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 Rogers Park Golf Course and the Hillborough River from above. - Julie Branaman
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Development News

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North Port Lowers Impact Fees, Strategy For Growth

The City of North Port is making strides to help shape its economic future.

In an attempt to kick start the local economy, the North Port City Commission recently unanimously decided to adopt lower impact fees to spur new commercial and residential construction in Sarasota County's largest city.

“Because the economy continues to recover at a snails pace, the City of North Port felt that the timing was right to impose a moratorium on its two primary impact fees -- transportation and solid waste -- and reduce all others by 50 percent as a way to further the City's 'open for business' posture, making our community more competitive when it comes to business recruitment and attracting new development projects,” says North Port Economic Development Manager Allan Lane. “The business and development community told us this is the way to go and we believe in private sectors driving growth.”

Overall, this translates to a lower cost associated with building a new home or commercial building in North Port. For example, if the decision to place a moratorium had not been made, a single family home would have cost approximately $4,844.60 in impact fees. Now, with the reduction, a single family home will only cost approximately $1,120.13 in fees. A shopping center with more than 50,000-square-feet will pay a maximum of approximately $675.43 per 1,000 square feet in impact fees versus the approximately $5,994.59 per 1,000 square feet it would have cost before the moratorium was adopted.

“There has never been a better time to relocate to our City or start a construction project in the area,” Lane says. “The impact fee moratorium and reductions represent just one of several enticements the City of North Port offers to attract new businesses and development opportunities. We've been recognized throughout the southwest Florida region for its forward-thinking economic development programs and activities, positioning ourselves as the 'Achieve Anything' city.”

North Port also offers ad valorem property tax exemptions, a local preference ordinance that gives consideration to businesses in North Port and Sarasota County that bid on City contracts, expedited plan review and permitting, a small business assistance program to assist start-up entrepreneurs and existing business owners, economic development grants and financing assistance via a revolving loan guarantee fund.

“It's too soon to show whether or not any new businesses or development opportunities have come to the City specifically because of the moratorium and reduced fees, but I would think we will see some impact by June,” Lane says.

In addition, two public meetings recently took place to gain input on updating the North Port's 2007 Economic Development Strategic Plan. The City will focus strongly on what citizens want for the local community, reshaping North Port's economic future for the next three to five years.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Allan Lane, City of North Port

Channel District Welcomes Six New Businesses, Tampa

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn welcomed six new businesses to Tampa's Channel District by leading the “Grand Opening Express: A Ribbon Cutting Ceremony in Motion.”

The April 12th event marked the grand openings of Eleventwenty Cafe Bistro at 1120 E. Kennedy Blvd. #112, Ragin' Grill at 1719 W. Kennedy Blvd., Sea Dog Cantina at 1208 E. Kennedy Blvd. #114, The Salon 1.0 at 1208 E. Kennedy Blvd. #123, Twelfth Street Studio at 101 S. 12th St. #104 and Victory Coffee at 101 N. 12th St. #101.

With all six businesses located within a one-half mile radius, Buckhorn led a Segway tour to each -- “a ribbon cutting in motion.”

The businesses opened over the last four months, creating approximately 78 new jobs for people living in the Tampa Bay region.

“Young professionals like I see here are moving down here -- my staff can't even find a place to live,” Buckhorn told reporters prior to the ribbon cuttings. “The beds are here and the heads are in those beds. The retail's going to follow, the restaurants are going to follow, the commercial demand is going to follow.”

Coordinated by the Tampa Downtown Partnership, the event aimed to connect the mayor with each entrepreneur in a morning of congratulations designed to showcase the growing vibrancy of the Channel District.

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

Investor Buys New Tampa's Walk At Highwoods Preserve II

New Tampa's Walk at Highwoods Preserve II retail center has been purchased by a private investment group.

B&L Investments purchased the 28,452-square-foot center for $4 million from Tampa's DDR Corp., a joint venture whose majority partner is an affiliate of TIAA-CREF. Mark Shellabarger of CBRE's Private Capital Group in Tampa represented the seller, who owns centers in the United States, Puerto Rico and Brazil.

“The buyer was interested in the property because of its size, location on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard just east of Interstate 75 in the affluent New Tampa submarket and a tenant mix that includes several regional and national retailers and service providers,” Shellabarger says.

Located at 17500 Preserve Walk Lane in Tampa, the mixed-tenant center was completed in 2003, consisting of three single-story retail buildings. Current tenants include FedEx Office, Boston Market, Moe's Southwest Grill and Jenny Craig.

“Walk at Highwoods is an attractive center with a strong location, offering the new owners the opportunity to increase revenue through lease-up of the available space,” Shallabarger says. “The buyer has expressed plans to improve returns on their investment by concentrating on leasing and property management with personal, hands-on attention.”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Mark Shellabarger, CBRE

College Hunks Hauling Junk Moves To Ybor City, Tampa

College Hunks Hauling Junk and College Hunks Moving will soon call Ybor City home.

With its headquarters currently located in a 1,300-square-foot space at 4836 W. Gandy Blvd. in South Tampa, the moving and hauling company will invest approximately $1 million into renovating a 10,000-square-foot space in Ybor.

“We're so pumped to be a part of re-energizing the area,” says President and Co-Founder Nick Friedman. “Part of our mission as a company is to help our community. This is a great way to help Tampa grow into a well-deserved leadership role among other cities looking for innovative ways to reinvigorate its residents and structures alike.”

With the capacity to house three additional levels on top floors, the new global headquarters has the potential to become a more than 30,000-square-foot workspace to house College Hunks' corporate staff and approximately 50 employees working at the local Tampa branch.

According to Friedman, College Hunks plans to transform the Ybor City space into an upbeat, unique work environment. Upon completion of the renovation, the company will have nearly seven times its current space with plans to double its total of 350 employees over the next three years.

“Ybor is the cultural and historic heart of Tampa and our company shares many qualities with the area: Vibrance, entrepreneurship and innovation,” says CEO and Co-Founder Omar Soliman. “These are the qualities that set us apart from other companies in the industry, so what better place than Ybor City for our national brand to call 'home?'”

College Hunks now serves 40 markets in 24 states including Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Washington D.C. And Los Angeles. The company plans to move into its new Ybor City headquarters by mid-summer of 2012.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Nick Friedman and Omar Soliman, College Hunks

New Open-Air Market Opens Saturday In Largo

A new weekly open-air market in Largo will celebrate its grand opening on April 14th.

The first City of Largo Open-Air Market will take place outdoors at the Largo Community Center at 400 Alt. Keene Rd. in Largo on Saturday, April 14th from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Approximately 40 local vendors will be on-site selling produce, artisan foods, jewelry and one-of-a-kind crafts, among other things.

“There are a lot of farmers markets all over Pinellas County, but very few of them have as many vendors as we have starting off,” says Largo Community Center Program Manager Warren Ankerberg. “We're trying to focus on local growers -- people who produce their fruits and vegetables here in Florida. If it's traditionally grown in Florida, we want it sold here.”

Made possible by a grant from the Pinellas County Health Department with sponsorship by the Pinellas County Master Gardener Program, the market will focus on promoting farming and gardening among local growers and residents to stimulate the economy and promote healthy eating. Produce from the Community Center's garden -- which also recently received a grant for expansion from the Health Department -- will be available at the market.

“I have a lot of really good gardeners and farmers that are growing fruits, vegetables and all kinds of things in our garden. It's been a pretty popular thing and our goal is to make it self-sustaining,” Ankerberg says. “There's a large subculture of people who are already growing produce, but a limited opportunity to sell them -- a lot of it goes to waste. We want to help the local community out and make an economic impact.”

The grand opening celebration will feature live entertainment, clowns, balloon artists, magicians and cooking demonstrations. The market will run every Saturday through June 9th with nine live performances planned. An EBT machine is slated to be installed on Community Center property for residents on food stamps.

According to Ankerberg, the market will go dark for the summer before starting back up in September of 2012 and continuing every Saturday through May of 2013. Ankerberg plans for the market to return in the Fall of 2013.

“It looks like this market is going to be a good thing,” he says. “I think we have a really cool operation planned out and there's already a lot of interest. I'm really excited about it.”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Warren Ankerberg, Largo Community Center

FDOT Begins Work On Busch Boulevard Construction

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is working to improve Busch Boulevard for motorized vehicle and pedestrian traffic in Tampa.

Work began in February on a $2.3 million project to repave 1.3 miles of Busch Boulevard between Dale Mabry Highway and Armenia Avenue. With expected completion by Fall 2012, the project will require nightly lane closures.

“As with all of our resurfacing projects, we evaluate the need for resurfacing and then get projects programmed in our Five Year Work Program,” says Kris Carson, FDOT's public information officer. “The FDOT will always maintain and preserve our current roadways to keep them safe for the traveling public.”

In addition to the repavement work, FDOT's contractor, Oldcastle Southern Group Inc., will build new sidewalks along both sides of the road. Traffic signals and poles at Twin Lakes Drive will also be replaced to meet current standards.

“The road will be a much smoother ride and safer for pedestrians,” Carson says.

Funds for the project were made available by the state of Florida. Other current FDOT resurfacing projects to be completed by Fall of 2012 include Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from Nebraska Avenue to 42nd Street in Tampa.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Kris Carson, FDOT

New $17M Rec Center, Skate Park Coming To Largo

As the City of Largo makes way on its new Highland Recreation Complex, a new Largo Skate Park is in the works.

Construction on a new $17 million recreation complex at 400 Highland Ave. NE began in February while early renderings and a site plan were approved by Largo city commissioners in March. The new 39,800-square-foot facility will replace the current 25,000-square-foot, 40-year-old facility and will be rebuilt west of the Highland Family Aquatic Center.

Designed by Tampa's Gould Evans firm, the new center will include a game room, running track, party rooms, two gymnasiums, two fitness rooms, two program rooms, two locker rooms, a two-story child's play area, new trails, a new play field and new shelters.

Funds for the new center will be borrowed and repaid using revenue from Penny for Pinellas while the City plans to break ground in October 2012. Construction of the new center will affect the current Largo Skate Park.

“The new building and parking goes right where the skate park is now,” says City of Largo Parks Superintendent Greg Brown.

According to Brown, a new skate park will be built at Largo's Bayhead Complex at 375 Seminole Ave. where equipment will be recycled from the current park. A public meeting was recently held in March to gain input on suggestions, ideas and features for the relocated park.

“The current skate park is fee based and monitored, but the new one will be free and without a monitor,” Brown says. “Use should soar.”

Construction on the new skate park is expected to go out to bid in the next couple of months with completion of the project slated for late Summer of early Fall of 2012. The former Largo Skate Park closed on March 31st.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Greg Brown, City of Largo

MetWest Two: New Headquarters For PwC, Tampa

MetWest International recently celebrated the topping out of MetWest Two, a new build-to-suit office building for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in Tampa.

Placing the last beam of the new PwC headquarters in place, the 250,000-square-foot building is expected to be completed by December 2012. The new space is part of MetWest International, an award-winning, mixed-use center located in the Westshore Business District across from Tampa International Airport and International Plaza off of Boy Scout Boulevard in Tampa.

“The fact that there is a substantial construction project underway in our Westshore Business District is an indication that companies are looking forward and making decisions based on what they perceive as an improving economy,” says Angela Odell, managing director of leasing at Taylor & Mathis, the building's development manager.

According to Odell, the building was 100 percent pre-leased by PwC. Upon completion, the company will relocate nearly 2,000 of its employees to the new headquarters from various Tampa locations.

“PwC and the landlord are investing millions into this,” Odell says. “An indication that there were many positive elements to proceeding with this project.”

Ultimately, general contractor Skanska and architect tvsdesign expect the building core and shell to achieve LEED Gold Certification, offering PwC an intelligently designed, efficient office space among companies such as Atkins, Skanska, Greystar Management Services, Talbots, Principal Life Insurance Company, Intelident Solutions, Sagicor Life Insurance Company, Residential Financial Corporation and ASPire Financial Services.

Once complete, MetWest International will offer 1 million square feet of Class A office space.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Angela Odell, Taylor & Mathis

UT Breaks Ground On New Residence Hall, Tampa

The University of Tampa (UT) recently began construction on a new residence hall.

Ground was broken on the university's seventh residence hall -- tentatively named Residence Hall VII -- on March 22nd on-campus at North A Street between North Boulevard and North Brevard Avenue.

At approximately 193,000-square-feet, Residence Hall VII will house 523 rooms total. Each room will be suite-style with a common living room, four single bedrooms and two bathrooms. The $38 million project will also feature two large community rooms, multiple student lounges, a laundry room and common kitchen area.

UT has seen enrollment quadruple over the last 17 years to 6,738 total students in the 2011-2012 school year,” says Eric Cárdenas, UT's director of public information and publications. “That, coupled with an increased desire of students to live on campus, has fueled our need to increase campus housing.”

According to Cárdenas, about 65 percent of full-time UT students live in on-campus housing. Because of this, large groups of UT students have been housed in nearby overflow hotels such as the Howard Johnson Hotel in Downtown Tampa.

“We believe students living in comfortable environs strengthens their sense of community and enhances their academic experience,” Cárdenas says. “This residence hall is intended to build a sense of community and allow for positive student interaction.”

Over the past 15 years, UT has built or renovated 25 buildings on-campus, investing more than $280 million into construction. Designed by the Beck Group, the new 11-story residence hall is slated for completion in August 2013.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Eric Cárdenas, UT

UT To Build Athletic Facility On Kennedy, Tampa

The University of Tampa (UT) plans to build a new student intramural and athletic field and stadium.

In the midst of a $38 million residence hall project, the university will begin construction on the Naimoli Family Athletic and Intramural Complex, a multipurpose field and 1,450-seat stadium located on the west side of campus, on the north side of Kennedy Boulevard.

Funded by a seven-digit gift from the Naimoli Family, the artificial turf field will be built by Tampa's R.R. Simmons as the new home of the UT men's and women's lacrosse teams, numerous intramurals and various sporting events. The project will also feature two spectator berms, team meeting rooms, a support building, restrooms, a concession area and appropriate parking.

“This is an exciting project that will support both UT athletics and our popular intramural program,” says Eric Cárdenas, UT's director of public information and publications. “It will be an attractive venue that will provide visibility for UT athletics while beautifying Kennedy Boulevard and the gateway to Downtown Tampa.”

Since the 1980s, Tampa's Naimoli family has been significantly involved with the university. Vince Naimoli, chairman and founding partner for the Tampa Bay Rays, is a chairman emeritus of the UT Board of Trustees and helped establish the UT Naimoli Institute for Business Strategy in 1999. The Naimoli family is also funding improvements to current campus softball and tennis complexes, the Naimoli and Young Family Tennis Complex and the Naimoli Family Softball Stadium, as well as two scholarships for a male and female athlete.

“This project has been in the planning stages for several years and really came into fruition in the past couple of years -- partly due to a generous gift from the Naimoli family,” Cárdenas says. “UT students, athletics and its fans will be excited to have an additional, all-weather field for intramurals and dub sports with great visibility.”

Cárdenas says the new complex and field will take some of the pressure off of the on-campus Pepin Stadium, allowing for flexibility. The project will also allow for the future construction of an academic building where the intramural field is now situated.

Now in final construction, design and timeline planning stages, the project is tentatively slated for completion by December 2012.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Eric Cárdenas, UT

Tampa Preservation Targets Historic Homes, Hosts Workshop

Working to restore Tampa's history on a smaller scale, preserving the wood windows, original flooring and built-in bookcases of the city's oldest homes, a local nonprofit will host a Historic Homes workshop.

Established in 1973, Tampa Preservation, Inc. (TPI) is dedicated to the preservation of historic structures and neighborhoods in Tampa and Hillsborough County to educate local residents about the unique heritage.

On April 14th, TPI will host a Historic Homes Workshop to provide tips from experts on how to preserve the historic materials and resources inside of Tampa Bay's historic homes. The event will be held from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the 1927 Historic Seminole Heights United Methodist Church at 6111 N. Central Ave. in Tampa.

“Historic homeowners often wish to take a hands-on approach to restoring their houses and this workshop will offer information and advice on some of the skills required,” says TPI Marketing Director Suzanne Prieur. “The homeowner who wishes to hire professionals will come away more educated on what resources are available and how to best utilize restoration experts.”

The TPI event is free to the public, presenting three workshops every hour. A chance to interact with displayers and other historic homeowners and enjoy exhibits such as historic photos of Tampa by the Tampa Natives Show will be provided during a lunch break.

“The homes in our historic neighborhoods are beautiful,” Prieur says. “In this increasingly individualized and homogenized world, preserving neighborhood history fosters a sense of community while fostering a sense of character and emphasizing the unique history and personality of each area. It encourages people to step outside of their own lives and become a part of a greater identity and purpose.”

While TPI strongly encourages preservation efforts throughout Hillsborough County, according to Prieur, the organization has recently focused on the Tampa Heights neighborhood because of its rich historic potential.

“We've rehabilitated many homes in the area, including the revitalization of a 20-block area which we received an award from the National Trust of Historic Preservation for,” Prieur says. “Now that many of the historic neighborhoods have very strong Civic Associations, we try to work closely with them on issues that affect preservation in the entire community.”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Suzanne Prieur, Tampa Preservation

Tampa Asks Davis Islands Residents To Help Fix Roy Jenkins Pool

The City of Tampa is holding a public meeting on the final design and funding of Roy Jenkins Pool on Davis Islands.

The 93-year-old pool located at 154 Columbia Dr. was closed in 2008 in compliance with federal drown-prevention laws for public pools and is slated to reopen donning a $1.5 million facelift -- but only if Davis Islands residents vote to use $500,000 of the Davis Islands Capital Improvement Fund to move the project forward. The City of Tampa has budgeted $1 million for pool improvements.

In June, information from a $50,000 Davis Islands Recreational Area and Roy Jenkins Pool Study was released, targeting areas of demand for the pool. The study documented existing conditions and evaluated the requirements to meet  Department of Health codes.

“This study was step one and laid the groundwork for future improvements,” says Laurie Potier-Brown, project manager for the City of Tampa Parks and Recreation Department. “Residents were given an opportunity to comment on study concepts and make recommendations so their voices could be heard before decisions for project improvements were made.”

Despite this effort, some residents are still in disagreement with proposed plans to make the pool shallower.

According to a letter from Denise Cassedy, president of the Davis Islands Civic Association, the renovation would hinder the pool's use, eliminating popular pool activities such as swimming and diving lessons, lifesaving and scuba diving lessons, swim meets, synchronized swimming and deep water aerobic classes.

A vote to move forward with the Roy Jenkins renovation project will be taken and recorded during the public meeting on March 29th at 6 p.m. at the Davis Islands Garden Club at 81 Columbia Drive. Jennifer Fadal of the Save Roy Jenkins Pool Committee will oversee the voting. Residents are encouraged to attend.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Laurie Potier-Brown, City of Tampa Parks and Recreation Department

BikeCaffe Rolls Into Downtown St. Petersburg

Although St. Petersburg's BikeCaffe offers made-to-order espresso-based drinks, bagels, muffins and a variety of baked goods, it's far from your average coffee shop.

Rolling -- literally rolling -- into St. Pete just months ago, BikeCaffe is a mobile quad bike fully equipped with a state-of-the-art espresso machine. With the ability to park itself just about anywhere, BikeCaffe is currently located in the lobby or parked outside of BB&T Bank at 360 Central Ave.

“I wanted to open my own restaurant because I've always managed them in the past, but they're very expensive and you have to worry about location,” says St. Pete franchise owner Mike Ash. “With BikeCaffe, you can change locations whenever you want.”

Founded by Will Shakeshaff in London, England, Ash's BikeCaffe is the first in Florida. BikeCaffe bikes have the ability to run on both electricity and/or battery, offering organic, fair trade coffee to its tired, thirsty customers.

“I came to St. Pete because it's a cool city and it's really vendor friendly,” Ash says. “So far, everybody that I've come in contact with has received the idea very well. I think any city would want to have a BikeCaffe or any other cool, trendy concepts that allow you to be near different people in different areas of town. We're a constant change of scenery.”

BikeCaffe is now open weekdays from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Mike Ash, BikeCaffe

Design Styles Architecture Moving To Ybor City, Tampa

A boarded-up 72-year-old Ybor City grocery that helped feed cigar workers and their families will reopen as the headquarters for a Clearwater architecture firm.

Choosing 1708 E. Columbus Dr. to develop its new headquarters, Design Styles Architecture plans to do a $300,000 renovation of an old 1930s Ybor V.M. grocery store before moving its operations and employees to Tampa. The East Tampa Community Redevelopment Agency awarded the firm a $50,000 Façade Grant which will help provide funding to rehabilitate the exterior of the new office.

“Working in an office park in Clearwater just didn't seem to show off our firm's character,” says Jason Dickens, Design Styles' director of operations. “With an office full of creative people and clients with a desire to create something unique, 1708 E. Columbus Dr. seemed like the perfect building to help in fostering that creativity.”

According to Dickens, through more than eight years of vacancy, the building sustained extensive termite damage and a fire, destroying a good portion of the roof. Design Styles plans to secure all of the structural elements to ensure the building's safety before taking advantage of the history both inside and outside of the building.

“Our intentions are to restore the building to look very closely to the way it did in the 1930s,” Dickens says. “Over the past few years, Columbus Drive has experienced a dramatic turnaround as businesses buy and renovate buildings to open their businesses. Design Styles is just another piece to bringing the area back to the place it was in the early 1900s.”

Currently, Design Styles works out of a 1,700-square-foot building located at 2907 S.R. 590 in Suite 7 in Clearwater. The firm's move to Ybor City will nearly triple its operations size: The 1930s Columbus Drive building is approximately 5,000 square feet. The renovation project is expected to take less than one year.

“We are very excited about taking ownership of this building and becoming a part of the Ybor City and East Tampa community,” Dickens says. “We look forward to the opportunities ahead of us.”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Jason Dickens, Design Styles Architecture

Bradenton Seeks New Urban Grocery Store

In an attempt to supply the Bradenton area with healthy food alternatives, plans for a proposed grocery store are in the works.

A town hall meeting on Thursday, March 15, elicited public review and comment on a proposed urban format grocery store located on 13th Avenue West and 1st Street in Bradenton. The Bradenton Central Community Redevelopment Agency intends for the piece of property to be turned into a small grocery store.

“The store will serve the adjoining neighborhoods and people who work in the area, including downtown and the businesses on 1st Street,” says Tim McCann, Bradenton public information officer. “We're not sure of the size yet, but nothing massive --  the lot isn't big enough for that.”

The land housed the 13th Avenue Community Recreation Center for more than 60 years. A few years ago, the center relocated to Norma Lloyd Park.

“This gave the Central CRA an opportunity to market this land for construction,” McCann says. “It's a weird-shaped piece of land -- like a triangle -- but it's an ideal location right off of U.S. 301.”

Currently, Save-A-Lot is looking at the available plans and, according to McCann, is very interested in the $6 million project. It's expected, in accordance to an agreement with developers, at least 30 percent of the construction workforce for the store will come from Bradenton.

A lease has not yet been signed with any grocery, but leases for eight accompanying businesses are expected to be signed around May. Groundbreaking is slated for August. A proposed site plan is currently on file at Bradenton City Hall.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Tim McCann, City of Bradenton
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