care Center to offer on-site physical therapy.

Gardner says the care center will have the latest in technology including electronic medical records that doctors can access from any TGH facility. Patients also will be able to go online to see their laboratory results, ask questions or schedule appointments.

Lakeland Park Center brings new shops, 200+ jobs to Polk County

The Tampa Bay area economy is getting a boost from new shops opening at the Lakeland Park Center, the 20th Florida property owned and managed by Michigan-based Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust.

The 210,000-square-foot shopping center is anchored by Dick's Sporting Goods, Ross Dress for Less, PetSmart, and Floor and Décor. Other shops are Old Navy, Shoe Carnival, Dress Barn, Lane Bryant and America's Best (contacts and eyewear), and ULTA Beauty.

"It's the first major shopping center in awhile after some smaller projects up U.S. 98 before the Great Recession," says Jim Studiale, Lakeland's community development director. "I guess it's also a sign in that it's a major redevelopment of an area that had been badly redeveloped."

Ramco-Gershenson was patient and financially able to acquire dozens of parcels including a recreational vehicle park and wait out the market, Studiale says. "It's been a hard road for them," he says. "I don't know that I believed it until I saw it coming out of the ground."

Company officials say more than 200 jobs are being filled at the shopping center which fronts Interstate 4 on Lakeland Park Center Drive. It is across from the company's Target-anchored Shoppes of Lakeland, at U.S. Highway 98.

"Besides the obvious benefits of the project in terms of capital investments and new jobs, the new retail development brings the neighborhood enhanced convenience and quality of life," says Jim DeGennaro, Polk County's community development manager.

Ramco-Gershenson also owns parcels that surround the shopping center that will be part of a second phase of development though no start date has been announced. New retail and additional jobs are anticipated.

"There is a lot of economic development anticipated around this property now but in future as well, which is very good for the community," says Dawn Hendershot, VP of  Ramco-Gershenson's investor relations.

Investment including construction and land purchase for Lakeland Park Center is estimated at about $34 million.

The public is invited to a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 23. Retailers also plan a family-oriented event from noon to 6 p.m. on Oct. 24 with store giveaways and coupons, a bounce house, face painting and more.

In the Tampa Bay area, Ramco-Gershenson's Florida properties include Cypress Point shopping center on U.S. Highway 19 North in Clearwater. The shopping center is anchored by The Fresh Market and Burlington Coat Factory.
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