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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. 

St. Pete's much anticipated Locale Market opens in December

Tampa Bay foodies are enthusiastic about the grand opening of Locale Market on Wednesday, Dec. 17, in downtown St. Petersburg’s upscale Sundial Shopping Plaza.  

The inspiration of well-known celebrity chefs Michael Mina and Don Pintabona, Locale Market will be a combination restaurant, bakery and upscale grocery store featuring many locally sourced food, including gator, seafood, produce and caviar from Sarasota, as well as handcrafted items, such as specialty soaps from Thrive Handcrafts in St. Petersburg.

Additional extras include three wood burning grills, fresh-squeezed juices, a 60-day dry aging room for beef, fresh-made pasta bar, bakery and open-air kitchens and cook stations where customers can watch food being prepared. There will also be indoor and outdoor seating. An opening date for the wine bar and a restaurant, FarmTable Kitchen, have not been scheduled, but both will be located on the second floor of the 22,000-square-foot new gourmet marketplace.

Locale joins the line-up of other new retail shops and restaurant at Sundial St. Pete, the former BayWalk shopping area that developer Bill Edwards, CEO of the Edwards Group, has been putting together for several years in downtown St. Petersburg. Local artist Mark Aeiling of MGA Sculpture Studio, in St. Petersburg created the life-size bronze sculpture of dolphins that are part of a dramatic courtyard art scene that also includes a giant sundial.

Celebrity chefs Mina and Pintabona have impressive credentials. Mina is a James Beard award-winning chef and restaurateur, while Pintabona is a cookbook author and served as the first executive chef for The Tribeca Grill, actor Robert DeNiro’s famed restaurant in New York City. 

The two are enthusiastic about Locale Market, which will officially open to the public at 3 p.m. on December 17.

“We couldn’t be more excited to share our culinary marketplace with an area that understands fresh ingredients, unique experiences and community gathering,” says Pintabona.

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.

Gateway North brings luxury apartments to Largo

Gateway North is the newest luxury apartment complex in Largo, a city that is encouraging more large-scale residential projects with a moratorium on parkland fees.

The fees generally are collected from developers to offset the city's costs for upkeep and additional park amenities to accommodate residential growth. The moratorium is scheduled to end in May 2016.

Gateway North likely would not have been built without the moratorium and the savings to developers of about $1 million in parkland fees, says Anthony Everett, director of Central Florida's division of the Atlanta-based Pollack Shores Real Estate Group

"It was forward thinking of the city to take this positive step and prime the pump to get something going," Everett says.  

Gateway North, at 2681 Roosevelt Blvd., offers 342 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments ranging in monthly rents from $945 to $1,619. The complex is the first large-scale, market-rate residential complex to open in Largo in at least the past decade. The economic downturn in particular put the brakes on residential development.

Amenities include a 2-acre lake with jogging trails, business and fitness centers, a resort-style clubhouse and pool, and trolley stops for the Clearwater beaches.

The complex offers access to shopping, entertainment, businesses and bus stops, off nearby U.S. 19. Among options are a new Walmart Super Center, WaWa's convenience store and gas station, the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport and quick access to Tampa Bay bridges.

Pollack Shores Real Estate Group, which developed Gateway North, anticipates the residential community will have broad appeal to young professionals as well as people working in nearby county offices or in proximity to the airport.

At least 120,000 vehicles travel past Gateway North and area businesses daily. 

"I'm sure 300 people would prefer to live close to where they work," Everett says. "It's going  to be a very convenient place to live."

Largo is looking at additional residential construction that in total could put up to 1,200 apartments into the market.

Among current projects are The Boulevard, a 260-unit, market-rate apartment complex at 2098 Seminole Blvd., north of Largo Mall. The site is former home to an RV park. Broadway Apartments will have 288 market-rate apartments on 66th Street, near Ulmerton Road. And Bay Isle Landing is a project of 96 town homes on Roosevelt Boulevard near the Bayside Bridge.

"These are high quality market rate apartment projects," says Robert Klute, Largo's assistant community development director. "That's something we very much want to see."

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."

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.
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