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Kimley Horn Moves To Downtown Tampa, Goes Green

Providing a wide-range of consulting services for roadways, bridges, traffic signals, airports, land developments and landscape architecture, Kimley-Horn and Associates (KHA) recently celebrated the opening of its new office in downtown Tampa.

With 18 offices and more than 400 employees in Florida, the nationally-recognized Raleigh, N.C.-based firm opened their first office in Tampa in 1978. Making the move to 655 N. Franklin St. in downtown Tampa, KHA's new 7,100-square-foot office currently houses 23 employees.

“The combination of the location of some of the staff's homes, client locations and professional relationships made being in a more central location like the downtown area a strong contender for places to look for new office spaces,” says KHA Director of Communications Julie Beauvais.

According to Beauvais, the firm considered locations in downtown and Ybor City before deciding on the North Franklin Street space, working with Gensler Architects on interior design and Solutions General Contractors for the space build-out.

Since the move, KHA has taken pride in significantly reducing their carbon footprint: Thanks to the convenience of the downtown location, approximately 25 percent of the staff bike to work and lunch every week. Prior to the move, Beauvais says they found the majority of their staff driving more than 10 miles daily to get to work alone.

“The office morale has never been higher,” says David Walthall, KHA downtown office leader. “The work environment helped the collaboration between an already close group of co-workers, giving folks variety in their daily routine with all that downtown has to offer during work and after work hours -- hardly anyone gets in their car to drive to lunch."

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Julie Beauvais & David Walthall, KHA

Manatee Renovates Historic Courthouse, Bradenton

Manatee County recently celebrated the completion of a $2.9 million renovation project on the county's Historic Courthouse.

Funded by Manatee's general fund, improvement work on the 100-year-old courthouse employed nearly 80 local workers, taking about 15 months to complete: The project, which came under budget by by $72,468, involved replacing the building's roof, windows, parapet, cornice and parts of its trademark brick facade.

“Structural deficiencies were mounting at the building -- from cracks in the facade to chipping cornice to leaky roofs -- and were becoming a public safety issue. Postponing these repairs would have only worsened the condition, jeopardizing the future of one of Manatee County's most historic structures,” says Nicholas Azzara, Manatee County government spokesman. “The recent upgrades have not only improved energy efficiencies, but they've also brought the building up to hurricane-resistant standards to ensure that the records of this community are extremely secure.”

Inside of the courthouse, 1,602 light bulbs, 1,177 ballasts and a number of lamps and sockets were replaced with energy-saving components. Since the renovation, energy costs at the building have dropped by more than 50 percent; three years ago, the county was paying approximately $17,000 per month versus the approximately $7,500 paid since the renovation.

“We think the community will take great pride in this renovation,” Azzara says. “It's the site of so many celebrations throughout the year: From events commemorating fallen firemen, policemen and veterans to concerts and festivals on the lawn. These are the kinds of events that weave the community together.”

In 2011, the county used a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to complete a separate improvement project, connecting a new energy-efficient chiller to the Historic Courthouse; new equipment was installed in place of the old, delivering fresh air into the building. According to Azzara, this project has produced savings of approximately $138,000 per year in energy and maintenance costs.

A centerpiece of architecture in downtown Bradenton, the Manatee County Historic Courthouse is currently on the National Register of Historic Places.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Nicholas Azzara, Manatee County

Sense Of Place: Tampa Riverwalk Historic Monument Trail

The Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) recently approved a $120,000 grant for the Riverwalk Historical Monument Trail, matching private funds raised for the project.

Part of the county's Historic Preservation Challenge Grant Program, the grant was unanimously approved by the BOCC, allowing the county to continue with its project honoring significant events and noteworthy people that have helped shaped the history of Tampa and Hillsborough County. The trail will wind around the  Tampa Riverwalk, serving as an educational tool to residents and visitors walking along the Hillsborough River.

“Tampa has a really rich history and, unfortunately, for many decades, we have not done a great job at preserving that history and honoring the people who have made it happen,” says Steve Anderson, chair of the Historical Monument Trail Committee. “We really want to help people understand and develop a sense of pride for where they live.”

Six people are slated to be honored each year, with current honorees including Clara Frye, humanitarian and founder of Tampa's first hospital for African Americans; cigar manufacturer and Ybor City namesake Vicente Martinez-Ybor; the first Floridians (moundbuilding Indians); businessman and railroad magnet Henry Bradley Plant; James McKay, businessman and early maritime developer; and suffragist Eleanor McWilliams Chamberlain. Friends of the Riverwalk will work in conjunction with the Tampa History Center to honor more than 30 along the trail.

“These monuments are going to placed along the Riverwalk so when guests from out of city and state walk along our beautiful Riverwalk, they will be able to stop periodically and see ... these historically significant people,” Anderson says. “Visitors will be able to read a little bit about how these people contributed to where this community is today.”

Completion and installation of the first six monuments is expected by Fall 2012; the first six clay busts by local artist and sculptor Steve Dickey of Dickey Studios are complete, ready for firing. According to Anderson, the public can submit significant events and historic persons they wish to see featured along the trail.

In June 2012, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced that the 2.6-mile Riverwalk received a $10.9 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant to make way on filling two major gaps in the Riverwalk: one segment going south of Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park under the Kennedy Boulevard Bridge and a second going north from the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts to Water Works Park

According to Anderson, the Historical Monument Trail is the first of many projects planned to bring art, history, education and entertainment to the Tampa Riverwalk.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Steve Anderson, Tampa Riverwalk Historical Monument Trail

FDOT: Elevating Safety For Pedestrians On Florida Streets

Walkability and bikeability are key factors when it comes to choosing where to live. That's why a new safety awareness campaign aimed at reducing fatalities among pedestrians matters not only for individuals but also for the greater Tampa Bay region's local economy.

The four-week campaign, which kicked off in Hillsborough County and Miami-Dade County, is part of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)'s ongoing initiative to reduce bicycle and pedestrian injuries and fatalities. “Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow ... Safety Doesn't Happen By Accident” will be presented to the public through media outlets, local education and enforcement activities.

“We recognize the importance of educating drivers and pedestrians with respect to the rights and responsibilities of pedestrians and safe walking practices,” says FDOT Public Information Officer Kris Carson.

According to Carson, the FDOT is always working to improve the roadways for pedestrians by providing adequate pedestrian signal timings, improved signage and lighting for enhanced visibility, raised medians and refuge islands.

In the Tampa Bay region, the FDOT has spent more than $2 million high-intensity pavement markings, more and better sidewalks, additional countdown pedestrian signals, and new sidewalk and boardwalk along Dale Mabry Highway.

Pedestrian deaths in Florida are almost double the national average; if the Tampa Bay region were a state, it would rank number 16 in the nation for pedestrian fatalities.

Carson says 22.7 percent of all traffic crashes, fatalities and injuries involve pedestrians and bicyclists with 48 percent of pedestrians being killed when crossing the road at non-intersections; 43 percent of pedestrian traffic fatalities occur at night, on illuminated streets, and alcohol is a factor in just more than 40 percent of all pedestrian fatalities.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Kris Carson, FDOT

Health, Wellness Network To Move Into Grand Central At Kennedy, Tampa

Health & Wellness Network -- parent company of Health & Wellness Channel (HWC) -- is moving to the Channel District.

A one-stop-shop for all things life, love and longevity, HWC will develop a 60,000-square-foot space in the Grand Central at Kennedy building in Channelside into its new headquarters. The space is expected to include four separate television studios, a 22,000-square-foot mezzanine for offices and 38,000 square feet of studio space, production offices, engineering and storage for Marketplace products.

According to HWC Founder Drew Nederpelt, the location also comes equipped with a street level studio space, Studio B, which can be viewed from the street much like the Today Show set-up in New York City.

“Just like in Rockefeller Center, there's a courtyard at Grand Central that we can use for concerts, fitness demonstrations, cooking contests and the like,” Nederpelt says. “There will be at least one morning each week that we'll have a celebrity in town for some type of event in the courtyard, which will bring people to the area.”

Joining tenants such as Channelside Bay Plaza, Powerhouse Gym and the Tampa Bay Times Forum, HWC is expected to bring in 85 employees in its first year of operation at the new location, as well as several hundred in the following years.

“We will not only increase demand for housing in the area, but also raise existing homeowners' investment values,” Nederpelt says. “Our ultimate goal is to make the Tampa Bay area the center of health and wellness in the United States. We're interested in helping along Channelside's current march toward a vibrant and bustling residential and entertainment destination, choosing to open up not only our studio, but also our Master and Studio Control to the viewing public in hopes that it will imbue the residents of the area with a sense of pride and ownership in the network and the overall health and wellness movement.

The network is slated to be in place at its new location by the end of 2012.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Drew Nederpelt, HWC

Newland Builds New Community In Apollo Beach

A new-home, master-planned community by Newland Communities is coming to Apollo Beach.

Located on approximately 1,300 acres 15 miles south of Tampa off of Big Bend Road in Apollo Beach, the new Waterset community (think: FishHawk Ranch and Westchase) is estimated to become a 3,800-home community upon completion. Homes start at $170,000.

First-phase amenities include The Landing with a community pool, fitness center, pier overlooking a lake and a clubhouse with an Information Center and cafe offering coffee, tea, smoothies and snacks.

“We're very excited about the grand opening of Waterset. We have teamed up with some of the area's best builders to offer a variety of home styles and designs to appeal to all kinds of families,” says Newland Communities Marketing Director Pam Parisi. “Our consumer research told us that buyers today need to see the community amenities from day one and we're committed to having The Landing open on grand opening day in the fall.”

Currently, amenities at The Landing are under construction, as well as nine model homes, offering a variety of architectural styles to choose from including Craftsman, Classical and Mediterranean. The first phase of Waterset will include work by home builders Ashton Woods Homes, Cardel Homes, David Weekley Homes and Homes by WestBay. In addition, the Montessori Preschool at Waterset is under construction and is expected to open by winter.

“Now, more than ever, there is a higher value placed on real connections among families, neighbors and community,” says Parisi. “Our hope is that Waterset will make it easy for people to actively connect, establish roots and live life in their own ways.”

Builder plans and pricing for Waterset homes will be released during an exclusive preview event on August 1st with plans and pricing being released to the public on the community website on August 2nd.

Newland Communities is currently working on developing additional new-home, master-planned communities including Circa FishHawk and MiraBay.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Pam Parisi, Newland Communities

Clearwater Improves Water At Prospect Lake Park

Construction recently began on an improvement project on Clearwater's Prospect Lake Park.

Located in downtown Clearwater at Prospect Avenue and Franklin Street, the approximately $800,000 project is designed to  improve the water quality of Prospect Lake, which serves as a regional stormwater pond for an area of the downtown district; the pond ultimately discharges into Clearwater Harbor.

According to City of Clearwater Engineering Department Environmental Specialist Sarah Josuns, sediment has built up in Prospect Lake. Using a dredge to remove the sediment, the lake will also be expanded to the south; various wetland plants will also be added to the south end of the pond.

“With the expansion of the lake, stormwater will have additional detention time while the new littoral shelf with wetland plants will have an opportunity to absorb nutrients,” Josuns says. “Stormwater is directed to this lake so many properties in the area do not need to have their own pond.”

Funded by stormwater utility fees, the sediment removal phase is already underway and is expected to be complete by early December 2012. The second phase including pond expansion and wetland plantings will begin in early 2013. Phase two is slated to take about six months, with completion planned for July 2013.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Sarah Josuns, City of Clearwater

New Park, Improvements Planned For St. Pete

St. Petersburg residents and outdoors lovers are in for a treat: The City is planning a new park for the area.

In the early stages of the planning process, the new $1.6 million park is being developed for the vacated Rio Vista Elementary School site at 6th Street and 83rd Avenue N.E. in St. Pete; a public meeting was held on July 25th, discussing conceptual plans for the proposed Rio Vista Park.

“It has long been recognized that northeast St. Petersburg is lacking in recreational opportunities,” says City Parks and Field Operations Superintendent Phil Whitehouse. “The Parks and Recreation Department tries to look at service levels in all areas of the City to provide equal opportunities for recreation. This park will provide an avenue for recreation where one does not currently exist.”

Funded by Weeki-Wachee funds that were set aside for recreational projects, Whitehouse says a large portion of the budget wil go toward the demolition of the school that currently sites on the park site.

The City is currently also working on an approximately $700,000 master/management plan addressing concerns at Maximo Park at 34th Street South and Pinellas Point Drive. Funded by Penny for Pinellas and the Florida Boating Improvement Program, Maximo is expected to include renovated boat ramps, restrooms, new educational signage and native plantings upon completion.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Phil Whitehouse, City of St. Pete

Grow Financial Credit Union Opens, Downtown Tampa

Staying true to its name, Grow Financial Credit Union is continuing to grow, opening its 19th branch in the Tampa Bay region.

Headquartered in Tampa, the new downtown branch is slated to open an approximately 2,200-square-foot branch on North Tampa Street. Featuring what Grow Financial Marketing Communications Specialist Adrienne Drew calls "an innovative and refreshing alternative to traditional bank lobby designs,'' the new location will include a virtual money machine, cash recyclers and large product information LCD screens.

"The new branch in downtown features a completely new style compared to our other branches -- framed on a retail model that features member service stations allowing employees to engage members with an open dialog for their banking needs,'' Drew says. "The overall atmosphere will offer a very modern and casual environment, which is different from most styles of banking.''

Creating a sense of warmth for members, the branch will also feature a coffee and water service station.

"It's time to expand more into areas where we feel our branch will appeal to our members,'' Drew says. "Our new location will not only better serve those who work in the area, but provide a significant measure of exposure and awareness for our brand and approach to banking.''

Opened in 1955 on MacDill Air Force Base, Grow Financial currently has 18 branches with plans to open new branches in Lakeland and Wesley Chapel by 2013; expansion out of the state of Florida is expected 2014. Since January 2012, the credit union hired approximately 70 new employees.

"We want to expand our footprint in the Tampa Bay area and downtown Tampa seemed like the perfect start.''

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Adrienne Drew, Grow Financial Credit Union

New College Of Florida Begins Library Plaza Renovation, Bell Tower Project

New College of Florida students will see changes on campus when they return in the fall.

Implementing various parts of its 2006 Campus Master Plan, New College recently began a $300,000 renovation on the plaza in front of the Jane Bancroft Cook Library. Sharing the facility with the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, a key component of the project is the construction of a new $400,000 bell tower. The timing of the library plaza renovation is tied to the Fall 2011 opening of the new campus Academic Center and Plaza, located adjacent of the library.

"Over the last few years, New College has been implementing various parts of its Master Plan, which includes urban design components to foster a greater sense of community to enhance the educational and environmental experience for students, faculty and staff,'' says Linda Joffe, New College associate director of public affairs.

According to Joffe, the plan marked an important step in the college's transition back to an independent campus on its historical property, which encompass the former estates of Charles Ringling and Ralph Caples; in 2001, New College separated itself from USF, becoming Florida's independent honors college.

Located between Ringling Plaza and College Drive -- just north of the Ringling Museum and Asolo Repertory Theatre -- the entire plaza in front of the Jane Bancroft Cook Library will be "scraped,'' making way for designs by Graham-Booth Landscape Architecture of St. Petersburg: new pavers, landscaping, lighting, grass, raised planters and tables with attached seating.

In addition, a 64-foot bell tower, designed by Renker-Eich-Parks Architects of St. Petersburg, will evoke New College's historic Four Winds seal and the "building on learning'' concept. The obelisk-style tower will feature four twisting, precast concrete pilasters held together by two rings. Mounted between the rings will be four bells built by French company Paccard, the "Stradivarius of bell makers.'' Currently, more than 120,000 Paccard bells are located in cities and villages throughout the world.

"The modernist bell tower is a welcomed addition to campus architecture. On many college campuses, a bell tower is a landmark and New College wanted to give its students a similar experience,'' Joffe says. "The project is expected to further transform the heart of the campus, creating a seamless, communal outdoor space -- the perfect transition between the historic Ringling-era campus and residential campus.''

According to Joffe, the four bells can be programmed to produce a wide range of melodies. The college hopes that students in the music program will embrace an opportunity to create original music to be played by the new bells.

Funds for the $700,000 project are provided by a $400,000 donation by philanthropists and community leader Beverly Koski with the remaining $300,000 designated by state of Florida infrastructure funding. Project manager and New College Senior Architect Jack Whelan expects the project to be complete by October 2012.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Linda Joffe, New College of Florida

Burger 21 Expands In Tampa Bay, New Jersey

Satisfying burger-loving palettes, Tampa-based Burger 21 continues to expand.

With plans to open two new Tampa Bay area locations in Lakeside Village in Lakeland and Trout Creek Commons in Tampa by the end of Summer 2012, the fast-casual burger concept recently announced its fourth franchise agreement to open a restaurant in New Jersey. Upon opening, the first Northeast location will mark the 10th location for Burger 21, including locations in Westchase and Carrollwood.

"America has a love affair with burgers. Couple that with the explosive growth of the fast-casual segment of the food industry and the result is a strong consumer demand for premium, better burger products served in an inviting fast-casual atmosphere,'' says Alisha dos Santos, communications manager for Front Burner Brands, the concepts’ management company.

Wanting to go "beyond the better burger,'' Burger 21 features 21 chef-inspired burger creations ranging from hand-crafted, freshly ground Angus beef to turkey, chicken, shrimp, tuna and veggie burgers. Toss in made-to-order salads; Hebrew National all-beef hot dogs; hand-breaded chicken tenders and an extensive shake bar including hand-dipped floats, shakes and sundaes and you have the key to fast-casual success. Burger 21 also recently launched a brand new gluten-free menu.

"In developing the concept, the owners of The Melting Pot fondue franchise -- the Johnston family -- saw an opportunity to fill a void in the burger business,'' dos Santos says. "The concept defines its own category, beyond the better burger, offering quality, premium ingredients, innovative recipes and a gourmet experience without the gourmet price.''

In September 2011, Burger 21 launched an aggressive growth strategy to bring hand-crafted burger creations and hand-dipped signature shakes to more cities across the United States, seeking single and multi-unit operators with restaurant experience to join the upscale fast-casual dining concept. With the newest franchise locations in Atlanta, Georgia and Voorhees, N.J., Burger 21 plans to expand its efforts into the Midwest and along the West Coast.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Alisha dos Santos, Front Burner Brands

EarthFruits Yogurt Opens In University Park, Sarasota

I scream, you scream, we all scream for yogurt: a new franchise, EarthFruits Yogurt, is coming to the University Park area near Sarasota.

Located between Sarasota, Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch in the Kohl's/Fresh Market shopping plaza on University Parkway, the new 1,694-square-foot EarthFruits Yogurt location is the second EarthFruits franchise in the United States; additional locations are slated to open in Oklahoma, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, Texas and California.

Offering natural, healthy treats served in an upscale Internet cafe atmosphere, the family-friendly EarthFruits features up to 38 creamy melt-in-your-mouth flavors from tart to sweet. Fresh toppings including fresh, hand-cut superfruits, cookies, candies and nuts are available to please your sweet tooth, as well as lounge seating, free WiFi and two widescreen TVs, topping off the cafe atmosphere.

“EarthFruits Yogurt is pleased to be part of the booming University Parkway shopping area,” says Lori Uzzo, copy & PR manager for Grapevine Communications, representing EarthFruits. “The owners believe this is going to be the shopping mecca of the area and were eager to establish a presence before the area is completely developed with the coming of the new mall in the next two years.”

The new location will celebrate its opening on Saturday, July 28th, offering 50 percent off of every purchase while giving away free yogurt to the first 25 customers and free gift bags to the first 50 people through the doors. Grand opening festivities are scheduled from 12 p.m. until 3 p.m., with live music, entertainment and family-friendly activities.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Lori Uzzo, Grapevine Communications

Secrets Of The Sea Marine Exploration Center, Aquarium Opens In 2013, John's Pass Village

Come Spring 2013, some of the sea's greatest secrets will be revealed.

Rebranding the current 2,000-square-foot St. Petersburg Pier Aquarium concept into Secrets of the Sea Marine Exploration Center and Aquarium -- a broader, more technology-focused marine exploration concept -- John's Pass Village in Madeira Beach will welcome the approximately $4 million facility.

“Secrets of the Sea will be a premier venue designed to bring the public together with state-of-the-art marine research, innovation and technology interactive experiences,” says Pier Aquarium President and CEO Howard Rutherford. “The Pier Aquarium has been bursting at the seams for a long time while the public's interest in the ocean environment, cutting-edge technology and marine science continues to grow. The unknown future of The Pier created an extraordinary opportunity for a bold, new approach to the Aquarium's mission.”

Mystery Stations will be located throughout the new 12,500-square-foot center, allowing for interactive experiences in which  visitors will explore the sea's secrets, discovering how scientists ("Sea Sleuths'') are working to reveal some of the sea's greatest mysteries. The stations will also showcase how several sea habitats and lifeforms are benefiting from these unsolved mysteries.

Additionally, various marine-related activities, aquariums, galleries and exhibits developed by the St. Petersburg Ocean Team will focus on research concepts in a fun, explanatory fashion; exhibits include Essential Estuaries, Touch Tampa Bay, Fish at Risk, Corals on Acid, Crustacean Station and Moon Jellyfish.

According to Rutherford, the new aquarium space is expected to generate nearly $8 million into the local economy, reaching more than 40,000 students from six different countries while anchoring one of Tampa Bay's top attractions by expanding visitation in Pinellas County.

“We hope to create a new generation of environmental stewards,” Rutherford says.

Key contributors to the design and rebranding of the aquarium include Aqua Marketing Communications and design firms Hands On! and MAM Exhibit Design. Several facility spaces, exhibits and Mystery Stations have already been gifted by Bay News 9, Hubbard’s Properties, Odyssey Marine Exploration, the Margaret E. Dickins Foundation and USF College of Marine Science.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Howard Rutherford, Pier Aquarium/Secrets of the Sea

HART Upgrades Bus Routes, Stops In Westshore, East Tampa

In an attempt to make services more accessible and convenient to customers, HART Route 15 at Columbus Drive in Tampa recently received a facelift thanks to the Bus Stop Improvement Program.

Running along Columbus Drive from the Westshore Plaza Transfer Center to the NetPark Transfer Center, 28 bus stops were improved with landing pads (concrete pads that provide a stable surface for persons with a mobility device) with approximately 1,100 feet of sidewalk installed along the 16-mile route.

An additional 28 bus stops will be improved with 6,600 feet of sidewalk installed along Route 15 as part of the Broadway Sidewalk Project which focuses on the Broadway Avenue portion of Route 15 between 50th and 66th Streets in East Tampa; work started the week of July 9th on the $200,000 project funded by the New Freedom Grant, a federal program that supports transit projects improving accessibility for persons with disabilities.

“No project is too small to drastically improve connectivity,” says HART Public Information Officer Marcia Mejia. “The Broadway Sidewalk Project is an example of this, providing connections from bus stops to the adjacent industrial development.”

Route 39 at Busch Boulevard and Route 36 at Dale Mabry Highway and Himes Avenue are the next HART routes slated for improvements as part of the Bus Stop Improvement program, a route-by-route assessment of bus stops to ensure ADA accessibility, convenience and safety aiming to improve the overall efficiency of HART services.

“This program is critical because our customers, drivers and buses are the essential parts of our system,” Mejia says. “Our 3,300 bus stops throughout Hillsborough County serve as the access points to our system.”

HART aims to make all stops ADA compliant eventually. In 2010, 113 shelters were installed with 79 bus stops upgraded  while in 2011, 50 shelters were installed and 218 bus stops upgraded. So far, in 2012, 38 shelters have been installed with 287 bus stops improved. Currently, one of every six HART bus stops has a shelter.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Marcia Mejia, HART

Warner's Bayou To Renovate Boat Launch, Manatee County

Manatee County residents, boaters, fishing enthusiasts and environmental supports are in for a treat: A new proposal is in the works for improvements to Warner's Bayou.

Proposed improvements for Warner's Bayou's boat ramp include an extended guardrail, a foot bridge leading to the beach area, two shallow swales for storm water treatment, a restroom on the north side of the ramp and a fish cleaning station.

Originally, the project was expected to cost approximately $728,000 and included repaving of the parking lot, but has been scaled back to meet the community's request: The parking lot will remain shell with the exception of two paved/concrete handicap spaces.

A public workshop to discuss new plans was held on July 11th.

“I believe the new plan was very well-received,” says Nicholas Azzara, Manatee County information outreach coordinator. “People seemed pleased to know that the county had scaled back the original plan -- appreciative that the county listened to their concerns.”

According to Azzara, costs for any improvements will be split evenly between the West Coast Inland Navigation District (WCIND) and Florida Boater Improvement Program; no Manatee County property tax dollars will be spent on the improvements.

“The end result will be an impressive and constructive collaboration among the county, Warner's Bayou residents, boaters and environmental interests,” says Azzara of the project, which is expected to have finalized plans by the Manatee County Commission by late Fall 2012.

The county will host a similar open house workshop for proposed improvements to the Fort Hamer boat ramp at Fort Hamer Park on August 1st at 6:30 p.m. at Williams Elementary School on Fort Hamer Road in Parrish.

Several projects are currently in the works for Manatee County including the county's first Green Street and a new cafe at the Green Bridge Fishing Pier.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Nicholas Azzara, Manatee County
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