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NRP Group To Build 300 Upscale Apartments, St. Pete

A new upscale apartment complex is in the works for downtown St. Petersburg.

Cleveland-based NRP Group plans to develop and build 330 units of luxury multifamily housing at the northwest corner of 4th Street South and 4th Avenue South near St. Pete's medical district on property-- currently the southernmost parking lot of the Tampa Bay Times.

Developing an entire city block, the $55 million unnamed project will include a 4-story apartment building on approximately 4.3 acres. The new complex will feature on-site management by NRP, as well as a structured parking garage, cyber cafe, upscale fitness room, clubroom and pool.

Downtown St. Petersburg continues to grow, providing jobs and an ever-growing nightlife,” says Kurt Kehoe, VP of NRP Development in Florida. “Because of this, there is a current and future need for upscale rental options in the downtown area.”

With expected completion by 2013 or early 2014, the project could break ground as early as Fall 2012. The new complex will provide one- to three-bedroom units ranging in price from approximately $880 to $1,800 per month, featuring high-end finishes including granite counter tops, custom cabinets and energy efficient appliances.

“We think this project will have an extremely positive influence on downtown St. Pete by continuing to draw higher income earners to the area which will, of course, have a positive effect on downtown businesses including restaurants and bars," Kehoe says.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Kurt Kehoe, NRP Group

Fire Station #22 Begins Responding To Calls, New Tampa

A new fire station recently began responding to calls in New Tampa.

On Thursday, April 19th, New Tampa's newest fire station, Fire Station #22, began responding to emergency calls from a new 8,600-square-foot facility at 10871 Cross Creek Blvd.

According to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, New Tampa has had an increasing demand for emergency service as it has grown.

“Station #22 will help fulfill the needs of New Tampa residents,” he says. “Tampa Fire Rescue is committed to providing quality services across Tampa.”

Staffed with a four-person crew and two vehicles, Engine #22 and Brush #22, the $1.7 million facility and staff will provide assistance by responding to emergency medical incidents; both structural and brush fires; and other fire-related incidents. All staff assigned to the new station are State of Florida Certified Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics.

Funded by an Assistance to Firefighters Fire Station Construction Grant (SCG) provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Fire Station #22 includes a center garage with three bays, as well as work and sleeping quarters; high efficiency lights and controls; solar powered exterior lighting and water heating; and an HVAC system. Other on-site sustainability features include the use of recycled materials, Florida Friendly Landscaping and a storm water retention system.

The City of Tampa Fire Rescue Department was one of 100 selected to receive funding by SCG.

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

FDOT Plans To Widen I-275 Between Floribraska, Yukon In Tampa

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is planning a new project for 4.2 miles of Interstate 275 between Floribraska Avenue and Yukon Street.

According to FDOT Public Information Officer John McShaffrey, the $30 million project will widen both inside and outside shoulder areas along north- and southbound I-275, south of Floribraska Avenue to north of Yukon Street. The project aims to create a more consistent shoulder width.

“It's a safety project,” McShaffrey says. “As you drive through that area now, there are shoulders of varying widths -- some aren't even wide enough to pull over if you break down or have a minor accident.”

Partial demolition and widening by Prince Contracting will occur on a total of 26 bridges, widening each to connect in the center. There will also be widening of non-bridge shoulder portions of the highway while existing grass and guardrail in current medians will be replaced by a concrete barrier to match median connections on the north and south ends outside of the project limits.

“Ultimately, the shoulders will be about 10 feet wide, enabling people to pull off in case of an emergency,” McShaffrey says. “A lot of times when you break down and there's no shoulder area, it takes up a lane. This project, once complete, will allow traffic to keep flowing when you have those kinds of instances.”

Expected to begin in June 2012, the project will also include some drainage, sign and signal work. Existing overhead message signs will be replaced by signs with color displays.

Completion of the project is slated for Summer 2014 with periodic north- and southbound lane closures between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. The current 55 mph speed limit will remain during construction.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: John McShaffrey, FDOT

Charlie Parker Pottery Celebrates Grand Opening, St. Pete

One of the original owners of the St. Petersburg Clay Company recently opened Charlie Parker Pottery, a new studio and gallery in St. Pete.

Charlie Parker of the St. Petersburg Clay Company hosted the grand opening of Charlie Parker Pottery on Saturday, April 21st.

“The grand opening was an opportunity for people to come tour our space, meet some of the artists who work there and shop our gallery featuring their work, as well as Charlie's,” says Nancy Parker, Charlie's wife and office manager.

The new 3,600-square-foot studio and gallery space will be used to host group workshops and provide independent students with a creative environment.

“Our studio is a full service ceramic studio,” Nancy says. “We offer memberships where members can get 24/7 access and full use of the studio. We also offer classes that can be constructed around any skill level.”

Nancy says occasional “BYOB pottery” parties will also be hosted at the new space located at 2724 Sixth Ave. S., where groups can learn how to throw on the wheel from professionals like Charlie.

Working with the St. Pete's Business Assistance Center to launch the new space, the Parkers were keen on creating both a work and gallery space featuring personal works.

In addition to Charlie's work in St. Pete, he just completed a $5,000 ceramic mural -- Platform Art's gift to the City of Lakeland -- which will be unveiled at Platform Art Party #19: Art in AgriCulture on April 28th in downtown Lakeland.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberain
Source: Nancy Parker, Charlie Parker Pottery

Work Begins On Adamo Drive Mural Project, Ybor City

With expected completion quickly approaching, prep work and design input has begun on the Adamo Drive Mural Project in Ybor City.

A two-part project, the approximately $30,000 Adamo Drive Mural Project will make an attempt to enhance the appeal of the Ybor City Historic District, transforming industrial weather-beaten portions of Adamo Drive into a work of art representing the culture, heritage and vitality of both Ybor City and Tampa.

In March, volunteers began prepping the 12,000-square-foot surface for the first mural located on the exterior of the Fabricated Products building at 17th Street and Adamo Drive. Once the surface is clean and free of loose paint, a primer/sealer will be applied followed by an acrylic base coat.

“Basically, work is ongoing at the site to deal with corrosion issues and flaking paint,” says Dave Scott, the project's organizer. “Artist Mike Parker and coatings expert Kevin Schweikhart have done most of the work themselves: A series of sand-blasting, anti-corrosion treatments and a priming layer. It's a big project.”

Scott says Parker and a group of Hillsborough Community College students involved in the project have immersed themselves into the history, heritage and current feel of the Ybor City neighborhood, leading to potential design concepts.

“Parker is about ready to go into his 'cave' to get something on paper,” Scott says. “This typically takes about three days to get a satisfactory approach.”

The mural's design is expected to be complete by April 14th, when a public meeting will be held with the Barrio Latino Commission. The Ybor City Development Corporation is working to with City of Tampa to get Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn to paint the first stroke once image production begins.

“It seems as if this may be the largest mural in the state of Florida when it's all said and done,” Scott says.

Completion is slated for the end of June 2012.

Significant contributions to the project have been made by the City of Tampa, Robin Nigh and Melissa Lebaron of the City of Tampa Art Programs DivisionSherwin WilliamsVykin Corporation, the Columbia Restaurant, Kimmons Contracting Corporation and the Rotary Club of Ybor City.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: David Scott, Adamo Drive Mural Project

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
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