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Officials break ground for new stage at Land O' Lakes Community Park

Plans for a new stage in Land O' Lakes took a step forward this month.
 
The Pasco Board of County Commissioners, the District School Board of Pasco County and community supporters broke ground for the performing arts venue on Tuesday, Aug. 16, at Land O' Lakes Community Park, north of Tampa.
 
Not only will the 1,020-square-foot stage serve the community, it will also be available to nearby Sanders Memorial Elementary School.
 
"This stage is going to actually be a cornerstone of future cultural events here in Land O' Lakes, something that we currently don't have -- and we have a lack of countywide, actually," said Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore during the groundbreaking ceremony. "So you can think about things that are going to be happening on that stage could be school band concerts, plays, pageants, and various other presentations. It's just going to be a wonderful amenity."
 
The $250,000 stage is the second part of $2.3 million worth of improvements to the park where the Land O' Lakes Community Center is located. The first phase was celebrated about a year ago with a ribbon-cutting for a new practice field, football field, softball field, walking trail, concession building with restrooms and meeting rooms, maintenance building, event field, two shelters, parking lots, playground and remodeled patio area.
 
Money for the stage comes from donations from architects, contractors and a grant from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.
 
The park was built in the 1960s, and an organization called the Heritage Park Foundation was created in 1997 to help protect it.
 
"Our desire was to keep our little historical park alive, to keep it as a community gathering spot it was created to be, and the co-facilitated shared use of space with Sanders Elementary," Sandy Graves, honorary mayor of Land O' Lakes and Heritage Park Foundation president, said during the Aug. 16 event. "That was the plan from the inception."

The group has long advocated for a stage at the park.
 
"Heritage Park Foundation has a motto," Graves said, "building a better community by building a better community center."
 
Construction on the stage is expected to begin in the fall and wrap up in January 2017.

Tampa Bay Sports to open store at Tampa International Airport

Local Tampa Bay sports fans and travelers to the area will soon have a place to shop the latest sports merchandise.
 
Tampa Bay Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Tampa Bay Storm, has partnered with Tampa-based airport retailer Stellar Partners to open a retail location inside Tampa International Airport next spring.
 
The 1,000-square-foot store will be located in the landside terminal near Starbucks. It will offer the latest licensed merchandise from every local sports team, including the Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Rays, USF Bulls, Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles, as well as large-scale sporting events that take place in the region, like the Frozen Four and Women's Final Four.
 
"We are excited to offer this new retail location not only for the fans of our home teams but also for our out of town visitors as they come in to cheer on their favorite teams in championship events hosted in Tampa Bay," says Tampa Bay Sports & Entertainment CEO Steve Griggs.
 
He says the store will bring visitors closer to the game than they've ever been before with video screens showing highlights, games and other content; appearances by trophies, athletes and other sports personalities throughout the year; and virtual reality experiences, like tours of the area's sports venues and events.
 
"The interactive aspect of the store with its video walls and virtual reality experiences will make it a unique retail experience," says Susan Stackhouse, President and CEO of Stellar Partners.
 
"For travelers, Tampa Bay Sports provides a 'sense of place,' providing visitors a glimpse into one of the things that makes Tampa Bay unique," she says.
 
The airport location will join Tampa Bay Sports' brick and mortar store at Amalie Arena and its online store.

Gobioff Foundation to launch creative placemaking program in September

A creative placemaking initiative is aiming to improve Tampa through the arts.
 
The Gobioff Foundation, a private family group that works to support human rights organizations in the Tampa arts community, is launching Treasure Tampa (T²) 8:30-10 a.m. on Monday, Sept 19, at The Vault, 611 N. Franklin St., Tampa. The initiative will include up to $30,000 in seed money for a creative placemaking project in the City of Tampa or the neighborhood area served by the University Area Community Development Corporation.
 
According to the National Endowment of the Arts, creative placemaking is the act of partners from public, private, non-profit and community sectors coming together to shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood around arts and cultural activities. The goal is to revive the space, improve local businesses and bring the community together.
 
The free Treasure Tampa (T²) launch event will include breakfast and an inspirational presentation about creative placemaking by Jamie Bennett, executive director of ArtPlace America, a 10-year project to position arts and culture as a core sector of comprehensive community planning and development.
 
"At the launch in September, we will be announcing more details, including the application, review panel and timeline," explains Neil Gobioff, president of the Gobioff Foundation.
 
Gobioff has been involved with the Tampa arts community as a patron since he moved to Tampa in 1995, and he became active in the community through Jobsite Theater during its first season in the late 1990s. He now serves on the Jobsite board.
 
Gobioff's wife, Gianna Rendina-Gobioff, is a Tampa native who has been a cheerleader in the arts community since her brothers were in art school at the University of South Florida. She was a founding board member with Tempus Projects.

"We both believe in the artistic talent that resides here in Tampa," Neil Gobioff says. "It is exciting to us to build great communities through artistic collaborations across multiple sectors."
 
The Treasure Tampa (T²) launch event is open to anyone interested in learning about and participating in creative placemaking. Space is limited, and registration is required. Doors will open at 8 a.m.
 
For more information, contact the Gobioff Foundation.

Unique dining concept, The Hall on Franklin, coming to Tampa Heights

Tampa Heights will soon have a distinctive collection of eateries that Developer Jamal Wilson hopes will help Tampa become a food destination.
 
The Hall on Franklin is an upscale, chef-driven food hall that will feature several dining options, a craft coffee bar, a lounge with specialty signature cocktails, outdoor seating and live entertainment on nights and weekends. It's expected to open this fall in the historic Farris Building, 1701 N. Franklin St., which housed an automobile company in the 1920s. A grand opening is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 1.
 
Wilson came up with the concept over several years. He was exposed to cultural restaurants and food curation while playing professional basketball in Europe, and he visited modern-day dining halls more recently while traveling with his family in the United States, like The Source and Avanti F&B in Denver and The Pennsy and Gotham West Market in New York City.
 
"At some point you begin to wonder if you can deliver something of that level where you live, and eventually you say, 'Why not,'" Wilson says. " … Our local talent, for one, is exceptional, and one of the things I love about Tampa in general and the small pockets of communities like Tampa Heights and Seminole Heights specifically, is how supportive and welcoming we are for new ideas and entrepreneurial ventures."
 
Property owner Maureen Ayral of A2 LLC restored and renovated the building over two years. She refreshed the hardwood floors, brick walls, ceilings and ornate iron details. She also converted the street-level windows that once showcased new model cars to glass garage doors that will bring light and fresh air to the indoor-outdoor dining experience.
 
The 8,000-squre-foot Hall has already partnered with local restaurants, which will showcase unique dishes from their flagship locations or create new pop-up concepts. They include: The North Star Eatery, an Asian fusion concept by Kevin and Singh Hurt of Anise Global Gastrobar; La Bodega, Latin fusion by Felicia LaCalle, the former executive chef of The Samba Room, which is now closed; Bar K?-fe, a coffee bar by Ty Beddingfield, former master barista at Buddy Brew; Bake ’N’ Babes, desserts and confectionary by Julie Curry; Bar Concept, bespoke cocktails by Ro Patel, bar program creator of Franklin Manor and Anise; and Heights Melt Shoppe, gourmet sandwiches, homemade soups and sides, hand-spun milkshakes, and unique popsicles by David Burton of Holy Hog BBQ, Tampa Pizza Co. and So Fresh.
 
Wilson, who estimates the total investment in the project is between $500,000 and $750,000, says The Hall is a great opportunity for local chefs looking to deliver their vision on their own terms.
 
"It's not an easy proposition to start your own restaurant from the ground up, so the collective is a great entry point for an up-and-coming chef to break out," he says.
 
He says the collective is an even better opportunity for Tampa foodies.
 
"There is nothing like being able to order an appetizer from one restaurant, share dishes from three more, while having a craft cocktail designed to complement the menus from multiple restaurants," he says. "Or maybe you just want to stop in for ice cream, dessert or coffee at the walk up open door cafes. I just can't imagine a better experience with family and friends."
 
The dining area will feature modern, high-end design elements, and if visitors see something they like, they'll be able to purchase the same item from The Hall's retail space and have it shipped directly to their home.
 
Entertainment on nights and weekends will be provided by DJs and live bands.
 
"It also helps that on the weekends we will be open until 2 a.m., which lends itself well to the live, work, play theme of the urban corridor," Wilson says. "Your food options should not be limited after (midnight) in a thriving city like Tampa."

Why Harbour Island complex is developer's fanciest apartment project yet

You'll find a little bit of France on Harbour Island when a new, high-end apartment complex opens next year.

The 21-story building at 402 Knights Run Ave. will have a distinct look, according to Arturo Peña, VP of Development for the Related Group, the developer of the project. Related has built and managed more than 80,000 condominium and apartment residences around the globe since its inception in 1979.

"It definitely has iconic architecture, like a Parisian style," Peña says, adding that the architect for the project is Atlanta-based Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart.

"When one walks in, there's going to be a piano playing music all the time, so kind of that French style combined with the latest technology," Peña explains.

Elevators will be access-controlled, for example, and residents will be alerted electronically if they have a package.
 
"It's our fanciest apartment project yet," Peña says.

Other amenities include a clubhouse that overlooks a large pool with cabanas, a gazebo and fire pit.

"Because we're using an existing parking garage, we were able to maximize the site," Peña says.
 
Residents will use a parking garage at an adjacent office building, which has been a point of contention between the developer and some Harbour Islanders. Opponents say the city of Tampa miscalculated the number or parking spaces available for the project, while the city maintains the project meets Tampa's requirements.
 
Construction on the project began in February, and although the complex hasn't officially been named, Peña says he expects to have a moniker by the end of 2016. Leasing should begin about a year from now.

"We will commence occupancy around next August [2016], and it will be completed around next October 2017," Peña says.

The complex will have 340 units with an average size around 1,100 square feet. The average price renters will pay is $3,000 a month.

"We think the demographic at Harbour Island is a little older, a little more established," Peña says.
 
He says he expects residents will be empty nesters or affluent professionals, like doctors from Tampa General Hospital or attorneys who work downtown.

Although Peña declines to disclose Related's total investment in the complex, he says the Miami-based company chose to take on the project, and a few others in Tampa, because it is impressed with the city's effort to be a "24/7 live, work, play" community.

He points to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's commitment to growth and professional development, as well as Tampa Bay Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik's $1 billion investment in the Channel District as examples.

"We really like what Tampa's doing," Peña says. "… We want to be part of it."
 

Crescent Westshore installs giant sculpture near leasing office in Tampa

A new piece of artwork will greet residents and guests at Crescent Westshore, a multifamily development under construction near International Plaza.

A 10,000-pound sculpture at the front of the property near the leasing office stands 18 feet tall. It was designed and constructed by Mark Aeling of MGA Sculpture Studio in St. Petersburg.

"The sculpture is called the 'Budding Vortex' and is representative of the reproductive organs of plants and represents an investigation into the math inherent in all living things," says Aeling, who also created the dolphins at the Sundial, the sculptures in the entry way at The Florida Aquarium, and a sculpture at the Opal Sands Resort on Clearwater Beach.

"Budding Vortex" is made out of aluminum plates and represents 15 months of work. It was installed Wednesday, July 27.

Crescent Communities, the developer of the complex, values curiosity and innovation, which guides its buildings and its vision of community, according to spokesman Ben Watt. He says art plays a major role in supporting the vision, and Aeling's sculpture brings Crescent's values to life.

"It is a great addition to the local community and exemplifies the unique features and amenities that can be found at Crescent Westshore," Watt says.

The idea for the art display was conceived from the start of the $45-million project and incorporated into the overall cost.

Crescent Westshore, located at 2202 N. Lois Ave., will have 374 units, averaging a little more than 800 square feet. Rent is expected to range from $1,100 to $2,000 a month.

Apartments will have quartz countertops, stainless steel appliances, up-market lighting and premium cabinets. Other amenities will include open areas for people who work from home, a lounge area with a flat screen TV, a shared kitchen in the amenity center to entertain guests, and a resort-style pool deck in the middle of the community.

Developers say the proximity to retail and business makes the complex attractive. They expect young professionals and business travelers to make the community home.

Crescent Westshore has already begun leasing and has several move-ins already on the books. The first residents are expected to move in Sept. 1. 

Port Tampa Bay begins using massive new cranes

If you're traveling near Port Tampa Bay, you might see two newly commissioned gantry cranes in action.
 
The cranes, which weigh 1,600 tons each, were officially brought into service on Friday, July 22. They're used for loading and unloading cargo containers from container ships, and they'll allow the Port to expand and diversify its cargo business by serving wider ships that travel through the expanded Panama Canal.
 
The new cranes can lift 65 tons. That's 25 more tons than the three 42-year-old gantry cranes that were previously used at the port. They stand 300 feet high and have a 174-foot outreach, allowing the Port to handle ships nearly twice the size of ships it could handle before.
 
The cranes were manufactured in China, arrived at the port in April, and then went through testing and certification.
 
"It's great to unveil these beautiful new cranes to our customers and the community, following a seamless and exciting period of getting them ready for container operations," says Port Tampa Bay CEO Paul Anderson in a July 22 news release.
 
The Port's vision is to be the container gateway of west and central Florida, according to the release. The idea is to serve the growing Interstate-4 Corridor between Tampa and Orlando, and the Port has been marketing its increased capability to global shipping companies.
 
Port Tampa Bay, the state of Florida and terminal operator Ports America invested $24 million into the new equipment, including $11 million for each of the cranes, and another $2 million in infrastructure improvements and spare parts. Ports America will operate the cranes.
 
"It's truly a milestone for the port as we realize this tremendous capital investment and begin to see the generational benefits for the economy," Anderson says.

Downtown St. Pete gets new ramen restaurant, townhomes

There is no slow down in sight when it comes to development in downtown St. Petersburg. 

Buya Ramen

The ramen craze has been looming in the air for some time in big cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Now the trend is hitting the growing Edge District of St. Petersburg, as Buya Ramen gets ready to open its doors. 

The restaurant seats just over 100 people, and will feature a Japanese whiskey bar. The interior is adorned with 12-foot-long community tables, a concrete bar top and a mural done by local artist Michael Vahl

The menu is comprised of the popular Japanese noodles as the name of the restaurant implies, but also features dumplings, duck and other popular dishes from the island nation. 

For more information, click here

Delmar City Homes

In the growing mix of housing in downtown St. Petersburg, Delmar City Homes features four-story townhomes offering luxury amenities.

“Each unit at Del Mar has a roof-top deck, as well as an outdoor living room,” says Jeff Craft, developer at Tampa Bay City Living (TBCL), which developed Del Mar Homes.

The three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath units also feature a two-car garage, modern finishes and nearly 3,000-square-feet of space. Located at 433 Third St. S., the homes are within walking distance to restaurants, shops and office space.

Construction recently completed on Del Mar Homes, however, three units are still available. 

TBCL has plans for even more projects, with several in the works around the Tampa Bay area, including in the Westshore area, the Crescent Lake neighborhood of St. Petersburg and its own new headquarters.

For more information on both of these properties, visit TBCL's website.

New apartments open for low-income seniors, waiting list forms

A new affordable apartment complex for Tampa-area seniors is 100 percent leased with a waiting list for new openings, says Hillsborough County Affordable Housing Director Paula Harvey.

Haley Park Apartments, a $14.5 million development that celebrated a grand opening in June, is an 80-unit complex just west of the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital. The complex was financed with public and private funds and is managed by Wendover Housing Partners, a privately held real estate company. 

The apartments include many of the same amenities that market-priced apartment dwellers enjoy, but they are priced for very low- to low- and moderate-income residents, 55 and older.

First conceived by Wendover in 2012, Haley Park was intended to address the growing need for housing that low-income seniors can afford. The company’s Founder and President Jonathan L. Wolf points to a National Housing Conference study that said the number of Florida residents aged 65 and older will more than double by 2030.

“As the state’s aging population increases, there is an immediate need for cost-effective rental homes for seniors, especially in metro areas near hospitals and doctors’ offices,” Wolf says in a news release. “Haley Park will help address this rising need in Hillsborough County.”

Harvey says the need for affordable housing of all types is not going away.

“We still need more,” she tells 83 Degrees. “This only addresses part of the problem; it doesn’t solve it. We still have needs for affordable housing in every category from homeless to elderly, and everything in between.”

Wendover first came to Hillsborough County seeking funding for the project in 2012, Harvey says. At that time, the county was able to come up with $750,000 to buy the 4-acre parcel at 1503 E. 130th Avenue. Harvey says the county land-banked the property until more funding became available.

The Affordable Housing Department was able to put together a series of grants: $2.4 million from the federal Home Investment Partnership, $1.7 million from the State Housing Initiative Program (SHIP), and $1.1 million from the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program. 

Other financing partners were JPMorgan Chase and the Florida Community Loan Fund. RBC Capital Markets-Tax Credit Equity group was the low income housing tax credit syndicator.

“It wasn’t just our funding that was paying for construction,” Harvey says. “They got private financing and multi-family mortgage revenue bonds issued in December 2013. There was a whole host of financing that went together to build the project.”

Wendover broke ground in June 2015. Each of the one- and two-bedroom units comes equipped with a dishwasher, microwave, full-sized washer and dryer, ample storage areas and a monitored emergency call system.

Residents can enjoy a community center, a swimming pool and fitness center. Social, educational and recreational services are offered.

Haley Park’s monthly rents run from $605 to $720, much lower than average rates across Florida which range between $1,176 to $1,657, according to Wendover.

Harvey says her department monitored Wendover to make sure all federal and state regulations were followed, including minority participation in construction. The county will continue to monitor the apartments to make sure new residents meet income requirements. 

Boutique hotel, restaurant coming to Westshore area of Tampa

The Westshore District of Tampa continues to thrive with new development, including a new luxury hotel and a beloved restaurant that are moving into the neighborhood.

Kimpton Hotel

Located at the intersection of O’Brien and Laurel Streets, a new luxury boutique hotel will feature 150 rooms and suites spanning five stories. Designed by award-winning Architect Albert Alfonso of Tampa, the new hotel will also feature many unique amenities.

“The hotel will feature a traditional Italian piazza that will essentially create an intimate town square, where we’re hoping locals and visitors will enjoy a meal, a concert or a stroll,” says Nick Gregory, Senior VP of Hotel Operations for Kimpton Hotels. “We’ll also have all our signature Kimpton amenities, including a hosted nightly wine hour, complimentary custom bike rentals and yoga mats in every room.”

Other hotel attributes include a rooftop bar with separate event space, additional 4,000-square-feet of indoor meeting and event space and the first U.S. outpost for Chef Silvia Baracchi, best known for her Michelin-starred restaurant and retreat in Cortona, Tuscany. All of the food served at the upscale restaurant will be supplied by a new off-site, state-of-the-art hydroponic farm named Red Barn Farm. Locals can look forward to taking signature cooking classes from Chef Baracchi.

The boutique hotel is expected to be open early 2018.

Miller’s Ale House

The popular chain is moving into the Westshore District. With three other locations in the Tampa Bay area, Miller’s Ale House will be opening at 3860 West Columbus Drive. The property used to be home to the infamous Without Walls International Church.

With plenty of adult beverages like beer, wine and cocktails, and casual dining provisions such as burgers, flatbreads and fajitas, the chain has become a local favorite. On the same property is Grady Square, a $56-million luxury apartment building, which is expected to be completed later this summer.

Dog park + bar in a box proposed for Seminole Heights neighborhood in Tampa

The idea for a dog park bar came to Todd Goldfarb when he and his wife Mara were having beers at The Independent in Seminole Heights.

The couple had brought their dog Frida, who began pulling at her leash and barking in an attempt to befriend another canine.
 
“You have to have them on a leash at The Independent,” Goldfarb says. “My wife, who is crazy about dogs … said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if you had a dog park where you could have a beer?’”

Goldfarb liked the idea and found an empty lot he thought would be ideal at Nebraska Avenue and Genesee Street, about three blocks north of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. He contacted members of the Southeast Seminole Heights Civic Association. They liked the idea. 

However, the proposal faced a more-skeptical reception when Goldfarb met with Tampa city officials. For one thing, his vision is to house the bar in an 8-foot-by-40-foot shipping container.

Container bars are a trendy new craze internationally, but Ferg’s Live, near the Amalie Arena, is the only bar in Tampa that uses them now, Goldfarb says.

And then there’s the idea of combining a dog park and bar, an establishment with no precedent in Tampa. The concept doesn’t fit with an overlay district plan adopted many years ago for Seminole Heights, Goldfarb says.

“Beyond the containers, we have additional zoning challenges,” Goldfarb says. “The overlay zoning is well-intended but they didn’t have dog park bars in mind. We don’t fit; we’re not a conventional business. We’re going to need variances.”

Even though the lot is 30,000 square feet, Goldfarb says he’s not going to need as many parking spaces as city codes prescribe for that size property. He envisions people stopping by after work for a beer they can drink while their dog plays. The shipping container will hold a bathroom and four locally brewed beers on tap. People will stand outside or sit on picnic tables. The bar won’t carry food or liquor, but he hopes to have some food trucks park at the site.

“People are not going to camp out and watch live music because there is no live music and they’re not going to watch the game because there is no TV,” he says. “The whole point of a dog park is you want your dog to run around.”

Despite the challenges related to zoning and parking, Goldfarb says city officials have been very helpful. But to be successful, he’s going to need a bunch of neighborhood folks to show up at an October 13 City Council meeting.

“That’s our day when the city gets to know us,” he says. “We’re hoping people from the neighborhood who have dogs and love dogs will show up at this hearing.”

New apartments, hotel grow along Courtney Campbell Causeway

The Courtney Campbell Causeway, the picturesque boulevard connecting Tampa and Clearwater across Tampa Bay, is experiencing new private investments designed to attract more people to the Causeway as a destination. Here are two examples: 

Seazen

Situated where the Chart House restaurant once stood at 7616 Courtney Campbell Trail will soon be a multi-family housing community known as Seazen. With over 320 units, the apartments will offer one-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans ranging from approximately 600 to 1,600 square feet. There will also be plenty of amenities.

“Seazen’s amenity package features a 12,000-square-foot clubhouse, membership-grade fitness center with yoga and spinning classrooms plus an on-demand virtual fitness trainer,” says Beth Alonzo of ZOM, Inc., which is the developer of the project. “There will also be two resort-style pools, four waterfront courtyards, a pet salon, bark park as well as an aqua lounge waterfront amenity center featuring paddle-boards, kayaks and on-site boat slips.

First units are expected to be available summer 2018. For more information, visit Zom Inc’s website.
 
Autograph Collection Marriott on Rocky Point

Also located along the Courtney Campbell Causeway is Rocky Point, an inlet of restaurants, offices and hotels. One of the newer hotels to go up in Rocky Point, is a new Autograph Collection Marriott. The Autograph Collection hotels offer luxurious accommodations and refined ambiance. With only 100 hotels of its kind globally, this will be the second one in the Tampa Bay area, joining the Epicurean in Tampa.

Lifsey Real Estate Holdings in collaboration with Pinnacle Hotel Management is behind the 180-room boutique hotel. The new structure will be nine-stories with a restaurant and rooftop bar. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2016. 

More new restaurants, bars coming to Seminole Heights

Three new eateries and a combined bar and dog park are set to open in Tampa in the same stretch of North Nebraska Avenue that is now home to Ella’s Americana Folk Art Café and Southern Brewing & Winemaking by early 2017.

Ebisu Sushi Shack will likely be the first of the new establishments to open its doors in a former bungalow at 5116 N. Nebraska Ave. The restaurant plans a soft launch for the Seminole Heights neighborhood in late June or early July. Ron Simmons, co-owner with his wife, Akemi Simmons, says the menu will include a wide range of sushi choices, plus other Asian dishes.

“It’s a sushi place, but we’re not going to do only sushi,” Simmons said. “There will be a lot of small dishes people can share.”

Akemi worked in restaurants for most of her adult life and will handle the cooking. Simmons will keep his “day job” as a history teacher in the Hillsborough County school system.

Antoinette’s French Bakery and Café will move into the small strip mall at Osborne Avenue and Nebraska where Old Heights Bistro is located. The café will be open for breakfast and lunch and will feature homemade pastries and sandwiches, according to Stan Lasater, president of the Southeast Seminole Heights Civic Association. Lasater says the café owners hope to be open in time for Taste of the Heights, a yearly food-tasting festival in the neighborhood.

“They’re working with an architect and should be starting construction by no later than mid-July,” Lasater said. “They’re hoping to be open in time for the Taste of the Heights in November or by the first of the year.”

Combining the popularity of dog-friendly venues and the urban-chic craze of container crate bars, the Seminole Heights Dog Park Bar is planning to open on a vacant lot near Nebraska Avenue and Genesee Street. The bar’s Facebook page says the owners hope to open by the fall. 

Lasater says the bar will feature a fenced-in area on the 30,000-square-foot lot where dogs can play while their owners enjoy the finest craft beers, many from local breweries. The bar’s motto will be, “Don’t leave your best friend at home when you feel like going out for a beer.”

For a sweet treat on a hot summer day, Pirate Pops will feature organic, gourmet popsicles at 5120 N. Nebraska Ave. The company, which has been a popular stop at Tampa’s Downtown Market, says on its Facebook Page that the popsicles are made in small batches with all-natural ingredients. The company claims to buy all the fruit used in the pops from local organic farmers and back-yard gardeners.

“Their claim is they use no sweeteners except the best Florida cane sugar,” Lasater said. “Everything is locally grown with no additives. They are amazing popsicles.”

An opening date for the popsicle shop has not been announced.

Hopes for New Tampa Cultural Center live on

New Tampa residents have been hoping for nearly 15 years that an arts and cultural center would rise on 17 acres of vacant land along Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

Now, with a private developer ready to build the center as part of a larger residential-commercial development, supporters of the project are awaiting word of a ground-breaking. But county officials say residents will have to wait a while longer.

The project is still in what Hillsborough County officials call in “inspection period,” during which the developer and the county work out details of the site plan, says Josh Bellotti, county real estate and facilities services director. That period ends July 30.

After that, Bellotti says the development enters an “approval period” ending Jan. 9 so the developer can get necessary rezoning and final site approval from the city of Tampa. The property, across from the upscale Hunter’s Green housing development, is owned by the county but lies in the Tampa city limits. 

Last July, county commissioners approved a real estate purchase agreement with developer Hunters Lake Tampa LLC for just over $2 million. In addition to the sale of the land, the agreement calls for Hunters Lake to construct public amenities and infrastructure valued at $2.17 million.

The county and developer will close on the property in February, Bellotti says.
 
Doug Wall, founder and director of the New Tampa Players performing troupe, says he and other residents met six weeks ago with county Commissioner Victor Crist and a representative of the county Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department. Crist has been a prime proponent of the project.

“They are working on the site plans,” Wall says. “We were supposed to get together again and give input on floor plans, but I have not heard anything since that meeting.”

Crist could not be reached for comment. 

Wall says the cultural center will cover about 20,000 square feet and include a theater with just under 300 seats. It has not been decided whether the seating will be permanent or removable so the space can host other pursuits when not in use as a theater. The building could be expanded later to 30,000 square feet by adding a second floor, according to county plans.

In addition to drama, the center will also house classrooms for music, dance and visual arts.

The New Tampa Players have been lobbying the county and city of Tampa governments for a cultural center since 2000, Wall says. Though the city paid for studies showing a need for such a center, neither local government would come up with the $7 million to $10 million needed for construction.

In 2009, Commissioner Ken Hagan convinced commissioners to appropriate land for the center, however, there were “strings,” Wall says.

“We had to raise the money up front,” he says. “We had to have a business plan approved by the county.

“Basically, for a small nonprofit, it made it impossible for us to do anything,” Wall says. “It died out until Victor Crist took over the project and wanted to make something happen.”
The residential-commercial development will be on 17 buildable acres out of an 80-acre county-owned tract. The rest of the area is either wetlands or will be used as a water retention area for drainage off Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. 

Funding for the center is likely to be discussed during county budget hearings next month. In past meetings, Crist says the project would need $7.5 million in county funding.

Outdoor public art adds to Tampa Riverwalk experience

There is a walkable outdoor museum of sorts in downtown Tampa, and it’s growing.   

When the latest segment of the Tampa Riverwalk is completed in June, two enormous public artworks will also be formally unveiled for all to enjoy. Water, not surprisingly, plays a role in both pieces, though they couldn’t be more distinct in aesthetic and material. Both artworks will be located under bridges serving functional, protective roles as safety barriers.  

“Tampa is a place where artwork is expected and presumed,” says Robin Nigh, Manager of Art Programs for the City of Tampa. “It is integrated; you can really tell the difference when [public art] is part of the design versus an afterthought. It’s just part of who we are.” 

The new artworks can be viewed by foot, bike or boat along the Riverwalk from Tampa’s Water Works Park to the Straz Center. 

Under the Laurel Street Bridge, one will find Woven Waves a vibrant ceramic steel creation with large-scale folded corrugations. The effect of the textile-like design changes with the viewer’s movement. Houston-based Re:Site that created the piece says on its website that they drew inspiration from Tampa’s cultural diversity, “bringing to mind the metaphor of a quilt.” 

The second structure, entitled Andante by artist Heidi Lippman -- an enormous, stunning work of glass -- will be located under the 1-275 underpass and can also be seen from the road. Nigh notes that because of materials used, digitally printed tempered glass, and the artwork’s east-west orientation, there is a constant change in how the site is experienced as the light of day changes. She characterizes the space as “soothing” and notes that the musically inspired piece brings “color and quiet to an otherwise typically massive FDOT structure.”  

This follows several other major refurbishments and new public artworks  downtown Tampa. Among them, numerous sculptures, mosaics and installations at the recently inaugurated Perry Harvey Park; Stay Curious at the Poe Garage by artists Bask and Tes One, and the refurbishment and relocation of the Yaacov Agam sculpture Visual Welcome to Bayshore Boulevard and America, America sculpture by Barbara Neijna to the south side of the Laurel Street Bridge.

On the City of Tampa website one can do a public artworks “web tour.” There are 68 sites to view. 

A better plan might be to download the Tampa’s Public Art After Dark map and take a tour the old fashioned way, discovering in person this open-air and open-to-all museum. The most recent additions, Andante and Woven Waves, have yet to be updated on this map, but now you know where the treasures are hidden. 
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