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Tampa's "Bright Lights" Initiatve Shines On Sulphur Springs

Fulfilling Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's promise to complete a citywide lighting inventory, the first street lights as part of the “Bright Lights, Safe Nights” initiative have been installed.

Buckhorn, joined by Gordon Gillette, president of Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas, cut the ribbon to streetlights installed in Sulphur Springs -- the first neighborhood to receive new lights. In total, 127 new lights have been installed in the Sulphur Springs neighborhood thus far.

“A well-lit city is a safer city,” says Buckhorn. “We’re illuminating streets across this city that are dangerous for motorists and pedestrians and the dark corners where criminals can hide.”

Dedicating $2.2 million over the next five years to this initiative, the City of Tampa will work with TECO to add approximately 8,400 new street lights to the city's overall grid, ultimately expanding the current street light network by 30 percent.

Plans call for the lights to be placed throughout Tampa, focusing on Community Redevelopment Areas and zones with high crime or crash rates.

“We've been lighting Tampa for 114 years and we look forward to doing our part to meet the mayor's goal,” Gillette says.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, early-morning and nighttime crashes can be reduced by about 35 percent with additional streetlights while two research projects by the Institute of Criminology at the United Kingdom's  University of Cambridge in 2005 found that documented crimes decreased up to 45 percent with the financial savings from reduced crimes exceeding the cost of lighting by up to 10 times.

Sulhpur Springs -- also the target for revitalization through the City's Nehemiah Project, which will demolish more than 50 abandoned, uninhabitable homes in the area -- is only the first neighborhood of many that will benefit from the “Bright Lights, Safe Nights” initiative.

The Jackson Heights neighborhood is slated as next to receive new street lights.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Bob Buckhorn, City of Tampa & Gordon Gillette, Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas

Making Hillsborough Avenue Walkable, Bikeable In Tampa

Think Hillsborough Avenue could use some road improvements? The Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) wants your input.

During a recent Crash Severity Reduction Study, the Hillsborough MPO analyzed county corridors, roadways and intersections with high crash rates, ultimately identifying a few areas that needed to be further studied, including Dale Mabry Highway and Waters Avenue, Waters Avenue and Hanley Road, nearly all of Fowler Avenue and East Hillsborough Avenue from I-275 to 50th Street.

"We did this overall crash analysis of the county and found that East Hillsborough Avenue could definitely use some help,'' says Gena Torres, project manager for the Hillsborough MPO. "There are some things we can do for cars, cyclists and people walking -- things that have been done across the country that need to be brought to Florida.''

Titled the East Hillsborough Avenue Corridor Project, the project will ultimately make traffic better and reduce crashes, says Torres. For example, after a lane was taken away to add bike lanes and bus pullovers on Nebraska Avenue, traffic slowed and crash rates dropped by up to 70 percent.

"Both traffic and crashes are a real problem here, in both the county and the state -- it's just not a good situation,'' Torres says. "We're trying to come up with inexpensive ways to ease traffic.''

According to Torres, this particular section of the road has been studied by many different agencies for different reasons: HART is looking to put in one of their new MetroRapid systems, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) recently installed new medians and the East Tampa Redevelopment is looking to do some work to make the lower-income, high-minority East Tampa community a more vibrant place to live, work and play.

"Whether residents walk, bicycle or are dependent on transit, someone in the community does these things and we need to be concerned about making Hillsborough Avenue a better road for everyone to use,'' Torres says. "Residents should be concerned.''

What will make East Hillsborough Avenue safer, walkable and bikeable? Lighting? Diverting traffic? Making space for on-street parking, buses and trees? Your thoughts will help determine the outcome of what the MPO presents to the FDOT for implementation. The next meeting will be on Tuesday, April 30th, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Ragan Park Community Center at 1200 E. Lake Ave.

"We really need to determine the goals and objectives of the community and I think people have some really good thoughts that we won't be able to think of.''

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Gena Torres, Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization

Post Properties Adds Housing, Retail To South Howard Avenue, Tampa

After being put on hold for several years due to the economic downturn, Post Properties is now proceeding on a new mixed-used residential community on South Howard Avenue in South Tampa.

Located on the corner of South Howard and Swann avenues, the approximately $40 million Post SoHo Square development will be made of up 231 one- and two-bedroom units, 10,000 square feet of retail and a parking garage for residents and customers. Post purchased the land in 2005 for $12 million.

“We love South Tampa: It's a vibrant, active community and we're really excited about that part of town,” says Bart French, Post's VP of investments. “SoHo is a great location for people who want to be able to walk out of their front door and go to shops and restaurants. We're trying to create something that fits into that walkable environment.”

A courtyard featuring a pool, club room overlooking the courtyard and fitness center are among the amenities to be offered at Post SoHo Square. Units will average approximately 880 square feet in size, including high quality finishes such as granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances and plank flooring.

“A lot of good things are happening in the area and we'll be offering the community one more option for high-end, upscale living,” French says.

Pre-leasing for the 14-month project will begin out of Post's Hyde Park location around November 2013 with first units slated for completion by January 2014. French expects contractor Clark Florida Builders to complete Post SoHo Square by the second quarter of next year.

Additionally, French says rental rates have not been determined for the development as of yet, but Post has been watching rents in the area and will keep consistent with South Tampa prices. Businesses moving into the retail portion of the development will be announced in the coming months.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Bart French, Post Properties

New Condos, Townhomes On Snell Isle, St. Pete

Palm Beach County development firm Kolter Group recently began work on a new waterfront community on Snell Isle in St. Petersburg -- the first significant condominium development on the island in more than 40 years.

Water Club, at 1325 Snell Isle Blvd. N.E., will feature two 9-story towers including 95 luxury condominiums and 11 two-story townhomes with private two car garages, highlighted by Mediterranean architecture and a waterfront location on the east side of Snell Isle.

“Water Club answers a long-standing need for new, upscale condominium residents on Snell Isle,” says David Traynor, VP of Real Estate and Development Services for Smith & Associates, who will manage sales for the property. “People want all of the benefits of the elegant address and ease of condominium home living.”

Featuring a state-of-art fitness center, resort-style swimming pool, open-air palazzo, terraced garden and fire pit overlooking Tampa Bay, Water Club will also boast an on-site marina beside the St. Petersburg Yacht Club North Annex; slips will be available for purchase at the property's marina.

Four floor plans ranging in size from 1,700 to 1,900 square feet including two bedrooms and a den with two or three bathrooms are among the units to be offered at Water Club. Building features will include private elevator lobbies, as well as secured, covered parking. Chuck Jones of Curts Gaines Hall Jones Architects will be responsible for Water Club's design.

“Snell Isle is one of St. Petersburg's original waterfront developments: It offers a small, waterfront community feel away from the hustle and bustle while still being close enough for a bike ride to downtown St. Pete,” says Kortney Campbell, Smith & Associates social media and enterprise coordinator. "The Water Club residences will be an amazing addition to the area as they are unlike anything Snell Isle currently has."

Completion of the project is slated for June 2014.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: David Traynor & Kortney Campbell, Smith & Associates

New Home Interior Design Store Coming To Sarasota

Downtown Sarasota will soon have a new home interior design store.

Featuring 2,200 square feet of elegant, uncommon and artisan home furnishings for local beach and waterfront resort homes in Sarasota, Pecky will become an addition to the Starbucks and Whole Foods development located on 100 Central Ave. in Sarasota. A a grand opening and open house will be held on April 3rd and 4th.

“Our recovered lumber business of cypress, black cypress, pecky cypress and heart pine was an instigator of the store's formation,” says Owner Patricia Estes, who operates the store along with her husband, Peter. Pecky cypress wood will be seen throughout the store, recovered by Estes Recovered Lumber.

Offering an abundance of classic, liveable wood furniture; wall and ceiling applications; and linen sofas and chairs, Estes says Pecky's new showroom will offer several lines of home furnishings new to Sarasota and the surrounding area.

“If you are looking for an upscale, relaxed, quality, earth-friendly feeling for your beach abode, Pecky is where you want to start,” Estes says. “The store will hopefully fulfill an element of quality and design-driven décor for our lovely community.”

Pecky will focus on artisan products sourced throughout the United States and will offer home interior services.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Patricia Estes, Pecky

CoCreativ Opens New Coworking Space In St. Pete

A drop-in workspace for freelancers, entrepreneurs and on-the-go professionals in the Tampa Bay region, CoCreativ will open on Second Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg.

CoCreativ President and CEO Joseph Warren says he plans to redefine the modern workspace, promoting coworking in St. Pete with a cheap, alternative to typical makeshift offices and meeting spaces like Starbucks and Panera.

“Working on the go just got a whole lot easier,” Warren says. “People use makeshift office and meeting spaces because they have no place else to go. CoCreativ provides them with a flexible and professional workspace they can drop into as needed.”

Promoting an energetic and supportive community, CoCreativ's 5,500-square-foot pilot space is on the 12th floor of the Wells Fargo Plaza at 150 2nd Avenue North in downtown St. Pete. The space will feature a lounge area, private meeting room and conference room, as well as several rooms and cubbyholes for “heads down” work. CoCreativ's new space will also include a large multipurpose room for classroom training.

No long-term contracts and unlimited monthly acccess are among some of CoCreativ's features. Members simply drop in, plug in and begin working.

“Coworking spaces already exist in Tampa at places like Oxford Exchange, CoWork Tampa and FirstWaVE Venture Center, but up until now, St. Pete did not have a coworking space to call its own,” Warren says. “With all of the amenities that today's mobile professionals desire, such as great restaurants, cafes, nightlife and cultural variety, downtown St. Pete is the perfect place to launch our concept.”

CoCreativ will officially open the doors to a temporary location at the Wells Fargo Plaza on March 18th with plans to move to a larger, ground floor space in the near future; a pre-launch party and open house will be held on March 15th from 5:00 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“Coworking is being driven by a growing and more cohesive tech ecosystem that is quickly gaining national attention as a great place for start ups to launch,” Warren says. “We think we have a pretty solid understanding of our customers' needs and desires. Heck, we're part of our own target market for CoCreativ -- we designed this space for us too!”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Joseph Warren, CoCreativ

Restoration To Give New Life To Historic Hacienda Hotel, New Port Richey

Thanks to community input and involvement, New Port Richey's historic Hacidena Hotel may get a new lease on life.

Built in 1927 and originally known as a “Bit of Old Spain Amid the Palms,” the 55-room Hacidena Hotel, at 5621 Main St. in New Port Richey, was used as a hotel visited by silent film stars for years before becoming an assisted living facility.

The old hotel has been vacant since 2006, but recent projects are putting community volunteers and donations to work on restoring the historic New Port Richey structure.

"This property is a key to the revitalization of downtown,'' says City of New Port Richey Interim Manager Susan Dillinger.

More than 400 volunteers recently gathered for two community clean up days at the hotel, where residents, city staff and city council members pitched in to beautify the grounds inside and out by painting, repairing and replacing windows, removing broken glass and installing irrigation lines.

Now, funds must be gathered and more work must be done to assess the structural and environmental issues in need of correction to restore the hotel before renovation work begins. Dillinger says the next step would be to have the interior evaluated -- the plumbing, air conditioning, elevator, electrical system and the structure itself.

"Once we evaluate the interior, we can then begin the rehab so we can lease out space,'' she says.

The project is seeking approximately $37,800 through Citizinvestor, an online crowdfunding service for civic projects, to complete the evaluations and renovation work. Contributions can be made by following this link.

Additionally, the building must undergo a termite inspection and treatment, asbestos survey, air quality test, mold inspection and lead-based paint survey. Special attention will be made during evaluations and repairs to meet requirements of its  National Register of Historic Places designation, which the building received in October 1996.

"This project has great community support as evidenced by the members who came out to clean up days,'' Dillinger says. "But we still need support via funds for planning, evaluation and the actual rehab process itself.''

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Susan Dillinger, City of New Port Richey

Former Bern's Chefs Open Italian Restaurant In Channel District, Tampa

A new Italian restaurant will soon make its way to Grand Central at Kennedy in the Channel District.

Located at 1120 E. Kennedy Blvd. across from Pour House, the 1,900-square-foot Cena Restaurant will provide Channel District residents and visitors a modern, fresh and simple Italian dining experience. Italian for the word "dinner,'' Cena plans to provide dining from the roots with real ingredients, traditional dishes and attentive service.

Former Sidebern's chef de cuisine Michael Buttacavoli will act as executive chef at the new restaurant, whipping up dishes like spaghetti and veal, pork or beef meatballs; duck confit; shrimp scampi; pan seared steak; braised oxtail gnocchi; and lobster risotto, to name a few.

"The food is to die for,'' says Grand Central at Kennedy developer Ken Stoltenberg of Susan Bianchi and Romeo Patron's new concept.

Stoltenberg approached dining aficionados Bianchi and Patron of South Tampa's Bianchi's Enoteca-- who met while working at Bern's Fine Wine & Spirits-- in hopes of developing an interesting dining concept for Grand Central at Kennedy.

"The area is growing tremendously and we are excited to be a part of the development of the entire downtown Tampa area,'' says Bianchi. "I think there's a huge market with a really great cross section of people living in downtown and the Channel District.''

Plans call for a soft opening of the 40-seat restaurant on Friday, March 15th, with hours running Wednesday through Sunday.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Ken Stoltenberg, Grand Central at Kennedy; Susan Bianchi, Cena Restaurant

New Apartments To Offer Affordable Senior Living, St. Pete

An affordable senior apartment development is making its way to downtown St. Pete.

DDA Development's $18 million, 96-unit Campbell Landings project will offer Tampa Bay area seniors affordable rents in an active, urban location. Located on 6th Street South in St. Pete, qualifying seniors 55 and up will soon be able to take advantage of rents ranging from $280 to $680 monthly, depending on income.

Working with St. Pete architect Tim Clemmons of Mesh Architecture and general contractor Winter Park Construction, Campbell Landings will be developed under the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program with additional financing from JP Morgan Chase and a $120,000 deferred payment loan from the City of St. Petersburg.

"St. Pete has always been known as a nice place for seniors and we like what has been done with the downtown area,'' says DDA President Bowen Arnold. "Campbell Landings will help make downtown St. Pete a desirable, urban place to live.''

The apartments will be located in the heart of St. Pete, less than a quarter mile from Bayfront Medical Center and in close proximity to public transportation, attractions such as the Mahaffey Theater, Dali Museum and Jannus Landing; and public parks. Arnold says the development will offer amenities typically found in market rate apartments, but with significantly lower rental rates.

DDA hopes to set a new standard for affordable housing in neighborhoods near downtown St. Pete, offering features such as a lounge, cafe bar, exercise room, library computer lab, tenant storage area, covered parking, elevated outdoor deck, community garden, pass-key protected entry and energy-saving appliances.

Campbell Landings aims to attract seniors whose incomes don't exceed approximately $30,000 per year.

"We genuinely enjoy the opportunity to provide a nice, safe, affordable environment to seniors,'' Arnold says. "We hope to positively impact downtown by providing a high-quality senior development at affordable rents.''

DDA Development has developed more than 2,000 apartment under the tax credit program.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Bowen Arnold, DDA Development

Cooper's Hawk Winery, Restaurant Opens First Florida Location, Tampa

Offering award-winning wines and a contemporary American menu, Chicago-based Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant will open the doors to its first Florida location in Tampa on Monday, March 11th.

Tampa Bay region's newest winery will move into an 11,229-square-foot space at MetWest InternationalMetLife's 32-acre mixed-use development in Westshore at 4110 W. Boy Scout Blvd.

Featuring a traditional winery setting, Cooper's Hawk will also act as a full-service restaurant offering contemporary American cuisine with signature dishes such as pistachio crusted grouper, red wine and mustard short ribs and Mexican drunken shrimp.

"Each dish on our menu has been created with our proprietary wines in mind,'' says Melanie Pierce, Cooper's Hawk manager of marketing communications. "Florida is a long ways from California, but we have the ability to bring a taste of California Wine Country to Florida.''

The Tampa location will mark the company's 12th opening with an additional location set to open in Orlando by the end of 2013; a third Florida location is planned for 2014.

With the capacity to seat 400 guests in a one-of-a-kind winery atmosphere, Tampa's Cooper's Hawk will feature a Napa-style tasting roomwine club and retail shop. According to Pierce, one of Cooper Hawk's goals it to give guests a unique experience, capturing the romantic world of wine in an approachable manner.

"Our goal is to make it fun and easy for people to learn more about wine and food, try new flavors and expand their palates,'' says Tim McEnery, Cooper's Hawk founder and CEO. "We've brought together some of the best talents in winemaking and the culinary arts to create inventive, flavorful food and wine pairings. At the same time, we want to be affordable.''

Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant will offer lunch and dinner seven days a week.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Melanie Pierce & Tim McEnery, Cooper's Hawk Winery and Restaurant

Primrose School Builds Early Childhood Center Near UT

Offering private early childhood education for children ages six weeks to 5 years old, Georgia-based Primrose Schools is expanding to the South Tampa area on Kennedy Boulevard between Packwood and Rome avenues.

The $6.6 million construction project at 1700 W. Kennedy Blvd. near the University of Tampa, held a groundbreaking in December 2012 with plans to welcome the first round of students to the 22,700-square-foot center in August 2013.

Commercial general contractor and developer Phoenix Construction Company of Tampa is overseeing the construction and development of the new early childhood education center made up of 17 classrooms, a conference room and a training center.

This will be the sixth Primrose School location in Hillsborough County and the third in Tampa with two locations currently at Cross Creek Boulevard in North Tampa and Whitmarsh Lane in Westchase.

"There's a high demand for early childhood childcare in South Tampa, especially for children under the age of 4 because not many centers down here take infants,'' says Primrose School of South Tampa co-owner Jana Radtke. "We are thrilled to bring the best possible childcare experience to our South Tampa communities and understand the importance of instilling a love of learning throughout a child's early years -- this is essential to building a new generation of bright students.''

Radtke's work with Primrose began when she opened her first school in Texas in 1995 as a professional working mom struggling to find a quality early childhood education option for her own children.

"After having my children on waiting lists for 18 months, I left the corporate world to build Primrose School of North Lewisville in Dallas, Texas,” she says. “It was the best decision I've ever made!”

Looking to expand Primrose's exclusive Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accredited Balanced Learning Curriculum for children under the age of five to the South Tampa area, Radtke has been searching for the perfect location for seven years.

According to Radtke, Primrose School of South Tampa will be the only private school in the area built from the ground up that wasn't converted from a home or previously existing site. The new South Tampa location will be one and a half times the size of a normal Primrose school.

Additionally, Radtke says architects and engineers are working on-site toward U.S. Green Building Council LEED Certification with a goal of LEED Gold.

"The South Tampa location will be the first urban, LEED Certified school to be built in the area,'' she says.

Now enrolling, weekly rates for full-time students will range from $230 to $260, dependent upon age. Primrose School of Tampa will also offer an after-school program for school-age elementary students from public schools (with transportation provided from local elementary schools) for $100 per week. The new school is currently 70 percent pre-enrolled.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Jana Radtke, Primrose Schools

New Tampa Bridge Enhances Safety For Drivers, Walkers

New Tampa motorists and pedestrians will soon have an alternative route over I-75.

Connecting Commerce Park Boulevard in Tampa Palms with New Tampa Boulevard in West Meadows, the New Tampa Boulevard Bridge will provide an easterly and westerly connection between Bearss Avenue and S.R. 56.

The $12.8 million bridge, designed by Kisinger Campo & Associates and constructed by Prince Contracting, will open shortly after a ribbon cutting by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn on February 27th.

"The New Tampa Boulevard Bridge has been eagerly anticipated,'' Buckhorn says. "When combined with the widening along Bruce B. Downs, it will give residents of New Tampa the traffic relief they deserve.''

Giving motorists, pedestrians, first responders and New Tampa travelers an option other than traveling through the I-75/Bruce B. Downs interchange, construction began on the bridge in May 2011 and was not expected to see completion until July 2013.

Spanning a little less than one mile, the bridge includes a 5-foot sidewalk on the south side and an 8-foot wide multiuse trail on the north side, allowing pedestrians and bicyclists to safely cross the interstate without using the high-traffic and construction-filled Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

Additionally, the bridge will improve emergency access for first responders in the area.

The bridge came in response to the New Tampa Area Traffic Safety Study where existing conditions on roadways in the area were evaluated. New Tampa Boulevard from Meadow Pine Drive to Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, Commerce Park Boulevard and Tampa Palms Boulevard West and East were included in the study, honing in on potential improvements to enhance the safety and traffic ease of the New Tampa transportation network.

"Over the long term, the bridge and the convenience it provides to the surrounding neighborhoods will improve the quality of life for area residents,'' Buckhorn says.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Mayor Bob Buckhorn, City of Tampa

Anise Global Gastrobar Opens In Downtown Tampa

Offering fresh, globally inspired Korean, Thai and Spanish cuisine, Anise Global Gastrobar is now open on Ashley Drive in downtown Tampa.

Located on the bottom floor of Skypoint Condos, at 777 N. Ashley Dr., Anise is on the opposite side of Taps Restaurant Bar & Lounge, occupying the 2,500-square-foot former site of the Point Bistro & Lounge.

"If you look around, we seem to have a great influx of ethnic restaurants in the downtown area,'' says Angela Ruth, director of marketplace development at the Tampa Downtown Partnership. "There's a lot of people of different ethnicities traveling, finding food that they like and bringing it back to Tampa to share with residents and visitors. It's really a neat thing.''

Owners Kevin and Xuan Hurt say they plan to play with global flavors and recipes, offering an eclectic menu of rice bowls, salads and a variety of steamed buns including pork belly with kimchi and shrimp with spicy green papaya slaw and ginger aioli. The Hurts plan to offer craft beers, boutique wines and both traditional, as well as innovative, cocktails at their new concept.

Featuring indoor and outdoor seating, the approximately 90-seat restaurant includes Parisian influences in the interior décor by Doxa Home designer Jaime Rogers. The plan is to serve lunch and dinner Monday through Friday with brunch, dinner and a late-night menu offered on weekends; to-go picnic baskets will be made available for customers to enjoy at open-air spaces in downtown, such as Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

"It seems just as one restaurant opens up in downtown, there's another and another,'' Ruth says. "It's almost like clockwork, which is wonderful.''

Prior to Anise, Xuan previously partnered with downtown Tampa's Bamboozle Cafe for more than two years, worked as manager of Ciro's Speakeasy and Supper Club in South Tampa and ran local Tampa Bay area food truck Stinky Bunz.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Angela Ruth, Tampa Downtown Partnership

Sarasota Bradenton International Airport To See New Check-In Area, Terminal

Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) is making some much-needed changes to ensure easier travel for Tampa Bay area residents and visitors.

In early February 2013, SRQ unveiled plans for a new check-in area as part of a master plan to renovate many areas of the two-story, 240,000-square-foot airport; SRQ currently houses 14 gates for flight arrival and departures, serving seven major airlines.

“The sleek, contemporary styling is more economical and easy to maintain, and the new lighting systems are environmentally friendly,” says SRQ President and CEO Rick Piccolo. “SRQ takes pride in providing a safe, customer-friendly airport where travelers can enjoy a relaxed and stress-free experience in a modern and easy to navigate terminal.”

During the past two years, under the master plan, SRQ has installed new escalators, renovated restrooms, replaced chillers and HVAC systems, updated information technology infrastructure, updated the baggage screening system, resealed most of the building exterior and replaced the roof and skylights.

Future plans for improvement under the master plan include remaining terminal renovations and third office facilities and baggage claim. Travelers can expect renovations to be complete within the next two years.

“SRQ, like any commercial airport, generates a great deal of tourism and business activity with more than 1.3 million passengers utilizing the airport each year, spending millions in the local community,” Piccolo says. “Having a vibrant and thriving airport is a key economic attraction.”

Currently SRQ is a totally self-sufficient, funding an operating budget of over $16 million in business activities. With no taxing power, the airport -- the primary air carrier and general aviation airport for Sarasota and Manatee Counties -- provides local economic impact and job creation at no cost to Tampa Bay area residents.

Additionally, SRQ is on track to be debt free by August 2014, paying off the remaining $6 million of $150 million in terminal debt.

“This will essentially result in a new terminal with no debt -- that is rare amongst airports anywhere,” Piccolo says.

With nonstop service to major cities including Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago and New York and easy connections to other countries, SRQ currently generates more than 11,000 jobs and $962 million of economic impact on the local community.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Rick Piccolo, Sarasota Bradenton International Airport

Boutique Hotel To Transform Classic Federal Courthouse, Tampa

The renovation of downtown Tampa's Classic Federal Courthouse is underway with Mayor Bob Buckhorn and representatives of Tampa Hotel Partners breaking ground on the project on February 13th.

Kicking off the $25 million project, the courthouse will transform over the next 14 months into the 130-room Le Meridien Hotel. After considering five proposals for the redevelopment of the more than 100-year-old building, Buckhorn announced in January 2012 that the City of Tampa had made its decision on Tampa Hotel Partners, LLC.

“The federal courthouse is a historical and cultural landmark and it is important to not only preserve it, but to also utilize it in a way that people can enjoy it,” says Buckhorn.

Redevelopment plans for the Beaux-Arts style building call for a complete transformation into a boutique hotel housing a signature restaurant with outdoor dining and 2,400-square-foot ballroom and meeting space.

Featuring stone, marble, three-story columns and oak trim throughout, many of the building's original features will be restored during the project; Development Services Group of Memphis will act as the project's developer while Ferrell Redevelopment of Tampa will be the historical architectural consultant. Kobi Karp Architecture and Interior Design of Miami will be the project's architect and the Beck Group of Tampa will manage the construction of the project.

“Our urban core is long overdue for activity and this hotel will activate a piece of our downtown that has been vacant for too long,” says Buckhorn. “It represents our history, will anchor downtown's future and adds to the unique flavor of Tampa.”

Prior to being considered for renovation, the building was first used as a post office and customs house, later becoming a federal courthouse. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has a Local National Landmark designation.

The project is expected to create approximately 425 construction jobs with the hotel itself will employing about 100 people upon completion.

“The renovation and reopening of this hotel will benefit practically everyone,” Buckhorn says.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Mayor Bob Buckhorn, City of Tampa
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