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Water Works Park Opens With Fanfare, Fireworks

The re-invention of Tampa's urban core is mere child's play at Water Works Park.

For many years the riverfront park land sat unused behind a chain link fence, but on Aug. 12 a ribbon-cutting ceremony will officially open the re-designed park. The following Saturday will continue the celebrations with a festival and fireworks show.

For Tampa Heights' residents, the $7.4 million investment in Water Works is especially significant. The park, at 1720 Highland Ave., and the adjacent soon-to-open Ulele Restaurant are the most visible signs the neighborhood's master plan for redevelopment is taking root. More transformation is promised in future with redevelopment of the nearby historical Armature Works building and about 37 riverfront acres owned by SoHo Capital which plans a mixed use project known as The Heights.

"It's a big deal," says Brian Seel, president of the Tampa Heights Civic Association. "Everyone has been waiting for (the park) patiently."

The Aug. 16 festival will have food trucks, children’s activities and entertainment. Friends of Tampa Recreation Inc. will sell alcohol, with proceeds going towards programming in Tampa's parks.  The fireworks display will begin at approximately 9 p.m.

Work crews with Biltmore Construction are finishing up the park and laying in landscaping in time for the August opening. Dozens of volunteers spent a recent weekend cleaning algae from Ulele Spring, nestled between the park and the restaurant. Manatees, ducks and egrets are among the wildlife already spotted along the spring's banks.

The play area resembles a ship. There also is a splash pad, a performance pavilion and open lawns for special park events. A kayak launch, eight boat slips and a water taxi will be installed once permits are approved.

Water Works and Ulele will be the northern anchors of the city's 1.8 mile-long Riverwalk, which when completed later this year will link Tampa Heights with Channelside.

“This park is transformative for historic Tampa Heights and our urban core but also for our entire city. It’s another point of connection with the Hillsborough River, and will be a space for entertainment and activity,” said Mayor Bob Buckhorn. 

The civic association is thinking ahead.  "We'll probably host small events and get-togethers for the neighborhood," Seel says.

The civic association already is planning a music festival at the park for Nov. 22. Tampa Electric Company and Ulele's owner, Richard Gonzmart, will sponsor what could become an annual event. A portion of the festival's proceeds would aid the restoration of the former Faith Temple Baptist Church at Palm Avenue and Lamar Street.

Every weekend for nearly four years volunteers for the Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association have pitched in to rehabilitate the historical church which will be re-opened as a youth and community center.
  
A walking trail that slips past the Tampa Heights Community Garden on Frances Avenue and the future community center stops now at Seventh Avenue. But eventually the trail is planned as a link to the Riverwalk with possible offshoots to Perry Harvey Sr. Park and the Encore project, a mixed use, mixed-income residential and commercial development north of downtown.

"We're connecting with everything," says Lena Young-Green, president of the junior civic association. "We see it all circulating then expanding all through the neighborhoods."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn; Brian Seel, Tampa Heights Civic Association; Lena Young-Green, Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association

Two Fold Bicycle Shop Opens In St. Petersburg

A new bicycle shop in St. Petersburg caters to enthusiasts who want the zip and portability of bicycles that can be folded to the size of carry-on luggage. Or tucked into a back pack. 

On May 10 Michael Davis will hold a grand opening for Two Fold Bicycle Shop at 657 N. Central Ave. The shop, which quietly opened at the beginning of the month, deals exclusively in folding bicycles made by major brand names Brompton, Dahon and Tern. Shortly Davis will add bicycles from Bike Friday, an Oregon company that custom-makes folding bicycles.

"They are fun to ride," says Davis, who also designs and builds wheel frames. "People who are into them really get into them. You can see them out there. It is a trend that is picking up now."

Their popularity makes sense to a lot of people who are embracing the new urban lifestyle. And, while his shop is in St. Petersburg, his first two sales were to residents of downtown Tampa's growing high-rise community.

The folding bicycles have smaller wheels, quick acceleration and ease of steering. Hinges allow for the bicycles to be folded up for easy storage at work or at home. And for multi-modal commuters they are easily carried on and off buses.

Prices range from about $400 for a one-gear folding bicycle to more sophisticated models that can cost $3,500 or more.

Davis is an avid bicyclist himself. He formerly owned 66 Fixed Gear and Singlespeed, a St. Petersburg shop that did repairs and sold custom-made bicycles. But it was a trip last year to the Interbike International Bicycle Expo in Las Vegas that spurred Davis to focus his newest business on the expo's break-out star.

 "Everybody was talking about folding bicycles," he says.

The bicycles originally were invented for use by military forces in war times in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Until recently they often were novelty items tucked away in a shop corner.

That is changing along with the urban landscape.

Condominiums and apartments are going up in downtown St. Petersburg and Tampa. The Central Avenue district in St. Petersburg is stirring to life with new boutique shops, art galleries, restaurants, offices and neighborhood bars. College students and young professionals are embracing the urban experience.

Tampa has at least five residential towers slated for construction in the next few years in downtown and Channel District.

The folding bicycles are the right fit, Davis says, for people who have to go up and down elevators, share space with roommates or just want a healthier living environment with fewer automobile trips. 

"Once you get folding bicycles in front of people, they practically sell themselves," says Davis.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Michael Davis, Two Fold Bicycle Shop


 

Artspace Eyes Sarasota's 'North Trail' For Creative Redevelopment

Visitors arriving at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, located along the Tamiami Trail at the northern edge of Sarasota County known as the North Trail, see a less than flattering portrait of the city as they drive south into the city of Sarasota.
 
“For many years, the North Trail conversation has dragged on, but the bottom line is that the space that lies between the airport, the Ringling [art museum and college] complex, and downtown Sarasota is simply not a very inviting front door to the city,” says Jim Shirley, executive director of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota, sponsor of the North Trail Redevelopment Partnership (NTRP).
 
The NTRP is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to the sustainable redevelopment of Sarasota’s “front door” through urban renewal and the creation of affordable live-work artist spaces. 
 
In the first week of April, the North Trail took its first steps in its journey toward the artistic rebirth envisioned by the NTRP with a visit by consultants Wendy Holmes and Stacey Mickelson of Artspace, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization.
 
“Artspace is the largest, and really, the only organization that does what they do in this country -- which is to focus on the development of live-work environments for artists that can be used to rekindle areas of communities that need to be re-vitalized,’’ Shirley says. “They are involved in 35 projects throughout the country and have a more than 30-year track record.”
 
Led by Artist and Historical Preservationist Veronica Morgan, the NTRP raised the $15,000 required for an Artspace consultation, which included tours of Sarasota’s arts community and two days of workshops that connected artists, civic leaders and the financial community with Artspace consultants.
 
“The goal was to allow the Artspace team to get a more in-depth look at Sarasota, specifically focusing on the North Trail, and to allow us, the community, to learn more about Artspace and see if it would make sense for us,’’ Shirley says. “I believe that we had overall a very successful evening, and the indication from Artspace is that they felt the same.” 
 
In early June, Artspace will provide the NTRP with an executive summary of their findings and recommendations. Shirley says that if the organizations choose to move forward with a project in Sarasota, the next phase would include a $42,000 survey of the entire county, and that the revitilization project would commence in approximately 3-5 years. 
 
“Virtually everyone in the community knows how important the arts are here, and we’ve seen what the arts can do in communities that make a commitment to them,” Shirley says. “If we could possibly use the arts to help generate the re-vitilization of the North Trail, it would be ‘the Sarasota thing to do.’ ”
 
Writer: Jessi Smith
Source: Jim Shirley, Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota
 

Eco-friendly Communities Get New Design Guidelines

New urbanism is adding a new tool to its design palette for developing communities that are walkable, sustainable and eco-friendly.
 
For nearly 20 years the U.S. Green Building Council has issued certifications to show that building construction has met independent standards for environmental responsibility. But after testing a pilot program, a new certification is being offered, known as LEED ND, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - Neighborhood Development.
 
This takes a more holistic approach to community development. 
 
On Wednesday, April 9, from noon to 1:30 p.m. the U.S. Green Building Council Florida Gulf Coast Chapter and the Congress for the New Urbanism Tampa Bay will host a luncheon meeting where urban designers Erin Chantry and Vinod Kadu will discuss the new rating system. The event is at The Charter House, 7616 W. Courtney Campbell Causeway.
 
Pasco County developer Frank Starkey also is guest speaker and will talk about his experiences with LEED in developing the new urban community of Longleaf as well as his views on what the new ratings mean for future development. 
 
The cost is $25 for organization members and $35 for non-members.
 
"(The new system) obviously takes into account not just buildings but the streets and overall development," says Taylor Ralph, a board member of the U.S. Green Building Council Florida Gulf Coast Chapter and president of REAL Building Consultants.
 
Storm water, energy efficiencies, sidewalks and recyling efforts are among the factors that will be reviewed in looking at the total project, Ralph says.
 
The Encore development, north of downtown, is expected to be one of the first master-planned communities in Florida to qualify for the new LEED certification.
 
Encore is a $425 million mixed-income housing and retail development being built by the Tampa Housing Authority and Banc of America Community Development Corp. The Ella, a 160-unit senior apartment building, opened in 2012 and is fully occupied. The Trio, a 141-unit multi-family apartment building, is opening in May. The Reed, a 158-unit senior apartment building, is slated to open in 2015 along with The Tempo, a 203-unit multi-family apartment building. Retail, a grocery store and a hotel also are anticipated for Encore.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Taylor Ralph, REAL Building Consultants

Next Urbanism On Tap: 'Where Do You Come From?'

Tampa's Urban Charrette and the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) Tampa Bay will host Urbanism on Tap at New World Brewery in Ybor City on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, starting at 5:30 p.m. This open mic format event is designed to generate constructive conversations about current ideas and trends that are shaping Tampa.

The event entitled "Where Do You Come From?'' is the third in a three-part series that started last fall. It will focus on understanding some critical questions such as: Why does one choose to live in a particular neighborhood? How do you know you are in your neighborhood? How should the neighborhood change and what should stay the same? Seeking answers to some of these key questions will help us understand the issues and challenges in our neighborhoods and the role these building blocks play in our City.

In the event, the organizers intend to engage attendees with innovative tools like preparing ''mind maps.'' Mind Maps are people's perception about their neighborhoods and the places they visit on a regular basis. It may be a rough hand drawn map or an image, or text, which conveys how one associates and perceives his or her neighborhood.

The organizers encourage people to share their photos and things they like about their neighborhood by visiting Urbanism on Tap's online Facebook page. People can also use apps available on smart phones to make mind maps and post it online.

Overall, the intention of the event is to generate a lively exchange of ideas, which will enhance the ability to make Tampa a more livable city.

Urbanism on Tap is an event focused on generating a dialogue within the community led by the Urban Charette and CNU Tampa Bay. Moderators and attendees can share their stories related to the topic of the day. Every event is open to the public, and all are invited to attend and share their views.

Following the event, everyone is encouraged to continue the conversation online through the Urbanism on Tap's Facebook page or website.

Venue: New World Brewery, Ybor City (1313 8th Ave. Tampa, FL 33605)
Date and Time: Tuesday, January 14, from 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.
For more information, email Ashly Anderson

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Source: Erin Chantry and Ashly Anderson, CNU Tampa Bay

Popular Davis Islands Dog Beach Reopens

After experiencing a 6-month closure to undergo a major renovation, the Davis Islands Dog Beach is now open to local four-legged friends and dog-lovers to enjoy.

The City of Tampa Parks and Recreation began work on the $273,082 project on Monday, June 10th. The beach restoration project included building an offshore break water, installing artificial reef modules and adding improved seating, fencing and new sand, which will prevent future shore erosion.

"Waves from passing ships eroded the beach and shoreline, exposing rubble and making it unsafe for dogs and their owners,'' says Linda Carlo, the City's superintendent at the Office of Special Events.

Additionally, the City repaired and re-paved the boat ramp and added new Florida-friendly landscaping to the area.

"The Davis Islands dog beach is beloved by the local community. Residents and their four-legged friends come from all over the city to use this park, and now after these improvements, it will be safe and pet-friendly once again,'' says Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Two local Davis Islands business owners, Carolyn Bigley of Davis Islands Pet Care and Jenn Fadal of Wag Natural Pet Market and Bathhouse, teamed up to create the nonprofit Friends of Davis Islands Dog Parks -- an on-going, long-term community effort in partnership with Friends of Tampa Recreation, Inc.

Friends currently assists the City of Tampa Parks and Recreation Department in maintaining both the Davis Islands Dog Beach and Dog Park, and fully supported the city's decision to improve the beach despite the six-month closure.

"This is an opportunity for a fresh start and to keep it maintained and looking beautiful,'' the group said in a statement. "We're excited about the long-term benefits to our dog beach.''

Funds for the project will come from Community Investment Tax (CIT). The Davis Islands dog beach is located at 1002 Severn St. on Davis Islands and is open daily until sunset.

"Parks immeasurably improve the quality of life for our residents, and I know many, many people will be happy to have this one improved,'' Buckhorn says.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Sources: Bob Buckhorn and Linda Carlo, City of Tampa

Historic Figures Take Their Places Along Tampa Riverwalk

For the second year, six bronze busts of people who made a difference in Tampa's history have been added to the Tampa Riverwalk by Mayor Bob Buckhorn and members of the nonprofit Friends of the Riverwalk.

The latest honorees are Newspaper Publisher C. Blythe Andrews, Attorney Cody Fowler, Civic Leader Kate Jackson, Attorney Peter O. Knight, Cuban Civil Rights Leader Paulina Pedroso and Businessman G. D. Rogers. Their likenesses will be added to the six already installed last year on the city's Historical Monument Trail at the Riverwalk. Eventually city officials anticipate more than 30 people will be recognized for their historical contributions.

"The whole concept is to make a trail to honor as many of the people as possible who made Tampa what it is today," says Attorney Steven Anderson, president of the Friends of the Riverwalk. "It's just a great program. People love the monuments."

A 9-member committee makes selections each year looking back over 150 years of Tampa's history. It costs about $120,000 annually to finish and install the busts, Anderson says.

Most of the funds are privately donated. Hillsborough County provided a matching grant based on the project's historical preservation mission.

Last year's honorees were the Mound Builder Indians, who were the first settlers 10,000 years ago; cigar magnate Vicente Martinez-Ybor; shipping tycoon James McKay; nurse Clara Frye; railroad trailblazer Henry B. Plant; and suffragist Eleanor McWilliams Chamberlain. Anderson said the committee has begun selecting next year's six honorees.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Steven Anderson, Friends of the Riverwalk

Madison Street Park Next For Channel District In Downtown Tampa

For years, Tampa City officials have envisioned a booming Channel District: one with luxury apartments, multiple shopping opportunities and even open-air parks to keep the community active. And with the City acquiring nearly nine-tenths of an acre in the northern end of the District, that vision is closer to becoming a reality. 
 
In addition to Washington Street Park at the corner of 12th Street and Pierhouse Apartments’ nautical-themed art park at what used to be 11th Street, two new pieces of land — one being purchased by the City for $1.56 million and one which will be given as a donation -- total 43,000 square feet and are expected to become Madison Street Park.
 
The donated portion of land is coming from a company controlled by developer Ken Stoltenberg of Mercury Advisors, who has city approval to build the 24-story Martin at Meridian tower next door. For now, Stoltenberg has a proposal for the now-vacant land between Twiggs and Madison streets.
 
“My vision is for an active sports park that can be highly programmed to meet the needs of the growing number of young urban professionals,” he says. “Right now, if you want to play basketball, sand volleyball or take a boot camp or CrossFit class outdoors, you need to leave downtown — and that’s a shame.”
 
Stoltenberg envisions the almost one-acre space to be divided into a basketball court, dodge ball area, two sand volleyball courts, two boot camp areas and a dog park. He says he, as well as other developers and City officials, have been told time and time again that a park is an amenity people look for when considering living in an urban environment.
 
“Residents will have access to all of the aforementioned activities and won’t have to drive anywhere,” he says. “Additionally, the restaurants in the neighborhood will benefit from increased business, thanks to evening and weekend park visitors.”
 
Soon, Stoltenberg and his team will break ground on The Martin, a mixed-use development expected to add a little more than 300 apartments and 30,000 square feet of retail space to the area; BDG Architects/Urban Studio Architects and Hardin Construction will work with Stoltenberg on the project. 
 
The Martin at Meridian will join The Place at Channelside, The Slade, Bell Channelside and the currently under-construction 356-unit, $550 million Pierhouse At Channelside apartments.
 
Source: Ken Stoltenberg, Mercury Advisors

Urban Land Institute Visit Examines Pasco County's Growth

Pasco County should redouble efforts to encourage development along north-south U.S. Highway 19 in West Pasco and abandon the idea of building an elevated tollway along the east-west State Road 54/56 corridor, according to preliminary recommendations by a panel of urban experts visiting under the auspices of the Urban Land Institute. 

ULI experts were in Pasco from Oct 7 to Oct 11. The panel was invited by the County to help evaluate its planning efforts since 2008, ULI's last visit.

Much of the ULI panel's visit to Pasco, the county immediately north of more urban Pinellas (Clearwater-St. Pete) and Hillsborough (Tampa) counties was dedicated to private interviews and discussions with the local community, business leaders, county staff and other stakeholders.

The ULI Panel acknowledged that the County has made significant strides since 2008 with the adoption of the Market Areas, Urban Services Areas, the County's Strategic Plan and other improvements. Although the ULI Panel applauded the County's recent planning efforts, it also cautioned Pasco County on several aspects of development.

"Pasco County has approved over 300,000 units for construction, adequate to meet the supply for next 75 years,'' says ULI Panelist Dan Conway. Because approved growth far exceeds market demand, the County should guide new development into designated Urban Service Areas on highways 19 and 54.

Redevelopment efforts along the U.S. 19 corridor should focus on creating Business Improvement Districts, providing redevelopment incentives and seek public-private partnerships to establish a "Corridor Lifestyle'' characterized by high-density mixed-use development within walkable distances from transit stops.

Panelist April Anderson Lamoureux recommends growing the health care sector and small business expansion. The County also should "embrace Eco-Tourism as one of its key development opportunity,'' adds Anderson-Lamoureux.

The ULI Panel recommended against plans to build an elevated tollway on the State Roads 54/56 corridor, connecting U.S. 19 to East Pasco.

"All around the Country there are at least 12 efforts to take down elevated highway structures since the community said they don't want them,'' says Pat Hawley, one of the ULI Panelists, referring to notable projects in cities that are turning highways into vibrant parks.

"You might have the potential to build the tollway but it would in fact impede the County's efforts of creating place making,'' concludes Hawley.

ULI Panelist Dan Slone suggested the County look at the "Highways to Boulevards'' initiative by the Congress for New Urbanism.
 
Lastly, the Panel asked Pasco County to embrace its diversity and cautioned against applying the same design standards throughout the county. The Panel is expected to give a full report within the next 90 days.
 
"ULI's recommendations validate our efforts to make Pasco a premier county,'' says John Hagen, President of Pasco Economic Development Council.
"The Panel may have just pointed us to the true North. I think we need to re-examine the elevated tollway.''

Headquartered in Washington D.C., the Urban Land Institute, is a nonprofit global education and research institute, which provides Advisory Services to communities for solving planning and policy issues.

The panel included economic development, real estate and urban planning experts, both from public and private sectors. On the final day of their visit, panel members presented their initial findings and recommendations at the West Pasco Government Center to a large gathering of nearly 100 people.
   
Writer: Vinod Kadu
Sources: John Hagen, Pasco Economic Development Council

Urbanism On Tap Opens Mic For Talk About Citybuilding

Tampa's Urban Charrette  and the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) Tampa Bay Chapter will host Urbanism on Tap at New World Brewery in Ybor City on November 12 starting at 5:30 pm. This open mic format event is designed to generate constructive conversations about current ideas and trends that are shaping our city.

The event is the second in a three-part series, entitled "How Do You Get There?'' It will focus on understanding some critical questions such as: How does one get to places which they like in Tampa? What determines our choices in getting around the city that we like so much? How do we as residents and citizens of Tampa envision its future with respect to access and mobility? Seeking answers to some of these key questions will help us understand the transportation issues and challenges that we face in our daily lives.

Overall, 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.

Urbanism on Tap is an event focused on generating a dialogue within the community led by the Urban Charette and CNU Tampa Bay. Moderators and attendees can share their stories related to the topic of the day. Every event is open to the public, and all are invited to attend and share their views.

Following the event, everyone is encouraged to continue the conversation online through the Urbanism on Tap's Facebook page or website.

Venue: New World Brewery, Ybor City, 1313 8th Ave. Tampa, FL 33605
Date and Time: Nov. 12th from 5:30 p.m to 7 p.m
For any questions, email Ashly Anderson

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Source: Erin Chantry and Ashly Anderson, CNU Tampa Bay

Sarasota's Selby Gardens Flourishes With Renovations

The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is abloom with renovations and upgrades designed to modernize and heighten the aesthetic quality of the beloved Sarasota landmark.

The Great Room by the Bay, the organization's private event venue and meeting facility, received a "floor-to-ceiling'' cosmetic makeover this summer, thanks to financial assistance from Selby Board Trustee Sandy Rederer, as well as in-kind services provided by Fawley Bryant Architects, Tandem Construction and Milton Shenk LLC.

The 3,600-square-foot facility, which features 60-foot-high west-facing windows with stunning sunset views of Sarasota Bay, has been a popular destination for weddings, parties and other private events since its construction in the late 1980s, but Rederer and the Selby staff felt that the space was in need of a cosmetic upgrade.

"It was just really dated and really needed a face lift,'' says Sarah Colandro, Director of Interiors at Fawley Bryant. "We wanted to capitalize on the architecture already there, but to neutralize the space and take out the outdated aspects like the patterned carpet and the wood beams, doors and trim that showed the age of the building.''

Renovations to the Great Room began in July, 2013, and were completed in August. The design and construction team replaced the outdated patterned carpet with new high-performance flooring in a neutral shade of charcoal that is versatile enough to complement a variety of themed decor, while the walls and ceiling received a makeover including new light fixtures, ceiling tiles and fire sprinklers, as well as a fresh, white finish to brighten the room and accommodate any event style. Upgrades were also made to lighting and fixtures in the restroom area.

The most visually intriguing aspect of the $121,000 renovation project is the addition of floating, illuminated white fabric kites that are assembled in the ceiling alcove of the Great Room. The kites can be accented with colored spotlight lenses for drama and effect during themed weddings and parties.

"These improvements will help Selby Gardens remain competitive and successful in attracting prime wedding and event rental income,'' says Selby Gardens CEO Thomas Butcher. "The revenue from private functions provides much needed support for ongoing operations.''

In addition to the renovations in the Great Room, a second construction team took advantage of the Selby Botanical Gardens' slow summer season to work on the highly anticipated Ann Goldstein Children's Rainforest, which is scheduled to open in early November.

The Ann Goldstein Children's Garden at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens will include an educational waterfall and forest pool where all ages can learn about aquatic ecosystems and rainforest plants, a canopy walk and rope bridge, an epiphyte canyon full of rocks and the unique plants that grow on them, a research station that features field botany techniques and gadgets, as well as an amphitheatre, classroom and special exhibition spaces in the Rainforest Village.

The project is funded by donations from community foundations, including the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation and other private donors, including Sarasota Philanthropist Al Goldstein, who contributed the lead naming gift to initiate the project, following his wife's death in 2011.

Hazeltine Nurseries, Tandem Construction and Milton Shenk LLC collaborated on the design and construction of the educational rainforest garden. The $5 million project began construction on March 1, 2013 and is scheduled for completion this fall. The Children's Rainforest will open to the public on November 9, 2013.

Writer: Jessi Smith
Source: Sandy Rederer and Thomas Butcher, Selby Gardens; Sarah Colandro, Fawley Bryant

Construction Begins On Water Works Park, Extension Of Tampa Riverwalk

The east side of the Hillsborough River just north of downtown Tampa is about to take on a whole new look and feel.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Casey Gonzmart of the Columbia Restaurant Group and community leaders will break ground Wednesday, Oct. 9, on a $7.4 million improvement project to extend the Tampa Riverwalk through Water Works Park, connecting downtown to the Tampa Heights neighborhood.

Angela Hendershot, architect with Rowe Architects, Inc. and part of the Biltmore Construction's design-build team for the park's renovation, expects the park to serve as an anchor and terminus of the Riverwalk. Park improvements are slated to include a play area, splash pad, dog run, performance pavilion, open lawn and multiple public boat docks.

Hendershot says park's design will be "a modern interpretation respectful of the historic Waterworks Building and other park structures.''

In addition to the park improvements, the Columbia Restaurant Group is in the process of transforming the nearby historic Water Works Building into a Native American-inspired restaurant and brewery.

Named after the bubbling spring that flows into the Hillsborough River in Tampa Heights -- what was Tampa's first source of drinking water -- Ulele will serve unique foods and sprits, featuring items indigenous to this area’s waters and farms.

"This is a city building that was sitting vacant and will be put back onto the tax rolls and have a productive use. It's going to put some people to work and add to the tax base,'' says Bob McDonough, manager of the Channel District and Downtown Community Redevelopment Areas (CRA). "Combining this with the nearby Water Works Park project will make for a great destination.''

Initial construction on Ulele began in fall 2012 and will be completed as part of the park improvements. Completion is slated for spring 2014.

"We're looking forward to the development of the property,'' McDonough says.

Of the $7.4 million budget for park improvements, $6.5 million in funding comes from Capital Improvements Tax (CIT). Additional dollars will come from a SFWMD grant and the site's designation as a brownfield. It's estimated that $2 million will be put into the Water Works building redevelopment project.

"Both projects will enhance the waterfront," says Principal Rick Rowe of Rowe Architects.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Sources: Bob McDonough, City of Tampa; Angela Hendershot and Rick Rowe, Rowe Architects

Love Your City? Participate In Local Tactical Urbanism Workshop

Urbanists from all over the Tampa Bay region are invited to participate in a Tactical Urbanism Movement workshop on Wednesday, October 23, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at The Beck Group, 220 West 7th Avenue, in Tampa.

Tactical Urbanism is a rapidly growing international movement of small-scale, temporary, low-cost, high-reward actions that lead to an immediate improvement in a community's public life, often followed by long-term urban interventions. Guerilla Gardening, Pavement-to-Parks or Reclaiming a Parking Space are some of the examples of Tactical Urbanism that are currently being applied by citizens in many U.S. cities.
 
The local Tactical Urbanism Workshop is coordinated by the Sun Coast Section of the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association, in collaboration with the Congress for New Urbanism-Tampa Bay. Mike Lydon, an internationally recognized planner, writer and an advocate for livable cities, will lead the workshop.

"It will be exciting to be a part of this urban place-making movement that is currently sweeping our country's major cities,'' says Lauren Matzke, a Clearwater City Planner and the workshop's main coordinator.

As a part of the workshop, participants will get hands-on experience in planning and intervening on an actual site in Downtown Tampa. Apart from promising a fun planning experience, the workshop also intends to train the participants on how to plan, fund and carry out these projects throughout the Tampa Bay region.

The event is expected to draw a variety of participants such as engaged citizens, stakeholders, designers, engineers, urban planners, students, local leaders, government officials and other advocates who are passionate about their city and urban experiences. You can RSVP here.

Tactical Urbanism was named as one of the top trends in 2012 by the urban planning website Planetizen. Implementation of this movement in the Tampa Bay region is expected to inspire innovative planning ideas, urban interventions and collaborations.

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Source: Lauren Matzke, City of Clearwater

Invision Tampa Invites Input For Nebraska Avenue

The Invision Tampa team is ready to present a draft Nebraska Corridor Master Plan to the public.

On Tuesday, Sept. 24, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., the team invites the public to join in a discussion about the planning results responding to community feedback from previous one-on-one meetings, group workshops, neighborhood meetings, surveys and research, as well as to consider preliminary concepts, ideas and strategies suggested by stakeholders. The meeting will be held at the Children's Board in Ybor City, at 1002 E. Palm Ave.

“Connectivity between urban areas has always been a part of the Mayor’s goals and this project ties in nicely,” says City of Tampa Economic Opportunity Administrator Bob McDonough. “Until now, there had never been a comprehensive study of this area that looked at connectivity between major projects, design guidelines, amenities, funding strategies, zoning, land use and growth strategies. This plan will take a holistic approach of all of the various disciplines and future requirements and tie them together in one study.”

Ultimately, the InVision Tampa project is designed  to create a better downtown Tampa: a walkable, bikeable community with a public transit system and increased population in the downtown urban core; a city with strong, safe neighborhoods, more parks and connections to a riverfront with clean waterways.

“It is a very exciting time in Tampa!” McDonough says. “I was a student at the University of Tampa in the early 70s and have witnessed the growth and change in our downtown during the last 30 -- almost 40 -- years. The changes in the last five years have been the most dramatic that I have seen and I can't wait to see the next five.”

Invision Tampa is working toward creating a new master plan for downtown Tampa, the Nebraska Transit Corridor, Hillsborough Avenue and surrounding neighborhoods. Spanning from downtown Tampa to Ybor City on the east, Armenia Avenue on the west and north along Nebraska and Hillsborough Avenues, the area under study includes the University of Tampa (UT), North Hyde Park, West Tampa, Tampa Heights, Ybor City, V.M. Ybor, downtown Tampa and the Channel District.

"InVision Tampa is going to create a blueprint for downtown Tampa for the next 25 years. We are literally studying how people live in Tampa today and how they will tomorrow,'' says Mayor Bob Buckhorn. "InVision is looking at how we can improve Tampa's urban core through community participation and proposed ordinance changes.''

The Invision Tampa project is funded by a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Sources: Bob McDonough and Mayor Bob Buckhorn, City of Tampa

BIG Boost To Waterfront In Gulfport, Madeira Beach

The cities of Gulfport and Madeira Beach in Pinellas County will soon realize significant improvements for recreational boating and their waterfronts following the award of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG).
 
Both cities, on a project cost basis, received BIG Tier-1 fund totaling $380,750 and $822,066 respectively. The total amount awarded includes the BIG grant and a proportionate amount as non-federal funding.

Gavin Shire, a Public Affairs Specialist with USFWS in Arlington, VA, says the "Tier-1 is a smaller and a noncompetitive program awarded to each applying State, while, Tier-2 is a nationally competitive funding program meant for large-scale projects.''

Funded by the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, the BIG grant gets its revenue from excise taxes collected on fishing equipment, yachts and gasoline.

Gulfport is using the Grant to construct an ADA compliant (Americans With Disabilities Act) floating dock made from composite decking and designed for eight boats.

"Construction is expected to start by January 2014,'' says Denis Frain, Gulfport's Director of Marina Operations. Any unspent funds from the grant will be returned to USFWS after July 2015. According to Frain, "The funded dock will be free of charge and open to the public for use.''

Madeira Beach plans to upgrade its waterfront facilities for vessels, with an increase in 14 slips and four moorings, and other amenities such as pump-out stations and a fuel dock.

Apart from investing in boating infrastructure facilities, both cities may use the funds for production and distribution of educational materials about the program and recreational boating.
 
By creating diverse recreational opportunities, new jobs and a multitude of small businesses, BIG grants can have a significant impact on the local economy.

The BIG grant is crucial to Gulfport, as "it will not only improve boating facilities, but also help the City in its Downtown revitalization efforts,'' says Frain.

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Sources: Gavin Shire, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service; Denis Frain, City of Gulfport
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