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 Rogers Park Golf Course and the Hillborough River from above. - Julie Branaman
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Restoration Of Old Hyde Park Art Center Under Way

From the outside, the Old Hyde Park Art Center on Swann Avenue looks as if it were a typical older South Tampa home. But the approximately 115-year-old wood structure is possibly the oldest building still in use in Tampa.
 
With an $18,000 makeover, the art gallery building soon will more closely resemble the historical structure it is. Restoration work by Timeline Contracting will reconfigure the front stoop and add columns and a canopy to the entry way. The exterior will be painted in three colors similar to the light, mid-tone and dark colors of the original structure, giving the building more eye-catching appeal.
 
"It's pretty unique," says Kathy Durdin, president of Tampa Realistic Artists, Inc., which owns and operates the art center. "Before the turn of the century, there were these generic (wood frame) buildings all over the place, but they were lost because there was no purpose for them."
 
The saving grace for this building is that the city and school district kept finding public uses for it, and even different locations.
 
In 1899 the two-room wood building served as a temporary school until a red-brick replacement for the Hyde Park Grammar School was built at 502 South Boulevard. The original grammar school was at Platt Street and Magnolia Avenue.
 
Tampa was still a pioneer town emerging alongside the Hillsborough River, dotted with orange groves and dairy cattle. In 1914 the temporary school became the grammar school's lunch room, where parents served the first hot lunches to Tampa students. A year later the school was renamed the John B. Gorrie Elementary School.
 
Nearly eight years later the school lunch room had a new purpose as the Hyde Park Branch Library, again a first for a public school. In 1936 the building was moved to its current location, 705 Swann Ave. For the next three decades it was the Tampa Public Library, Hyde Park Branch.
 
When the library closed in 1969, the Tampa Realistic Artists, Inc., began leasing the property as an art gallery eventually buying it 10 years later. The nonprofit group promotes art awareness through exhibits, workshops and seminars.
 
The funds to renovate the art center come from the Hillsborough County Historic Preservation Grant Program which promotes historic preservation, heritage tourism and job creation.
 
Work on the entry way will be completed in March. Additional restoration is planned for the front doors, which still have city seals embedded in the lockplates.
 
"We've got to believe at the turn of the century these lockplates were all over Tampa," says Durdin. "The doors are pretty special."

The art center is open to the public and is free of charge. The next exhibit, "Landscapes and Seascapes,'' will run from today until March 21. For more information, call Durdin at 813-220-5800 or email her at this link.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Kathy Durdin, Old Hyde Park Art Center

New Hindu Temple To Be Built In Tampa Heights

For 25 years the dream has been to build a new Temple to serve Tampa Bay's growing Hindu community. It is a pledge that Physician Pawan Rattan, made to his father many years ago.
 
Last weekend a prayer service and groundbreaking ceremony brought the dream to reality. Within the next 12 to 18 months, a 10,600-square-foot Temple will be built at 311 E. Palm Ave., within one-mile of downtown Tampa.
 
"It's a very significant event for us," says Rattan, who is chairman of the Board of Trustees of Sanatan Mandir. "It celebrates our culture, our heritage. It brings us together. At the same time it promotes mutual respect for others."
 
Unlike many Hindu temples that are ornate and built in marble, this Temple building will reflect the historical character of Tampa Heights as well as traditional Hindu temple architecture. The facade is of red brick. The roof will be topped with five sikharas, or rising towers.
 
Wisdom Structural, Inc., Roosevelt Stephens Drafting Service and Ferlita Engineering are working on the approximately $1.5 million project. Several hundred construction-related jobs will be created. 
 
"My hope is that this also triggers an uplifting of the area," says Physician and Philantropist Kiran Patel.
 
For more than two decades, a 4,000-square-foot building at the Palm Avenue site has served as the Hindu Temple, Sanatan Mandir. It was once the educational building for the Jewish congregaton of Rodeph Sholom, which relocated to South Tampa. According to Hillsborough County records, the Jewish congregation sold the Palm Avenue property to Rattan in 1988. It later was transferred by deed to Hindu Samaj, Inc.
 
Once the new Hindu temple opens, the building will become a community hall.
 
The Rodeph Sholom temple building, at 309 Palm Ave., was torn down years ago. Plans are to install a marble art piece at the new Hindu Temple to honor the Jewish heritage at the site.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Physicians Pawan Rattan and Kiran Patel, Sanatan Mandir

Building Boom: An Open Mic Night About Urban Tampa

Tampa's Urban Charrette and the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) Tampa Bay will host Urbanism on Tap at the Pour House in the Channel District of downtown Tampa on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 starting at 5:30 pm.

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

Every event is open to the public. 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 help make Tampa a more livable city.

The March event is the first in a new three-part series, entitled "Tampa: The New Building Boom.'' The first event, "New Buildings, New City?'' will focus on new developments, and how they are changing Tampa's urban landscape. What do you love? What is missing? The organizers welcome ideas on the challenges facing Tampa, and the influence new developments will have on the growth of the city in coming years.

The event organizers encourage people to share their photos and opinions on these topics by visiting Urbanism on Tap's Facebook page. People can also use the Facebook page and website to continue the conversation online, following the event.

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

Memphis Chefs Go Sunny Side Up in Tampa

Sunny Side Up is a new beginning for Marci and Chuck Goldstein after more than 30 years of building a successful catering business in Memphis.
 
They are serving breakfast and lunch in a tiny restaurant around the corner from the Tampa Theatre at 305 Polk St. The spot for Sunny Side Up is a tight fit at about 400 square feet, but small is what the Goldsteins want -- at least for now.
 
"We wanted something so different... and to put it in a spot where no one else thinks it could work and make it a success," says Chuck Goldstein.
 
The cubby hole most recently was a success for owners of Duckweed Urban Market who relocated to a larger space on Tampa Street.
 
Menu items are made from scratch with fresh, local produce. Breads are from local bakery Buh-Bites; coffee is from Buddy Brew Coffee on Kennedy Boulevard.
 
Homemade Southern biscuits, challah, bagels, eggs, country ham, cheese grits and French toast casserole are on the breakfast menu. Lunches are grilled cheese sandwiches made with 11 varieties of cheese, meats and vegetables. And there is Chipotle chicken and gourmet mac & cheese. 
 
Every now and then the Goldsteins will change out the menu, gauging customer preferences and what local produce is available. Vegetarian and vegan options are available.
 
Soups of all kinds are made fresh daily by Marci Goldstein. "I have a knack for soups," she says. She misses Memphis, where she grew up, but says Tampa has been a good move.
 
They are empty-nesters with grown children pursuing their own careers. "We decided we needed a change," says 55-year-old Chuck Goldstein. "We wanted to go back to where we started. We're very eco-friendly, very green."
 
Where the couple started from in Memphis, Goldstein says, was "very poor, but we built and built and built."
 
Tampa's re-energized downtown of high-rises, shops and restaurants struck a chord with them. They make their home at Grand Central at Kennedy in the Channel District.
 
"It was very important that we live and work downtown," Chuck Goldstein says. 
 
Catering is still a mainstay for the couple who count some of Tampa's downtown businesses as clients including the law firm, Hill Ward Henderson
 
They believe in supporting the community where they live, and have reached out to nonprofits. At Christmas the couple pitched in to cook a holiday meal for clients of Metropolitan Ministries.
 
"It's our way of giving back," Chuck Goldstein says.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Chuck Goldstein, Sunny Side Up

Tampa General Hospital Opens First of Two Transplant Houses

The first of two "transplant houses" that will serve as temporary homes for Tampa General Hospital's discharged transplant patients is open on Davis Islands.
 
The house at 18 Columbia Drive is across from Ronald McDonald House and within walking distance of the hospital. 
 
"This is a 20-year dream come true," says Debbie Rinde-Hoffman, medical director for TGH's cardiac transplant program. "We are just so lucky."
 
TGH is the only local hospital with a transplant center, performing between 400-500 transplants annually including hearts, lungs, livers, kidneys and pancreases. In addition, the hospital implants about 50 heart pumps annually.
 
But the TGH transplant team says patients who travel long distances for the surgeries are at a disadvantage when they are ready for discharge. Follow-up medical visits will be needed over the next weeks or months. Patients and their families face costly stays in hotels or long-distance travel from their hometowns to Tampa.
 
Janet Walin, 60, remembers the hard times she had in 1999. For her lung transplant, she had to travel and take up residency in St. Louis away from her family in Florida.
 
"This is awesome," she says, standing in the living room of Tampa General Hospital's new "home away from home."
 
Walin is a volunteer, along with many other former transplant patients, with the National Organization for Transplant Enlightenment, or N.O.T.E. It was founded by Thomas Thrasher, who was Florida's first heart transplant patient when he had his surgery at TGH in 1985.
 
The Columbia Drive residence has three bedrooms with private bathrooms; two living rooms; a kitchen and dining room; and a screened porch. Bedrooms have two beds available for the patient and a family member or caregiver.
 
Rooms to Go donated furniture for the house; Brighthouse is providing a year of cable and Internet service. More than $1 million will fund renovations at this house and a second house at 34 Columbia is from the Tampa General Hospital Foundation. About $40,000 of that is from hospital employees.
 
Renovations on the second transplant house will begin in May.
 
"This is like a miracle for people who need it," says 64-year-old Kathy Gibson, who had a kidney transplant at TGH 14 years ago. "It will be a great gift to everybody."
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Debbie Rinde-Hoffman, Tampa General Hospital; Kathy Gibson and Janet Walin, transplant recipients

Tradition Meets Technology In New Seminole Heights' Library

Bungalow tradition meets modern technology at the new Seminole Heights Branch Library, which is in the midst of a "soft" opening after a nearly one-year construction schedule.
 
The red brick building evokes the history of a neighborhood rich in Craftsman-style bungalows and street grids canopied with grand oak trees. The technology is state-of-the-art and ready for mobile devices with Wi-Fi and plugs for laptops, tablets, IPads and more installed in the base of lamps and on the frames of chairs and tables and ottomans.
 
There are computer stations in clusters and single computers tucked away in quiet corners.
 
"It's been a big accomplishment that we have so much space, so much technology," says Carrie Hurst, the library's branch supervisor.
 
The library, at 4711 Central Ave., replaces a cramped 8,000-square-foot library that dated to the mid-1960s. Residents formed the Seminole Heights Friends of the Library and lobbied for the new 2-story, approximately 22,000-square-foot building.
 
The "arts and craft" design with tall windows, arches, a veranda and second story balcony is the work of FleischmanGarcia Architects. Stain glass art is designed by WRW Studio of Charlotteville, N.Y. A child's portrait hanging on the second floor is by University of Tampa graduate Princess Smith who was named 2013 Emerging Artist of  the Year at the Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts.
 
The total cost of the project, including equipment, design and construction, is just under $7 million.
 
On the ground floor the Friends' group has a bookstore. Patrons can get a drink or snack from vending machines in a cafe area. And community meetings can be held in a 100-seat room that can be divided into two rooms, if needed.
 
Hurst says groups already are booking the space.
 
The main library on the second floor has reference and circulation desks; an "innovation studio" with movable furniture on wheels; offices for staffers; small study and meeting rooms; and a room filled with preservation research materials. The latter will be dedicated to the memory of  the late Steve Gluckman, a local historian and library fund-raiser. 
 
The library serves a unique role in the life of a neighborhood, says Pat Benjamin, president of the Friend's group. "There is home where you work and there is the place where you work," she says. "And the library is the third place. It's just a jewel in the neighborhood. It is for everybody."
 
The grand opening of the library will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on March 17.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Carrie Hurst, Seminole Heights Branch Library; Pat Benjamin, Friends of the Library

Encore Tampa Breaks Ground On New Tempo

Tempo is the fourth, but possibly not the last apartment building, to have its groundbreaking at Encore, the $425 million mixed-income housing and retail development being built by the Tampa Housing Authority and Banc of America Community Development Corp.
 
The 7-story, 203-unit multifamily apartment community is expected to open in 2015. It joins the Ella, a 160-unit senior apartment building that opened in late 2012 and is fully occupied. The Trio, a 141-unit multifamily apartment building, should open by April. And the Reed, a 158-unit apartment building for seniors, looks to open late this year or early in 2015.
 
All of the construction activity puts the Housing Authority about one year ahead of a schedule set out nearly three years ago. "We wanted to break ground on one building a year," says Leroy Moore, the housing authority's chief operating officer.
 
A fifth apartment building is possible but Moore says construction likely will be held off a couple of years while retail is added to the project's mix.
 
"Hopefully, we'll see demand for retail speed up greatly by the end of the year," says Moore. "We're being very diligent and selective."
 
By then, the Housing Authority expects to have about 300 leased apartments, nearly double the current number. Once fully completed, more than 2,500 people will live at Encore.
 
Moore anticipates an announcement on a grocery store for Encore within about 60 days. 
 
The approximately $43 million Tempo project is a public/private partnership between the Housing Authority and Banc of America Community Development Corp. The architect is Bessolo Design Group and the general contractor is Siltek Group, Inc.
 
Encore replaces the former Central Park Village public housing complex, which was torn down several years ago as part of the city's revitalization efforts north of downtown. The nearly 40 acres between Cass Street and Nebraska Avenue is in a neighborhood founded by freed slaves after the Civil War. Nearby Central Avenue was a black business and entertainment district that thrived until the 1960s and 70s when highway widening projects and urban renewal wiped out most of the area.
 
The musically themed Encore honors the heritage of the neighborhood, where legendary artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway and Billie Holiday often performed in night clubs in the Central Avenue district known as "Harlem South."
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: LeRoy Moore, Tampa Housing Authority

Sears Home Services To Renovate Tampa Heights Community Center

The wrecking ball nearly took a fatal swing at the historical Faith Temple Missionary Baptist Church. But instead a grass-roots movement that began more than three years ago is salvaging the 90-year-old, Gothic revival style church for a better purpose.
 
By summer 2014 the red-brick building should be transformed into a community center and the new home of the Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association, which provides neighborhood children with after-school and mentoring programs and summer activities.
 
"I want this to be a place where teenagers will be standing in line to join because its cool," says architect John Tennison, who is co-owner of Atelier Architecture Engineering Construction. He has guided restoration efforts from the beginning, working with hundreds of volunteers every Saturday who put sweat-equity into this community project.
 
Today those efforts will get a major push toward completion from Sears Home Services and Ty Pennington, a DIY (Do It Yourself) expert and former host of the ABC show, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." More than 80 Sears employees, in town for a company convention, will pitch in as Sears and Pennington bring the nationwide "Building Community Together" Initiative to Tampa.
 
Sears also has named February as National Hiring Month and plans to fill 1,000 jobs nationwide.
 
Locally, nonprofit Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay will be a partner with Sears on this day of service, which gets underway at 1 p.m. at the church, located at 602 E. Palm Ave. Rebuilding Together provides repairs, handicapped accessibility and energy efficient upgrades to low-income households free of charge. In addition to work on the community center, three local homes will get needed repairs.
 
"This is a major step," says Lena Young-Green, president of the Junior Civic Association which is an outgrowth of the Tampa Heights Civic Association. She got the church project started in 2010.
 
A completion date is possible by summer, she says. Only four unfunded items remain on the to-do list: a new roof, termite tenting, fencing and some additional electrical work.
 
Sears and Rebuilding Together are the latest in a long list of donors.
 
Among the contributions are a full commercial kitchen from Richard Gonzmart of The Columbia Restaurant Group, door hardware from Assa Abloy, labor from True Blue, computers from MIT Computers and funds from Hillsborough County, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, the University of South Florida's Entrepeneurship Alumni Society, Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union, PNC Bank and its charitable foundation, and national playground builder, KaBoom!
 
The volunteer effort was in full force Saturday as more than 50 employees from CGM Services: Air Conditioning and Heating worked to install the church's first air conditioning system. The in-kind work and equipment is valued at about $100,000. 
 
"Helping the kids has always mattered to me," says CGM owner Mike Charles, who serves on the Junior Civic Association's board. "This is another historical renovation, one of my favorites."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Lena Young-Green, Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association; Mike Charles, CGM Services

Tampa Heights' Home Tour Offers Peek At Ulele Restaurant

Eager for a peek inside the Ulele Restaurant?
 
A ticket to the 13th Annual Tampa Heights Tour of Homes will put you there for a tantalizing behind the curtain view of Tampa's next hot dining spot, opening soon inside the city's historical Water Works building. The approximately $4 million restoration is about two months away from completion.
 
But Richard Gonzmart and The Columbia Restaurant Group are opening Ulele's doors as a special showcase and the final stop on Tampa Heights' home tour. Other stops include nine homes, mostly in the Victorian and Craftsman-bungalow styles; the Tampa Heights Community Garden; and, a historical church being restored as the new home for Tampa Heights Community Center. 
 
The restaurant and Tampa's planned redesign of the adjacent Water Works Park are part of a broader plan to revitalize  the city's first suburb, built in the 1880s on "the heights" above the Hillsborough River. Ulele's menu will feature Native American and multicultural influences.
 
"A few months ago, it was just a shell. Now there is quite a bit there," says Brian Seel, senior project engineer at The Beck Group of Tampa, the project's designer. "It will be really interesting for people to see it close to completion."
 
Seel is the president of the Tampa Heights Civic Association, the tour's sponsor.
 
The tour is from noon to 5 p.m. on Feb. 23. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 the day of the event. The starting point is the historical Faith Temple Missionary Baptist Church at the corner of Palm and Lamar avenues. The church, like the Water Works, is undergoing a restoration to convert the 90-year-old structure into a community center and home base for Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association.
 
A portion of the proceeds from this year's tour will benefit restoration efforts, which are headed toward a summer completion. The association provides after-school, mentoring and summer programs for area children.
 
"That and Water Works mean a lot for our neighborhood," Seel says. "We're very excited for them to open."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Brian Seel, Tampa Heights Civic Association

Artist Chosen For Public Art Project At Perry Harvey Sr. Park

Pittsburgh artist James Simon will bring his signature larger-than-life sculptures to a proposed redesign of Perry Harvey Sr. Park, a multiyear project  that will honor Tampa's black community and its musical heritage.
 
His work includes Liberty Avenue Musicians,  three 15-foot musicians installed in historical downtown Pittsburgh. There is also a Chattanooga fiddler in Tennessee, and a 16-foot tall Buckeye Trumpet Man in Cleveland, Ohio, in a former parking lot that is now a plaza and the home of the Buckeye Jazz Festival.
 
Tampa City Council last week approved a $15,000 contract for Simon to design artwork for Perry Harvey Sr. Park's southern gateway. He competed against 160 applicants who submitted proposals to the city's Arts Program Division.
 
In a competitive review where artists' names were kept secret, Simon's art stood out.
 
"He seemed like he got the right feel," says Robin Nigh, the city's arts manager. "We wanted something fun, celebratory, something that driving by had a 'wow' factor and really captured the specialness of the park because it's a landmark opportunity."
 
Simon's submitted design is preliminary. Nigh says the final design likely will be available in March or April.
 
Public art is planned for the park and also for Encore, a $425 million mixed-income housing and retail complex being built by Tampa Housing Authority adjacent to Perry Harvey park.  Encore will replace the former Central Park Village public housing complex which was torn down several years ago.
 
The park and Encore are part of a major effort to revitalize the once-vibrant neighborhood north of downtown once known as the Scrub. The area was founded after the Civil War by freed slaves. It also was the scene of a thriving black business and entertainment district which was decimated in the 1960s and '70s by highway widening projects and urban renewal.
 
Musical legends Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Hank Ballard and James Brown were among those who performed at clubs on Central Avenue.
 
Other artists have been identified for additional public art projects at Perry Harvey. Massachusetts-based artist and filmmaker Rufus Butler Seder submitted a proposal for the park's history walk which will feature notable events and people in the neighborhood's history.  Local muralist Mike Parker is slated for artwork to honor community and national leaders.
 
An artist also is being sought to create a statue of the late Perry Harvey Sr., a civil rights leader and founder of Tampa's first black union, the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1402.

The city currently is seeking photographs or home movies from individuals or institutions regarding Tampa's black neighborhoods including the Central Avenue business district, the Scrub and Dobyville. Images will be used for a public art installation and should be submitted by Feb. 28 at 5 p.m. For information, visit the City of Tampa's website or call 813-274-8531.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Robin Nigh, City of Tampa

SkyHouse Channelside Designed For Young Professionals

Developers believe they have the perfect mix for young renters: an upscale high-rise apartment complex located in the Channel District.
 
Atlanta-based Novare Group and Batson-Cook Development Company are going vertical with SkyHouse Channelside, a 23-story, 320-unit apartment building on 12th Street between East Washington and East Whiting streets.
 
The approximately $55 million project is the second in Florida for the development partners, following the November opening of Skyhouse Orlando.
 
Skyhouse Channelside is expected to provide 500 construction jobs and attract more than 400 residents -- mostly young professionals -- to the new urban district along the Tampa Port's waterfront between downtown and historical Ybor City.
 
Apartments will offer one to three bedrooms with floor-to-ceiling glass opening to grand vistas. The "SkyHouse" is on the top floor with a club room, fitness equipment and outdoor plazas featuring a swimming pool, fireplaces, covered outdoor lounges and 360-degree views of the city skyline.
 
"Our mission with SkyHouse is to find places in dynamic cities where 25- to 34-year old singles can, with our developments, experience a great high-rise living experience that fits within their budget," says Jim Borders, Novare Group's president. "Tampa is the main business center along the west coast of Florida and continues to draw young, educated professionals who will enjoy everything SkyHouse has to offer."
 
Novare is familiar with Tampa's urban infill renaissance. The company co-developed the Element on Franklin Street and SkyPoint on Ashley Drive.
 
Downtown and the Channel District are destinations for people seeking an energized, urban living experience with museums, night life, jobs and public transportation. Other high-rise apartments and condominiums, built as the real estate market collapsed several years ago, now are nearly fully occupied.
 
Young people and empty-nesters especially are looking for the "lock-and-leave" life-style of walkable restaurants and entertainment, says Byron Moger, executive director of commerical real estate firm, Cushman & Wakefield.
 
"I think it's very appealing to people who want to live downtown," Moger says. "I think its a genuine lifestyle that has reached critical mass."
 
Harbour Island and Downtown Tampa have potential for more multifamily residential, he says.
 
Another project slated for the Channel District is The Martin at Meridian, a  high-rise, south of Twiggs Street. And downtown may get a residential tower next to the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.
 
SkyHouse residential towers can be found in cities in four states: Florida, Georgia, Texas and North Carolina. In addition to Batson-Cook, Novare is partnering with architectural firm Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart.
 
Wells Fargo is providing construction financing for the project. Steve Gardner and Truett Gardner of Gardner Brewer Martinez-Monfort are local attorneys with the project.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Jim Borders, Novare Group; Byron Moger, Cushman & Wakefield

Major Donations Fund Arts And Sciences At Berkeley Prep

Berkeley Preparatory School is the benefactor of major donations that will fund the construction of a 75,000-square-foot arts and science building on its Town 'N Country campus.
 
More than $4 million of the total undisclosed amount is a gift from Bob Gries Jr., president of Gries Investment Funds and the former owner of the Tampa Bay Storm arena football team. Other significant donations are from Dan Doyle, Jr, president of  DEX Imaging, and members of Doyle's family.
 
"It's about our children. Our children are our future," says Gries, whose daughter is a student at Berkeley Prep. "I believe this is a very strong statement that Berkeley is a wonderful and outstanding institution. This is an opportunity to take an exceptional school to the next level to become one of the finest educational institutions in the country."
 
School officials say they hope to open the Gries Center for the Arts and Sciences by the start of the 2015-16 school year.  Berkeley Prep is a private school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, and is located at 4811 Kelly Road.
 
Funding for the center is nearly 75 percent complete, says school spokesman Jeremy Canody. The recent donations will provide the center with an endowment fund as well as help with construction, he says.
 
The center will offer state-of-the-art technology and opportunities for students to work independently and in groups. There will be college-level laboratory space, performance studios, an art gallery, recital hall, study areas and meeting areas.
 
"This building will have math, science and arts under the same roof," says Nicole Ackerson, chairwoman of the science department. "I can interact with those departments in a way that I haven't been able to before, and find out where we can collaborate to teach children in new, interdisciplinary ways."
 
The arts and science center is part of a master plan to address future needs of faculty and its 1,300 students. The plan is supported with a $50 million capital campaign, which already has funded the Straz Family Field House and the Berkeley Cafe, a state-of-the-art dining facility. In addition, the funds have paid for campus infrastructure improvements to the Touchton Family Clock Tower and the surrounding Quad.
 
Above and Beyond: The Campaign for Berkeley Preparatory School is the largest fund raising effort in the school's history.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Jeremy Canody, Berkeley Prep; Bob Gries, Jr., Gries Investment Funds

City Of Tampa To Build New Homes In Sulphur Springs

After months of tearing down abandoned and derelict homes in Sulphur Springs, a building spree is about to get under way.
 
The construction activity is the next step in the city's Nehemiah Project to revitalize one of the city's poorest neighborhoods. Work began almost one year ago when Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn hopped onto a bulldozer to begin knocking down the first of dozens of houses slated for demolition. Most are in Sulphur Springs; some are in the North Tampa area.
 
About $1.4 million in federal housing dollars will fund construction of 12 single-family residences close to Sulphur Springs Elementary School and the Springhill Community Center. The first contract for four houses has been awarded to general contractor, Alexander Inc. of Tampa Bay. The city owns a total of 25 lots.
 
"We are going to rebuild this neighborhood, and we are going to do it right," Buckhorn says. "We are going to make this a place where people are proud to live."
 
Reeshemah Green hopes she and her 4-year-old daughter, Legacy Green, will benefit from the new homes. Green bought her brand-new Sulphur Springs home in 2005 at the height of the real estate boom believing that it was a long-term investment. Her house is across the street from where the first house was torn down.
 
"They are building up around my home," she says. "I believe I can look forward to (property) values going up again."
 
Work will be parceled out in blocks of four houses at a time to bid-winning contractors who will complete construction in about 120 days.
 
Nine companies are qualified for the project: All State Homes, Framework Construction, Michael Angelo Construction, Nelson Priede Construction, Manuel Lanz Construction, Florida Home Partnership, Richard Stenholm Construction, Mourer & Mourer, and Alexander Inc. 
 
Estimated cost of construction is about $100,000 per house. Within the next weeks the city will hire a real estate brokerage firm to handle the sales transactions and aid city officials in staging open houses.
 
Sales prices for the homes will be market rate and set through appraisals, says Thom Snelling, the city's director of planning and development. The city might lose money initially but Snelling says, "The hope is as we get four new houses in here, we'll have new comparables." And that may bolster future values as more homes are sold, he says.
 
Any profit made on sales will be re-invested in building more houses.
 
Some down payment assistance through city programs is possible for home buyers, Snelling says
 
Workshops and counseling also will be provided to prospective buyers, says Sylvia Alvarez, executive director of Housing & Education Alliance. "It's needed," she says.  "It has to happen. If not, we'll end up in the same shape as before the housing crisis."
 
The Nehemiah Project is named for the biblical figure responsible for rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem within two months. 
 
This latest effort to revitalize Sulphur Springs is being embraced by long time activists who have struggled for years to overcome the drugs, crime and prostitution that dragged the neighborhood down. In its heydays in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, Sulphur Springs was a tourist mecca where people came to enjoy its healthy sulphur waters, spring-fed swimming pool and lively commercial district anchored by an arcade of shops.
 
There are signs Sulphur Springs is making a comeback. Tampa police report crime is down 20 percent. Over the last year, 150 tons of debris has been removed. Tampa Electric Company has installed more than 400 new street lights. Other bright spots have been the opening of Springhill Community Center and Layla's House, which offers childhood and parenting programs to Sulphur Springs' families.
 
Layla's House is one of several projects supported by the Neighborhood of Promise Initiative founded more than six years ago by the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA. Among its partners are the United Way Suncoast and the Children's Board of Hillsborough County.
 
"It's a good feeling. It's like 100 percent of 100," says Joseph Robinson, president of the Sulphur Springs Action League. "It's going to allow people to say, 'If they can do this, I can do this,' even if it's just flowers or mulch added to the yard. It's like a domino effect spreading to the next block."
 
The more home owners in the neighborhood, the stronger the neighborhood will be, Robinson says. "We have the beginnings of stabilization. We're looking forward to all the new homes."
 
Lifting a shovel and holding on to Legacy Green, Buckhorn tossed dirt for the symbolic groundbreaking. "It's ironic," he says of Legacy's name. "That is exactly what we are leaving to her, a legacy." 

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Bob Buckhorn and Thom Snellling, City of Tampa; Joseph Robinson, Sulphur Springs Action League; Syliva Alvarez, Housing & Education Alliance; Reeshemah Green, Sulphur Spring

Walmart Plans Super Center On East Hillsborough In Tampa

A long vacated auto dealership on Hillsborough Avenue in East Tampa is about to get a new tenant -- a brand new Walmart Super Center.
 
The store will be under construction at 1720 E. Hillsborough Ave. by spring, according to Walmart representatives. Based on an estimated construction schedule of 10 to 12 months, the Super Center is expected to open by the middle of 2015.
 
The approximately 120,000-square-foot discount store will be built on the site of the former Abraham Chevrolet auto dealership, which closed several years ago. What would be next for the approximately 12-acre parcel has been the subject of much speculation among neighborhood residents in East Tampa and Seminole Heights.
 
Residents initially learned of Walmart's plans last year when the company sent letters to the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association.
 
In December Walmart representatives met with residents at the monthly meeting of the East Tampa Community Revitalization Partnership. The volunteer group works with city planners to craft strategies to end blight within the East Tampa redevelopment area that is bordered by Hillsborough, Interstates 4 and 275 and the city limits.
 
The store falls within an overlay district that has design guidelines, unique to Seminole Heights, to govern new construction. As a result the store's traditional look will be tweaked.
 
Instead of a sea of pavement for parking in the front, the new building will be situated closer to the street. Customers will park along the side and rear of the Super Center. Other features will include a  "living wall" of trees and other landscaping along Hillsborough. Residents also were told the store's facade will have double-paned windows with opportunities for showcased merchandise similar to traditional window displays at department stores.
 
Prior to construction, the old auto showroom and dealership service bays will be torn down. 
 
The new store will be smaller than most Super Centers, which generally are about 180,000 square feet, according to Walmart spokesman Bill Wertz. Customers will be able to shop for groceries, including fresh produce, meats, deli items and bakery goods, plus merchandise typically sold at the discount chain store. There also will be a pharmacy with a drive-up window.

There will be no garden center and no tire and lube express.
 
Wertz anticipates the store will provide employment for about 200 people.
 
The store's property stretches from 15th Street next to Harris Veterinary Hospital to 19th Street across from McDonald's restaurant. Walmart plans to install a traffic signal at Hillsborough and 19th. The Florida Department of Transportation, which oversees the state road, recently gave its approval for the traffic light.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Bill Wertz, Walmart

The Bourgeois Pig Brings Bohemian Chic To Seminole Heights In Tampa

A 1920s bungalow will soon add to the growing collection of trendy Seminole Heights restaurants.

Owners Lysa and Michael Bozel are remodeling what was the former home of a long-ago mayor of Tampa into The Bourgeois Pig. An opening date for the restaurant is slated for April at 7701 N. Nebraska Ave., at the corner of Patterson Street, just south of the Hillsborough River.
 
"It will have a decadence but also a roughness around the edges," says Lysa Bozel, a Tampa newcomer who is co-owner of Le Petite Retreat Day Spa in Los Angeles.
 
She and her husband live in Seminole Heights and also own Mockingbird Vacation Rentals which has several rental properties in neighborhoods such as Carrollwood, Rocky Point and Seminole Heights.They plan to offer rental packages that also market the restaurant. Recent guests flew in from Ireland, Scotland, Australia and Korea.
 
The Bozels first met more than 30 years ago in California when Lysa Bozel was a 14-year-old high school student.  Michael Bozel moved to Tampa in the mid-1970s and owned a glass company for many years. Lysa Bozel stayed in California where she opened the day spa.
 
After all those years a second meeting led to marriage in 2012, and a business partnership.
 
Lysa Bozel thought first of opening a Tampa day spa but at her husband's suggestion, they took a second look at the Nebraska Avenue bungalow for a restaurant.
 
"There is a need for it," she says. "There is nothing like it where we live."
 
The boom in Seminole Heights restaurants is well established mostly south of Hillsborough Avenue with eateries such as Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe, The Independent, Cappy's Pizza, Reservations Gourmet to Go and The Refinery. More recently there have been new restaurants and bars to the north, including Domani Bistro Lounge, Mermaid Tavern and Rooster and The Till. A micro-brewery, Angry Chair, and the restaurant, Fodder and Shine, also are slated soon for openings.
 
The Bozels are decorating their restaurant with original art nouveau furniture to accent a decor of "Bohemian chic." 
Seating for about 100 people will be split between indoor and outdoor areas. The restaurant also will be "doggie friendly," including a few menu items expressly for the pooches.
 
Initially beer and wine will be served to patrons though Lysa Bozel says they plan to apply later for a full liquor license.
The restaurant will be open seven days a week, serving lunch and dinner and offering a coffee bar in the morning.  The menu will be electic American with items such as fish tacos, steak, wraps, salads and sandwiches.
 
Servers will be given customer service training a month prior to opening date. "We really know how important that is," says Lysa Bozel. 

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Lysa Bozel, The Bourgeois Pig
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