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Florida Crystals Corp. plans luxury apartments in Channel District

It's a sweet deal in the Channel District.

Sugar company, Florida Crystals Corp., is buying a prime spot in this upscale booming neighborhood to build a 7-story, 270-unit luxury apartment building and six-and-a-half story parking garage. The company, which last year launched a real estate division, paid about $3.8 million for three parcels at 222 N. 12th St., 215 and 217 N. 11th St., next to The Slade.

The property, at close to two acres, includes two vacant warehouse structures which will be torn down. It is the former site of the Amazon Hose and Rubber Company.

This is one more project added to recent and planned residential towers including the SkyHouse Channelside which is under construction and The Martin at Meridian, which is on the drawing board. And, there is anticipation over Tampa Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's plans to revive the distressed Channelside Plaza as well as develop other parcels he has bought in the area.

"The transformation that has happened since 2000 has been pretty amazing," says Sean Lance, managing director of NAI Tampa Bay, a commercial real estate company. The firm represents the seller, Finergy Group of Sarasota.

Lance anticipates apartment rents will be about $1.80 to $2 a square foot, based on unit sizes of between 900 to 1,000 square feet.

Florida Crystals, which is based in West Palm Beach, is a family-owned business that traces back to Cuba in the 1850s. It sells sugar products under several brands including Domino and Florida Crystals.

This is the company's first Tampa project but Juan Porro, VP of real estate and acquisitions, is the former president of Cobalt Development Group which developed The Slade, one of the Channel District's earliest residential projects.

Tampa City Council will weigh in on the project at a rezoning hearing scheduled for Nov. 13. Finergy Channelside Holdings LLC is seeking a unified commercial zoning for the trio of parcels.

The recession temporarily stalled residential and commercial development in Channel District . But with the recovery under way, there is a pent up demand especially among millennials and boomers who want a walkable urban lifestyle, Lance says.

Residential towers, high-rise and mid-rise, are filling up and sites for additional projects growing scarcer. "It's pretty picked through now," Lance says. "You could get creative and pick another site or two."

Prospects for additional retail, maybe a rumored Publix grocery store or CVS Pharmacy, also are brightening.  "As you get the body count, you'll see more retailers," he says.

Tampa reveals vision for re-designed Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park

The 25-acre grasslands of Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park are dotted with berms that recall ancient Indian mounds, a concrete "Greek-style" amphitheater, basketball and tennis courts and a Boys & Girls Club. But for most people who visit the park one spectacular view is missing -- the Hillsborough River.
 
It is blocked from view except to those who almost by accident wander over to its shores.
 
Susan Lane, daughter of former Mayor Julian B. Lane, is among those who had no idea what an unfulfilled treasure the park is. "I guess they thought this was a good design," she says after taking her first walk down to the park's shoreline.
 
She likes the city's plan to re-design the more than 40-year-old public park by tossing out much of what in the 1970s was considered contemporary and cutting-edge.
 
At a press conference, Mayor Bob Buckhorn unveiled a multi-year, conceptual plan to transform the park. It is a blueprint crafted from ideas and opinions gathered at a series of public meetings attended by about 350 residents. The next step is for consultants with Colorado-based Civitas to take the plan from concept to detailed drawings. About $8 million is set aside by the city to seed the project. Final costs are unknown but could be $20 million or more.
 
"This is an opportunity that is too great to pass up," Buckhorn says. "We have a moral obligation to do it and do it big and do it right."
 
The park, at 1001 North Blvd., is a jewel in the city's 25-year InVision Tampa master plan to re-invent downtown as an urban village with connectivity to surrounding neighborhoods on both sides of the river. On the west bank more than 150 acres, including Riverfront Park, are targeted for redevelopment. The nearby North Boulevard Homes are slated to be torn down by the Tampa Housing Authority and replaced with a mixed-income, mixed-use complex similar to the Encore project under construction just north of downtown.
 
Dozens of ideas bubbled up during public discussions of desired park amenities including a ferris wheel, a beach area, picnic facilities, boating docks and a history walk. Not all are on the final list. But if the final proposal doesn't please everyone, city officials believe it does meet with approval from most residents.
 
"What we have is the future of the city of Tampa right here," says Rev. James Favorite, pastor at Beulah Baptist Institutional Church, located on Cypress Street, a short walk from the park. "My church members have used this park on many occasions. With all the improvements to be made, I like the concept. I like the vision. I like the inclusion of so many people. We feel we are a part of this. We feel ownership."
 
The new park will include a great lawn for special events and festivals; a play area with a splash pad; a history walk to honor Phillips Field, Roberts City and surrounding neighborhoods; a community center and public boathouse; a garden; an oak-lined promenade; a half-mile trail with exercise stations; an extension of the city's Riverwalk; a fishing area; and a paddle learning area created by a floating boat dock.
 
Additional parking also will be carved out by re-aligning and shifting Laurel Street. A multi-use field will be enlarged to regulation size and seating installed. New basketball courts will be built. Tennis courts will be renovated and sand volleyball courts added.
 
The berms and amphitheater will be razed. 
 
Making the park all about families and recognizing the area's history are the driving motivators that emerged from the public meetings, says Civitas' President Mark Johnson.
 
And picnic areas are the most desired feature. "That's not the most common thing I hear around the country," Johnson says.
 
Lane remembers her father's stories about being captain of the Hillsborough High School football team which played annual Thanksgiving Day games at Phillips Field. He served as mayor from 1959 to 1963 and worked with a Bi-Racial Committee to peacefully integrate Tampa's businesses following the lunch counter sit-ins at F.W. Woolworth's. The park was dedicated to him in 1977.

The city's proposed makeover, she says, "is a great, great idea. He (former Mayor Lane) would have been real pleased."

Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik wins initial approval for 400-room luxury hotel

Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's planned 400-room hotel/residence complex is a potential game-changer in the city's vision to create a seamless flow from urban neighborhoods, such as the Channel District, to a revitalized downtown and then across the river to the emerging neighborhoods of North Hyde Park and West Tampa.

It is one more large puzzle piece in an urban commercial and residential landscape coming into focus, year by year. The hotel will fill a sandy vacant lot at Florida Avenue and Old Water Street, surrounded by the TECO Line Streetcar at Dick Greco Plaza, the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, the Embassy Suites and the Tampa Convention Center.

Also nearby are the Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park, Tampa Bay History Center, Florida Aquarium, Amalie Arena (formerly the Tampa Bay Times Forum) and the Channelside Bay Plaza which Vinik recently acquired.

"We have a grand vision for this site as a high end development to both serve as a true centerpiece for the (Channel) district and to raise the bar for the district as well as complement and benefit all of the adjacent uses," says Bob Abberger, senior managing director of Trammell Crow's Tampa office. He represents Florida Old Water Limited in the rezoning process, one of several entities controlled by Vinik.

A final vote by council on Oct. 2 will set the stage for Vinik to move ahead with signing up a hotel operator and moving toward a construction start. Some preliminary architectural designs have been completed.

The approximately 25-story luxury hotel will have about 45,000 square feet of retail space and about 170,000 square feet of meeting rooms. The hotel's top floors will have about 50 residences. More than 270 parking spaces will be provided on-site and also through agreement with the adjacent South Regional Garage.

Abberger says the plan is to excavate the site to create underground parking. There also will be what Abberger describes as a "grand retail main street connecting the forum with the convention center."

Connectivity in purpose and vision is a major feature for the development including the potential for a covered walkway and overpass for visitor flow from one venue to another and ease of access from the convention center to the hotel's meeting space.

"This is the break out space that you don't currently have (at the convention center)," says Abberger.  "You've got great exhibit space. This is going to allow a lot more nights for not only bookings for the convention center but a higher quality for the convention center."

While the Downtown Tampa Partnership doesn't take positions on specific projects, the partnership's President Christine Burdick says the development will "add to the vital vibrancy and value of downtown."

Architect Mickey Jacob of BDG Architects lives and works in the district. He sees job creation in a project that also addresses the challenges of developing an urban infill property.

 "Our city stands on the verge of some exciting times," he says. "And our urban redevelopment and new density that we have the opportunity to create will do nothing but make us a world class city where people want to live, work and play."

Moccasin Lake Nature Park Gets Renovations, Extends Hours

Moccasin Lake Nature Park is an unexpected oasis in the midst of Clearwater's densely packed urban landscape.

But, since its opening in 1982, the 51-acre park has been an often overlooked "hidden gem" in need of funds and a little polishing. It is located at 2750 Park Trail Lane, just east U.S. 19 and north of Drew Street. 

The park is currently in the midst of a $700,000 renovation, which is part of a 10-year master plan. And for the first time in many years the park now has extended Sunday hours from noon to 4 p.m. through December. Regular hours for the nature preserve are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Admission is free.

"It has not had any improvements since its inception," says Anna Gurney, spokeswoman for Clearwater's Neighborhood Liaison office.

To date about $100,000 has been spent on a new pier as well as improvements to nature trails, a meadow and boardwalks. In 2015 the remaining $600,000 will pay for an updated interpretive center, new restrooms, renovated picnic facilities, and parking and landscaping improvements.

"The park is a work-in-progress," Gurney says. "We're going to see a lot of changes there. Next year will be a big year for us."

The nature trails, boardwalks and camps are nestled among six eco-systems inhabited by Mother Nature's flora and fauna. Its most recent tenants are Wish and Penelope, two injured bald eagles whose care is supervised by state and local wildlife organizations including the Clearwater Audubon Society.

Moccasin Lake Nature Park also is home to reptiles, insects, amphibians, and Elvis, the oldest living vulture on exhibit. Visitors can rent meeting and classroom space, stop by an interpretive center or sit in on educational programs.

Moccasin Lake previously was managed by the City of Clearwater's recreation department but Gurney says a parks' manager is now in charge. Two city employees work on-site during operating hours.  "Right now we are actively trying to get more volunteers so that the park can be open more often," she says.

To volunteer at the park, contact Krystie Epperson at (727) 793-2976.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Anna Gurney, City of Clearwater

Osborne Pond, Community Trail To Be Named For Civil Rights' Leader Clarence Fort

On Feb. 29, 1960, Clarence Fort was just shy of his 21st birthday, fresh out of barber's school and president of the NAACP Youth Council. That day he, and Rev. A. Leon Lowry, led a group of students from Blake and Middleton High Schools to F. W. Woolworth's in downtown Tampa.

They did what no blacks then were allowed to do. They sat down at the lunch counter and waited to be served. Fort's inspiration was the lunch counter sit-ins by students in Greensboro, N.C. that same year.

While blacks could enter Woolworth and buy its products, eating at the lunch counter was against the law.

"You could spend $500,000 in the store but you couldn't sit down and have a Coke," says Fort, now age 76. "It just was an unfair system."

At 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 18, the city of Tampa will name the Osborne Pond and Community Trail in honor of Fort and his long history of fighting injustice.  The park will be officially named the Clarence Fort Freedom Trail.

"I was just elated," says Fort when he learned of the city's plan.

The honor comes on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“It’s important that we as a community know and understand our history, particularly during the 50-year anniversary of the Civil Rights Act being signed into law. I am honored to be able to dedicate this park in name after my friend Clarence Fort but also to the ideas that he fought for,” says Mayor Bob Buckhorn in his announcement for the dedication. “The park area itself is truly something special, and I think the residents will be proud of what it has become.”

The half-mile long trail circles Osborne Pond, at 3803 Osborne Ave., with eight fitness stations for adults and seniors spaced along the route at four locations. The park also features three boardwalk segments that give visitors a chance to walk to the water's edge for a bird's eye view of the egrets, ducks and moor hens that wade through the pond's waters.

More than 110 trees, including palms and cypress trees, offer shade and beauty. The trail connects with adjacent sidewalks on Osborne, North 29th Street, North 30th Street and East Cayuga Street.

About $500,000 in Community Investment Tax dollars paid for construction which began in December 2013. 

This is the third city retention pond in East Tampa to be re-designed. 

Years ago residents complained that the city's retention ponds, often locked behind chain link fences, were eyesores that contributed to neighborhood blight. Today residents stroll along walkways at the Herbert D. Carrington Community Lake on 34th Street, adjacent to Fair Oaks Park, or the Robert L. Cole Sr. Community Lake at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, across from Young Middle Magnet School.

Funds to re-do the retention ponds as "lakes" came from a portion of property taxes collected within the city's East Tampa Community Redevelopment Area bordered by Hillsborough Avenue, Interstates 275 and 4, and the city limits.

At the "lake" on Martin Luther King, segments of the walkway commemorate historical figures such as civil rights activists Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; the first black congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm; Jackie Robinson, who broke Major League Baseball's color barrier; and President Barack Obama.

The city will place a plaque at Osborne pond that will recount the role Fort played in breaking down barriers in Tampa. Following the successful Woolworth demonstrations. Fort pushed the city's bus service to hire black bus drivers, and he became the first black hired by Trailways Bus Co. as a long-distance bus driver in Florida.

Fort worked 20 years as a deputy for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department and for 17 of those years organized the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade. He also founded the Progress Village Foundation.

He isn't slowing down in retirement and works tirelessly with Saving Our Children, a youth program started nearly 26 years ago at New Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church. "I'm devoting all my time with this group," Fort says.

A rendering of the park can be viewed on the City of Tampa's website.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Clarence Fort, Saving Our Children; Bob Buckhorn, City of Tampa
 

16 Design Teams Offer Visions For St. Petersburg Pier

Design teams tasked with re-imagining the St. Petersburg Pier are split on whether to replace or renovate the pier and its iconic inverted, five-story pyramid built in the 1970s.

Of 16 teams submitting proposals by the city's Sept. 5 deadline, eight favor renovation, seven fall into the replacement column and one from New York-based W Architecture and Landscape Architecture is "undetermined." 

While many local talents are represented, the chance at a high profile project also caught the attention of architects and designers in New York, Orlando, Chicago, Atlanta and London. Some teams are partnerships pulled together specifically to compete for this project.

This is the second round of requested proposals following the rejection last year of the futuristic design by Michael Maltzan Architecture dubbed "The Lens." Maltzan's plan won in competition against an initial list of 23 design teams nearly two years ago but met with disapproval from many residents.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our community," says Architect Yann Weymouth, design director of the newly created St. Pete Design Group. "Our generation will not get another shot at this."

The competition also includes Tampa Bay-based teams of Alfonso Architects, ahha! Design Group and Cooper Johnson Smith Architects & Town Planners, all with replacement proposals.  Fisher and Associates in Clearwater; Perkins+Will in Atlanta; and Ross Barney Architects in Chicago are among those proposing renovations.
 
The team at St. Pete Design Group, which announced their partnership two days before the proposal deadline, is pursuing a renovation of the pier. At this point the vision is ideas and sketches, says Weymouth.

High profile projects, and even pyramids, are nothing new for Weymouth. His talents are visible in the designs of the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg and the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

The glass Grand Pyramid of the Louvre Museum in Paris is another iconic design he worked on with famed architect and mentor, I.M. Pei. 

After more than a dozen years affiliated with HOK, Weymouth is stepping into a new role as design director of the St. Pete Design Group. HOK was one of the semi-finalists in the first call for pier re-designs.

This time, Weymouth is partnered with Wannemacher Jensen Architects, which will work on the uplands and the approach to the pier. Harvard Jolly Architecture, which designed the inverted pyramid in the 1970s, will design the centerpiece.

"We're cognizant of what went before but the controversy has had a good effect," says Weymouth. "The community knows better what it wants and what it doesn't want. Seeing it renovated and unique and special and a St. Petersburg landmark -- a beacon -- that would be very good for the city."

Details on the 16 proposals will be forthcoming in the next months.

A selection committee appointed by Mayor Rick Kriseman will choose up to eight design teams by Oct. 3. Those teams then will have about 10 weeks to add specifics to their visions and submit a budget in mid-December. Each team will receive a stipend of $30,000.

Projects must not cost more than $46 million, including $33 million for construction. City officials will eliminate designs that don't meet specified qualifications.

The public will get to weigh in with their opinions, probably in January. City officials are considering options, such as an online survey or opinion poll, to gather comments.

Afterward, the selection committee will rank the plans and submit a list in February to city council. Once a team is approved, design work could begin by mid-2015 with construction in 2016 and completion by late 2017. 

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Yann Weymouth, St. Pete Design Group

Urban Charrette, CNU Tampa Bay Host Urbanism On Tap 4.1

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 September 9, 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 “The USF Factor,” is the first discussion of a new three-part series focused on the relationship between University of South Florida and Tampa’s urban landscape. 

Typically, universities across the country are drivers of jobs, education, innovation and urban development as well as redevelopment. Attendees of the upcoming event will look at how this trend plays out in Tampa. 

The event will focus on how the university is important for Tampa’s local economy and politics and how it can play a critical role in creating vibrant urban environments that inspire innovation. The event will explore related issues, opportunities and challenges for a range of stakeholders, including the residents, the city and the university. 

The event organizers encourage people to share their opinions on this topic by visiting Urbanism on Tap’s online Facebook page. People can also use the Facebook page and 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: September 9, 2014 from 5:45 p.m – 7:15 p.m

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Sources: Erin Chantry, CNU Tampa Bay; Ashly Anderson, Urban Charrette

Walmart Opens First Wesley Chapel Supercenter, Adds 300 Jobs

The first Walmart Supercenter in Wesley Chapel brings a job boost to the local economy with 300 full- and part-time jobs.

The 207,000-square-foot supercenter, at 28500 State Road 54, is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week offering residents an array of merchandise, a pharmacy, groceries, electronics and toys. There also is a free "Site to Store" program that allows customers to order items online for pickup at a brick-and-mortar store including the one at Wesley Chapel.

"It will allow our residents, more than 60,000 people, more convenience in shopping," says Jeff Novotny, president of The Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce and principal at American Consulting Professionals/Engineers of Florida.  "It also serves as an attraction for more development. Walmart is a global industry. It's a positive influence in our community."

The supercenter is forging local ties.

One family-owned business -- Wesley Chapel Florist -- is now a local provider for the supercenter. Lisa Armitage says Walmart representatives admired a floral arrangement she did for the chamber and offered a contract.

The store manager is Stephanie White who started with the company in 1988 as an hourly cashier in Port Richey.

Walmart's grocery department is stocked with fresh produce and name brands including organic items by Wild Oats. A Walmart mobile app for iPhone and Android allows customers to transfer prescriptions and order refills.

There is also a bakery, deli, money and vision centers and a digital photo processing department.

To celebrate the opening Walmart donated $7,000 in grants locally to Wesley Chapel High School, Wesley Chapel Lions Club, Watergrass Elementary School and Lily of the Valley food pantry.

In addition, the Wesley Chapel store will participate in the Walmart Foundation's $2 billion commitment to fight hunger through 2015. 

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Jeff Novotny, Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce

Art, Healthy Eats Meet Up At Sunspot Fresh Bar In St. Pete

The 600 block of Central Avenue is a cool place for artsy boutiques and galleries, and alleyways that give way to the unexpected delights of the broad, eye-popping brush strokes of murals painted on the blank canvas of outdoor walls.

"It's certainly a place that draws a lot of art," says Ann Shuh. "We have a lot of unique boutiques. We have murals on every block."

Shuh is the owner of Sunspot Fresh Bar, a new health food eatery that fits snugly into the 600 block's hip niche in downtown St. Petersburg. The restaurant, at 601 Central Ave., is home to a rotating gallery of work by local artists, notably Derek Donnelly, the founder of the artist-cooperative Saint Paint Arts and Sunspot's art curator.

Sunspot is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Shuh plans soon to offer beer and wine and add evening hours.

The continental-style breakfast menu includes an assortment of pastries, yogurt, granola and oatmeal. For lunch, customers can grab a wrap or salad to go, or stay awhile to enjoy art and conversation. The salad bar, wraps and sandwiches offer organic, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.

"Our concept is very simple," Shuh says. "We buy at a number of local markets. Our produce is always fresh."

The "fresh bar" of salad ingredients is open until 2 p.m.

The artwork is a special treat for customers. In addition to paintings by Donnelly, including three of his murals,  artwork by Sean Young is currently on display. Work will change regularly.

"They'll see many different styles," Shuh says. "We hope (Sunspot Fresh Bar) will be a place that tourists (and others) will come to and take home art with them."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Ann Shuh, Sunspot Fresh Bar

St. Pete Art & Fashion Week Struts Stuff For Warehouse Arts District

Showcasing St. Petersburg's creative talent is a passion of Dona Crowley, a marketing entrepreneur and aficionado of the city's evolving sophistication as a center for art and fashion.

Four years ago she launched the St. Pete Art & Fashion Week to put the spotlight on the artists and designers who live and work in St. Petersburg. This year's events kick-off with an Opening Night Party at 7 p.m. Sept. 15 at Muscato's Bella Cucina, 475 Central Ave., in the Kress building.

A series of art shows at different venues will continue through the week, concluding on Sept. 20 with a fashion runway show at One Progress Plaza. Among featured fashions are Chateau De Curb Gear, Helen Gerro, Boutique La Rochelle, Cerulean Blu and Purabell House of Fashion.

The nonprofit Warehouse Arts District will receive a portion of the week's proceeds to aid in purchasing the former Ace Recyling Compound at 22nd Street South and Fifth Avenue South. Six warehouses and offices will be converted to working space for artists of all mediums.

Approximately $350,000 is needed by Nov. 1. A closing date on the pending contract could be as soon as mid-December.

"This would be the perfect thing to get involved in and get things started off," says Crowley, owner of Luxe Fashion Group and VM Magazine. She also organizes other fashion charity events including Tampa Bay Swim Week and Cars & Couture.

Crowley is enthused by St. Petersburg's new spirit of growth. 

More residents are moving into apartments and condominiums. Boutiques, galleries, restaurants, bars and start-up businesses are opening in the downtown core.

And St. Petersburg's reputation as center for art and innovation is growing, Crowley says.

"We really want to promote that and let people know (artists) are there and drive traffic to St. Petersburg,"  she says. "The art was always there. Now with the growth of the city artists are becoming more well known and getting more exposure and hopefully their businesses are doing better."

Warehouse Arts District President Mark Aeling says plans for the arts district's proposed campus include offices, classrooms, a large gallery space, a foundry, recording studio and rehearsal space, and a possible micro-brew pub. About 20,000 square feet would be renovated as air-conditioned, affordable studio space for artists including photographers, painters and graphic artists. Larger spaces would be available for metal workers, sculptors and mixed media artists.

"The development of the ‘Warehouse Arts Enclave’ will ensure that there is affordable studio space for artists in St. Petersburg as the city continues to develop," Aeling says.

General admission for St. Pete Art & Fashion Week varies from no charge to $35. Tickets are currently available online for discounted prices prior to the event week. A limited number of VIP Wristbands are available for $80 and include entry to all events including the wrist-band only Opening Night Party. Guests with wristbands also will have front row seating for the fashion runway show as well as discounts at participating restaurants, bars and boutiques in downtown St. Petersburg.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Mark Aeling, Warehouse Arts District; Dona Crawley, St. Pete Art & Fashion Week

St. Petersburg Emergency Shelter Seeks Art Donations

The staff at CASA wants their future emergency shelter to bring sunshine and hope to the hundreds of families and individuals who need to escape domestic violence.

They also want to create a safe haven that is warm and comforting. And to do that, CASA is asking local artists to fill the shelter's rooms and walls with their donated artwork. Paintings, sculptures, multi-media are all welcome.

"We'd like the art to give the shelter a homey, friendly atmosphere," says Susan Nichols, CASA's grants and compliance coordinator.. "We hope it will be a peaceful environment, bright and cheerful. We have a lot of blank wall space."

Construction on the 40,000-square-foot building is under way, just north of downtown St. Petersburg. The expected opening of the shelter will be in late July 2015. A public showing of the donated art also is planned.

CASA is being aided with its "call to artists" by the nonprofit St. Petersburg Arts Alliance.

Funding for the approximately $10 million project is from multiple sources including state and federal grants and tax credits. 

CASA, which was founded nearly four decades ago, currently operates a shelter with 30 beds and aids about 300 families and individuals a year. But Nichols says they have 1,400 requests for help annually that must be referred to other shelters in Pinellas or Hillsborough counties. "Unfortunately many times they are full there also," Nichols says.

The new shelter will nearly triple capacity with 100 beds in 50 bedrooms. There also will be a children's area, teen room, meeting room, a large conference room, offices, playground, outdoor areas and gardens.

Nichols expects about 800 individuals will be given shelter each year. The additional space and the building's design mean more families and men can be accommodated, she says.

Art donations are being accepted through April 10, 2015, at CASA's administrative office, at 1011 First Ave., N.  They are tax deductible as in-kind contributions.

Paintings and photographs should be framed. Murals preferably should be mobile art whether on canvas, wood or other hard surfaces. Textile pieces likely will be displayed in office areas rather than in bedrooms.

Arrangements can be made for the art to be picked up by sending an email to CASA, or calling 727-895-4912, Ext. 100.

CASA reserves the right to reject art that displays violence.

Each art work at the new shelter will be labeled with the artist's name and the work's title. The donations also will be recognized on CASA's website and its Facebook page.

None of the art will be resold but it will be exhibited at a public showing in late April 2015, Nichols says.

"We think it will be a great gift to show the community," she says..

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Susan Nichols, CASA

Hillsborough Leaders Engage Public On Transportation

When local residents dream of transportation Utopia in Hillsborough County, what exactly do they see?

Do they see roads repaved and potholes filled? Widened interstates with commuter lanes? Bridges repaired? More connections between neighborhoods and cities? Expansion of rapid transit bus service? Automated "people movers"?

Is light rail on anyone's mind, for or against? And where do they dream the money will be found? 

Hillsborough County elected officials, community leaders and a soon-to-be-hired transportation consultant will begin a listening campaign with a series of public meetings soon after Labor Day.

A report on the findings will be brought in October to Hillsborough County's Transportation Policy Leadership Group, a committee of the seven county commissioners, mayors of Plant City, Tampa and Temple Terrace, and the chairman of HART (Hillsborough Area Regional Transit). 

"We're not selling anything, but we want to be able to bring back something that will be useful to you," says Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill. He spoke to the group on August 12 before a packed county commission chamber.

Documents and a video show the magnitude of transportation problems facing the county. 

Estimates for roads, bridges, trails and sidewalks in all parts of the county is pegged at $4.3 billion. The cost of repaving roadways alone is estimated at $745 million. Projects for walk/bike trails and sidewalks is about $680 million.

Depending on chosen options, mass-transit could be another $6 billion. 

Funding could come through a one cent sales tax that county commissioners appear ready to put to a referendum in 2016. If approved, estimates are for more than $6 billion to be collected over 30 years.

Ideas include widening five miles of Cypress Avenue; bus rapid transit and a rail option between the University of South Florida and downtown Tampa; bus rapid transit on U.S. 60 to and from Brandon; and, a water ferry from Gibsonton to MacDill with later expansion to downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg.

Policy planners clearly have in mind the political thumping that voters gave to a light rail referendum nearly four years ago. Voters then complained about the lack of specifics.

"That was very muddy. That's what happened to it," says County Commissioner Les Miller."We want to make sure it's crystal clear."

County Commissioner Victor Crist is concerned about time constraints in reaching out to the public by October. "I'm not sure we have enough time to sell this," he says.

But Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is ready to forge ahead. "We've got to have a game," says Buckhorn. "I don't know any other way to play than full throttle. ...I can tell you sooner is better than later."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Mike Merrill, Les Miller, Victor Crist, Hillsborough County; Bob Buckhorn, City of Tampa

What's Your Fave Renovation? Think St. Petersburg Preservation Awards

The building boom that will bring modern residential towers to downtown St. Petersburg is getting a lot of attention. But for many, the city's charm is in its architectural history and diversity.

Saint Petersburg Preservation, Inc., is ready to celebrate the best of St. Petersburg. The nonprofit is accepting nominations for the 2014 Preservation Awards. The awards recognize people, associations and businesses for their efforts to preserve, restore and complement the city's architectural history and sense of place.

Some past winners are preservationists of the Mirror Lake Lyceum, the Historical Kenwood Neighborhood Association and the owner of a 1920s bungalow and carriage house on Bay Street.

"They give a unique character to St. Petersburg that makes people want to come here," says Monica Kile, executive director of the preservation agency.

Nominations are accepted until Sept. 15. The award ceremony will be Oct. 24 at the Studio@620. There also will be an exhibit and sale of watercolor paintings of area landmarks by local artist Robert Holmes.

There are four categories: residential and commercial restoration and rehabilitiation; compatible infill; adaptive reuse; and residential and commercial stewardship. Also an award will be given to Preservationist of the Year. Descriptions of each category are available at the SPP website

“The Preservation Awards are a great way to highlight our community’s landmarks and for neighborhoods to take pride in the buildings and features that make their area unique and special,” says Logan Devicente, SPP’s awards program chair.  

While historic restorations are important, reuse of buildings and compatible infill also play a role in preservation, Kile says.

"We encourage good design that fits with the city," says Kile. "That can be a very modern design."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Monica Kite and Logan Devicente, Saint Petersburg Preservation

Roux Brings Creole-Style Dining To South Tampa

Two restaurants aren't enough to keep Suzanne and Roger Perry busy. And then there is the couple's love of New Orleans.

So before Labor Day, the owners of Datz and Dough plan to open Roux, their homage to New Orleans cuisine and the French quarter. Roux is at 4201 S. MacDill Ave., at the St. Croix Plaza, within a mile of Datz and Dough, also on MacDill.

A trio of chefs are collaborating on a menu described as Creole-nouvelle.

Suzanne Perry says collaboration defines New Orleans cooking with its centuries of Cajun and French influences. And most recently a flavorful dash of Asian has been added in deference to a city that now has one of the largest Vietnamese populations in America.

"We just love it," says Perry. "It's the most foodie city in the United States. We want to bring a little bit of that here."

A newer, fresher spin will be put on old New Orleans favorites from gumbo to etouffee to alligator. Po boy bread with a delicate crust and soft inside will be authentic New Orleans.

Richard Potts, formerly executive chef at Rococo Steak in St. Petersburg, is working on the menu with Toni Hayes, who specializes in Cajun cuisine, and Laura Schmalhorst, who is consulting on French dishes.

Designer David Jackson is creating a New Orleans' feel to Roux with mirrors, marble-topped tables, wrought iron and brick accents, gas lanterns and chandeliers. "It's ornate," Perry says. "It's visually the French quarter."

To begin, Roux will pour beer and wine. And, within a few weeks of opening, Perry says a New Orleans craft cocktail bar also will be open for requests.

Roux seats more than 100 guests. Initially lunch and dinner will be served with a brunch to be added later.

Roux and more has been on the Perrys' minds for awhile.

"We've been interested in having a collection of concepts up and down the MacDill corridor," she says. "A space became available that we liked. So, we took it."

MacDill Avenue is home to Datz and Dough as well as new boutiques, a yoga studio and art galleries that are laying a foundation for revitalizing one of the city's main commercial roadways. 

"All it takes is a couple people to come in and invest," Perry says. "We're invested because we live here. This is our neighborhood. A little bit of investment brings other people."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Suzanne Perry, Roux, Datz and Dough

Sundial Tenants Include Florida-Based Retailers

Florida talent will have the chance to shine at Sundial amid the latest national, regional and local retailers added to the upscale mall's tenant portfolio.

Sundial, owned by The Edwards Group, replaces the defunct Baywalk shopping complex at 153 Second Ave. N., in downtown St. Petersburg.

Tracy Negoshian & His, Florida Jean Company, Happy Feet, juxatapose apparel & studio, The Shave Cave and Jackie Z. Style Co., all have Florida or hometown connections. Other retailers recently announced by The Edwards Group are lululemon, L.O.L. Kids, Tommy Bahama, Swim 'n Sport and Marilyn Monroe Glamour Room.

Diamonds Direct is a previously announced tenant.

In the restaurant category, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and Sea Salt, are joining Farmtable Kitchen and Locale Market.

Rounding out the list are Chico's, White House Black Market and Muvico 19 + IMAX. All are holdovers from Baywalk.

Most shops will have "soft" openings by September. The restaurants and market will open by Thanksgiving.

“I am thrilled with the mix of retailers and restaurants we have been able to assemble,” says Sundial owner Bill Edwards, president of The Edwards Group.  “We have businesses that truly represent what a downtown shopping destination should be."

Jackie Zumba is among the Florida-based retailers who landed at Sundial.

For two years Zumba's shop, Jackie Z. Style Co., has been named "best boutique" by Sarasota Magazine. Zumba, 27, opened her men's and women's clothing boutique on Sarasota's Main Street in 2011 and will soon move into the new Mall at University Town Center. Her high-end brands include Moods of Norway, Psycho Bunny and Mr. Turk.

At 3,000 square feet, Zumba's Sundial shop will be nearly double the size of her original Sarasota store. "It will mean more room for men's suits, more high-end dresses, shoes and accessories," she says.

She was selective when it came to finding a second location. Miami didn't make the grade but a trip to St. Petersburg and a stroll along Beach Drive convinced her. 

"I was looking for something of Sarasota's local feel," she says. "(St. Petersburg) is a tight knit community that supports small businesses. I'm really excited to be part of it. The community seems excited. It's a good mix."

Other Florida-based notables include Tracy Negoshian & His, featuring trendy clothes for the entire family in designs with bold colors and prints. The St. Petersburg-based designer has hundreds of boutiques around the country including a flagship store in Naples.

Happy Feet got its start selling comfort footwear, including Birkenstock and Dansko, in St. Petersburg in the 1980s. There are nine stores now in St. Petersburg and Tampa.

Juxtapose apparel & studio opened its first store in Hyde Park Village in Tampa in 2011. The shop offers women's contemporary fashions, home decor, and off-beat, one-of-a-kind artisan pieces.

The Shave Cave is the first hair salon from St. Petersburg founders of Mens Direct, which sells grooming products. Customers can sip craft beer, fine wine or whiskey while getting haircuts and hot towel shaves.

Florida Jean Company got off the ground nearly eight years ago as a home-based seller of preworn jeans scrounged from yard sales and thrift shops. Today the St. Pete Beach-based retailer sells everything from designer jeans to hats and shoes and board shorts. A shop opened on Ybor City's Seventh Avenue last year.

Celebrated Chef Fabrizio Aielli has owned several restaurants ranked among the top in the nation including Osteria Goldoni and Teatro Goldoni. He moved to Florida and opened Sea Salt in 2008 in Naples. One year later Esquire named  it one of the nation's top 20 best new restaurants.  Sundial is Aielli's second Florida location for Sea Salt.

Farmtable Kitchen and Locale Market is a creative partnership between California-based chef Michael Mena and former New York-based chef Don Pintabona who is now living in St. Petersburg. Pintabona also is a graduate of the University of South Florida.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Bill Edwards, Sundail; Jackie Zumba, Jackie Z. Style Co.
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