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Former Bank To Become Boutique Hotel, Downtown Tampa

The former Mercantile Bank building in downtown Tampa will soon undergo a renovation into a 130-room boutique hotel.

Located at Ashley Drive and Kennedy Boulevard at 100 W. Kennedy Blvd., the eight-story Mercantile Bank building was built in 1964, overlooking the Hillsborough River and the University of Tampa (UT). Now, Aloft Hotels, a national brand of hotels owned by Connecticut-based Starwood Hotels and Resorts, will revamp the former bank into a boutique hotel expected to open by early 2014.

“While we already own several premier hotels in the Tampa Bay area, my family has specifically been focused on developing a hotel in downtown Tampa for years,” says Punit Shah of Clearwater-based Liberty Group, who will own and manage the Aloft project as part of a collaboration with Santosh Govindaraju of Tampa's Convergent Capital Partners. “This project presents the perfect opportunity to own the hippest hotel in the most dynamic location in Tampa Bay."

The building was purchased by private equity firm Convergent Capital Partners for $2 million in early May 2012. An additional $7 million is expected as an investment into the renovation of the building with work beginning by May 2013.

The Aloft Downtown Tampa renovation will include 130 rooms, seawall repairs, a 4,000-square-foot rooftop terrace overlooking the infamous UT minarets, a 24-hour fitness center, new elevators and roof, and a waterfront pool. Orlando-based Baker Barrios Architects will act as lead architect and interior designer on the project.

“We want this to be a place where people meet at the hotel for a drink, have a walk down the Riverwalk or sit on the outdoor patio and see that gorgeous view of the University of Tampa,” Govindaraju says.

Upon opening, Aloft's Tampa location will be the fifth Aloft hotel in Florida; Aloft currently has 60 hotels in 10 countries.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Punit Shah, Liberty Group & Santosh Govindaraju, Convergent Capital Partners

Sight Properties Renovates 1920s Apartments, Tampa

Ybor City real estate consulting firm Sight Properties, in conjunction with former Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Simeon Rice, has renovated a 1920s apartment building that's been vacant for more than five years.

The two-story, 12-unit, 10,000-square-foot complex now known as Il Nascondiglio is located at 4211 North A St. in Tampa and was allegedly used by Al Capone back in the day. The building underwent a $270,000 renovation and restoration.

“They don't build apartments like this anymore,” says Michael Mincberg of Sight Properties. “The shape of the building, amount of windows, interior hallways and woodwork that gave the building its charm would not make financial sense to rebuild. It reminded myself and Simeon of the apartments we see in Chicago and we really felt we could give it a swanky feel.”

The property was foreclosed on by a private lender and was purchased for $330,000; the adjacent lot with enough space for 12 townhomes was purchased for an additional $165,000. Vanguard Real Estate brokered the deal and will be managing rentals.

According to Mincberg, almost every piece of original wood in the building was rotted due to a failed renovation by the previous owner. Rebuilding the structure piece by piece, central air conditioning and all new plumbing and electrical work was installed, as well as a new roof, drywall, stucco, windows and paint.

The exterior of Il Nascondiglio -- Italian for “the hideout” -- now has a Mediterranean feel with the interior highlighting some of the building's historical features, but with a contemporary twist. The renovation took approximately four months.

Rice acted as an equity partner and was involved in the entire creative process of the renovation and restoration from the finishes and design to marketing of the building. Mincberg says Rice would give final approval.

“This wasn't a huge project, but it will have a huge affect on its block: This was the worst building and many of the residents would find squatters in the property,” Mincberg says. “Il Nascondiglio has become the gem of the block -- and to rebuild the urban corridor, you have to do it one house or one block at a time.”

Sight Properties has several projects underway that stray from the standard cookie cutter project. Focusing on single family and multifamily units, Sight has projects in the works north of Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa and in downtown St. Petersburg.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Michael Mincberg, Sight Properties

New Nature Park, Trails Open In New Tampa

A new city park is now open in New Tampa for active residents and visitors to enjoy outdoor activities such as bicycling and ziplining.

Located at 17001 Dona Michelle Dr. in New Tampa, the 122-acre New Tampa Nature Park connects to Hillsborough County's 7-mile, 400-acre Flatwoods Park trail system. Together, the two parks give Tampa Bay area residents access to miles of trails and preserved green space; not to mention the opportunity to keep an eye out for native wildlife.

“The New Tampa Nature Park is a great, active park,” says Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

An elevated boardwalk -- “nature walk'' -- crossing a wetland habitat, elevated "marsh walk,” rock and rope playground climber, zip lining system and a one-half mile long entrance road are among some of the activities offered at the new Nature Park.

“Children can explore nature,” Buckhorn says. “Our commitment to New Tampa is not just in roads and sewers, but is embodied in our parks and playgrounds, as well.”

Funded through Community Investment Taxes, Phase I of the project cost approximately $927,469, including stormwater control elements and parking for 22 cars and two buses. General contractor for Phase I was QGS Development, Inc.

Land for the 122-acre park was acquired through assistance with the Florida Communities Trust Preservation 2000 and Hillsborough County Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection programs.

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

HuB Attracts Entrepreneurs To New Workspace, Sarasota

Sarasota's HuB, a creative and collaborative space and community allowing entrepreneurs to come together to develop ideas and contribute toward building a new economy and culture, has opened a new space.

Since 2009, HuB has been active in promoting big ideas in the Sarasota area and their renovation of a 10,000-square-foot building at 1680 Fruitville Rd. is continuing to embrace that concept by housing innovative tech companies, entrepreneurs and creative/tech start ups. HuB founder Rich Swier Jr. worked on the renovation with Sarasota's HOYT Architects and Biter Enterprises.

“We're looking to create a new economy based on creativity,” Swier says. “We wanted to be more centrally located -- downtown -- near a vibrant, creative community.”

The first floor of HuB's new space houses Florida Shores Bank with the second, third and fourth floors offering workspace to tech companies; the third floor is also home to an incubator/collaborative space to local entrepreneurs and startups. A full production studio, bar and event space are among some of the building's features.

A grand opening event for the new Fruitville Road location was hosted on December 8th, featuring a digital show in collaboration with Sarasota's own Ringling College of Art and Design.

Each month, HuB hosts the Entrepreneur Symposium, imviting memebers to network, discuss and share thoughts on entrepreneurship in a non-traditional setting. The Tech Symposium is also hosted monthly, covering a wide range of topics around technology from implementation to innovation.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Rich Swier Jr., HuB

356-Unit Pierhouse Apartments Complex Coming To Channel District

A new 356-unit apartment complex is in the works for the Channel District in Tampa.

Ground broke on the new 4-story Pierhouse Apartments building on Meridian Avenue in April 2012, but major construction is finally underway. The project is working with a more than $550 million dollar budget, ultimately offering Tampa Bay area residents rental units ranging in price between approximately $1,200 per month for a studio and $2,000 per month for 2 bedroom/2 bathroom units with a den.

“We chose the area because we're excited by the job growth of the Tampa area, as well as the up-and-coming artsy edginess of the Channel District,” says Arturo Pena, Pierhouse project manager and VP of Related Development. “ We believe our 356 residential units will help the area's demographics with regards to the Channel District's retail demands.”

In addition to the residential space, the project expects to add nearly 4,800 square feet of retail space, planning to offer residents amenities that can benefit both residents and the neighborhood; Pena suggests a sandwich shop, coffee house and wine bar. Chris Parrado of A.L. Commercial is marketing the retail space, seeking potential tenants.

“We want Pierhouse to continue to build on the transformation of the Channel District -- from its working marina, nautical past to a cool, artsy 24-hour district offering residents a place to live, work and play,” Pena says.

The project will feature a park located directly in the middle of the development and five large, heavily landscaped courtyards -- what Pena expects will be a nice break from the hustle and bustle of urban living.

“Residents will be able to both admire the views and artwork within the park or simply go for a stroll through it,” he says.

Pierhouse Apartments at Channelside will feature interiors and common areas designed by world-renowned interior designers RTKL with MSA Architects designing the development and Walker and Company acting as general contractor.

The on-site leasing office is expected to open by late February 2013 with leasing beginning by mid-May 2013.

“We are confident Pierhouse will be a signature project in the area,” Pena says. “We look forward to becoming an active part of the neighborhood and helping it grow.”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Arturo Pena, Pierhouse Apartments at Channelside & Related Development

InVision Tampa Releases Draft Of City Center Plan

Thanks to help and input from nearly 800 Tampa residents, 1,000 online users and AECOM's globally recognized urban planners, the InVision Tampa project has released a draft of its City Center Plan.

The City Center -- a Texas-shaped area of Tampa -- spans from downtown Tampa to Ybor City on the east, Armenia Avenue on the west and north along Nebraska and Hillsborough Avenues, including the University of Tampa (UT) neighborhood, North Hyde ParkWest TampaTampa Heights, Ybor City, V.M. Ybor, downtown Tampa and the Channel District. The City Center Plan will act as a road map to transform the area.

InVision Tampa is going to create a blueprint for downtown Tampa for the next 25 years,” says Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “The community input and engagement on this planning effort was just extraordinary. With that kind of collaboration, I am even more confident that, together, we can make this happen.”

The plan focuses on re-centering downtown around the Hillsborough River, connecting area neighborhoods in a pedestrian-safe, transit-friendly manner while improving both the quality of life and economic development in the center of the city.

In the plan, the InVision Tampa team outlines 10 short-term and long-term ideas to help move the City of Tampa forward, helping to improve the city's urban core:

1. Nurture new river places that spur activity and create access to the Hillsborough River and Garrison Channel, extending the economic value of the Center City waterfront.

2. Make the north downtown neighborhoods a multimodal, walkable area that extends the value of the Riverwalk and cultural venues east to Nebraska Avenue.

3. Establish streets and parks as primary elements of civic identity to catalyze downtown as the location of choice for new private development investment in the region.

4. Redevelop south downtown in a pattern of streets, blocks and public spaces that connect the Channel District with venues in the Downtown Core.

5. Reposition street corridors from traffic conduits to residentially oriented, balanced “Neighborhood Connectors” and local business “Main Streets.”

6. Rebalance Tampa and Florida Avenues as local streets, joining neighborhoods while providing regional access.

7. Develop an attractive, safe, cross-city, multipurpose trail that links the eastern and western Center City to neighborhoods and the Riverwalk.

8. Create a premium local transit route crossing the river from the Channel District to North Hyde Park to link residential, employment, and academic areas and capture “choice riders” as a mechanism for both transportation and economic development.

9. Continue on the mission of repositioning the large parcels of property within the Center City for development while supporting grassroots efforts for neighborhood improvements.

10. Leverage substantial education and healthcare assets and investments by linking their large workforce and student populations with community revitalization.

“In the draft process, we really took advantage of online social media. Residents provided input on what they liked and what they wanted to see more of in the downtown area,” says City of Tampa Urban Planning Coordinator Randy Goers. “We needed to take a look at our urban core because it hasn't been looked at in this standpoint in almost 20 years. We needed to take a look at a bigger area -- a more comprehensive look.”

Beginning in early December, expect additional outreach by the InVision Team as a draft plan focusing on the Nebraska Corridor develops, including community charrettes in early December. By early January, the project expects to begin a multi-year revitalization and transformation of the West Tampa area.

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

Net Zero Energy Building Opens In St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg's first self-sustaining, net zero building celebrated its grand opening on Monday, December 3rd.

As Florida's first designated green city, St. Petersburg is the new home of the Sierra Club's state headquarters and Big Sea Design and Development and Roundhouse Creative offices.

Built by All Florida Management with partners Bosch and Florida garden center Twig Leaves, St. Pete's first self-sustaining, net zero building is a U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum applicant, fully equipped with environmentally friendly solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, a water-to-air geothermal heat exchange system, glare-reducing thermal barrier window tinting, green spaces with native landscaping, rainwater harvesting and a weekly recycling program.

In other words: zero energy bill.

“These days, green businesses aren't just focused on developing earth-friendly technologies -- they are committed to offering a product or service that consumers know has little to no environmental impact,” says Tom Hall, the building's developer and managing partner of All Florida Management. “The emergence of this new green business culture has allowed our company to focus on meeting the needs of the small business community by dedicating ourselves to cultivating environmentally conscious commercial building platforms that reflect both our clients' personal and professional values.”

Roundhouse Creative is one of those small businesses looking to take advantage of everything the new eco-friendly building has to offer; Andrew Lee and his wife, Brooke, founded their production studio in 2007, focused on telling powerful stories and creating beautiful designs. Roundhouse Creative moved into a 2,600-square-foot space in the new building that is shared with Big Sea Design and Development.

“We made the decision years ago in our personal lives to be conscious of the environment and are excited about what being net zero will mean to our customers,” says Lee. “By hiring Roundhouse Creative, our customers can now benefit from the fact that their new website, TV commercial or web video has been produced with a near net zero environmental impact.”

With Roundhouse Creative's new space currently open for business, Lee looks forward to thriving in downtown St. Pete: What he calls a regional hub for art, culture and great food.

“Innovative, forward-thinking projects like this building are a perfect fit for the city and add to why I love St. Pete. I couldn't be more excited about what this project means for the area,” he says. “I hope other business owners become educated on the benefits of net zero and understand that they can now make conscious decisions for their business with the environment and future generations in mind.”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Tom Hall, All Florida Management & Andrew Lee, Roundhouse Creative

Volunteers Renovate Sulphur Springs Homes, Tampa

United Way HandsOn Suncoast and Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay (RTTB) show what a little paint and a handful of volunteers can do to improve a neighborhood.

As part of a collaborative effort with RTTB, United Way volunteers came together November 3 to help renovate four low-income Sulphur Springs homes; the homes are part of RTTB's Healthy Homes for Sulphur Springs initiative funded by JPMorgan Chase Foundation and the Allegany Franciscan Ministries.

More than one dozen volunteers -- from licensed general contractors to local residents looking to spend a Saturday doing a good deed -- painted scuffed up exterior walls, repaired damaged roofs and faulty plumbing, pressure cleaned, planted new greenery and worked on small woodwork projects.

“We are committed to keep delivering -- along with our corporate partners -- healthy homes for residents in Sulphur Springs,” says RTTB Board President Beverly Minardi. “We want to thank those that volunteer for making this happen.”

With the support of more than 100 volunteers, RTTB preserves and revitalizes Tampa Bay area homes and communities to ensure that all homeowners, including those in lower-income neighborhoods, live in warmth, safety and independence.

“Our main focus is to revitalize one neighborhood at a time,” says RTTB Project Manager Mark Zdrojewski.

RTTB's goal is to keep affordable housing in the area, sparking economic development in the neighborhoods served. Since April 2011, the organization has completed renovations on more than 30 homes in the St. Pete area alone.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Beverly Minardi & Mark Zdrojewski, RTTB

Funky, Urban Theater Space Opens On Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa

A funky new community theater space has made its way to Tampa's Kennedy Boulevard.

Located across the street from local favorite Buddy Brew, Powerstories' new 1,000-square-foot space at 2105 W. Kennedy Blvd. is part of the Biscayne Lighting building near Tampa's South Howard Avenue.

Featuring 12-foot ceilings and a large glass storefront, owner Fran Powers couldn't be more pleased with the new location for her nonprofit agency with the mission of staging the true stories of women and girls to open minds and hearts.

“Location, location, location -- it's easy access for individuals living in all parts of Tampa,” Powers says. “The owners are delightful to work with and are truly delighted that we're using their space for such a meaningful mission.”

Powers, who believes that the discovery and the telling of autobiographical stories creates new success, invests our lives with more meaning and connects us vitally with others, says the size of the new space allows Powerstories to move forward with its mission, established in March 2003, without being a financial burden.

Working with Keith Arsenault of Tampa's IAEG Inc. International, Powers and the theater consulting group are in the process of transforming the small $3,000 space into a very versatile 30-seat theater. Currently, the space can be utilized for workshops, rehearsals and open mic nights. An additional $15,000 will be invested to get the space ready for theater season, including the addition and installation of lighting and curtain systems, chairs, risers and a new floor.

“Powerstories will be an incubator space for new and young talent: A new live theater providing quality and rich entertainment can certainly enliven an area,” Powers says. “We envision an active little theater where folks are coming and going and are committed to making this a special, bright jewel in the Tampa Bay area.”

Every other Thursday night, Powerstories opens its doors to the public to allow the community to share and listen to true stories during “Open Mic True Stories Nights.”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberain
Source: Fran Powers, Powerstories

Saint Leo U Gets New Turf Stadium, Parking Lot, Pasco County

Saint Leo University is celebrating the grand opening and dedication of a new turf stadium and parking garage on its main Pasco County campus.

Ten feet above ground, the new $13 million artificial field sits atop a new 740-space parking garage on the east side of campus near the gym.

One of several improvements Saint Leo has made to its athletic facilities, the surface is able to support 6,000 people and have two fields for intramural sports running perpendicular to the game field for extracurricular activities like football, lacrosse, soccer, ultimate frisbee and kickball.

With Lunz Prebor Fowler of Lakeland as archiect on the project and Clearwater's Creative Contractors, Inc. as contractor, the highly unusual artificial turf structure meets NCAA regulations for men's and women's lacrosse and soccer.

According to Brad Jorgensen, the only men's lacrosse coach in the program's eight-year history, the biggest asset the new field brings is not having to worry about overuse or weather damage.

“We beat up grass. Just the nature of our sport isn't kind to grass. Even the best lacrosse facilities show wear and tear by the end of the season,” Jorgensen says. “I think, long term, not having to deal with resodding and filling in holes is really going to help us out.”

The women's lacrosse team got to experience the new artificial turf game and practice field for the first time during a conditioning session on September 24th; the official grand opening and dedication took place on October 19th.

“[The team] was so excited to get out here. They're really proud of the facility,” says women's lacrosse coach Lesley Graham. “They want to do it justice, play hard, show everybody we're a force to be reckoned with and deserve this first-class facility.”

The Pasco County-based university recently acquired more than 30 acres of land from the Benedictine Sisters of Florida to include in an updated master plan for expansion.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Brad Jorgensen, Saint Leo University

Temple Crest Playground Designed By Kids Becomes Reality, Tampa

A playground envisioned by the children of the Temple Crest neighborhood in Tampa is now a reality, thanks to the City of Tampa Parks and Recreation Department, KABOOM!, Friends of Tampa Recreation, Inc. and Foresters.

In less than eight hours and with the help of more than 200 volunteers, a new play space was built at Temple Crest Park, at 8116 N. 37th St. in Tampa. Plans for the park began at a Design Day held in September, where local children and community leaders met with organizers for KaBOOM! and Foresters to submit ideas in the form of drawings to create the final design of the playground.

“A playground is an important piece for the revitalization of a community,” says Foresters Senior VP Kasia Czarski. “Not only does it provide a first step towards keeping children healthy, but it's a safe, central location for the entire neighborhood to get together.”

Featuring ball fields, grills, play courts, picnic areas and a community center prior to the addition, the new 2,500-square-foot playground includes new play spaces such as a Glide Slide, Spiral Climber and Vertical Adventure Tube.

“Every child deserves a really cool place where they can play,” says Mark Downing of Friends of Tampa Recreation, Inc. “We're committed to helping create those spaces in Tampa and are pleased to sponsor our fifth playground build with KaBOOM! and the City of Tampa.”

Since 2006, $7 million has been invested by Foresters in conjunction with KaBOOM!, totaling almost 100 playgrounds built or planned across the United States and Canada; over the past 15 years, more than 2.6 million children and families have benefited from the partnership between Foresters and KaBOOM!

“Foresters believes in providing opportunities for families to spend quality time together,” Czarski says.

The project is one of more than 150 playground builds led by KaBOOM! in 2012 as an effort to provide a great play space within walking distance of every child in the country.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Kasia Czarski, Foresters & Mark Downing, Friends of Tampa Recreation, Inc.

Tampa Mayor Adds StreetLights, Improves Safety

Thanks to a multimillion dollar investment, Tampa's about to get a lot brighter.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced a new street lighting program, “Bright Lights, Safe Nights,” a $2.2 million commitment over the next five years to expand the city's current streetlight network by 30 percent.

“Brighter lights mean safer neighborhoods and safer streets,” says Buckhorn. “Joining with our partners at TECO, this initiative will eliminate dark areas where criminals can hide and illuminate streets and intersections where our children cross.”

Improving Tampa's quality of life, approximately 8,400 new streetlights will be strategically placed throughout the city, including Community Redevelopment Areas and zones with high crime and/or crash rates; installation will begin in January 2013 with approximately 1,683 new lights per year.

Tampa Electric will oversee the installation with the City of Tampa funding electricity and maintenance; the City currently funds 30,000 streetlights, totaling $5 million annually.

“We've been lighting Tampa for 114 years and we look forward to doing our part to meet the Mayor's goal,” says Gordon Gillette, president of Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, early-morning and nighttime crashes can be reduced by about 35 percent with additional streetlights.

In addition, 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.

“A well-light city is a safer city,” says Buckhorn.

“Bright Lights, Safe Nights” fulfills Buckhorn's promise to complete a citywide lighting inventory, determining where updates and repairs are necessary throughout Tampa, including the replacement of dimming streetlights and removal of tree branch obstructions.

The City is asking residents to request repairs on existing streetlights and/or submit suggestions for new streetlight locations.

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

Bern's Builds Boutique Hotel In South Tampa

Epicurean, a new 137-room boutique hotel, is in the works for South Tampa's South Howard Avenue.

In conjunction with the Marriott, the $32 million Epicurean is a collaboration between Mainsail Lodging & Development and Bern's Steak House.

Sitting directly across from Bern's and just down the street from Side Bern's, the unique space is expected to feature a large state-of-the-art culinary classroom, the Bern Laxer School of Food & Wine; high-end bistro; wine shop; rooftop lounge; full-service spa; and retail and production bakery and pastry shop.

Tampa's Urban Studio Architects is overseeing the design of the building itself with Getty's Hospitality & Development working on the building's interior.

“Tampa residents and visitors are to expect a chic neighborhood hotel, the location allowing for residents to walk over and become a regular in their own backyard,” says Mainsail Lodging & Development President Joe Collier. “Epicurean will allow out-of-town guests to stay in the middle of a thriving Tampa neighborhood with so many options within walking distance.”

From culinary demonstrations to evening wine tastings to special events such as Bern's Wine Fest, Epicurean plans to have plenty to keep both residents and visitors coming back. The hotel will also feature signature organic bath products and will be the first newly constructed property, of 34 high-end boutique resorts in the U.S., to join the Marriott's prestigious Autograph Collection.

“Projects in the Tampa Bay area are starting to move forward again and the economy is on the upswing,” Collier says. “Travelers these days are move savvy and looking for something new and different -- an experience, not just a hotel stay. We think Epicurean will fulfill all of these expectations.”

Through the addition of jobs and impact on economic development, Collier expects the hotel to be beneficial to the City and South Tampa residents, bringing additional tourists to the area.

“We love the fact that the hotel will be right in the middle of a popular, vibrant neighborhood where we can add the flavor of the area and have access to loyal Bern's customers,” he says. “Bern's is one of the most successful restaurants in the U.S. with the world's largest private wine collection. It's a destination by itself.”

After being put on hold for nearly five years due to the recession, ground broke on the Epicurean on October 23rd. The hotel is scheduled to open in November 2013.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Joe Collier, Mainsail Lodging & Development

311 Apartments Designed For North Hyde Park, Tampa

A new residential development of urban apartments is in the works for the North Hyde Park neighborhood of Tampa.

Located just west of the University of Tampa at 403 N. Rome Ave., NoHo Flats at North Hyde Park is a 311-unit urban apartment project developed by Atlanta-based Pollack Shores Real Estate Group; the 7-building complex is slated to feature state-of-the-art amenities in an active part of of the city just west of downtown.

“The property is adjacent to 20 acres owned by Tampa General Hospital, which plans to build a major rehab center there,” says Ben Lee, principal of Schifino Lee Advertising and Branding, who is working with developers on the project.

Pollack Shores purchased the NoHo Flats development site for $4.8 million from Tampa-based Hyde Park Realty Group months ago. Upon completion of the project, the area is envisioned as similar to the South Hyde Park neighborhood.

Promoting a lifestyle of urban living, NoHo Flats will feature vertical bike racks for tenant use while a linear park and streetscape with sidewalks, streetlights, trees, benches and landscaping will be included in the construction of the project; the park will be open to the public.

In addition, Pollack Shores will lend support to build a community center at Vila Brothers Park, less than one mile from the development.

A fountain courtyard with fire pits, a fitness center including a multipurpose yoga/spin room, an outdoor pet area and large indoor clubroom with bar are among the lifestyle amenities to be offered at NoHo Flats. More than 90 on-street parking spots are to be built for public and tenants' guests to use. Interior unit features include custom cabinets, quartz countertops, faux wood flooring, custom tile and stainless steel appliances.

The project will break ground on October 24th and is expected to see completion by late 2013.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Ben Lee, Schifino Lee Advertising and Branding

HART MetroRapid Transit Seeks Public Input, Tampa

As HART makes way on the new MetroRapid North-South project, offering increased efficiency and expedited travel via public transit connections from downtown Tampa to northern parts of Hillsborough County, the MetroRapid East-West project is beginning to see development.

Currently in the Project Development and Environmental (PD&E) Study phase, HART is encouraging residents to provide input on the first rapid transit system in the Hillsborough County area as additional funding for the final design and construction phases of the project are pursued; HART recently reported that the project is under budget by $1.1 million from the original $3 million estimate.

HART began the PD&E Study of MetroRapid East-West in October 2011.

Focusing on frequent service, faster travel time and an overall better reliability of services, MetroRapid East-West will connect Tampa International Airport, the Westshore Business District and the HART Netpark bus transfer center at Hillsborough Avenue and 56th Street; the 16.4-mile East-West route will also include connections to the North-South Line at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

“With this form of rapid transit being introduced, we're on track to meet transportation needs for residents of the county,” says Marcia Mejia, HART's public information officer.

The new MetroRapid system is expected to feature fewer stops; improved travel time, including 10-minute frequencies; GPS-enabled signal prioritization which will hold green lights longer and shorten red lights for the sleek new HART vehicles; ticket vending machines at major station stops to facilitate passenger boarding; and real-time display boards, allowing travelers to know when buses will be arriving.

HART recently reported that 2012 ridership was up by 4 percent -- or by nearly 600,000 trips -- from the previous year. The 2012 fiscal year marks an all-time high for HART bus ridership, breaking the annual record for the third year in a row.

“HART is on pace for even greater transformation next year, as we move forward with significant transit system improvements, including upgraded facilities, MetroRapid and a compressed natural gas fueling station,” says HART Board Chair Fran Davin.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Marcia Mejia & Fran Davis, HART
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