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British Bi-fold Door Manufacturer Opens In Venice

An aluminum bi-folding door manufacturer from the United Kingdom is setting up shop for the first time in the United States with a production facility in Venice FL.

In April, Origin USA located its American bi-fold door headquarters and about $500,000 in manufacturing equipment inside a rebuilt 8,000-square-foot building at 771 Commerce Drive. Southern Cross Contracting in Sarasota was the contractor. 

Starting out with five employees, company President Ben Halvorsen anticipates hiring 40 to 50 workers in the next three to five years. Positions will be in production, accounting, marketing and sales.

"We took a strong look at demographics of the Gulf Coast and architectural styles as well," says Halvorsen. "The economy, particularly with construction, is doing well again and our market point is very strong."

French doors and sliding doors are standard design options but Halvorsen says the bi-folding doors are growing in popularity. Origin is the leading manufacturer of the product in the United Kingdom. The doors appeal to a customer base that wants to integrate indoor and outdoor spaces with doors that fold and slide out of sight, he says.

"Bi-fold doors are common in Europe," he adds.

Luxury home builders or developers of hotels, retail and restaurants are among the target audience. One recent customer is a Denver restaurant owner who wanted to open up one side of the restaurant to the street.

The doors can be customized to fit any opening and folding configuration, come with more than 150 color selections and quick delivery times. "If that's two weeks or one day -- no problem at all," says Origin USA CEO Neil Ginger.

The doors also meet Florida's building code for withstanding hurricane-force winds, and meet energy efficency standards.

While bi-folding doors generally have had a reputation for being pricey on the retail market, Halvorsen says, "We're here to radically change that preconception with pricing a little over a high-end, in-line slider."

Origin sells nationwide "business to business" and has a showroom open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Neil Ginger, Origin USA

Amelia's Abubut Opens in South Tampa

As a teenager in Manila, Amelia Pestrak learned the skills of a tailor from her aunt. Sewing and tailoring are an artisan trade of long-standing for many of her relatives in the Phillippines.

Now for the first Pestrak is putting her skills to use in her own clothing shop -- Amelia's Abubut. She opened in April in a small strip center at 3644B Henderson Boulevard.

The name "abubut" refers to a keepsake closet of trinkets and things that hold special meaning for their owner.

Pestrak's shop is filled with casual apparel for women and children, most of which Pestrak designs and sews herself. Clothing racks offer a variety of choices in colorful prints from sun dresses for young girls to adult women's blouses and skirts.

Amelia's Abubut also has purses and accessories including jewelry and scarves. There are even a few pot holders, aprons and cups around. Pestrak hopes people who stop by will find "your special thing."

The shop was in a mess when Pestrak moved in after a 4-month search for a South Tampa location. She and her husband, University of South Florida architect Walter Pestrak, cleaned up the space. 

They painted the walls in bright yellow, added a fitting closet and display cases. Furniture and curtains add splashes of color. Walter Pestrak describes the shop as "bright and colorful" like his wife Amelia.

She grew up on a farm in rural Phillippines. But as a 16-year-old she moved to the urban province of Manila where she began learning how to sew and tailor clothes.

Some might find it boring but Amelia Pestrak says, "I love to do it."

And she gets satisfaction when people, including family, wear her clothes. "She's wearing what I did a long time ago," says Pestrak of her 92-year-old mother.

Pestrak has worked a long time as a tailor but a quiet retirement didn't suit her. "I don't want to just stay home," she says.

For now Pestrak's sewing equipment is at her home. But she plans to move it to the shop and stay busy turning out her hand-made keepsakes and watching her business grow.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Amelia Pestrak, Amelia's Abubut

USF, All Children's Hospital Partner For Research Center

A research, education and training facility is now in the planning stages following a land transfer by the University of South Florida to the All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine in St. Petersburg.

USF officials signed over 1.4 acres of land to the hospital as a gift. In return USF received $2.5 million in state funds as part of an overall agreement worked out among state officials, legislators and the governor's office. The land was deeded by the state to USF in April with the understanding that it would then be transferred to the hospital by late June.

The transferred land, at 601 Fourth St., is next to All Children's Outpatient Care Center and the Children's Research Institute.

The facility will focus on research and innovations in pediatric care and childhood diseases. In partnership with All Children's, USF officials anticipate opportunities for the university's medical students for training, pediatric residency and expanded education for health science undergraduates, graduates and postdoctoral fellows.

"This collaboration shows the sustained commitment of both organizations to provide the best training for USF Health medical students and all our residents and strengthen the USF Health pediatric residency program affiliation with All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine," says Jonathan Ellen, president and physician in chief as well as pediatrics professor and vice dean at All Children's.

State records regarding the land deal indicate plans for an approximately 300,000-square-foot facility at an estimated cost of $65 million to $85 million, creation of about 400 design and construction jobs, and more than 20 staff and faculty positions.

But hospital officials say there are no details on the facility or a construction date as yet.

"You had a dream, you didn't want to start and it not happen," says Roy Adams, All Children's communications director. "It's like we're happy to be given the property so now we can start planning."

Nearly three years ago the private, not-for-profit All Children's Hospital became the first hospital outside of the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area to join the prestigious Johns Hopkins Health System. A U.S. News & World Report Best Children's Hospital ranked All Children's in the top 50 in three specialty areas.

The University of South Florida is a Top 50 research university in total research expenditures among both public and private institutions nationwide, according to the National Science Foundation. 

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Jonathan Ellen and Roy Adams, All Children's Hospital-St. Petersburg

The Trio At ENCORE! Tampa Welcomes First Residents

Even as construction continues on The Reed and The Tempo waits in the wings for its start date, the ENCORE! Tampa community is celebrating its first multifamily apartment complex -- The Trio.

The Tampa Housing Authority will hold a grand opening today (July 15) at 2:30 p.m. at 1101 Ray Charles Blvd., with live jazz and tours of The Trio.

The 141-unit apartment building joins The Ella, 161 senior apartments that opened in 2012 and are fully occupied. 

The musically themed ENCORE! is a $425 million, master-planned community that is replacing the former public housing complex of Central Park Village, which was torn down in 2007. The goal is to create a mixed-use, mixed income neighborhood within street grids dotted with apartments, shops, restaurants, a grocery store, hotel and a black history museum.

It is being developed jointly by THA and the Banc of America Community Development Corporation. The next multi-family complex, 203-unit The Tempo, should have a construction start shortly, with leasing set to begin by summer 2015.

Since April, nearly 40 families have moved into The Trio. However, about 70 percent of the  apartments are leased. Those additional residents are expected to arrive within the next one to two months.

"That's a little bit better pace for us than expected by this time," says LeRoy Moore, THA's COO. "Obviously the biggest news out of this is affordable housing for families. It's good to be welcoming our first families to the site."

At the grand opening, guests can get up-close looks at the public art commissioned for The Trio, including three ceramic tile murals depicting the rich history of the once-thriving black business and entertainment district in and around Central Avenue. 

The murals, located along a perimeter wall that faces Perry Harvey Sr. Park, are by Vermont-based artist Natalie Blake.

Funds for the murals -- titled The Gift of Gathered Remembrances -- are from the city of Tampa and the Friends of Tampa Public Art Foundations, which received its share of the money through THA.

In addition, The Trio's contractor, Sarasota-based CORE Construction Services of Florida, commissioned Taryn Sabia, co-founder of the Urban Charrette, for three jazz-themed paintings installed on the Trio's exterior walls.

The Trio is a collection of three buildings designed by Baker Barrios Architects. One building is six stories; the others are four stories. There are 1-,2-,3- and 4-bedroom floor plans. Amenities include a swimming pool, movie theater, fitness center, library, game rooms and Internet cafe.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: LeRoy Moore, Tampa Housing Authority

Sundial In Downtown St. Pete Adds Locale Market And Farmtable Kitchen

A grand foodie hall and a full-service restaurant from celebrity chefs Michael Mina and Don Pintabona are the newest announced tenants at Sundial, the reincarnation of the former Baywalk shopping complex in downtown St. Petersburg.

Locale Market and Farmtable Kitchen are anticipated to open by fall in 20,000 square feet located on two levels of Sundial, next to Muvico 20 Theater. The concept is built around delivering fresh foods straight from the farm, or the boat, to the table.

Shoppers can buy everything they need to cook a meal at home from selections of vegetables, fruits, cheeses, fish, meats, seafoods and wines sold at Locale. Or they can sit down and dine at Farmtable, selecting dishes from fresh, seasonably created menus.

"We want to be known for doing simple things very well," says Pintabona, who is a graduate of the University of South Florida and opened actor Robert De Niro's Tribeca Grill in New York in the 1990s. He also is a frequent guest on The Food Network and CBS Morning Show.

Mina is a San Francisco-based restaurateur who is a James Beard award winner and Bon Apetit Chef of the Year. He founded the Mina Group, which operates some 20 restaurants across the country including in San Francisco, Miami and Las Vegas. 

Locale and Farmtable will be a fusion of Mina's California modern with Pintabona's New York Italian influences.

The market will be on the ground floor; the restaurant including a charcuterie, full-service delicatessen, bakery, coffee bar and wine bar will be on the plaza level.

The design, with weathered-style woods and metal highlights, is in keeping with Pintabona's philosophy -- keep it simple. 

"It is very comfortable, very inviting, very approachable," says Linda Ellsworth, Executive VP of Architecture and Interiors at the St. Louis-based Kuhlmann design Group, Inc., which is assisting with the project. "It really will have a chameleon type feel."

An open floor plan allows a flow from market to restaurant. "You do feel like you're being hugged by the market," Ellsworth says.

Several years ago, Mina and Pintabona came up with their market and restaurant concept and hoped to open in lower Manhattan near the site of the former World Trade Center. "For whatever reason, it never really happened," says Pintabona. "We put it on the shelf for a little bit."

The offer from The Edwards Group to be an anchor tenant at Sundial is the right timing for the chefs and St. Petersburg. 

"I was pleased when I visited after many years to see how the city has transformed itself into a really great place," Pintabona says. "I think it's a very exciting time for the city."

Downtown is a  mecca of trendy restaurants, shops, museums and galleries. Beach Drive is a destination. News of residential and condominium towers ready to re-shape the skyline arrives almost weekly.

"Thousands of people live, study, work and visit here, and more on the way," says Sundial Owner Bill Edwards. "St. Petersburg needs a market like Locale Market. We've got nothing like it."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Bill Edwards, Sundail; Linda Ellsworth, Kuhlman Design; Don Pintabona, Locale Market and Farmtable Kitchen

Virginia Pharmaceutical Company Moves Into Roskamp Institute In Florida

Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals, a publicly traded firm working to develop medications for inflammatory conditions and neurological disorders, is relocating its headquarters to Manatee County's Roskamp Institute, a leading national research facility that specializes in Alzheimer's disease and other brain disorders.

The Bradenton EDC assisted the Glen Allen, VA based pharmaceutical firm in applying for rapid response permitting to facilitate the move into the 3,000-square-foot space at the Roskamp Institute in Tallevast in south Manatee County. Rock Creek also received a performance-based grant of $48,000 from the Manatee County government to help fund its relocation. To qualify for the incentive, Rock Creek has agreed to create 16 high-impact jobs over the next five years that provide an average wage that is twice the Manatee County annual average.

"The Sarasota-Bradenton area is becoming a new and growing hub for life sciences and bio-technology,'' says Ted Jenkins, Rock Creek's VP for Corporate Strategy and Development.

"If we're successful, we have the potential to grow a lot bigger. I think a 16 employee count is a conservative number,'' Jenkins adds.

Roskamp CEO Dr. Michael Mullan, who is also the CEO and chairman of Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals, worked alongside Roskamp President Dr. Fiona Crawford on the neurological science team that discovered the first-known genetic cause of Alzheimer's disease in 1992.

"The affiliation between the two organizations is poised to bring leading-edge therapies to the life sciences market,'' says Sharon Hillstrom, Bradenton EDC President and CEO, in a news release.

In recent years, Rock Creek (formerly Star Scientific, Inc.) discovered the anti-inflammatory components of anatabine, a minor alkaloid found in tobacco, while researching smoking-cessation alternatives for nicotine addicts. Jenkins says the firm is currently focused on creating FDA-approved drugs that will leverage anatabine's anti-inflammatory components to help with neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's, as well as diseases of the nervous system, behavioral disorders and traumatic brain injuries.

"We are increasingly finding out that numerous diseases out there have an inflammatory component,'' Jenkins says.

"I believe we have a very unique compound. It's seen extraordinary results in vitro, in vivo and in pre-clinical animal models. It shows great promise to address potential treatment for major inflammatory based diseases.''

Writer: Jessi Smith
Source: Ted Jenkins, Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals

Tampa YMCA To Open New Gymnastics Center

Young gymnasts will be tumbling soon in a new gymnastics center at the Bob Sierra YMCA Youth & Family Center in the Carrollwood neighborhood of Tampa.

The $1.7 million, 11,500-square-foot facility is expected to open by fall and will double the number of children who can sign up for the YMCA's programs and services.

The existing gymnastics program is housed in the Bob Sierra Y building at 4029 Northdale Blvd. The new center will be a free standing building on nearby Ragg Road.

The construction project was proposed nearly three years ago to ease overcrowding. A fund-raising campaign was launched.

"Kids have to wait for their teams to practice," says Lalita Llerena, the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA's communications director.

A variety of gymnastics opportunities are offered at Bob Sierra Y including pre-team classes, teams and private lessons for toddlers to age 18.

“We serve nearly 3,000 kids in our current gymnastics area," says Dena Shimberg, chairwoman of the Y's capital campaign. "With the new gymnastics center, we will be able to serve over 5,000 kids, as well as a more diverse program menu to help serve children and families in our community.”
 
In the future, the Northdale building will undergo a makeover in a multiphase project to upgrade one of the YMCA's oldest facilities. Llerena says an announcement on that could come at the ribbon-cutting for the gymnastics center.

Coming up next is the 2014 YMCA National Gymnastics Championships hosted July 1-5 by the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA at the Tampa Convention Center. The event will draw more than 5,800 athletes, spectators and visitors and pump about $4.5 million into Tampa Bay's economy.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Dena Shimberg and Lalita Llerena, YMCA

Toojays Gourmet Deli Opens In Downtown Tampa

Tampa's downtown is getting that New York-style, full-on deli fix. Get ready for stacks of hot pastrami and corned beef piled high between freshly baked slices of rye, challah and bagels. Or dive into latkes, blintzes, chopped chicken liver and matzo ball soup.

Toojays Gourmet Deli is opening on June 23 on the ground floor of the downtown SunTrust Financial Centre at 401 Jackson St. This is a new Tampa location and a branding shift for a  national delicatessen chain, which remains a popular mainstay on restaurant row on Baystreet at International Plaza.

This also is a bit of a departure for SunTrust's management company, JLL, which previously rented to two locally operated eateries. The last restaurant closed in May.

At International Plaza Toojays' customers stop by for breakfast, lunch and dinner. At SunTrust, Toojays will serve breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday. And the chain is experimenting with a new contemporary look designed by Andy Share & Associates in Boca Raton, FL.  

"We really wanted to take it to the next level," says Sharon Bragg, JLL's VP in charge of leases for the SunTrust building. "They (Toojays) basically have been doing this for 30 years. They know what they are doing. People do know them. We're excited."

Orlando-based Industrial Commercial Structures is the contractor.

Toojays was founded in 1981 by Jay Brown and Mark Jay Katzenberg, the two Jays in the brand name.

At about 4,500 square feet, the deli's size at Sun Trust  will shrink a bit from the standard. There will be seating for 128 including an outdoor patio with more than 50 seats. Busy office workers on the run can take advantage of a "grab and go" section. 

About 40 people will be employed at the deli. Catering will be available for office meeting, parties, seminars and other events. 

Toojay representatives say this concept could be a test run for future restaurants and makeovers at existing ones.

Usually Toojays tends to seek out communities with a mix of residential and office. Downtown sites that primarily serve a business-only crowd for breakfast and lunch aren't typically on the list. 

But Tampa is in the midst of an expansion of high-rise towers filling up with residents looking for the complete urban experience of entertainment, restaurants, shops, arts and culture.

"Operating on the first floor of the SunTrust Financial Centre affords us the opportunity to explore a new growth vehicle for our brand," says Neal Chianese, TooJays executive VP of operations. "We are confident that success of this location will lay the groundwork for potential future expansion into similar downtown settings."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Neal Chianese, TooJays; Sharon Bragg, JLL

2 Boutique Hotels, Aloft And Le Meridien, Ready For Guests

Two upscale boutique hotels -- each with its own style created inside renovated properties -- will debut in downtown Tampa in coming weeks.

Aloft Tampa Downtown is targeting the next generation of business travelers hip to a sleek, modern look, tech-savvy gadgets, trending music and a social atmosphere.

Le Meridien Tampa is a contemporary version of a grand hotel experience in the renovated and restored Classic Federal Courthouse with a sweeping staircase, soaring ceilings, marble and terrazzo features, state-of-the-art technology and French-style dining at Bizou Brasserie under the direction of a Parisian chef.

Both are under the umbrella of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

Former and current  judges get a walk-through of Le Meridien on June 11, trailed by media. Doors open to the public June 16. A grand opening for the hotel, located at 601 N. Florida Ave., is slated for June 26.

Two blocks over at Kennedy Boulevard and Ashley Drive, Aloft is poised to open on the Tampa Riverwalk, the city's vision of a grand promenade along the Hillsborough River. By design, the hotel's ground floor, with Aloft's signature w xyz bar, is an open portal onto Riverwalk, breaking down barriers between inside and outside, and creating a new public space.

"It feels open to anyone to eat, drink and relax," says developer Punit Shah, CEO of Liberty Group. "There are no walls, no delineation of space."

An invitation-only opening is scheduled July 10 though the hotel's 130 loft-style rooms likely will be ready for occupancy sooner. And a grand opening for the public will be held at a later date. "It will be Tampa's hippest and coolest hotel," says Shah. "It's unprecedented."

Aloft Tampa is the fifth Aloft hotel in Florida. It was developed by Liberty Group in partnership with Convergent Capital.Parners. Starwood plans its sixth Aloft for New Orleans in 2015. 

Aloft will feature live music events, video and audio streaming capabilities, large HDTVs, the re:mix lounge, a waterfront pool, a 24-hour fitness center and a rooftop terrace with spectacular views of the river and minarets at University of Tampa.

Room check-in will be available with an app and a smartphone finger tap. Via text message, Shah says, "(The hotel door) will pop right open. Everything in the hotel is designed to be state-of-the-art, the highest and best available."

The addition of Aloft and Le Meridien to downtown's hotel landscape is good news for Visit Tampa Bay, which keeps a watchful eye on Hillsborough County's hotel bed tax revenues. This year already is on a pace to surpass more than $21.8 million collected in 2007, the best revenue year before the recession crushed the economy.

Last year's revenues came within nearly $650,000 of matching the 2007 record. Already the revenues through May of this year are $1.6 million higher than revenues collected through May 2013.

"We are thrilled with these two properties," says Santiago Corrada, Visit Tampa Bay's CEO. "The industry is doing well. We're back to pre-recession numbers."

But Corrada is hoping for additional hotels downtown to accommodate more conventions, larger conventions and multiple conventions at the same time at the Tampa Convention Center.  "We need more hotel capacity downtown because we have a convention center that needs to be running at capacity," he says. 

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Punit Shah, Aloft Tampa; Santiago Carrado, Visit Tampa Bay

Florida's Largest Ice Hockey Complex Coming To Pasco

Youth ice hockey players will soon be lacing up skates at the largest ice rink facility in Florida.

Ice hockey booster and Z Mitch VP Gordie Zimmerman plans to build the 150,500-square-foot Cypress Creek Ice & Sports Complex in Wesley Chapel at the interchange of Interstate 75 and State Road 56. His partners in Z Mitch are VP Tarra Mitchell and President George Mitchell. As part of the ambitious plan, a 120-room hotel also is proposed just south of the sports complex.

Z Mitch is going through the permitting phase but Zimmerman says site preparation should begin within a month, with a planned opening in fall of 2015. The hotel is in planning stages.

The approximately $20 million complex will have four rinks including one at Olympic-size and two at standard size. A fourth space will be multipurpose to accommodate ice skating as well as other sports such as lacrosse, arena football, volleyball and basketball. Meetings and high school graduations can be held there.

Paralympic sled hockey, speed and figure skating, also are planned uses for the Olympic rink.

There also will be a restaurant, pro-shop and office, Zimmerman says.

Long-term, Zimmerman hopes to establish an ice academy similar to one at Saddlebrook for young tennis players. "He'll actually have students who would want to make it in the big leagues or go on to college and would come down here for training," says Ed Caum, Pasco County tourism director.

Tampa is the site for the 2016 NCAA Men's Frozen Four tourmanent. "This just opens up more opportunities...(Pasco) still has room to grow so we look forward to promoting venues for Tampa being a major sports destination," Caum says.

Forget I-75. Caum says,"We'll become Icer-75 corridor."

While the hotel is in planning stages, Caum says the intent of Z Mitch is to open a full-service, flag hotel. Pasco currently has a hotel deficit, he adds.

Zimmerman anticipates that his facility initially will ease a shortage in Tampa Bay of ice rinks available for practice.   Now he says local high schools, including Wiregrass Ranch where he coaches, and others sometimes travel long distances and compete for time at Brandon Ice Sports Forum. Another facility is in Ellenton."They just cannot get enough practice ice," says Zimmerman who is a former general manager at the Brandon facility. "This will fill a big void."

The Cypress Creek ice complex can be a draw for adult, youth and college-level leagues and teams, and tournaments. Zimmerman also anticipates interest from National Hockey League teams that would want additional practice time before leaving Tampa for their next scheduled games.

Zimmerman says he has been waiting three years to launch his project. A potential deal in South Tampa didn't work out. But based on a research/marketing study, he says," This one was the best site we could come up with as far as demographics and access."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Gordie Zimmerman, Z Mitch
 

Aquatica On Bayshore To Rise In South Tampa

Pre-construction sales for Aquatica on Bayshore are attracting young executives and empty nesters who want a prime spot at the most desirable location in town -- Bayshore Boulevard.

The sleek, all-glass facade of the 15-story residential tower at 3001 Bayshore Boulevard will have spectacular water views from the double terraces off each condominium. Square footage of units range from about 2,300 to more than 4,700. Sales prices are from $838,000 to about $2.1 million.

"Daily, people are signing contracts," says real estate agent Toni Everett of The Toni Everett Company.

New York-based architect Joseph Galea, and his company MLG Architects, designed the building, which is very contemporary. Its glass front is inspired by "capturing 3 perfect waves frozen in time," according to the website.

Amenities include a swimming pool and heated whirlpool on the fourth floor deck, two gated entrances, a fitness center, conference and media rooms, and a party and catering kitchen.

The goal is to sell at least 50 percent of Aquatica prior to a construction start. Everett estimates the half way point has been reached, with a probable construction start next year. 

Construction preparation is under way and the vacant spit of land at Bayshore and Bay-to-Bay boulevards is now fenced off. The city of Tampa leased the lot for more than 15 years. It was a popular parking spot for people headed for a jog or walk on Bayshore's waterfront sidewalk. Also, the Bayshore Patriots met weekly to cheer on MacDill military personnel driving by on Bayshore. 

Bayshore visitors will have to find other parking spots but the Bayshore Patriots sign and flag remain.

It has been  nearly a decade since the project first was proposed by Citivest Construction Corporation which waited through Tampa City Council scrutiny, legal challenges and a failed economy to reach this point.

"There has been a revival generally of the market," says Citivest President Bill Robinson. "It's not great but it's on the mend. Employment figures are better. It's a favorable financial market for mortgages."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Toni Everett, The Toni Everett Company; Bill Robinson, Citivest

Lennar Homes Builds Homes in North Hyde Park And Ruskin

Home building is coming back into fashion as the economy shows signs of improving and people are again thinking about the long-range value of owning a home.

Lennar Homes recently broke ground on 39 for-sale town homes in North Hyde Park in Tampa and held an open house for Cypress Creek, a subdivision of single-family homes in Ruskin off U.S. Hwy. 19 in the South Shore area.

Homes at Cypress Creek will start in the mid-$100,00 and will feature energy efficient appliances, low maintenance flooring and maple wood cabinets. 

Nearby a new hospital is under construction. And, a planned Amazon distribution center is expected to bring about 1,000 jobs to the area, making Ruskin one of the fastest growing communities in Hillsborough County. According to a recent Gallup poll, many residents want to leave the state where they live but in Florida far fewer say they look for greener pastures elsewhere.

"We know that people love Tampa Bay like we do, and we're committed to making this the ideal place to call home," says Francine Miller, Lennar's director of sales operations.

In North Hyde Park, Lennar's town home development, in partnership with SoHo Capital, is the first large project in the neighborhood in recent years to specifically target home buyers. 

Ranging from about 2,000 to 2,400 square feet, the town homes are expected to be particularly attractive to young professionals, starter families and people looking to down-size from surrounding neighborhoods such as Hyde Park.

Starting prices are anticipated to be about $200,000 to $250,000. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

"We're hoping this will spur even more development in West Tampa and beyond," says Mark Metheny, division president of Lennar Homes.

The town homes are located at West Lemon Street and North Oregon Avenue, next to apartment complexes, NoHo Flats and Vintage Lofts.

The North Hyde Park neighborhood is a critical piece of Mayor Bob Buckhorn's vision for re-inventing Tampa's urban core.

"You're going to see a transformative movement in this city but it starts with projects like this," says Buckhorn. 'We're not going to miss this window. This is going to be a great city."

The mayor envisions a "work, live and play environment" that includes Kennedy Boulevard anchored by the University of Tampa and Tampa General Hospital. Both are engaged in major expansion projects including TGH's proposal to build a rehabilitation hospital on the long-vacant Ferman autodealership property fronting Kennedy.

But the city's boundaries also will sweep in the proposed Jewish Community Center that will open in a remodeled Fort Homer Hesterly Armory on Howard Avenue, and nearly 150 acres in West Tampa bordering the Hillsborough River.

The redevelopment of Water Works Park and the opening of the Ulele Restaurant in Tampa Heights also are part of the city's transformative master plan. In the same area SoHo Capital owns about 37 acres that is slated for residential and commercial development.

"All of it will complement each other," says Buckhorn. "This (town homes) is part of the mosaic."

Adam Harden, one of the principals in SoHo Capital, agrees.

"I think it's a harbinger that the sale's component's time has really come," he says.

Projects such as the town homes and the developments in Tampa Heights will bring jobs and services to the area. "It also brings the density needed to cascade into surrounding neighborhoods, re-creating a sense of place," Harden says.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Francine Miller and Mark Metheny, Lennar Homes; Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn; Adam Harden, SoHo Capital

Tampa Bay Innovation Center Opens TEC Garage

Up to 30 start-up businesses in science and other fields will be nurtured at TEC Garage, a new incubator opening in August on the campus of St. Petersburg College.

The venture is under the tutelage of the Largo-based Tampa Bay Innovation Center, an innovation and entrepreneurship center for technology businesses.

TEC Garage, which stands for Technology and Entrepreneurship Center, will occupy about 6,000 square feet on the ground floor of the college's Downtown Center at 244 2nd Ave. N. in St. Petersburg. The new incubator will offer space for new businesses in science, technology, engineering, arts and digital media. Three clients have been signed: Toonari Media, which uses social media and online resources to conduct investigations,  Dock-n-Lock, which offers methods to reduce texting and other distractions while driving, and My OnCall Doc, which is an on-demand video provider for physician services.

The location is only the beginning of a broader vision for encouraging startups amid an explosion of business and residential growth in downtown St. Petersburg.

"It seems to be ... an entire renaissance, something bringing new growth to St. Petersburg and something very exciting," says Tonya Elmore, president of Tampa Bay Innovation Center.

The anticipation is for 15 to 30 new businesses to settle into the TEC Garage. About 40 to 80 people can work there depending on how the space is designed.

“We want to give our local entrepreneurs every resource and tool they need to thrive, and believe this program will help create and keep jobs right here in our community," Elmore says.

There will be reserved office space for rent and coworking space. And Elmore says TEC Garage will offer something not every incubator provides -- coaching for individual clients.

The incubator will operate at the college for at least three to five years. The long-range goal is to move into a permanent downtown location in a much larger building of about 40,000 square feet. There could be opportunities for the college location to continue as a satellite office.

"This is a natural complement to the college's values of leadership, innovation and partnership," says Bill Law, president of St. Petersburg College.  

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Tonya Elmore, Tampa Bay Innovation Center; Bill Law, St. Petersburg College

It Works! Opens New Headquarters In Palmetto

It Works!, a major distributor of health and beauty products including The Ultimate Body Applicator, is expanding and relocating its headquarters to Palmetto, Fl.

With more than $450 million in worldwide sales last year, It Works! has more than 60,000 independent distributors who are paid commissions on direct sales of more than 30 health and beauty products in 18 countries. Inc. Magazine ranks It Works! one of America's 500 fastest growing companies.

Its best known product is the Body Applicator, a contouring body wrap product that company officials say tightens, tones and firms any area of the body in 45 minutes. The company was founded in 2001 in Michigan by former teacher Mark Pentecost. A decade later, he moved company headquarters to Bradenton. The new location, at 908 Riverside Drive in Palmetto, is just north of downtown Bradenton.

"We have loyal customers who keep coming back," says It Works! spokeswoman Kate Martin. 

Company growth in foreign countries also is strong and recently was expanded into Denmark, England, Spain and Germany. Additional countries soon will be added to the list, Martin says.

More than a year ago, the company purchased a 34,000-square-foot building in Palmetto for about $3.1 million, and recently completed an expansion to 50,000 square feet. Lakewood Ranch-based Stellar Development and Palmetto-based Moore2Design collaborated on the project.

Opening day will be in mid-June. Nearly 90 employees work at the new headquarters but by early 2015 company officials anticipate hiring another 50 or so employees.

About 10 positions are open now, says Martin. Most jobs will be with IT, social media, marketing and customer service.

It Works! offers some unique perks for employees including a putting green on the roof, a bumper pool on the top floor and an indoor slide for employees and guests.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Kate Martin, It Works!

CDC Of Tampa Wins Housing Award From Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo awarded nearly $240,000 to the nonprofit Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa for the purchase and rehabilitation of homes in East Tampa.

The grant is part of $11.4 million awarded by the bank to 59 nonprofits in 25 communities nationwide for UrbanLIFT, a housing program to stabilize low-income neighborhoods impacted by the housing crisis. NeighborWorks America administers the program.

The CDC is one of only three agencies in Florida to receive the grants. The others are Habitat for Humanity of Broward, Inc., and Housing Enterprise of Fort Lauderdale.

"UrbanLIFT funds provided by Wells Fargo will afford CDC of Tampa the opportunity to extend our hand to the community," says Ernest Coney Jr., the CDC's CEO.

The funds are a "hand-up'' for families that might not otherwise have the opportunity for homeownership," Coney says.

CDC officials will identify three residences within low-income areas of East Tampa, all clustered within a one-mile radius. Needed repairs will be done and then the homes will be offered for sale. These efforts are part of the agency's on-going Nehemiah Legacy Phase II Community Stabilization program.

 The CDC's program targets first-time home buyers and offers down payment assistance to qualified applicants. Though it is not required for UrbanLIFT, the CDC offers financial counseling for home owners to prepare them for the responsibilities that come with mortgages, home insurance and maintenance issues.

"When you look at economic and community development, one of our main pillars is homeownership where there is buy-in of the neighborhood," says Julie Rocco, the CDC's special projects manager. "There is a feeling that this is my neighborhood, I want to clean it up and make it safer."

For more than 25 years the CDC of Tampa has served the East Tampa community through career counseling, business planning, homeownership workshops, job training, job placement and youth programs. The agency, which is located at 1907 E. Hillsborough Ave., also partners with area contractors to build affordable housing, and commercial projects.

In agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Wells Fargo provides funds for community housing programs including NeighborhoodLIFT and CityLIFT.  Along with UrbanLIFT, grants of more than $180 million have been awarded since 2012. More than 5,000 homeowners have received down payment assistance and homebuyer education. 

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Ernest Coney, Julie Rocco, CDC of Tampa
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