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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

BoConcept Furniture Store Opens, Downtown Tampa

BoConcept, a Danish-based company with more than 255 stores worldwide, has moved into the Channel District neighborhood of downtown Tampa.

The new 5,400-square-foot storefront at Grand Central at Kennedy in the Channel District is BoConcept's only brand store in Florida. The 60-year-old company has 24 stores in the United States. A grand opening for its latest in Tampa is planned for September 20.

“We offer customized, coordinated and affordable design furniture,” says owner Ray Priddle. “Customized because our products can be designed to match the needs and dreams of our customers. Coordinated because we take a holistic approach in the development and design of our product range. Design because we are a design company with our own designers. Affordable because we want to spoil our customers by giving them great value.”

Making modern design furniture available to urban-minded, design savvy customers throughout the world, Priddle says it's important to remember that the word "urban" describes an aesthetic and state of mind, not a location.

“You can have a house with urban design in the middle of the burbs,” he says.

And, he says, a visit to the new Channel District BoConcept can help you achieve that.

“We believe that we will help the Channel District and downtown Tampa show its modern, urban face to the world,” Priddle says. “And if, for some reason, people can't make it along to the store, they can always have fun designing their ideal sofa on our website.”

An in-store event, coinciding with the monthly Flicks and Food Trucks event in Channelside, will be held on Thursday, July 19th, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“We would love to see anyone interested in modern design in the store for a glass of wine.”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Ray Priddle, BoConcept

HART To Send $9M Back To Hillsborough County

After a detailed cost analysis, HART officials say they are able to reallocate almost $9 million back into Hillsborough County.

According to HART Public Information Officer Marcia Mejia, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) determined that several projects were significantly under budget upon completion, allowing the money to go toward Hillsborough County infrastructure needs, if desired.

“In an era when such projects frequently incur cost overruns, it is important for HART to demonstrate that we have been and will continue to be responsible stewards of taxpayer money,” Mejia says.

Funded by Hillsborough County Community Investment Tax (CIT), a total of just more than $8.9 million is currently available for reallocation with the MetroRapid East-West project offering $1 million and the MetroRapid North-South offering approximately $5.7 million. The Brandon Park and Ride was completed with a little more than $2 million remaining. Made available by capital funding, the remaining funds cannot be reallocated toward operational costs such as bus routes.

HART also recently announced proposed changes to fares and services, addressing a number of issues including increased operational costs and decreased ad valorem revenues. These changes include raising the One-Way Cash and 1-Day Unlimited Ride Fares by about 25 cents with changes also affecting 1-Day Unlimited HARTFlex, 3-Day Unlimited, 31-Day Unlimited, 1-Day 10 Pack Unlimited and ADA Paratransit fares. Bus route and schedule changes may be made as well.

“Bus route and schedule changes proposed for November 2012 will streamline some routes while boosting service for others,” Mejia says.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Marcia Mejia, HART

Washington Street Park Gets Design Award, Tampa

Washington Street Park in Tampa is on a roll: The Channel District park recently received yet another award praising its design.

Last month, the public green space was among three parks in Tampa to receive excellence awards for design and public participation at the Hillsborough County Planning Commission's 30th Anniversary Community Design Awards. Now, the park is being honored by a Landscape Architecture Award from the Florida Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (FLASLA).

Recognizing the transformation of an empty urban space into a now useable public green space, Washington Street Park, designed by Lea Del Tosto of WilsonMiller/Stantec, is the first public open air space in the Channel District, providing recreation opportunities for the more than 2,000 residents living in the neighborhood.

“It's a green oasis in what is becoming a densely developed and populated neighborhood,” says Bob McDonaugh, manager of the Channel District and Downtown Community Redevelopment Areas (CRA)

According to McDonaugh, the park's design came about after a series of meetings with neighborhood residents, encouraging public participation during the design process of the approximately $815,000 nautical-themed park.

Including a lawn area, large canvas shade structure and non-traditional play area, the half-acre space was designed to allow for flexible use of its plaza and lawn areas, which can accommodate gatherings of various sizes. The park also includes a fenced dog area complete with artificial turf designed specifically for pet areas, pet water fixtures and seating for dog owners.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Bob McDonaugh, City of Tampa

Cooper's Hawk Winery, Restaurant To Open In Westshore, Tampa

Tampa Bay wine aficiondoes rejoice: Chicago-based Cooper's Hawk Winery and Restaurant will open its first Florida location in Tampa by early 2013.

Plans call for a move into an 11,229-square-foot space at MetWest International, MetLife's 32-acre mixed-used development in Westshore. The eclectic winery and restaurant will hire approximately 125 new folks prior to opening its 12th location, the first outside of the Midwest.

A full-service restaurant offering contemporary American cuisine in a one-of-a-kind winery atmosphere, the Westshore Cooper's Hawk location will also feature a Napa-style tasting room, wine club and retail shop.

“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.”

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. This allows customers to feel comfortable enough to ask questions, try samples and discover an appreciation for wine, including how best to pair up their favorites and new selections with food.

The new 400-seat Westshore location also will offer an expansive outdoor patio area overlooking a fountain.

“We wanted to take the leap outside of the Midwest and felt that Tampa was the right opportunity to do so,” Pierce says. “We fell in love with the Tampa community and this specific location in Westshore. From the building design to our amazing co-tenants, we feel like this is a great fit!”

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

Orangetheory Fitness To Open In South Tampa

A new workout concept is coming to South Tampa.

Using scientifically proven concepts, Orangetheory Fitness was designed by Ellen Latham, an exercise physiologist and Pilates instructor, who saw too many Pilates-obsessed women getting stronger, but not losing weight. Creating a high intensity interval workout that helps build strength, increase energy and surpass workout plateaus, Orangetheory's classes work to tone and shape your body unlike any other workout.

According to Terry Blachek, franchise co-founder and owner of Orangetheory's Tampa Bay locations, the science behind the program says if a workout can get your heart rate to 84 percent within 12 to 20 minutes inside of a 60-minute workout, you're not only going to burn more calories in the class, but you're going to have an increased metabolic rate for the next 36 hours after the class ends.

Ultimately, this allows you to burn anywhere from 500 to 1,200 calories in an hour with an additional 1,200 burned while your body is in recovery mode. During a normal workout, you burn about 350 to 400 calories.

“In a six-week program, we're seeing men lose anywhere from 40 to 50 pounds while women are losing anywhere from 20 to 30 pounds,” says Blachek, co-founder for Crunch Fitness in New York.

Blacheck has taken Latham's theory and expanded it to the Tampa Bay region, opening locations in St. Petersburg, New Tampa and a new 3,500-square-foot location opening on North Dale Mabry Highway in South Tampa on June 28th. The new South Tampa location offers 15 treadmills, rowers, benches, dumbbells and heart rate monitors, among other things. Showers and changing rooms are also featured.

“This makes sense in South Tampa, and across the nation, because people are beginning to migrate from big box clubs down to small studios -- women are now going to Pilates and Yoga studios for specialty classes,” Blachek says. “We believe people want studios like Orangetheory with a community vibe. The classes are engaging and people know your name.”

Orangetheory Fitness South Tampa offers classes from 5 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Terry Blachek, Orangetheory Fitness

Riverwalk Gets $10.9M Federal Grant, Tampa

The City of Tampa is making significant progress on making downtown Tampa a place for residents to live, work and play.

In addition to the new 20-story Southgate Tower office building planned for 2016 near the Tampa Bay Times Forum off of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway -- the first new office building in downtown Tampa in 20 years -- significant progress will soon be made in an attempt to complete Tampa's 2.6-mile riverfront walkway along the Hillsborough River.

Thanks to a $10.9 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant, the City will be able to make way on filling in two major gaps in the Tampa 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.

The total construction cost for both segments is $13.7 million with the portion under Kennedy Bridge costing approximately $10 million alone.

“The Kennedy Boulevard Plaza segment is the key link,” says Lee Hoffman, development manager for the Riverwalk. “Everything has been designed and permitted, we were just waiting on funding.”

Construction on these portions will create approximately 200 temporary construction jobs, in addition to becoming a catalyst for investment along the Hillsborough River. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn calls the TIGER grant a “game-changer for downtown Tampa,” emphasizing the Riverwalk as a key element in the effort to revitalize the downtown urban core.

Construction on the newly funded segments is expected to start by the end of 2013.

Recently, Mayor Buckhorn cut the ribbon to two new sections of the Riverwalk: the Brorein Street Underpass and the Brownstone Segment, which extended the southern part of the existing walkway an additional 550 feet. These sections brought the length of contiguous Riverwalk walkway just shy of one mile. Currently, 1.5 miles of the Riverwalk are in place for the public to enjoy.

According to Bob McDonaugh, administrator of economic opportunity for the City of Tampa, the City has also been successful in getting grant funding from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to put in docks behind the Tampa Bay History Center as part of the Riverwalk project. The docks will service the History Center, Forum and Channelside area and is expected to see completion by early August.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Lee Hoffman & Bob McDonaugh, City of Tampa

The Kitchen Restaurant At Jannus Live Celebrates Opening, St. Pete

Celebrating a soft opening in May, The Kitchen Restaurant is the newest addition to the Jannus Live complex on the Jannus Landing Block in downtown St. Petersburg.

Located at 216 1st Ave. N. in St. Pete, The Kitchen features approximately 400 seats of extensive indoor dining in the Kafe and outdoor dining on the Concourse with an open air kitchen and bar.

Offering St. Pete restaurant goers a unique, distinct and vast menu featuring mind-blowing combinations such as the pomegranate lamb chop, lemongrass barbecue bacon cheddar burger and sushi rolls with names like “OMG” and “WTF,” Kitchen chefs Matthew Hine, James Ellis and Chris Hine are eager to please.

“The Kitchen will offering catering and an extensive delivery menu to anyone within a 10-mile radius,” says Lynda Rucker, marketing director for The Kitchen. “Since Jannus Live includes Detroit Liquors, we'll be able to deliver a bottle with your meal.”

With a revolutionary delivery package for added comfort and convenience, The Kitchen is heaven sent: The first and only restaurant in St. Pete to offer wine, spirits, beer and champagne with your meal delivered right to your door. A dream come true, The Kitchen began delivery on June 14th.

The brainchild of Jannus Live owner Jeff Knight, this one-of-a-kind concept is also now preparing food for other St. Pete hotspots such as the Pelican Pub, Crystal Head Lounge and the new 10,000-square-foot MacDinton's Irish Pub.

The Kitchen is open Monday through Saturday at 5 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. and is open late on Thursday through Saturday.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Lynda Rucker, The Kitchen

HART Proposes Changes To Bus Fares, Services

Come November 2012, HART riders may be in for some changes.

In an attempt to adjust to bus ridership trends and improve the cost-efficiency of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) system, HART is proposing a few bus service and fare changes. Effective Nov. 11, 2012, the proposed changes will address a number of issues including increased operational costs and decreased ad valorem revenues.

“HART proposes changes to bus routes and schedules usually three times each year to keep up ridership trends and improve the efficiency of the system with on-time performance while eliminating unproductive service to reinvest it to meet demand,” says HART Public Information Officer Marcia Mejia.

Likewise, HART reviews its fare structure every two years to determine whether changes should be made. The last fare change took place in November 2008.

The proposed changes for November 2012 include raising the One-Way Cash and 1-Day Unlimited Ride Fares by about 25 cents; for example, the Local & Limited Express fare may cost riders $2 versus the current $1.75, while 1-Day Unlimited HARTFlex services will go from $1.85 to $2. The changes will also affect riders taking advantage of the current 3-Day Unlimited, 31-Day Unlimited, 1-Day 10 Pack Unlimited and ADA Paratransit fares.

In addition to higher rates, bus route and schedule changes may be made as well, including the elimination of express service on President's Day and Columbus Day; service will continue on Memorial Day, the 4th of July and Labor Day, but at Sunday level services instead of the current Saturday level service.

HART is also proposing to discontinue Saturday Brandon Flex services, but is looking to extending the Flex zone to serve Brandon Regional Hospital and portions of Brandon Boulevard.

“Bus route and schedule changes proposed for November 2012 will streamline some routes while boosting service for others, particularly Route 30 (Downtown Tampa/TIA/Town 'N Country) and Route 34 (Hillsborough Avenue),” Mejia says.

HART will seek public comment on the changes through a series of open house-style meetings throughout June. A final public hearing will be held on Tuesday, July 10, at the HART Administrative Office located on Seventh Avenue in Ybor City in Tampa.

To view the proposed changes and dates and times for upcoming community meetings, click here.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Marcia Mejia, HART

City of Clearwater Makes Plans To Improve U.S. 19

The U.S. 19 corridor in Clearwater is about to become more attractive, successful and sustainable.

Preliminary plans are in the works to improve the Clearwater stretch of U.S. 19 because conditions along the main north-south road have changed dramatically over the past several years.

According to Cate Lee, planner at the City's Planning and Development Department, recent construction has begun hurting some businesses dependent on impulse customers relying on direct access from U.S. 19. The City's new plans will allow and incentivize investment in properties located along the corridor that may be prohibited or discouraged now under current plans or codes.

“The City of Clearwater is undertaking this planning process to set the framework for development post-Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) roadway improvements,” Lee says. “The plan that will be the end result of the current study will guide growth along the corridor for the next few decades.”

Offering recommendations on a wide range of topics from land use to urban design and mobility to sustainability, the final report will promote more sustainable forms and patterns of development by improving vehicle, pedestrian and bike connections throughout Clearwater.

Currently, the study area includes the segments of the U.S. 19 corridor from Belleair Road north to Curlew Road while considering the future of Gulf to Bay Boulevard, Drew Street and North McMullen Booth Road.

“This planning effort takes a long range view of the corridor: What is the future? What types of land use and development do people who, work, play and shop along the corridor want to see?,” Lee says. “The roadway improvements allow for greater regional connectivity to Tampa and south Pinellas and north Pasco counties.”

Lee stresses the importance of taking advantage of the corridor plans and improvements to create more jobs and quality places for residents to live, work and play. The City expects final planning and approval of the plan by the end of Summer 2012 with the final adoption by City Council by Fall 2012.

Want to have a say in the changes made along the corridor? The City is encouraging feedback from those who regularly use the Clearwater portion of U.S. 19 to help identify problems, offer ideas and suggest possible solutions via an online discussion board.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Cate Lee, City of Clearwater

Construction Continues On Green Street, Palmetto

Manatee County's City of Palmetto is jumping on the green train.

Redeveloping Fifth Street West in downtown Palmetto to integrate environmentally friendly right-of-way landscaping, the first Green Street in Manatee County will cut down on pollution flowing into the Manatee River by filtrating storm water.

“Essentially, we're trying to take away all of the existing flow of water off of the asphalt and pavement to try to reintroduce nature's own way of using the ground as a sponge as it naturally absorbs storm water,” says Green Street architect Charlie Ugarte.

Palmetto's Green Street, a term coined by Portland, OR's sustainability efforts, will use a number of techniques -- everything from porous pavers to rain gardens to retention areas -- to reintroduce the storm water directly intro the ground at the source, versus using pipes and other manmade means. Native Florida plants and trees will be utilized because their roots serve to filter street runoff.

“This project is really something that had to be done to the street as it was in an atrocious condition,” Ugarte says. “We couldn't just repair things. We needed to create a prototype for how urban design could be done in Palmetto and couldn't afford the traditional rain water systems in our compact, dense environment.”

Currently under construction, the $1.4 million Green Street project is slated to see completion in August 2012. Funds for the project by Bradenton's NRC Construction Co. are being provided by the Palmetto Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) with the help of a $582,000 grant from Southwest Florida Water Management (SFMD).

According to Ugarte, this project is just the start of Palmetto's plan to re-urbanize the downtown neighborhoods into a compact community as a similar approach is in the works for Riverside Park.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Charlie Ugarte, Ugarte and Associates

Tampa Port Authority To Build Oil Recycling Facility

The Tampa Port Authority and NexLube Tampa recently joined forces, signing a long-term lease to develop and construct an oil recycling facility at the Port of Tampa.

Marking a $75 million to $80 million investment, the new facility will have the capacity to process up to 24 million gallons of used oil per year at the Port and is said to be be the first of its kind in Florida. Ultimately, the recycled oil will be used to produce lubricants, diesel and asphalt while oil from automobile oil changes will be reprocessed for use.

“[This project has] been in the works for over two years,” says Andrew Fobes, director of public relations at the Port. “All of the legwork has been completed and NexLube is ready to move ahead.”

The new facility will be located on 12 acres at Pendola Point in Tampa and is expected to create hundreds of jobs during a two-year construction phase. Once fully operational, the facility is expected to generate approximately $10 million in Hillsborough County property tax revenues to the Port Authority over the term of the 20-year lease agreement.

“We are extremely pleased to partner with NexLube Tampa on this amazing project. As a major petroleum port, Tampa is a logical center for significant oil recycling,” says Port Director and CEO Richard Wainio, who is retiring in September. “We are eager to see NexLube's business succeed and thank the many partners who helped make this day possible.”

Upon completion of construction, a total of 75 full-time positions with average salaries and wages ranging between $60,000 and $65,000 is expected at the new facility.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Andrew Fobes & Richard Wainio, Tampa Port Authority

3 Tampa Parks Win Community Design Awards

The designs of three Tampa parks were recently honored at the Hillsborough County Planning Commission’s 30th Anniversary Community Design Awards.

Honoring the very best in planning and community design, the awards were given to Washington Street Park in the Channel District, Bern's Park in South Tampa and Sulphur Springs' new Springhill Community Center.

“In addition to recreational opportunities, quality parks enhance a community by adding value to the neighborhood, provide a place to gather for friendship and improve the environment's air and water quality,” says Greg Bayor, director of City of Tampa Parks and Recreation Department.

Located on half an acre, the Channel District's Washington Street Park won an Award of Excellence for an Institutional, Public or Quasi-Public Space. Designed by WilsonMiller/Stantec, the $815,000 nautical-themed park opened in December 2011 and incorporates numerous elements suggested by neighborhood residents, including oversized sea grass sculptures, an open lawn area, a plaza with a large canvas shade structure, a dog run and non-traditional play area. Washington Street Park's design allows for flexible use, accommodating gatherings of various sizes.

Bern's Park in South Tampa along South Howard Avenue won an Award of Merit for Public Participation, honoring Bern Laxer's contribution to the quality of life in Tampa. Located just around the corner from Bern's Steakhouse, Bern's Park features a two-tiered fountain with bronze sculptures donated by the Laxer family and is surrounded by benches donated by neighborhood residents. Designed by residents, for residents, Laurie Potier-Brown, project manager and landscape architect for the City's Parks and Recreation Department, says the park encourages neighborhood strolling through the lush landscaping installed by more than 75 community volunteers.

Opened in May 2012, the $2.5 million Springhill Community Center in Sulphur Springs won an Award of Excellence for Public Participation. Located between Eskimo and Okaloosa avenues, the 16,000-square-foot community center is the location of the middle school component of the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA's Neighborhood of Promise Initiative. Designed by members of the community, Sulphur Springs Elementary students and Tom Hester with the City, the community center includes a gymnasium, warming kitchen, computer classroom, multipurpose room, splash pad, playground and sports field. The center replaced a once rundown block previously devoted to a baseball field.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Greg Bayor, City of Tampa Parks and Recreation Department
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